Tag Archives: education

Some Things Are Working Well

I just made my rounds of all the elementary school classrooms where I have been a regular visitor over the last six weeks.  I was getting the final reports for each of my student teachers signed and ready to hand into the university.

children's art school yard

Mural on the wall of one of the schools I visit.

I caught up with one of my student teachers in the gym where she was running a noon hour skipping club for students. dioramasA grade five and six teacher showed me the dioramas her class is constructing illustrating the climate, geography and lifestyle of one of Canada’s indigenous nations.   A grade one and two teacher let me read some of the letters her class had penned to their city councilor telling her about the changes they thought needed to happen in their community. I found another one of my teachers in the library where he and the students in the photography club he has been running at the school were setting up for a show displaying their work.


Sign on the window in one of the classrooms I visit

In another upper elementary class my student teacher showed me the crankie her class had made about the solar system.  A crankie is an old storytelling art form. You start by creating a long illustrated scroll that is wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box which has a viewing screen. Then the scroll is hand-cranked while the story is told. In another class the kids were redesigning Canada’s coat of arms to include symbols that would represent our indigenous communities. In a grade three and four class my student teacher was busy preparing for a fairy tale tea her class is hosting where they will read the fairy tales they have written and illustrated. 

As Manitoba’s education minister Kelvin Goertzen introduced the review of the Manitoba education system his government is currently conducting he said our education system “is not working well.”  I hope the people on the commission he has appointed will take the time to visit Manitoba school classrooms as I do on a regular basis, and see that there definitely are some exciting postive things going on in our schools, things that are “working well.”

Other posts………….

Improving Education in Manitoba- Someone Thinks They Have All the Answers

Imitating Emily

Words To Live By

Persuade Me


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The Future Belongs To Those Who Are Curious

On the window in one of the classrooms I visit for my work as a supervisor for university education students I saw all these reminders of the hallmarks of a good learner. Students had created each one with unique materials.










Running all along the front of the classroom there was a long wall banner that said………


Each of the signs the students had made provided great suggestions for how learners can pique their curiosity and satisfy it.  They are good suggestions for all of us if we want to be life long learners. 

Other posts……………..

Words to Live By

Imitating Emily

Include Me Please

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Amazing Kids

I am just wrapping up a month of visiting Winnipeg schools in my role as a supervisor for education students practicing their craft in the classroom.  This year I had the privilege of spending time in three different mixed grade one and two classrooms.  I saw amazing things happening in all of them. 

Classroom #1

My student teacher was doing math problems with her six and seven-year olds that involved addition.  These kids didn’t have pencil and paper.  They were adding three digit numbers to three digit numbers in their heads! They had been taught ten different strategies for figuring out addition problems and not only could they complete the calculations mentally they could tell you which strategy they had used and why they had used it.  Different kids used different strategies and that was applauded.  It was amazing. They got it!

Classroom #2

My student teacher had introduced her six and seven-year olds to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid.   First they made a pyramid for themselves. What did they need to feel healthy, safe, loved, good about themselves, to be learners and have fun?  Then the teacher read them stories and showed them videos about joeys (baby kangaroos) and they made a pyramid for them.  One day I watched them work together as a class to make a pyramid for baby emperor  penguins after seeing videos and reading books about them. It was amazing!  They got it! 

Classroom #3

My student teacher is Metis and she did a social studies unit introducing her six and seven-year olds to her culture.  She used a medicine wheel with them. A medicine wheel has four sections emotional, mental, physical, spiritual.  I watched one day while the children took special items they had brought from home or had drawn pictures of and they placed them in the “correct”  spoke on their own personal medicine wheel.  They could explain why they had made the choices they did.  A book might go in the mental section because it made them think. A feather might be placed into the spiritual spoke because it reminded them of creation.  A picture of a favorite food might go in physical because it filled them up and a photo of a grandmother in emotional because they loved her.  It was amazing! They got it!

Our schools are often criticized because they aren’t deemed to be doing a good enough job.  I wonder how many people who criticize actually visit to see the great needs as well as potential particularly in Winnipeg’s inner city schools, to see the great work being done by so many teachers and to see the great kids who are being stretched and challenged to be the best they can be. 

Other posts………..

Cool Stuff

Teachers of Their Own

Rap, Reimagining Winnipeg and Fish Nets

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Improving Education in Manitoba-Someone Thinks They Have The Answers

mural of children broadway avenue saskatoon by denyse klette

Michael Zwaagstra in December articles in the Winnipeg Free Press and The Carillon bemoans Manitoba’s results on national and international academic tests that show our students performing poorly. According to Zwaagstra there are three keys to improving education in our province

1)more tests

2)teaching basics

3) direct whole class instruction.

Mr. Zwaagstra’s articles fail to report however on the three areas where our province gets top ranking.

1) Manitoba has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. I suspect we have more school kids who live in families lacking the basic necessities for healthy living than any other province.

2) Manitoba has the highest rate of adult incarceration in Canada. This leads one to believe we have more school kids with a parent in jail than in any other province.

3) Manitoba’s percentage of children in foster care is one of the highest in the world. It follows that we would have more school kids who are separated from their families than in any other province.

Could those three things impact children’s ability to learn and do well on standardized tests? If we focused on eradicating child poverty, on finding alternatives to such massive incarceration and looked for ways to improve foster care might that affect test scores more than the three remedies Mr. Zwaagstra suggests?

child-wearing-glasses- free photo pixabayAs a university education supervisor I have spent a fair bit of time in the last five years in inner city Winnipeg schools. Just before Christmas children in one school got free eye- exams courtesy of some caring Manitoba optometrists who volunteered to come and test children suspected of having vision issues. They discovered forty kids who should have been wearing glasses and provided them all with prescription lenses. One wonders though how those kids’ inability to see properly might have impacted their education and subsequently their scores on standardized tests in the past.

The six core area schools I know well devote time and money to providing breakfasts for children, setting up and staffing parent rooms where families can come for counseling and support, providing after school programs to keep kids out of gangs and off the street, arranging for kids to have dental work done at school by volunteer dentists, obtaining a stock pile of winter outerwear for children who come to school dressed improperly and the list goes on and on. These shouldn’t necessarily be the things teachers and administrators focus on but they know they are vital to their students’ ability to learn so they make them a priority. Could finding ways to relieve educators of those responsibilities allow schools to spend more time, energy and money on actual teaching?

hoop dancer hugh john mcdonald school winnipegThat being said I am curious about the statistics behind Mr. Zwaagstra’s contention that regular assessment, teaching basics and direct class instruction is lacking in Manitoba schools. In the six weeks before Mr. Zwaagstra’s article was published I made nearly forty visits to Winnipeg classrooms. The education students I supervise must include a plan for assessment in every lesson and they do. During almost all lessons I observed, teachers were doing some whole class instruction and they were teaching the basics as best they could even though they had students whose reading and numeracy competencies were spread over as many as six different grade levels and every class had newcomers to Canada just learning English.

It is indeed troubling that Manitoba’s students have a low standard of academic achievement. Many of the reasons for that stem from long standing societal issues and addressing them will be much more costly and complicated than doing more tests or telling teachers they aren’t using the right instructional methods.

Other posts………

What I Saw in a Classroom Yesterday

Rap, Reimagining Winnipeg and Designing Fishnets

A Pen or a Wing?


Filed under Education

The Children Are Watching and Listening And Wondering

grade one 1959I sat in the dark paneled hallway beside a rattling radiator. I pretended to look at the Dick and Jane reader my teacher had given me. It was 1959. My family was living in an almost exclusively French neighborhood in a large city because my father was completing his medical internship at a Catholic hospital. I was in grade one in a local public school. In spring the priest started coming to our class once a week, to prepare my classmates for taking their First Communion at the nearby cathedral. My parents asked that I be excused from these sessions. So when the priest entered the door, all my classmates turned to look at me, as I exited the room, to sit alone, on a wooden chair, in the hall.

I was curious. I tried to peek through the window in the classroom door. I put my ear to the wall to see if I could hear what the priest was saying. What were the other kids learning that my Mennonite parents didn’t want me to know about?

Most of the school’s teachers were nuns and they taught us to say French prayers together before we ate our lunch. After a time I could rattle off those prayers along with all the other kids and make the sign of the cross when I was done. When I demonstrated my new prayer skills to my parents, they gently suggested that I not repeat my Catholic prayers in my Sunday school class at the Mennonite church we attended.

kornelson school steinbach grade three class mrs. kihn

When I was eight my father joined a medical practice in a small town. We left the city for life in an almost exclusively Mennonite community. During our first months there I learned from my grade three classmates in the public school I attended, that some things my family did were a sure ticket to hell.

I had seen two movies Mary Poppins and Bambi. My grandfather served homemade wine at Christmas. I had aunties who wore lipstick. My parents had chosen to attend the one Mennonite church in town that allowed members to have a television, hence it’s nickname The TV Church.

I soon learned to be careful about describing my family’s activities or talking about events at our church, especially to certain classmates, who seemed to be authorities when it came to my less than favorable odds on making it into heaven.

I’m a grandmother now, but my childhood experiences remain vivid reminders of how the different ideas between faith communities about what is true, or good, or right, or worthy of judgment, can impact children. I try to remember that the children are always watching and listening and wondering.

Other posts…….

Black and White Religion

The Clapper

A Photograph in The Mennonite

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Counting on Their Fingers

Do you know what Chisanbop is?   It’s a Korean method of learning to do math computation on your fingers that was used in North American schools in the 1970s and 80s. I took the course taught here in Manitoba by Dave and Margaret Froese and used it with my students for quite a number of years. The teaching method was interesting and different and so my students from Elmdale School in Steinbach were featured in our local newspaper using Chisanbop in math class. This photo accompanied the article. 


In November of 1979 I was quoted in a Winnipeg Free Press article about the calculation method.

There was a story about Chisanbop in Macleans magazine. There was even a segment featuring Chisanbop on the Johnny Carson show. Fred McMurray of My Three Sons fame did advertisements for the Chisanbop system on television. 

Chisanbop lost its popularity after a time but I was reminded of the mathematical instruction method by  an article in the April 2016 edition of The Atlantic that talks about why teachers should encourage their students to use their fingers in math class. Brain science is currently teaching us that using your fingers to do math can be a visual learning technique essential to mathematical achievement. 

It’s interesting how in education old ideas can suddenly become new and new ideas can quickly become old.  

Other posts………

My Grade Two Class Photo is Part of a PHD Dissertation

The Clapper

Stopping By Woods- A Children’s Masterpiece

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My Grade Two Class Photo is part of a PHD Dissertation

My grade two class photo is being used in the North West Territories.  One of the things that keeps me writing this blog is how it connects me to so many interesting people and places.  In the last while I’ve received requests for the use of photos from my blog for several interesting projects. 

grade two class sir john franklin school 1961

My grade two class at Sir John Franklin School. I am standing in the back row on the far left right next to our principal.

One request was from a teacher in the North West Territories who is doing her Ph.D in education and is writing her thesis on how cross-cultural teachers respond to indigenous students using the framework of Tribal Critical Race Theory. This theory suggests that colonization continues in the present day in some educational contexts.  As part of her dissertation she will trace the history of education for First Nations children in Canada and will use a photo of my grade two class which I published on my blog as a contrast to a photo of children the same age in that same year in a northern residential school. The Northwest Territories teacher sees a kind of joy and positive air about the learners in my class picture which she does not see in class pictures of children taken in residential schools at the same time.  She will be showing my photo and that of the residential school children to teachers in the North West Territories to see what differences, if any, they will perceive between the photos. 

The project sounds like an important one and I’m looking forward to being updated on the teacher’s thesis progress. I told her that my photo was taken at Sir John Franklin School, a public school built in 1921 and named after the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. The school was demolished in 1991.  My one academic memory of that year was getting 7+7 wrong on a math test and my teacher telling me how unfortunate it was that I missed such an easy question on an otherwise perfect math test. I only lived on Beaverbrook Street in that neighborhood for one year but it was in a quiet, lovely treed area of Winnipeg with very modest working class homes. I had two best friends on my street who were also in my class and I still remember their names more than fifty years later.

Other posts…….

In a Cinematography Textbook

In An Art Society Newsletter

In the London Supreme Court Building



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