Sharing My Thoughts On These Recommendations

This morning, I started off my day as I always do, reading Doug Peterson‘s blog post. After reading his post, I sent out this tweet.

Doug soon replied with this tweet,

and I assured him that I was planning on blogging. After doing some thinking this morning, here are my thoughts in response to Bill Ferguson‘s Recommendations Follow-Up post

After five years, every teacher graduating from Teacher’s College should have a Masters Degree.

I echo many of Doug’s thoughts on this one. While I know that there’s value in learning more and bettering our practice, extra qualifications do not always equate to better teaching. A Masters Degree would be very expensive for a new teacher, and would put a lot of additional pressure on a teacher that is still trying to work on planning and assessment skills. Teaching is not a 9-5 job, and for those that remain in teaching, they know that and are happy to put in this additional time for the many additional benefits that it brings. But with this in mind, I cannot even imagine trying to add master level courses to an already full schedule of planning and prep work. I worry about this as a person that has taught for 15 years. What about a new teacher? Instead, I wonder about the possibility of a system that looks at ongoing professional development. This happens somewhat through schools already, but a monthly, hour-long staff meeting is not necessarily long enough to learn about new practices, share ideas, discuss struggles, and determine next steps. What are some additional PD possibilities, and what might these mean for teacher professional growth? I think ongoing learning provides even more value than an immediate Masters Degree. 

Every memorandum/correspondence from the educational body should reflect a positive attitude demonstrating support for their teachers and schools. Parents need to become aware of this too.

I think that there’s a lot of value in being positive. When we share information in this way, it really changes the culture of a school and a community. I think this also has to extend to how we talk about kids. The new Kindergarten Communication of Learning aligns with this thinking by removing weaknesses, and instead focusing on key learning, biggest areas of growth, and next steps. Seeing children through an asset lens is so important, just as we want to see staff members and schools through this same lens.

Assessments should in the area of application of knowledge. When this occurs we can better understand the students growth.

Like Doug and Bill, I do agree with this, but I also think we need to consider the Achievement ChartAre we looking at all categories in this chart? How are we ensuring that we do? What knowledge is key, and how do we link this knowledge to a meaningful application of it? As much as I question the use of tests/quizzes that are solely knowledge-based, I know many educators that talk about the value in skills. We still have standardized tests that focus on some of these skills. I’m curious to know how people balance these different needs. I also think that if we’re looking at “application,” a test may not be the best option, but how many tests are still happening in schools? While there are definitely pockets of people that are exploring different options, I wonder what the norm is in schools. Are more changes necessary, and how do we make them?

That schools should become the home base of social services that children can receive all the support the need to succeed. This should include parental support where necessary. If schools are the soul of the community then all the resources to ensure the success of children should be found there.

I agree with Doug that this is something that makes a lot of sense, but may take time to full implement. Last year, I taught in an inner-city school in Hamilton, and it was great to see the amount of community supports that were in place at this school. A breakfast program, snack program, Food4Kids, after-school Running and Reading Club, clothing donations, and social work services to support families were all a part of the school environment. Yes, sometimes the needs exceeded the supports, but things were definitely happening. It was also wonderful to see staff members and administrators supporting families and actively looking for more support options when needed. “It takes a village to raise a child,” and this village is definitely hard at work in so many school communities!

Every school should make inquiry research the basis for their education with the interests of the children being the springboard for their education.

I totally agree with Doug on this point. I think that this is happening on a small scale, but what’s needed to take this to the next level? Sometimes I wonder how we continue to balance the focus on the child with the focus on curriculum expectations. In the past couple of years, our Board has had teachers develop a professional inquiry, where we explore a “problem of practice” (for lack of a better word) and determine our “next best step.” I wonder if this kind of approach might help make this fifth recommendation more a reality. 

That two years of special education training should become mandatory to help teachers understand how to help weaker students become the best they can be.

I do agree about the need to focus on special education. That said, even after taking some additional qualifications in this area, I found that it was the practice of working with children with special education needs that made the biggest difference for me. We all need these experiences, and then we need opportunities to collaborate with others, share ideas, and learn various strategies, so that we can better support all of our students. This is where that ongoing PD that I mentioned under recommendation number one, makes so much sense to me. 

What are your thoughts on these recommendations? I would love to hear what parents, educators, support staff, and administrators think. Various viewpoints could make a big difference here. Let’s extend the conversation that Bill started here and Doug continued here


10 thoughts on “Sharing My Thoughts On These Recommendations

  1. I’m glad that you were inspired to write that post, Aviva. It appears that we have similar thoughts.

    As I was out and about this morning, I started to think and I could see great resistance to some of the recommendations. I was kind of focused on mathematics and, for all the thoughts of inquiry, there is a strand of folks and they’re a big strand that believe in the more traditional approaches. You see some boards and some PD incentives that prefer to stay the course as well.

    How would they survive in our perfect world? What if they achieve results? Does that mean that they’re right?

    • Thanks for the comment, Doug! These are some great questions, and I’ve thought about this before. There is a large, vocal group of people that are resistant to some of these recommendations, and your example of math is a great one. I might question, were we achieving results with the old way? While some speak about flaws in the new way, how many people have really made the change? When we look at standardized test results, where do we fall short? Is it on facts or application/thinking/communication? I have often found it’s on the latter even though we regularly speak about the former. Not sure if this answers any questions or just provide some more to contemplate.


  2. I’m not sure that that discussion will ever come to a conclusion.

    I just appreciate your efforts in sharing your thinking and keeping the conversation going.

    Deep in my mind, I think that part of the problems lie in new initiatives and programs implemented without appropriate preparation.

    • Thanks for the reply, Doug! I think that ongoing conversations matter, and preparation, inservicing, and continued support matters too. Even with any easy answers, these discussions are worth having. Thanks for bringing my attention to this one!


      • Re: asset lens- we need to make sure parents and other educators understand that this does NOT mean we ignore children’s/students’ areas for improvement. It does mean that we change our focus from what kids CANNOT do from what they CAN do and then look at next steps from there to help them grow their learning. Much appreciate Doug’s recognition of the K doc and CoL in the efforts to bring this to the forefront of educator thinking. I know you are a strong proponent of this way of thinking!!!

        • Wonderful point, Jill! I love how you said this. While Doug did not explicitly mention the K Document and the Communication of Learning in his post, the connection is there, and I think that it’s a great one to make. Regardless of what grade we teach, we can all learn a little bit from this updated Kindergarten Program Document.


  3. The one that caught my eye was the statement about the master’s degree. Perhaps my perspective on this is different because I still consider myself a “new” teacher, although I’m a 2008 graduate so maybe I’m not anymore. I do know this. With the mandatory occasional teaching and extra time even to get onto an O.T. list, new Ed graduates do have the time, I think, for the most part, to work towards a Masters degree. What they don’t have is the funding. Teacher’s college is expensive, and now it is twice as long, ie. twice as expensive. Add to that the difficulty of getting a position, and even then being casual and far from full-time in terms of salary, and the money just doesn’t add up. There would need to be some sort of systemic shift to make it work. (As an aside, I would love it if that systemic shift happened because I would really like to get a Masters!)

    Interestingly, I wonder if the Masters program could possibly eliminate some of the AQs. There are tons of them and they don’t seem connected in any real way. It would be nice to have that whole process re-evaluated. The Masters idea, if somebody figured out how to make it financially viable, could allow for some really interesting opportunities in education.

    • Thanks for your comment, Melanie! This is an excellent point. I know many new teachers that are taking courses because they do have “the time,” but you are certainly right about the funding. It would be great if this option were available at a lesser cost. I wonder if that would ever happen.

      When you say that the AQ course are “not connected,” what do you mean? Are they not connected to each other or to what you are doing in the classroom? I would love to hear more of your thinking on this.


      • I think that AQ courses can be connected to what I do in the classroom, but sometimes they are not. When we take them as new teachers, often we don’t have the experience that we are meant to have when we take them so our learning is a little more superficial than I think it’s meant to be. Also there are some teachers (not me, but I have met some) who just keep taking them to try to increase their qualifications so that they can teach anything. Some teachers have taken 14 or 15 of them! I can’t imagine how taking 14 disparate courses would make me a better teacher. I tend to focus on areas of interest where I know that I will use what I learn. I feel like a Masters might make you plan out what you want to learn with a little more thoughtfulness if that makes sense.

        • Thanks for explaining more, Melanie! I think that we can always either learn a lot or very little from courses/inservices that we take. A lot depends on our mindset: are we open to new learning? Are we considering what we can take back to the classroom and what we can use? Are we contemplating how this learning can align with what’s happening in our classroom? I think of the number of presentations I’ve attended by people that teach different grades or subjects than I do. I always try to go in with the thought of taking one new thing back to try in our classroom. It’s why I often end my presentations by asking people to share what “new thing” they plan to use/try. I do prefer spending time learning about something that is a little more connected to my areas of interest, but that said, I still wonder about the value in some variety. Maybe it’s when we’re forced to really think about how this learning connects to our current classroom that we learn the most. Curious to hear what others think about this. Thanks for continuing the conversation!


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