The Power of Parent Partnerships

quoteParents are the first teachers in a child’s life.  They hold the key to a child’s past, present and future and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what their children like and dislike ~ baseball or soccer; astronauts or sailors; fantasy or non-fiction.  As educators we know that in order to truly impact a child’s educational journey we need to know them as people and as learners.  So it makes sense that we involve the people that know them the best in our quest to engage, motivate and inspire our students.  Today I had the privilege of participating in a Parent Engagement Forum at the Islamic Center where representatives from various portfolios within our board learned from the Muslim community what, together, we can do to meet the changing needs of today’s students.  As our society evolves with advances such as technology and various forms of communication, maintaining the teachings of the Muslim faith becomes increasingly challenging for many families. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that the lines of communication between our parent community and our educators are not only maintained, but strengthened to encompass new learning and richer conversations.

The parents with whom I had the opportunity to talk to have an incredibly high regard for education and place great emphasis on achievement.  I was intrigued and impressed with stories of children continuing past secondary school and entering worlds of masters and doctoral degrees.  Parents proudly shared their child’s love of reading and asked questions about more challenging texts and strategies to use when encouraging their children to communicate their thinking.  Parents, who are also educators in our system, posed thought-provoking inquiries about our support of Canadian born English Language Learners and Newcomer English Language Learners. Our Settlement Workers in Schools were gathering resources and materials to share with colleagues in their agencies with the intent of using them with newcomer families in our schools.  The conversations were rich, focused and heart-felt. Many of them were leading into discussions about next steps, not only with our Muslim parent community but with other parent (1)

Engaging our parent community through conversations is the first step in creating a learning community where we combine all of the caring adults in a child’s life in order to work towards success ~ academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.

I thought my role today was to help parents learn what they could do to support their child with reading and writing, when in fact, I was the one who walked away with new learning in terms of the value of a deeper appreciation for building stronger parent partnerships.

2015-09-27_2324Congratulations and thank –you to the Muslim Educator’s Council for their leadership, vision and commitment to today’s Parent Engagement Forum.  Hopefully others will follow your lead!


As a parent, do you take an active role in your child’s education?  As an educator do you purposefully engage the parents of the children in your classroom?

Come write with me……

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

download “Keep your eye on the ball and a firm grip on your club”  resonates on the fairway on the days that I play golf with  my mom.  She is a very talented golfer and my game is  inconsistent on the best of days. I know that she means  well, but I’ll admit that I cringe as I digest her feedback.    Fast forward to the local driving range where a friend  has agreed to come and watch me break in a new club. Low and behold, he provides the same feedback (almost verbatim)  and all of a sudden my reaction is one of gratitude. I immediately put it into practice and voila, that little white ball beautifully sails towards the horizon. Exact same feedback, but my reaction and subsequent implementation varied greatly!

It was on one of those “gotta love this darn game” fairways that I recently had a discussion with a colleague about effective feedback.  It wasn’t the usual conversation about how we give feedback, but rather how we accept it.   She had attended the Global Leadership Summit sponsored by Willowcreek in August and one of the presenters discussed receiving feedback as his topic.

I started to reflect on this premise on a couple of levels.  First my own reaction when receiving feedback. Besides my well-intentioned mom, I receive and actually seek feedback from my supervisors and team members on a regular basis.  What factors contribute to my successful implementation of that feedback?  Knowledgeable other, respect for the person providing the feedback, shared experience, the way in which the feedback is delivered, the expectation for the implementation, accountability???images (3)

When we think about our students and feedback, our most recent practice has been to provide our educators with the tools and strategies to deliver meaningful, timely descriptive feedback.  As a profession we are evolving past the “Good Job” and “Gold star” stickers which is creating the conditions for educators to articulate exactly what students need to accomplish in order to move along the learning continuum. The rich dialogue that educators are having both with their students and with each other is having a significant impact on student achievement.  Many of our colleagues are also diving head first into the world of pedagogical documentation and using various platforms to document the learning for the purpose of sharing it with colleagues, students and parents as a focal point for discussions about improvement.

So, in the midst of this fantastic feedback frenzy, I can’t help but wonder if we have spent enough (or any) time preparing students on how best to receive feedback.  What will it take to ensure that they don’t tune us out?

The other layer of this inquiry is how do we continue to have rich learning dialogues with colleagues knowing the importance of not only providing feedback but receiving it.  We are passionate about our practice and take it personally when others comment on what we are doing and how we are doing it.   How can we open our ears and hear what others are sharing without becoming defensive?

2015-09-19_0014 Just today, I had a conversation with a colleague in  passing and I started to share my new thinking on the  topic of feedback. Within minutes, she highly  recommended “Thanks for the Feedback” written by  Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.  Looks like I’ve just  acquired one more book to add to my list of “must  reads”!


What factors affect how you receive feedback?  How can we better prepare both ourselves and our students to effectively receive feedback?


Come write with me…..


I love a challenge! But when that challenge includes encouraging more educators to share their thoughts and ideas via their blogs, I get doubly excited! A week ago, @MrSurti threw down the gauntlet by posting his three New Year Commitments and then tagging a number of us and encouraging us to follow suit. I have been so impressed with the creativity and thought-provoking posts of my colleagues as they have been sharing their selection of commitments. So, before the newness of this school year becomes stale, I best share my top three.


  •  Put Feet to my Tweets ~ My day usually begins with  reading a number of Tweets and then commenting on  them as I share them with my followers. On average, I  share about 5 per day. Over the past couple of years, that  has added up to over 4000 tweets. Although each idea  represented within the articles is meaningful and  relevant, I frequently find myself lamenting the fact that implementing these ideas is much more complicated than just retweeting them. One great idea that I recently tweeted involved adopting the concept “walking” meetings. There are too many days where we find ourselves confined to meeting rooms and the most steps we take are the three flights of stairs that we mount each morning. So, here’s a heads up to my team members and an invitation to store a pair of comfy shoes at their desks.


  • Encourage the Teams to Dream ~ Inspire, support, challenge, motivate, provoke, persuade and the list of adjectives could go on and on. As I’ve shared before, I am truly blessed with the teams that I get to work with. They challenge me to be a stronger leader, a more dedicated learner and one who continues to test the boundaries of the status quo. As we enter our third year together, I commit to being more purposeful and intentional in ensuring that we are always working towards our dreams of how best to support educator professional learning. images (1)



  • Connect the Unconnected ~ If you are reading this post, then you have accessed it via Facebook or Twitter and therefore you are already a connected educator. Preaching to the connected “converted” may make us feel good, but we are not truly building capacity in the ranks of our connected educators. As the 2015-2016 school year unfolds, I commit to exploring and implementing new and creative ways to encourage more educators to see the benefits of using platforms such as Twitter or blogging to extend their own professional learning network.

images (2)

Thank you to @MrSurti for the nudge. Step one was  stating the commitments, step two (the most important  step) is to put them into place.  I’m wondering if those of  us who have publically published our commitments would be willing to provide a monthly update on how those commitments are taking shape and what impact they are having.


What are you committed to doing differently this year?

Come write with me…

Here’s to this year’s Harvest!!

DSC03520 There it is, the first leaf to give into the annual  reduction  of chlorophyll and thus the spotting of the bright red  and orange colours are no longer inhibited by the strong  green colour of the foliage. Each year we know that is  about to happen and yet we still marvel at the  magnificent site as each day our surroundings of lush  green morph into shades of an autumn hue.

For those of us in education, the changing of the leaves also signals a return to a world of teaching, learning and leading ~ a world that I love!

Here is my random thought for today, as I am filled with excitement for the new school year which is just hours away…..

I find it interesting that, although our school year calendar is based on an ancient agricultural cycle whereby children were “freed” from their studies in the summer months in order to contribute to the farm duties, we start the school year in the fall.

DSC03510  Autumn is a time of harvest ~ a time to reap the benefits  of what we planted in the spring.  Tomatoes hang  precariously from their vines (in more abundance than  we can consume), apples turn from their premature sour  green to a shiny red, pumpkins overtake their fenced in  garden boundaries and decorate the ground in an orange  splendor and those once tiny sprouts of green leaves grow into towering yellow sunflowers (tipping over because of the extreme weight of their ready to be picked seeds).DSC03497

Shouldn’t we be reaping the harvest of our students’ learning in the fall, instead of beginning to plant those seeds which will need constant love, care and commitment to see them flourish throughout the next 10 months?   Preparing the conditions whereby students will be able to show their magnificent colours.  Ah…the reds, golds, yellows and oranges ~ each meaningful in its own way and none more important than the other.

The anticipation of what this year’s crop of students will be able to produce by next spring is so exciting. It is like the initial planting of the seeds.  They are placed into the ground in one form and with the right conditions they emerge, grow and flourish into something that is more beautiful and more bountiful than we could have ever imagined.

Here’s to my colleagues who tomorrow will be meeting their new “crop” of babies.  They will create the fertile conditions in the form of warm welcomes, smiles, student generated learning initiatives, Makerspaces, community welcoming atmospheres, collaborative opportunities and a host of other tools which will emerge as the year goes on!  Educators will hone the tools that they have and learn new ones in order to ensure that their crop weathers the storms, the extreme heat and every other challenge that our children overcome throughout the year.

I can’t wait to see our Spring Harvest!  It will be the best ever!

What are your hopes for your harvest this year?

Come write with me…..