Break = Reflection Time

Ok. I’ve allowed myself 30 minutes to blog (I’ve got the timer going)! If you are like me, then the hardest part isn’t always starting, but in all the editing you do afterwards 🙂

This year, I have joined St. Clement’s School and it has been a great change. The growth and learning is exponential. Though, to be transparent, this year has really challenged and stretched me. I may have had a couple serious, though thankfully short-lived existential crises where I question whether I can simultaneously be a “good” parent and teacher.

In our last face to face session, we were reminded that sometimes our action plans are ones we know cannot be achieved in a single year. Our HMW questions are often those that are changing, evolving and achieved over the long-term. And I find myself going back to the HMW that I posed back when I was a season 8 participant–HMW effectively implement problem-based learning?

As I reflect, I see how I was laying some important groundwork as a season 8 participant to implement problem-based learning more comprehensively. Some of what that looked like included:
-doing the research on PBL
-taking in the wisdom and knowledge of my colleagues and other Cohorters
-doing the small- and large-scale testing in the classroom
-and collecting data from students and teachers on what’s been working and what can be adjusted

This year at St. Clement’s, with the amazing support of our department leader and administration, I have had the opportunity to implement problem-based learning full scale. And wow. There are rich math conversations occurring, students collaborating with one another, students co-constructing and taking ownership of their learning, and of course, problem solving. And this is all happening while social-distancing within the classroom. I’m excited for all the possibilities when movement and physical spaces are more flexible!

There is so much that can be optimized yet, and that perhaps is a post for the future. But for now, it has been very rewarding to know that the path you started out on a few years back is still a solid one.


  1. Thanks for this post – a great reflection on your Cohort 21 journey.

    What grades are you doing this work in at St. Clements? Have you done PBL PD?

    The reason I ask is that PBL in Math is a great area of exploration for any of our Season 10 Participants exploring the pedagogy stream.

    Thanks so much and Happy Holidays!

    1. Hi Garth! Thanks for these questions. I am running PBL in grade 8, 9 and 12. Our grade 8s are also working through spiralled courseware, covering both the grade 8 and 9 curriculum. I have heard great things about PD by Carmel Schettino ( haven’t had the opportunity to attend since the year I intended was the year COVID shut things down. Peter Liljedahl also runs workshops that guide teachers through his Thinking Classroom approach (

  2. This is such a wonderful update on the evolution of your Cohort 21 questions. I’ve been thinking similarly because my original question in season 7 was connected to building oral communication opportunities within the French classroom, which is something that again because urgent and important after so many months of online learning. I don’t know about you, but it actually felt a bit good to face this problem knowing I had already started it a few seasons ago.

    1. @jbairos, I couldn’t agree more with your last thought about tackling a problem for the nth time. The time spent researching and prototyping really assisted in engaging in PBL full throttle.

  3. hey @elee! great to hear that you have returned to re-examine a previous hmw and it sounds like you chose a good one. why do you think the students are responding so positively to the pbl? where are you looking for inspirations for your problems? would love to hear more. @mcurtin @amacrae might also want to join this mathy conversation! cya on sat!

    1. @tjadgeo, you pose so many great questions, thank you. I think students want to collaborate, converse/debate/discuss, have autonomy, be challenged, and be trusted to guide their learning. Though, I was initially met with resistance–there’s a fear of the unknown and a resistance to being uncomfortable. So there is time needed to transition into this new way of learning and being in the classroom, and in shifting mindsets. Our courseware is a combination of problems created by our teachers as well as inspiration pulled from Exeter’s problem sets ( See you soon!

  4. @elee two comments that stood out in this post to me were regarding balance and implementation. You mentioned the challenge you’re having balancing being a good parent and a good teacher; likewise, you spoke to the ongoing changes that have taken place in your classroom through the implementation of PBL. I wonder if there are opportunities for future posts here? Unpacking these challenges and processes could lead to fruitful reflection. I know there are math teachers at my school who would be eager to hear about PBL in the math classroom!

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