What would you wish?

If I had some wishes I could grant to each student leaving grade 8, I would want my students to leave middle school being confident that they are able to learn, it might look different from someone else, but they can learn. I want them to leave being an advocate for themselves. I want them to trust that their ideas have value and should be shared with others, that their contributions to our class, and society at large, make a difference. I want my students to believe they have a right to take up space, to question in a respectful way and to be confident in knowing that they are able to change their minds as they learn and grow. I want my students to respect differences in opinions, ideas and cultures and be open to learning why someone might do something differently. I want my students to spread kindness.  It would be nice if they remembered a thing or two about rearranging algebraic formulae too.

What would you wish for your students?

Project31 and Community

I work at a school that prides itself on community. We do an awesome job investing in our kids. Last year my #cohort21 project took a very academic route. I looked at peer to peer feedback last year. This year I want to take a more social look based on the conversations I’ve had with my students and the survey feedback they have given me. I want to help my homeroom create a cohesive community by offering them a wide variety of learning experiences that help them both grow as individuals, but also as a community.

We’ve started with a few small team-building challenges that looks both at the communication of words and communication without words. Early in October we started planning for “Project 31”, a Halloween event and each and every one of my 19 students dressed up like a chocolate bar for Halloween and we passed out chocolate bars to the whole school.

We’ve got plans to volunteer with BINGO at a seniors complex, and we are going to go watch some basketball games in the coming months to cheer on our classmates who are on the teams (basically, all but 2 students in our class).

I’m not sure if after out meeting this will be the direction of my project this year, or if this will be just something I do to strengthen the community feel in my own homeroom class. Either way, I’m excited to see where we go from here. After all, this is just the beginning.


The cohort21 experience was amazing today. I am always blown away by the experiences and expertise of the people in the room.  There are people there who have done some AMAZING things and everyone is so excited to share their knowledge to help others, but in a really genuine way (read: not in a bragging way).

As I sit in the airport, I’m sort of struck by how the people here are like teachers at school. Everyone is busy, everyone has a destination in mind, there are timelines and sometimes time crunches. Sometimes you have time to eat, sometimes you eat on the run. Occasionally you have time to go to the bathroom and everyone is carrying around way too many bags.

As we look to build our action plans in the next week – don’t be afraid to sit on the airport floor by the nearest charger and just watch.  What the people, their struggles, their successes and ask yourself: What are the issues you see arising? What are the current solutions? Is this something in your sphere of influence? Is there someone in your school working on this issue? Is there someone in #cohort21 alum directory who has looked at this issue?

Once you think you have a handle on what you see, ask! People love to tell their stories, ask them and listen.


All the feelings

As I sit on the plane heading to #cohort21 I was struck by many of the same feelings I had last year when I really just had no idea what to expect other than to expect something awesome.

I know that the day is almost here and so many of you are excited and nervous about so much of the #cohort21 journey. I wanted to let you know that the feelings of excited and nervous are exactly the ones you need to get the most out of this journey.

You might be feeling excited because you are seeing this as an opportunity to make a change in teaching routine, or perhaps it is school culture that you want to change. Perhaps you have an inkling of an idea that will help students or teachers in your school, and this is the push to get it started. Whatever your action plan ends up being, know that we all want you to be successful, we want to help you and we are excited to see just how far you can take your action plan.

I hope that you can find a refreshing excitement that can come from being around so many genuine and caring professionals. Personally, I always return to school feeling like a first-year teacher – all shiny and full of bright ideas that are going to change my corner of the school.

You might be feeling nervous about thinking deeply about your own classroom practices and all of the things you might find once you really let yourself reflect on areas of improvement. I know this is how I was feeling before my first “onboarding”. I am well aware of my shortcomings (there are many) and as an educator and am constantly reflecting, reading, observing and working to change my practice to really become the teacher that I aspire to be for my students.

Maybe you are nervous because you just do not know what to expect, what kinds of questions we will ask and how you will find this mystery “action plan”. Know that this is OK too.  Know that even people coming with an idea will likely change parts of it. It’s OK if you do not decide what to focus on until long after Saturday once you have had time to digest the people and the sheer amount of collective knowledge at your disposal.

I want you to know however you walk into that room on Saturday, we are excited to have you all on board and know that we won’t make you skydive without a parachute.

Buzzing with Excitement

I wish that each of you could feel the vibe in the room today. Our grade 12’s are showing around students, parents are on campus and registration is happening as I write. There are welcome squeeeeeeles, delight and happiness along with the sound of families catching up, advisors talking to their students, and friends who have not seen each other all summer.

This year promises to be an exciting one filled with growth, both personally and professionally. I am so excited to start on my #cohort21 journey this fall as I know just how much the program gave me last year in time to reflect, permission to try new things and the grace with which to fail and try again knowing more.

I hope that those of you who are nervous embrace that feeling and use it to energize your own personal learning. Not everything will be perfect, in fact, most of it will be messy, but in the end, the learning for both you and your students will be beyond what you thought possible as you sit reading these words.

I am excited to meet each of you on this journey and hear about your ideas. I want to borrow your knowledge to expand my own understanding of teaching and I’m excited to be participating in #cohort21.

Mary-Ellen Wilcox

HMW and robots


I  found myself today starting a summer camp with a great group of excited students who want nothing more than to be THE ONE to build the robot, THE ONE to code the robot and THE ONE to make all the decisions about everything to do with their amazing robot. This is great until each student realized they had to share their robot with two other people who wanted to do exactly the same thing.

This got me thinking about sharing, group work, compassion, empathy, skill building and all of that lead me down a small rabbit hole where I was trying to work out what might be a week-long “how might we” question that I could focus on for the week that would lead to student growth not only in the areas around robotics but in the area of personal growth as well.

I think I am going to go without much more refinement than what I have now, which is “how might we use team building games to build community decision making”. I spent my non-computer troubleshooting time today coming up with that and seeing as how I only have these students for a week, I think this is what I am going to run with and see where I can get to with my littles.

When I think about team building games and community, I always think about TRIBES (https://tribes.com/) and one of my teachers from the BEd who was incredibly invested in the program. I have been known to use some of the team building games with my students at the start of the year,  or when we have a few minutes left of class but never before have I fully invested myself and my classroom into the whole process.

This has inspired me to try out investing myself for week-long intervals during the summer with successive camps and working out how some of the policies, community building and team ideas would work in my own classes this coming year.  I can see no fault with trying to create an increase in compassion, and community.

What are you doing this summer to ignite your passion for teaching and prepare yourself for 2019? Do you have a resource you want to invest your time in this summer to benefit your school year?



A little video recap to kick off the celebration

It’s time to celebrate! It’s time to look at our own learning, look at our own growth and look at how this has positively impacted our students and possibly even other teachers in our buildings. It’s time to recognize the impact a year can have when we decide we want to make a change. It’s time to pat ourselves on the back, and it’s time to start reflecting on where this growth will lead us to next year. Some of us may choose to continue on the same path as we still have work to do with our HMW questions. Some of us may choose to tackle a question that came up this year, during our work with our 2018 HMW question. The best part – all of this celebrating is just the start of something great and you get to choose just how great it is going to be for HMW 2019.

I won’t be able to attend #cohort21’s final F2F as I am only a part-time attendee. That being said, I’ve created a video for you all so that you can see the journey we went on this year over in NB. The best part, for sure, is the student survey at the end of the video. Numbers don’t lie, and with numbers like these, I can’t wait to see where we go next with peer-to-peer feedback and resiliency. For those of you who want to see the feedback from our third lab a bit closer, I’ve posted the two photos below as they are either too blurry to read, or too far away to read in the video. I opted for too far away so you don’t think there is something wrong with your eyes.

The video link can be found by clicking these blue words.



Just thought I’d check in and see if any other classes/teachers lounges are following along? We’re catching up from March break and filling out our info cards this week and making our predictions at #rnsscience (Grades 6-8). Each class is responsible for presenting 1/4 of the bracket and each student is making their predictions. If you have not checked out the recaps on youtube, they are full of 90’s references and awesomeness.



When your cape is in the wash

This week is busy at school, well, really when is an independent school not busy? I’d argue Christmas day. We are 7 school days away from March break and everyone is trying to wrap up units and minimize assessments that need to happen over the holidays.

I feel like I am doing some exciting things in my room, but I have not been great at allowing the process of peer-to-peer feedback this week. #teacherfail

How easy is it for us to get pushed into a time crunch and sacrifice the very thing we have vowed to work towards improving. I know that one week does not mean this is a failed venture, and I know my students are OK not grading each other on appropriate activities this week as I try to increase their resiliency through the giving and receiving of feedback, and some are happy as they see it as one less step before they can submit their own work.

I also know I need to give myself some grace. It’s a new week next week and there is a whole term left once we return from March break. I have big plans for a cell unit where students need to gather clues and prepare a presentation as an end of the unit project. I also have another group using the makeymakey board to create interactive ears and eyes. Both of these projects will need feedback and multiple drafts before students can submit. We can use peer feedback there.

I thought I’d put this out there in the interest of being transparent and as a way to remind each of you, in the crazy lead up to March break to give yourself some grace and kindness. We are all superheroes, but even a superhero needs to wash their cape.


Just keep swimming

Bitmoji Image

January can be a hard time for teachers. You arrive at school before the sun comes up, you leave after the sun has gone down and it’s so very cold because no school has ever in the history of schools managed to perfect the art of heating classrooms.

January can also be a really exciting time for teachers. The students (for the most part) are settled into their routines, there is a large chunk of time before the next major holiday and it’s dreary enough that students are not longingly staring out the window wishing they could frolic outside. This means that MAJOR content can be covered, recovered, challenged, debated, explored and investigated. #teacherhappyplace

In all of the exploring, debating and uncovering that is going to go on between January and March, I want to focus in on my action plan and really get good at using peer to peer feedback. I want to try different times (i.e. morning classes vs afternoon classes), different groupings (friends vs pairs based on needs), different projects (essay vs lab report vs presentation) and different styles (do we use the rubric vs more general feedback).

This is my season to attempt and fail, it is my season to learn and grow and it is my season to dive into peer-to-peer feedback and find ways that it can be incorporated to help the students learn resiliency when it comes to accepting and using feedback.