once upon a time…

(if you want to skim/skip the story and get into the meat and potatoes of why I wrote a tale about the history of colonization in Canada, scroll down)

Once upon a time, there was a group of noble and peaceful people living in a vast and varied land. These people lived alone on their land for thousands of years. They were very attuned to the world around them, and they used this respect for the natural world to harness the properties of the plants and animals that lived in their land. The smallest plant could be used as a magnificent medicine. The animals that roamed the land could be used to provide shelter, clothing, tools, and food. Each time a plant or animal was killed or taken from the earth, the people made sure to say a prayer of gratitude thanking the earth for providing them with sustenance. The people traveled their land, learning to live in harsh climates and conquering the many challenges that faced them. In order to keep their way of life alive, they told intricately-woven stories to their youth, so that they could, one day, be the story keepers that would pass their tales on to those that came after them. The people continued to live on in peace and harmony in their untouched and undiscovered land.


Until, one day, newcomers arrived from across the fathomless seas. The people were surprised to see them; they had become so accustomed to living in their land alone. The newcomers looked, sounded, and acted different. They were fragile and could not withstand the harsh elements that the first peoples had always known. They did not know how to survive in the land that the first peoples called home. So the first peoples reached out to help the newcomers and show them their way of life. They taught the newcomers to create shelters so they would be warm. They showed the newcomers how to hunt and fish so they would be fed. They taught the newcomers what plants were helpful or harmful so they would be safe. Slowly, the newcomers learned to live in this new land.


The newcomers, while strange and other, did have their own special skills to contribute. They had learned to craft materials out of metal and fabric that were beyond what the first peoples could create. The newcomers shared their inventions with the first peoples in return, giving them pots and pans, metal arrowheads, guns, and blankets. Unfortunately, these gifts came at a very high price.


The first peoples were not aware, but the blankets the newcomers had shared, while warm and comforting, shared something else: something sinister and deadly. A sickness, brought over from across the seas by the newcomers, was hiding within the blankets. As the first peoples slept tightly bundled in the blankets, the sickness crept into their flesh and bones and began to work its dark magic. The first peoples, though strong and accustomed to their severe weather, had never experienced this sickness before, and they soon began to fall ill in the thousands. The first peoples, desperate to save their sick family members, tried every herbal remedy they had come to know, but nothing worked. One by one, the first peoples fell, their death toll rising into the thousands. The dark sickness continued to creep across the land, laying its icy hands on children, elders, or the weak and ill.


While the blankets brought the nightmare of disease, the guns, too, spelled disaster for the first peoples. With this advanced technology, animals could be killed with swiftness and ease. Gone were the days of taking only what was necessary to survive; beasts were killed without care, carcasses piling up. As more of the animals in the land were hunted down, the first peoples’ main food source depleted, leaving them hungry and dying off from disease. A once mighty and proud people were left weak and frightened in their homeland.


The newcomers, now quite accustomed to living in this new land, were eager to explore and claim the land as their own, building houses and farms wherever they roamed. As the newcomers gained strength and numbers, the first peoples realized they needed to make a deal if they were to survive.


The leaders of the newcomers and the first peoples gathered together in a sacred place to talk. Although some of them had learned the words of the other’s language, they still struggled to understand each other as they discussed. The first peoples, strong believers in cooperation and peace, thought that the agreements they reached with the newcomers would be honored and kept as sacred promises. The newcomers, thirsty to own and tame more of the vast land, did not have the same understanding. They did not see the promises as sacred, and had no value in keeping these promises with the first peoples. They were blinded by greed to have more, more, always more.


Years passed, and while the newcomers thrived and continued to claim the new land as their own, the first peoples continued to struggle in the place that had belonged to them for millennia. The newcomers wanted to teach the first peoples their ways of life; they wanted the first peoples to be more like them. To accomplish this goal, they sent the first peoples’ children away from their families to go to school. Many of these schools were places of fright and suffering for the first people’s children. They were not allowed to speak their own tongues, wear their own clothes, pray to their own gods. Some were beaten or abused if they did not follow the strict rules asked of them.


Little by little, the vibrant culture of the first peoples began to fade. Being apart from their families and their language, the children forgot their way of life. If they returned home, they were strangers to those they had once loved. Many lived inside constant nightmares from the horrors they had faced in the schools. When the children grew up into adults, they were broken and did not know how to lead good lives, having never led good childhoods. When they had children of their own, they did not know how to be parents, and so their children, too, suffered. Some tortured souls turned to drink or drugs, seeking some refuge from the pain and suffering, if only for a moment.


Meanwhile, the newcomers had made themselves quite at home, in a land that was not theirs. They began to take over government and control the land. The first peoples were too weak and sparse to disagree. The newcomers decided to banish the first peoples to their own isolated pieces of land. Many cruel rules were inflicted upon the first peoples. Practicing their own customs or beliefs would land them in jail. Leaving their isolated pieces of land, even to attend a family member’s funeral, was a criminal offense. If first peoples decided to attend a university, they would lose their identity as part of the first peoples. If women of the first peoples married a newcomer, they lost their identity as a first people. The first peoples, full of despair, prayed for a miracle.


After a long period of darkness and depression, a spark of light began to grow within the hearts of the first peoples. Though they had been hurt and oppressed, they longed for justice and a return to the peaceful ways of the ancestors. They began to speak out about the horrors they had faced. The first peoples were taking back the power of the stories they had used long ago to share their lives with one another. More and more first peoples began to share the tales of the injustices they had faced and slowly, the spark grew. It was even capable of jumping into the hearts of caring newcomers who realized the evil of what had been done in the past.


A new age is on the horizon. First peoples and newcomers together, passionate about righting the wrongs of the past, fight to restore the peace and harmony that was once common in this land. They strive to keep the promises that were made by their ancestors many moons ago and find forgiveness for what has been done. This does not mean that all is well; there are still many battles to be fought and many newcomers who do not support the spark. There is a long journey ahead and the ending of the tale is not yet written. What part will you play in writing it?




I was inspired to write this “fairy tale” after a troubling discussion in my Grade 6 Social Studies class today. Over the course of the year, the students have often griped and groaned whenever we have to learn about First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people and their culture. This has never sat well with me.

The students’ main complaints are:

  1. “We learned this already.” They have learnt the same things about FNMI people many years in a row and they are bored of it. (understandable)
  2. “Why do we have to learn about them? We want to learn about our own people.” While I absolutely understand the craving to delve into our own ancestors’ culture (which students will have an in-depth opportunity to do at the end of the year during our Culture Fair), I find it deeply unsettling that students in our school system, though well versed in traditional FN culture and residential schools, still do not grasp the importance of learning about the first people who lived in this land.

When I entered the classroom today, ready to start our new unit on Global Interdependence, all plans were thrown out the window. Students, inquiring on what the new unit would be about were asking, “Is it about First Nations people again?” (inner cringe). One student piped up, “Why don’t we call them Indians anymore?” and the teacher within me was rip-raring to go. Cue a crudely hand-drawn world map, and I told a summarized version of how early European explorers, mistakenly, called First Nations people “Indians,” thinking they had landed in India.

This began to spark many other questions among students, such as “Why do First Nations people get so many extra perks that we don’t?” (namely, “not paying taxes,” “hunting whenever they want and as much as they want,” “getting scholarships or getting accepted into university over others,” and “getting monthly cheques from the government” – those are, indeed, loose quotations of what the students believe or have been led to believe). The social justice warrior within me had to calmly continue taking questions and jotting them down on the board to discuss, while making quick and curt explanations to shut down insensitive questions such as, “Why do they go (insert offensive war cry here)?” [yes, that really happened, and it caught on to half of the class]. I have to say, I am rather proud that I didn’t start preaching halfway through and was able to stay composed. What did become clear to me, however, was how deeply these misconceptions are rooted in the students’ home lives, with many comments beginning with, “My mom/dad told me __________.” How can I blame students for having these grossly misunderstood ideations when they are being reinforced (and introduced) in their home lives?

From some graciously thoughtful students (bless their souls), I was able to coax out some ideas about why these “privileges” (can anyone smell the irony here?) might exist for First Nations people? Surely, the government didn’t randomly decide to bestow all of these perks upon them for no reason? Two students were able to come up with the opinion that these things were a way of making up for the wrongs that had been done against First Nations people in the past (**inner cheering that I have reached someone**).

After we had run through most of the questions and comments, I left the students with the knowledge that I’d find some information regarding their queries and we would reconvene next class (hence, the story). I hope that we can follow this tale with a discussion that shifts the focus from, “It’s not fair FN people have things we don’t,” to focus more on what we have/had they they do not.

  • What privileges do the newcomers (European settlers) have that First Nations people do not?
  • What problems exist regarding how the newcomers entered the new land? What could have been done differently?
  • Why do you think the newcomers did what they did?
  • How would the story of your ancestors be different if the First Nations were not welcoming and helpful when the settlers arrived?
  • What is the moral or lesson of this story? What can we do, today, to continue to heal the wounds of the past?


Clearly, this is a topic of passion for me. If you share my passion, or have an opinion on this important, reconciliACTION work, please share with me in the comments below. Feel free to share my “Once Upon a Time…” cautionary fairy tale with your class/other teachers if it can be of use to you – see PDF file here –>  (Once Upon a Time…)


Until next time,




a sprinkle of fairy dust

DISCLAIMER: This post is lengthy and focuses specifically on Early Childhood Education topics. It includes my personal reflections on different PD topics that I have explored as part of a conference. If this does not interest/apply to you, please feel free to find some of my more general education posts – no hard feelings 🙂

fairy dust

I think this may be one of the fastest back-to-back posts I’ve done on my blog. I stumbled across Fairy Dust Teaching somewhere on social media (I can’t remember if I first followed her on Facebook or Twitter), and I was constantly inspired by the many posts she had about Early Childhood Education.

When I saw that Fairy Dust Teaching had an online, Winter Conference, where videos with presenters were posted for participants to engage with in their own time (PD in your pyjamas, if you will), I was instantly intrigued. I decided to sign up for the conference, with intentions of watching the videos over the February break. Well, in the true whirlwind fashion of a teacher’s life, I didn’t get to the PD over the break, but decided to put away some time today to start watching through the videos. Boy, am I glad I did!

Please enjoy some of my thoughts, musings, and reflections on some of the sessions. I would love if you had any comments to leave in response to any of the topics in this post.


If there is such a thing as a celebrity in the ECE world, these ladies are it! Loose parts has become a HUGE buzzword in the early years, and I’m sure that most Pre-K/K educators have seen or looked at one of these books in their travels. Miriam Beloglovsky and Lisa Daly, who wrote the Loose Parts books 1, 2, and 3, were giving an interview-style presentation on how loose parts can promote STEAM education.

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 12.23.57 PM

After some wonderful PD this summer, I decided to incorporate a permanent loose parts centre in my own classroom this school year. While this centre has changed locations periodically and the objects found there have been swapped out several times, I have seen consistent play and exploration happening with my students at this centre/with the materials found there. Most often, students will be exploring Encapsulating/Enveloping (putting objects into another container or carrier to transport around –> think putting objects into a purse, box, crate, etc.) and Mixing (putting a variety of loose parts in a large container to mix together –> think creating soups and potions).

The biggest takeaway from this session for me was the role of the educator to relinquish control and the urge to direct the play or jump in to assist (something that I am still working on in my own practice each day). As an organized person, it is often difficult for me to let students create a mess. The part I have to remind myself, though, is that I cannot restrain my students to play in the way that I, an adult, think is appropriate. This session made me reflect on how my actions truly showcase my view of children and their learning. Do I genuinely believe that students are capable, confident, creative if I shut down their play or immediately swoop in to help them? I will definitely be focusing on allowing students the freedom to experiment, problem solve, and get messy when I head back to my classroom!

The other great phrase that was used in this session was “look for the verb, not the noun,” or really pay attention to what big concept or topic the child is interested in exploring, rather than being caught up in the object they’re playing with.

The example that was given was a student playing with purple gems on a lazy susan and spinning them around and around and around. The teacher thought that the student was interested in the colour purple, rather than realizing that their true interest was motion and rotation.

This was a big “Aha!” for me, as, just the other day in my classroom, one of my students had taken all of the loose parts into our upstairs “fort” area and dumped them out on the floor (Hello, alarm bells going off! Mess! Mess! Mess! Must clean!). When I approached, I immediately asked her to clean up, and sort the objects back out into their respective containers. Now, I feel quite guilty about my reaction, and I wish I would have taken a few moments to simply observe what the student was doing with the items to truly understand the intentions of her play and what direction it may have been going – such a missed opportunity to understand this child’s learning better. This is a great reminder for me to step back, watch, and think about what a child is doing before I step in in the future.

The final thing the presenters discussed that I want to incorporate into my classroom is swapping out commercialized, closed-ended objects in the classroom for loose parts that can be transformed into anything the mind can imagine. Lisa discussed how all of the play, plastic food has been exchanged for loose parts such as beads, gems, stones, etc. and dress up clothes have been swapped out for scarves, sashes, and fabrics. I would like to start slowly switching out some of these items and see what the students’ reactions will be (I actually don’t think they will mind at all, as they already use many of our loose parts to make stews and soups and pretend they are foods).

I think this photo sums this idea up quite nicely:

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 1.02.08 PM


This session, a powerpoint collection of wonderful photos, quotes, and key points by Rosalba Bortolotti, discussed the importance of the third teacher.

For anyone unfamiliar, the third teacher is a widely known practice in ECE, with the 3 main teachers in an early years program being as follows: the teacher, other children/classmates, and the environment. The classroom space, in and of itself, can be a teacher to the children in the classroom, by inspiring learning and collaboration.

Having studied Reggio Emilia approach in-depth throughout my university career, I am quite familiar with this idea of the environment being a key component of early years learning. The environment should be flexible, responsive, with frequent modifications that are created by adults and children together.

If you are familiar with my Instagram or Twitter accounts, you’ll often see new furniture configurations and learning opportunities I have set up in my space. I often reference the joy that these new transformations bring me, and discuss how much I enjoy changing up my room or the materials offered within it in order to respond to student interests and spark new learning. It is such a pleasure to know that part of my job to plan for and facilitate learning in Pre-K is to simply design an environment that inspires play and exploration.

This presentation was a re-affirmation that my environment has many of the criteria for a quality early learning program. However, as a reflective practitioner, there are always improvements to be made and questions to consider. Some of the questions I came out of this presentation with are:

-What messages is my environment sending to others (parents, staff, etc.)? What thoughts do they have about the quality of education and care that are given to their child in my classroom?

-What enhancements can I make to my outdoor learning space so that it more efficiently addresses student learning and exploration? (In the fall, our outdoor learning space had a large valley filled in and three large, dead trees torn out, and is now filled with gravel/dirt that is not aesthetically pleasing. I am looking to beautify this space so it can be used more meaningfully in the future)

-What are the main purchases or additions I can make to the classroom to make it more aesthetically pleasing and calming? (I would like to add more soft lighting in our classroom, such as lamps – although finding a place to plug in in our classroom is a struggle)

-How can I involve children more in the changes/transformations that occur in the classroom? How can I bring them into this process and give them responsibility and control?

Overall, this session gave me many ideas and questions to consider further in order to make my third teacher as effective as it can be for my students. It also left me with an itch to get into my classroom and switch some things up again. I love my ever-changing classroom. ❤

Session #3: Natural Learning 

The third (and final) session I will be posting about today (as there are still 7 more sessions for me to watch) was put on by Suzanne Axelsson, an early childhood educator in Sweden. She discussed all of the benefits of including nature experiences for early learners, as well as what components need to be present in order to be most effective. Suzanne was absolutely astounding to listen to, and I recommend you check  her out on some of her social media handles below (maybe you’re even interested in joining in on her annual event, International Fairy Tea Party, happening in September).

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 4.22.23 PM

The 7 components for her Natural Learning program were:

  • Wonder
  • Joy
  • Curiosity
  • Risk
  • Time
  • Collaboration/Interaction
  • Reflection

Her presentation included a wealth of knowledge, photographs of joyful learning moments captured, and a ton of stories from her experiences.

A few standout moments for me:

  • How social emotional skills of responsibility, self-regulation, comfort-giving, and collaboration were implicitly taught and infused throughout her practice. Suzanne told many stories of how her students showed empathy, compassion, and teamwork in their outdoor adventures. She also explained how she built some of these skills bit by bit through daily interactions and modelling. It was fascinating to see how these little people became caring and involved members of their learning community. This sense of belonging is something I strive for in my own practice.
  • How “risk” involves more than just the physical risk of getting hurt. Suzanne explained that there is an element of  “social risk” (someone being mean to you or hurting your feelings) as well. I see this as very relevant to some of the learners we have in our classrooms today, who may struggle with this type of risk more than any other, especially with the rise of mental health struggles such as anxiety, depression, and trauma (which, yes, unfortunately, begin showing up in early childhood for some). It was a perspective that I have never heard of before, but will definitely consider if I see a child who is reluctant or struggling to engage with others – perhaps they are avoiding social risk. This also involves me, as an educator, explicitly teaching and modelling what to do in these social situations if someone DOES hurt your feelings.
  • The idea of children doing the reflecting. Reflection is so prevalent in education, that it often becomes used to the point of being comical (i.e., “as a teacher, I reflect on my lesson and then reflect on my reflection – an inception of reflections”). While it is true that teachers must be reflective in their practice, I often forget to include students in this critical process. If we are to give students responsibility and ownership of their learning, they, too, have to be involved in the reflective process. Suzanne touched briefly on how documentation, such as photographs, can be a vehicle for this reflection. This is something that I am interested in exploring more in my own practice in the future.

Well, I think that is enough for today. Thank you for coming along with me as I delved into some PD topics of interest in regards to ECE.

What professional or personal goals have you set for yourself this school year?

What buzz worthy topics are you exploring in your own practice?

How do you like to engage in professional development?


Until next time,


goal setting and forward thinking

One thing I have found surprising in this, my first year of teaching, is how early teachers start thinking about the next school year. Once January rolled around, staff at the school were asking me if I planned to stay at HBCS another year. By the time April hit, schedules and time tables were being created — heck, I even heard talk of a teacher photocopying and prepping handouts for the fall!

Now that I think about it more, however, it doesn’t seem as surprising for a couple of reasons:

  1. Teachers are very organized. It really shouldn’t be a surprise that they are looking ahead and planning in advance. We do it all the time; it’s a force of habit.
  2. Doing some planning ahead before the school year is over means less planning to do over summer – and more hours to spend soaking up the sun.
  3. [Without getting too terribly psychobabbly here…] Perhaps this is also the beginning of teachers starting to mentally and emotionally let go of the students that they currently have. After spending an entire year with the same faces, you get attached! To make this bittersweet ‘end of an era’ easier, maybe thinking ahead to the new students you’ll have next year helps to ease the change?

I also think that this concept of ‘forward-thinking’ seems so strange to me is because I am still a first year teacher taking things, in most cases, day-by-day. I am so focused on slogging through each day and caught up in planning what I am doing next week (or, let’s be honest, tomorrow) that my forward gaze cannot possibly be too occupied with something FOUR MONTHS from now! My guess is that after a few years of teaching under my belt, I, too, will become caught up in this phenomenon.

One thing that I have been accumulating for next year is goals! One of the most exciting parts of being a teacher is the opportunity for constant re-invention and self-improvement. While I am certainly proud of what I have accomplished (and survived – haha!) in my first year of teaching, I certainly don’t expect to have this mind-bogglingly complex vocation down to a science yet (although I do have to remind myself of this once in a while!). Heck, I hope that I still feel that this way 30 years in! If I ever have feelings of comfortability and mastery, I think it’s time to switch some things up and try some new strategies.


So, yes, I already have a list of things that I would like to change/tweak/scrap/try next year!

Last week, the students had a day off of school, but the staff was busy at work during our SIP (School Improvement Planning) Day. I always find these days a confusing mix of frustration over battling seemingly insurmountable obstacles and indescribable inspiration to improve my practice. Luckily, being an optimist, I always try to latch on to the latter feelings. I felt especially inspired after our last SIP Day, where I presented a technology tool to the entire staff that they may be interested in using in their classroom (if you’re interested, it’s called Plickers – click to check it out!). I was flattered when I heard from several teachers in the following days, thanking me for introducing them to the website/app and sharing that they were going to try it with their own classes! As a new teacher, it is easy to feel like you are always the one asking for help and soaking up others’ expertise. It was comforting to know that I have a lot to share with my colleagues, even as a ‘green’ member to the staff.

I left school that day energized and forward-thinking. As a student in elementary, high, and post-secondary school, I always strived for excellence and, due to the way our education system is currently run, it was easy to determine if I had, indeed, achieved said “excellence.”  However, becoming a teacher (while I am still very much a learner and a student of this career and its intricacies) begs the question: “How do I know if I am achieving excellence?” 

Obviously, I don’t receive letter grades, percentages, or marks for my work (and from an assessment-minded perspective, one doesn’t require these trivial things to understand if they are doing well or not, anyways). So I made some goals that I want to achieve in order to attain my personal standard of excellence:

  1. I want to continue to evolve and strengthen my teaching practice (This one is fairly generic and simple, but my recent involvement in #saskedchat has gotten me thinking a lot about parts of my practice that I would like to focus on in the future)
  2. I want to receive an award for being an excellent teacher at some point in my career (This is certainly a much bigger goal, but even if I never actually achieve it, simply working towards it will make me a better teacher, which I am definitely content with as an alternative. But, hey, a girl can dream, right?)
  3. I want to obtain my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (This one shocked me, too! Going through university, I always said “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to be a classroom teacher; all I need for that is a Bachelor’s Degree, so once I have that, I am done.” However, getting my position in Pre-K has sparked a new sub-passion that I truly want to explore and extend. In true Kara fashion, I have already extensively looked into this, and my current plan is to start taking an online Master’s of Education in Early Childhood Education through UBC in the fall of 2018 – if all goes according to plan! Yes, folks, you heard it here first! I am truly a student at heart; I am already thrilled at the prospect of returning to the university atmosphere and mindset of learning voraciously, pursuing avenues of passion, and sharing these passions with likeminded people.)

No matter what the future of my career holds, I know that it is going to be an exciting ride! And I hope you look forward to me continuing to share my journey of “Learning to Teach” here, in my little corner of the internet. I truly appreciate anyone and everyone who has ever given this little blog a slice of their time and attention. After all, what good is going on a journey if you don’t have people to share the story with?


If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you! I realize that I was particularly wordy and “fluffy” today – sorry about that [more “sorry, not sorry” actually; this is my only outlet for writing nowadays – gotta flex those vocabulary muscles somewhere!]

Until next time,


ESL/EAL/ELL hmmmm moment

Does the ‘S’ in ESL stand for Second or Subsequent?

Does the ‘A’ in EAL stand for Additional or Acquired?

Which term is politically correct? Do they all mean the same thing? Which one should I use? And for goodness’ sake, why do they keep changing the abbreviation?!

EAl lang tree

These are some of the questions that I have asked myself many times since becoming a student in the Faculty of Education. In the past few years, all things ESL/EAL/ELL have become much-discussed topics. As future teachers, we hear “Your classrooms will include high percentages of immigrant students for whom English is not their first language” so often, it is no wonder that this is on our minds! The shifting focus of ‘person-first’ language in regards to students with special needs has made me think about the language we use to define these students who have a language other than English as their first.

Here was the thought that popped into my head last night:

ELL = English Language Learner. But some students who are labelled ‘ELL’ have a proficient command of the English language. Comparatively, many people who are raised with English as their first language do not use it properly. So it seems rather unfair to call students who have a differing mother tongue ‘learners’ of the English language when, really, we are ALL English language learners. 

As a self-proclaimed “Grammar Policewoman” and English enthusiast, I am often drawn to online quizzes with titles such as: “These are 100 vocabulary words that high school graduates of today should know. Do you know them all?” and “Can you recognize these common grammatical/spelling errors?” Admittedly, even I (as someone who prides herself in being knowledgeable about English language in general) learn new vocabulary words and obscure grammatical rules. A native English speaker with university education, even I continue to be an English language learner (and I will never cease to be).

So, my question is: Is “English Language Learner” truly the best phrase to define our students who speak other languages before English? I truly believe that all of my students, and all members of society, are English Language Learners. Labelling only immigrant families as ELLs supports a power imbalance, placing native English speakers, “those who have already learned all there is to learn about English,” above those still learning it.

EAL hello

So… Which term do I prefer?

I can understand why we have stepped away from the term ESL, as it was most often taken to mean “English as a Second Language,” which was an unfair representation of students for whom English was the third, fourth, fifth, or higher language in their repertoire. If we change the ‘S’ to instead stand for Subsequent, however, this abbreviation becomes more open-ended.

I would argue that EAL meaning “English as an Acquired Language” would apply to every English speaker out there, as we all had to acquire English at some point (whether at age 1 or 15).

Personally, I believe that “EAL” (English as an Additional Language) is the most fitting way to describe these students. It places both English and the preceding language(s) in a positive light. The word “Additional” carries the connotation that it was another language added into the student’s repertoire: a plus, a bonus. It does not undermine the primary language; English is not the language of utmost importance, but another addition into an already rich background. It does not state whether English is the second, third, fourth, fifth language the student learned, but merely that it was not the first. It is for these reasons that I will use EAL as my abbreviation of choice when referring to my students who have added English to theDVDir list of spoken languages.

Put into metaphorical terms, EAL refers to a student’s known languages much like a DVD, with English being the Additional or Bonus Features on the disc. You don’t originally buy the DVD for the Bonus Features, you buy it for the movie (the primary or first known language)! But the Bonus Features are there as a surprise, a little extra treat. Similarly, we have to value students’ mother tongues first and foremost, as they are the Main Feature in the child’s linguistic package.

What are your thoughts on the ESL/EAL/ELL debate? Please leave me a comment to let me know!

Until next time,


accidental ageism

I haven’t blogged in so long, I almost forgot the little rush of giddy I get when I start typing out a post. Needless to say, it’s great to be back in the blogosphere!

A little update: I have moved home for the summer and am waitressing at a local restaurant (and boy, it is quite an eye-opening life experience for a 20 year old who has never served before), which I find to be enjoyably fast-paced and pleasing for the pocketbook.

This is just going to be a short post about a tongue-in-cheek moment I had the other day while at work: I had finished serving a table of four (two young children and two older adults), and when the woman from the table came to the till to pay, I was making conversation, as is customary. Casually, and not thinking anything of it, I asked her, “Out for supper with the grandchildren?” Imagine my embarrassment and guilt when she answered, “Actually they are mine. Surprising at my age, isn’t it?” with a small laugh. Mortified into a loss of words, I just gave her what, I hope, looked like a crinkly-eyed smile rather than the grimace I felt inside.

After she left, I couldn’t help but kick myself for my wrongful assumption. Granted, this circumstance of subconscious labelling wasn’t especially harmful or degrading in comparison to others, but it was definitely a reminder to myself that, no matter how much I have learned about stereotyping and discrimination, I am still human, make these mistakes, and can’t possibly know someone from a glance.

This situation actually reminds me a lot of a video that went viral a few weeks ago. It involves a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent that really blows some stereotypes out of the water. If you haven’t already seen it, I suggest you give it a watch:

And here is one of my absolute favourites about judging people from a glance and how inaccurate it is:

Hope you enjoyed this ‘food for thought’ entry! Have you ever had an embarrassing ‘assumption’ moment?


technique doesn’t make a teacher


This is the image that many people will automatically think of when they hear ‘teacher.’ But is standing at the front of the classroom, lesson plan in hand really capturing the breadth and depth of the teaching profession?

This week, I read an article (I included the link at bottom of this post) by Parker J. Palmer titled “The Heart of a Teacher.” Although this piece had many memorable messages, the one phrase that I connected most with was:

“good teaching cannot be reduced to technique”

As my peers and I are now approaching the end of our second year (and therefore, the halfway point in completing our degree), I feel that there is a slowly rising panic inside of many of us because we have not had very much explicit instruction or practice regarding how to lesson plan or actually teach a class.

This quote really made me rethink the imminent importance of learning these things. You can have the best lesson plan in the world, but will it truly matter or make a difference if you don’t know how to incorporate social justice and anti-oppressive practices into your teaching practice? Are you actually fulfilling your job as an educator by merely planning activities for children to learn from if they are never relevant to students’ lives and real world issues?

So, to my fellow future teachers: take a deep breath and realize the merit of the strong foundation being built for us. We are challenging and reshaping our personal beliefs and ideas about teaching; we are understanding the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in our practice; we are questioning the constructed ideas of students, teachers, classrooms, and schools that our experiences as students have created and perpetuated.

When we came into this program, perhaps we viewed lesson planning and organization of learning experiences as the sole duty of a teacher, but I think now we all realize that our future careers are much more complex than we may have originally believed. Rather than worrying about when we are going to learn the ins and outs of managing our own classrooms, focus on what’s important about what we are learning right now and what we have already learned in the program. I think that a teacher who is in tune with their inner values has already mastered a large portion of being a successful educator. All the rest will come with experience (which, don’t worry, we will get A LOT of in our next two years as pre-interns and interns).

For now, just enjoy the journey – and don’t forget to look back at how far you’ve already come.



why am i (really) here?

I wrote an autobiography about what moments in my life led me to become a teacher and now, in true teacher fashion, I am going to reflect on what I wrote. The main aspect we were to focus on was our aversion to addressing our race, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality. 

In my autobiography, I did address these parts of my identity, but I took a questioning lens. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

“Was I unknowingly steered into this field by society because of my identity as a white, middle class, heterosexual female? While I like to think that my passion for education is all my own, I can’t deny the fact that a large portion of the teacher population is made up with those who identify themselves the same way.” 

(I also addressed this question in a previous blog post, “just a little tuesday afternoon thinking…” from March 19th, 2013 if you want to hear some more of my thoughts on this matter) 

So while I did let the reader know who I am in regards to these identifiers, why didn’t I include an outright proclamation of these things as the very first sentence, or in the first paragraph? When we introduce ourselves in real life, we usually don’t have to say, “Hi, my name is ______ and I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual female.” And my question is, why not? We can’t determine any one of these things just by looking at someone. There are people in the world who may self-identify as black even though their skin may look to be a lighter shade. There are those who feel they were born in the body of the opposite gender of who they really are – so while they may look male on the outside, they self identify as a woman. We can’t judge socioeconomic status or sexuality by merely looking at someone, either. So why don’t we introduce these things about ourselves?

Obviously, it is not a cultural norm. But WHY not? Is it because only privileged people who are close to us get to know some of these deeply personal things (like sexuality)? Is it because we are embarrassed of a part of who we are? Is it because we expect people to know these things without us saying them? It is interesting to think of an alternate universe in which we are open about these fundamental parts of our identity. While this (most likely) will never catch on in society, it does make us question if we are hiding pieces of our identity from ourselves for some reason.

As a future teacher, I think that uncovering these pieces of ourselves is an important stepping stone into truly knowing yourself – which is the first step to realizing and appreciating differences as a window to anti-oppressive education.