PSD70 Learning Coach Program

A Parkland School Division Blog Site



I hate how Iphone’s only hold their charge for around 5 hours and obviously less if they are used. In frustration I walked out to my car to get my charger card and saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. My body had a little shiver as I dislike the vermin that are mice. I saw the movement again and focused on a small sandwich bag moving away from me. I took a step away from my car to get a closer look and couldn’t believe my eyes. There before me was a little green man with a sandwich bag flung over one shoulder with a strange green object inside and on his other a wrapped up tiny piece of paper. Some would say that the next sound they heard was a shriek, but I think it was more of a deep yell that came from inside me. The little man dropped his bag and piece of paper and disappeared up a pipe that was nearby. I slowly made my way to the discarded objects and picked them up. Inside the bag was a tiny green rock and when I touched it a gold coin was revealed as the rock broke in two. I unrolled the small piece of paper and saw a tiny map with 16 x’s marked on it. I immediately went to the photocopier and enlarged the map and saw markings that resembled the school grounds and locations where I hoped to find buried treasure.

Now I am obviously a confident person and not afraid of small creatures but I thought it might be valuable to enlist some helpers on my quest. I ran upstairs to Mrs. Lee’s k-2 class and asked if they could help me. They are small, I could probably out run them if anything bad went down and they seemed to have a keen interest in small green men since it was St. Patrick’s day. I told them what I had seen and sure enough they were in for the adventure.

We split into two groups and made our way outside with maps in hand. We went to the first location and there was another bag with the green rock inside. After the map was found to be legitimate the race was on. We travelled all over the school yard in search of treasure, using our maps as a guide and teamwork as a tool. In the end we all found a piece of treasure.

When we made it back to class and Mrs. Lee said that she had some magical water that we could wash the rocks in. It smelt a little funny, almost like vinegar. We put our rocks in and it bubbled and frothed like a magic green potion. The rocks disappeared and sure enough each rock had a gold coin inside. We were pretty excited as a class and a little sad that the adventure was over. Who knows what magic we will encounter in our learning tomorrow?

Problems that Lead to Growth

Problems that leads to growth

You learn more from your mistakes than from your successes. This is definitely a saying that I am finding to be true. Last week I taught a physical education lesson to a grade ¾ class that didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. The students came in and followed their normal routine and then I wanted to teach them two games that I recently learned at teacher’s convention. I started out by making sure I had all attention on me, explained the game, asked for any questions and cold called on a few students to check for understanding. We began to play the game and it went well for all but one boy that the teacher noticed was disengaged in the activity. I did not notice as I was avoiding and throwing dodge balls as the rest of the class enjoying the game.

I stopped the game and called the students back in to explain the next game. The game had a lot of strategy and rules to follow and had a number of students asking for clarification. I thought that it would just be best if we started the game and then work out the issues as we played. As we started the first round one of the boys who didn’t understand the rules went out of the game as he failed to tag someone. He did not understand why and was overwhelmed with the instruction and ambiguousness of the game. There was an outburst at that time and the boy was removed so he could calm down and discusses the situation by the teacher and the EA. I continued to play the game explaining the rules as we played and getting into the strategy as we progressed. In the end the students had a lot of fun and I thought it was a successful lesson minus the one outburst. That all changed when the teacher approached me and started asking questions.

As a teacher of 20 plus years and a learning coach I found myself a little defensive as the teacher started asking why I didn’t give greater clarification at the beginning of the game so to avoid the outburst that occurred. I tried to explain that sometimes it is best to learn by doing but that didn’t feel right. I went back and reflected on my practice and came up with this:

Things I would have done differently.

  1. Needed a visual to put rules on and to explain games
  2. Check for understanding…bad one to miss
  3. Those that don’t understand can sit and watch the game and then bring them in to restart.
  4. Have established start and go signals…you have those but I needed to either use yours or tell them new ones.
  5. Had some closure but could have used more, gone over games and why we do them.
  6. Dynamite is warm up game and plunger is cooperation and teamwork…I should let kids know why they are doing activities or what I am looking for in PE. For ex. if I see people getting hit and not going out. (good time for a class conversation) Having said that I only saw one person get hit and not go out. I only saw one because it affected me. Your kids are generally pretty and didn’t complain when the ref made a call which does happen often if the culture isn’t established
  7. As for the little guy…maybe he needs to know what is happening in advance, could review at end of class what is happening the next class. Could check for understanding as a group and then pull him aside so he understands? Give him visuals? Give him a time out area he can go to or access EA when he is feeling overwhelmed or confused? Definitely for him three new games and not knowing what was going on was too much.

After further discussion with the teacher we agreed that some of the preventative measures could be put in place to support this student and all of the class. Through my mistakes we were able to make positive changes to improve practice. My mistakes helped me think about improving my practice and provided the teacher with ways to help her students. Success through failure.


Picture taken from:

Mental Health First Aid



TJ Skalski recently offered Mental Health First Aid for Parkland School Division. The in-service was an interactive and intense two days focusing on mental health issues and how to support people struggling with disorders. Substance, Mood, Anxiety, Eating and Psychotic disorders affect many Canadians. In Canada, one person in three will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lifetime.  Hopefully with increased awareness and education we can provide the support and resources to support mental health concerns. ALGEE references the 5 basic actions of Mental Health First Aid:

1. Assess the risk of suicide and/or harm

2. Listen non-judgmentally

3. Give reassurance and information

4. Encourage the young person to get appropriate professional help

5. Encourage other supports


Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)

Cooperative Learning


I have recently taken some professional development through learning services at PSD 70 that will be invaluable to the schools I work with. It is called Kagan cooperative learning. The structure allows for maximum engagement with students by allowing them to do the talking and thus the learning. It also focuses on team work, social interaction and establishing a classroom culture of collaboration and sharing. I look forward to modelling the process so teachers can implement the strategies in their classes.

Coaching Heavy or Light?

teeter totter
Photo Credit: «Jessica♥Marie » via Compfight

After reading, Are you Coaching Heavy or  Light? (J. Killion, 2008), I had to pause and think of how I was going to approach this year. Being that this is my first year as Learning Coach, and in a set of new schools, I think it is valuable to “Coach Light”. I don’t know how I can do my job without strong relationships being established. I would like to have a trust built with my teachers that allows them to open and share the areas they want to improve student learning.

Having said all this, Coaching Heavy is where I want to get at. To look at a teachers practice and see how that affects student learning is going to lead to growth. Challenging teachers to be reflective of their practice and working with them to enhance student learning will create growth for years. The teachers will need to take a leap of faith to be introspective and I will be doing the same. It is scary to both jump into the deep end and at the same time can be very rewarding. Through success and failure we can both grow and be better educators for our students in the long run.

Learning Coach Team

cute penguin couple - explored
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Adam Foster via Compfight

Why penguins? I’m not sure either. Yesterday I was introduced to the Learning Coaches for Parkland School Division. As one of the newest members I had contacted a few of them last year to get a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of Learning Coaches in the division. I was immediately overwhelmed with the knowledge and understanding they were bringing to their assignments, and then I began to worry. With the prospect of providing services to grade k-9 in 3 different schools I wondered how I could do it all. Yesterday gave me my answer.

After yesterday and meeting all the coaches I thought, I don’t have to know it all. I don’t need to know it all because I have access to a group that really does, or at least knows where to look. Each coach has diverse and unique needs in each of their schools and brings that expertise to the group. From my first interaction to yesterday I must say that I am amazed at the depth of knowledge this team has. Between Learning Services and the Learning Coaches I know I can get the information I need to assist the staff at the schools I serve. I am looking forward to continued collaboration with the group as I navigate my journey as Learning Coach.

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