Testing Apps: GradeCam

A fellow colleague tipped me off on an interesting app last week, GradeCam. You create multiple choice worksheets and students can either use an Elmo or a laptop camera to scan the answers into the system. The website will then mark the paper and you get the data logged right away!

It was fun to play around with it, but considering I only have 25 kids in my largest class (of two!), it’s not something I would need to use right now. This would be much more useful if I had 5-6 large classes, or if I taught at the college level.

I should have saved this app for the end of the year, when we start practicing for multiple-choice style answers for the provincial exams. Ahhhh well, guess I’ll just let my 60-day free trial run out and just stick with practicing multiple choice on Socrative.


Getting the Green Light: OAME 2017

I’ve been going to the annual conference run by Ontario Association for Math Education (OAME) for several years now, even while working in the north. In 2014 and 2015, I participated in the eConference but managed to get myself to the one in Toronto last year in-person.

Two weeks ago, I received an email calling out for speaker proposals. OAME 2017 will be held in Kingston, Ontario and will feature the (usual) big names like Dan Meyer and Marion Small. I thought nothing of the email and forgot about it.

Then last week, a second call for speaker proposals was sent out. The email stated:

We are particularly interested to hear from people with expertise in the education of FNMI students both in remote communities or in urban/suburban venues.

I’ve done a couple of workshops now, one on #BYOD tools and one on growth mindset. Both were well-received and fun to create. I had hands-on activities and a high rate of participation. Lots of people left happy.

So I ran the possibility through my head; what if I did a presentation at a big conference in Ontario? I mulled it over, but what got me was the phrase “people with expertise in the education of FNMI students”.

I’m not an expert. I have never taken a course on Aboriginal studies. I’ve read a few papers, but I can’t say I’ve immerse myself in native culture. As a vegetarian, I don’t hunt nor am I interested in smoking Canada goose in a meeshwap. Friends and family have applauded me for working in the north for the past 5 years, but I say, “I’m just teaching kids and treating them the same way I’d treat anyone else.” I’m not up here to be a heroine. I’m up here because I enjoy my job as an educator and I like the financial perks of being in an isolated place.

Anyway, I let the idea go.

A few days after, I received an email from a friend and a colleague. He suggested that I put in a proposal and that I’d do quite well.

It’s funny. We live with doubt so much in our lives. Even when we say yes, we feel like imposters.

Fact of the matter is, it isn’t the first time someone suggested I put in a proposal. T., a professor whom I befriended in the past year, had also mentioned it. Having two people make that suggestion now, the excuses still ran through my head. Yet despite the negative thoughts, I wrote to the executive directors:

Hi ****,

I am an OCT-certified teacher originally from Toronto. I have been teaching on the East James Bay for the past 5 years and am starting my 4th year as a full-time high school teacher with the ******* Board.
I have attended OAME for the past few years but never worked as a speaker before.
I know that you are looking for speaker proposals. I have no background research and do not consider myself an expert educator in working with FNMI students. My experience with native students has only been tied to this area. Would an anecdotal approach of my experiences still be fitting for a one-hour presentation? I have specifically been using growth mindset, BYOD and interactive notebooks in this community.
Anyway, I just don’t know what you’re looking for, but I wanted to inquire for more information, as I consider future possibilities. If you could give me some better ideas, perhaps I could find other math teachers who might be able to put out a good speaker proposal to enhance the upcoming conference.*

On Sunday morning, I got a very exciting email:

Good morning,

Short answer: YES!

Longer answer: We would love to see a proposal from you. Your first-hand
experience carries a lot of weight in my books. Considering, too, it is with the
Cree nation, whose geographical expanse covers half of Ontario, and that others
who have come forward would be speaking with the experience of working with
Ojibwe and Mohawk, we would have a good geographic balance.

Some of the audience will be other First Nations communities such as the one in which you work; however, some of the audience will be teachers in urban and other “southern” settings where First Nations students are mixed in with other cultures – hearing from you about cultural accommodations and learning styles will help them as well to better address their First Nations’ students’ needs.

OAME 2017

Guess I have to figure out a way to overcome the Imposter Syndrome. And guess I’ve got some writing to do.

*You see how imposter syndrome kicks in so easily? I devalue myself in this last paragraph.

A Peek into the Classroom – Part Deux

Since I got a lot of great feedback on the last post – A Peek into My Classroom – I decided to post a part 2! I’ve learned a lot from reading other teachers’ blogs and I enjoy sharing with others too.

Keep scrolling to read about each picture:

ABOVE: Having a place value chart above your whiteboard or chalkboard is great. You can see I went over the value 427 just by writing underneath the each place value. The signs are from Math Equals Love. I also recently purchased these elementary word wall organizers. They are perfect for the first month, when I am reviewing general math for all the Grade 10s and 11s.

ABOVE: I was originally trained for Tribes right after my B.Ed. but have put off doing cooperative learning until this year. I will be using more Kagan structures each week to develop cooperative learning. We have four groups in Grade 10s. Each group is assigned an animal – moose, beaver, snake and caribou – and these milk crates are an easy way for the “equipment manager” to grab the necessary supplies for their peers. I try hard NOT to laminate unless they are for posters that will sustain years and years of use. I used binder clips and plastic sheet protectors to attach the labels to the milk crates.

ABOVE: My teacher’s desk. I don’t sit here much until the end of the day, or to enjoy a cup of Turkish tea (I have a stash of tea leaves and white sugar at school). I had to put a sticker on the edge of my desk that says, “Students are not allowed to sit at the teacher’s desk”; it’s taken me nearly 3 years to train students NOT to go into my stuff! The sense of boundaries is a bit of different up north, so I had to adjust to that when I first started. Hanging on the pin are growth mindset cards for the Encourage role in our student groups. I bought them off Kate Coners on Teachers Pay Teachers. She has amazing stuff! For a close-up of the cards, check out my photo from Instagram.

ABOVE: My backpack, which has a pocket for my laptop, and an Indigo book bag that I use to carry my lunch. I also have a Bing Bong keychain on my bag, because creativity is soooo important in life! He was definitely my favourite character from Pixar’s Inside Out. I even hunted throughout DisneyWorld (April 2016) just to get a collectible pin of him.

A Peek into the Classroom

Last year, my classroom was on the first floor. I’ve moved back upstairs, next to the science lab. The room is spacious and has a great view towards the front of the building (I can see if kids are skipping and headed home!)

I’d been planning on taking a few pictures of my new classroom, but kept forgetting. Here are a few shots and some of the changes I’d implemented this year:

ABOVE: Since we are going totally shoeless* this year, I put these foam mats in the corner of the room. It’s super cozy and a lot of kids like to just curl up with the blankets or the yoga mats. The yoga mats are for a yoga club that I’m trying to get going. So far, I’ve only had one session and one participant from Grade 7. That’s a start!


ABOVE: I plan on having students develop better group work skills, with the use of Kagan Structures. I haven’t had time to get things started yet, but the poster in the middle is for “Oopsie Points’. Students can call out mistakes that the teacher makes. Spelling errors are 1 point, while conceptual errors are 2 points each. I initially started this when my students were too afraid to correct me on the board, even if the error was glaring and obvious. I want them not to have blind trust in authority figures and to challenge them if they truly think something is wrong. Now I can’t get them to stop correcting me, ha! As additional motivation this year, the winning class gets a pizza party!

ABOVE: Ahhh my beloved handy  Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) a.k.a. whiteboards! Plain on one side and Cartesian plane on the other. We just finished a unit on growth mindset verus fixed mindset. One of my students drew a cartoon character from the Class Dojo videos that we’d been watching. You have to exercise your brain to make it strong … Otherwise it gets lazy! Check out episode 1 on YouTube.


ABOVE: A great poster from Sarah Hagan-Carter of Math Equals Love. I will be using this to reinforce what a good, well-rounded and complete answer looks like in both math and science.


ABOVE: A lot of students struggle with these terms. I thought I’d put them up for Term 1. Hopefully by the end of the term, I can remove them and they will be using them properly. They helped me colour the letters. I’ll probably clean them up and laminate them later on for reuse.

*Some more info on why shoesless classrooms are better.