Posts by: Melanie

Thieves of Bay Street – Bruce Livesey

I write reviews for Foment, the magazine of the Ottawa International Writers Festival.  This was the review I did for the 2012 edition.

In 2008, as the world economy melted down led by the U.S. housing market, a select few American Hedge Fund managers cashed in the insurance policies that they had taken out on products they knew to be faulty and made billions of dollars at the expense of those invested in their falsely propped up funds.  As Canadians, we sat back on our high horse, grateful that this type of fraudulent behaviour doesn’t happen here.  Or so we thought.  As it turns out, these things do happen here, with greater frequency and impunity than anywhere else in the developed world.

Bruce Livesey in The Thieves of Bay Street outlines chapter after chapter of frauds, scandals, and investment scams that happened right here in Canada.  In case after case, including the 2008 meltdown, Livesey delineates the myriad of ways in which investment brokers and big banks separate you from your money.  The book has sixteen chapters, each dedicated to a different financial nightmare.   But perhaps the best way to introduce this book is the close of Livesey’s introduction:

This book sets out to reveal why Canada has become a popular place for investment fraud and thievery, and what the consequences are – and not just for the Alice Campbells of this country, those small investors who can lose a lifetime of savings with one wrong turn.  It will examine how bankers and brokers and the very wealthy rob from investors and companies, and how our vaulted financial institutions peddle dangerous investment products and contributed to the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, the reverberations of which are threatening entire national economies.  It’s about the ways that credit rating agencies, underwriters, analysts and lawyers enable fraud, and how regulators and law enforcement sit on the sidelines and do little to stop the fiascos from unfolding.  If, like so many of us, you’ve bought the line that Canada’s financial industry is safe and sound and worthy of your respect, prepare to be robbed of something yourself:  your faith.

There are a few problems with the system as a whole.  First, all the incentives are connected to making a lot of money.  By letting people commit fraud, the people behind it can get very rich, and since they know they can get away with it, there is no disincentive to this.  Also, the regulatory bodies are provincial; there is no national oversight, with the possible exception of one very small branch of the RCMP that does pathetically little.  (The number of investigations is small, and the percentage of convictions is embarrassingly low.)  Most of the time, the people sitting on the regulatory bodies are also a part of the industry.  Worse, the credit rating agencies are also run by people in the industry, and they have the power to manipulate the ratings for their own gains.  When somebody does notice something amiss, these overseeing bodies flick them aside like a cow swatting flies, to the effect that nothing substantial is accomplished.

One of the scariest chapters of this book comes near the end and describes situations in which somebody realizes that a scam is in the works, informs the various regulating and investigative bodies, from the financial regulators to the RCMP, and they do NOTHING about it.  In fact, many times they dismiss the case with the wave of a hand.  A great example of this is Conrad Black.  He broke several financial regulations in Canada, was reported to investigators, and yet nothing was done.  It took the Americans to prosecute Black, and they did so knowing that they had to because Canada wouldn’t.   But his case is not the only one.  Many of the cases examined in this book had early warning signs that were completely ignored.

Often, it is up to the Americans to prosecute our financial criminals.  In the rare case where a Canadian is charged and prosecuted, the punishments are minimal.  Fines are usually far less than the amount stolen from investors, and very rarely is jail time imposed.  The victims of these fraudsters can lose their entire life savings, often followed close behind by their health due to the intense stress.  The perpetrators don’t even lose the money they stole.  What does this say about Canada’s priorities?  It sure does not give off a good image of us to the world, as corroborated Livesey in chapter fifteen.  It also does nothing to help the Canadians whose livelihoods and/or pensions have vanquished into thin air.  As somebody preparing to begin saving for retirement, this picture of the financial industry is chilling to the bone.

These systematic problems lead to the question of “what can be done?” – a question that Livesey raises in the afterword to the book.  The conservative government, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, took steps to attempt to create a national regulatory body, but they face steep opposition from the handful of families that have the power and influence over their provincial regulatory bodies.  It has been over two years and still no national regulatory body has been established.  In a recent development, the supreme court of Canada ruled the law developed by the Conservatives to tackle this issue is unconstitutional.  This begs the question, “what can we do?”  Sadly, no solution has been presented.

Nearing the end of the book, Livesey raises a key question that one starts asking almost from the very beginning.  He says, “In fact, the evidence is overwhelming:  you can’t trust the financial industry to look after your money.  So whom can you trust?”  As I read this, I couldn’t help but think, “Finally!”  But much to my dismay, no answer is provided.  This question is followed by a recap of all of the people who cannot be trusted, from your friends and family who can also be swindled to the people doing the swindling.  So we come back again to whom can be trusted with our hard-earned money?

In a similar vein, I also wound up wondering what ordinary investors can do to avoid having something like this happening.  Suppose that we want to do our due diligence and learn about the companies in which we invest; how do we go about finding that information?  How do we find their financial statements and what can we do to verify that they are accurate?  Or what should we do instead of investing?  Maybe the solution is to avoid investing and just stick all our money under our mattresses again, although I would bet that nobody would advocate for that.  The problem with this book is that it offers no answers to any of these questions.  It identifies the problem, but there is no proactive quest for a solution.

I blame this lack of solution on the fact that Livesey is a journalist rather than an economist.  He makes his living by finding and telling the story, by pointing out the problems, not by trying to find their solutions.  However, for those of us faced with the decision on what to do with our hard earned income in the hopes of making it grow enough to retire on, the story is not enough.  We need solutions.  Where is the story that tells us what to do next?

A number of economists from around the world have proposed what is called the Robin Hood Tax, which may be a solution, or part of a solution, to this problem.  If adopted, this would impose a 0.05% tax on financial transactions by institutions, including stocks, bonds, commodities, etc.  It would not impose the same tax on individual investors.  The purpose would be to raise more money from the financial sector that has traditionally managed to avoid their fair share of the tax burden, while possibly slowing down speculation which theoretically could help to stabilize the markets.  The originators of this idea have proposed to use the money raised to help end poverty and hunger around the world (like Robin Hood, taking from the rich to help the poor).  Another option for the use of this money would be to help pay back those small investors who lost their life savings from the mismanagement of fraudulent investors.  While I am merely an amateur who knows very little about this tax and what it could really do, my knowledge of its existence suggests that Livesey could have found out something about it and included it in the book.  And who knows how many other brilliant ideas are out there as solutions that have yet to be exposed because we are all so focused on the problem that we fail to search for the solution.

If we are to move beyond the financial industry as described by Livesey and create for ourselves the safe and stable markets that as Canadians we like to believe we have, we must proactively search for solutions.  We must advocate for some independent regulation of the financial markets and protect the rights and assets of the millions of Canadians who work hard for their money and just want a safe place to let it grow so that they can retire comfortably.  We must do something to change these circumstances or we will be at the mercy of these financial giants indefinitely.


I am part way through my second time doing #IMMOOC, but I have yet to do an actual blog post about my IMMOOC experience.

The first time around, I got the book late and didn’t have my blog up yet, so my experience was limited to mostly “lurking” (i.e. reading what others had to say). I was also reading the book in as many spare minutes as I could find. The Innovator’s Mindset is a great read. But when it came to everyone’s blog posts, I have to admit that I lost interest. Too many of them seemed too similar or just talked about what was already in the book. I saw the same quotes over and over again. It made sense as people were responding to what they read, but I couldn’t get into the idea of taking somebody else’s words and writing about them. I wanted action!

Despite this, I felt guilty for not being a more active participant. I felt like maybe I was letting myself down. Then I read this amazing blog post about an experience that came out of IMMOOC. This is what I wanted to be a part of. With this in mind, I gave myself permission to let go of the responding to all the blog posts as long as I was taking steps to become more like the educator that I want to be. I went after it. I went to EdCamp, loved it, made a bunch of local humans who also think with Innovative Mindsets, and found the confidence to take some next steps. I set up my blog. I tried cool things when I had the chance. I found other books that would make good supplements to The Innovator’s Mindset. I grew as an educator, and more importantly, as a person.

This time through, I have already read the book. I am one of the veterans of the group. I got my blog going around the end of November or early December and have some experience with writing posts. But for some reason, I still can’t seem to find a way to respond to the prompts or participate in the “normal” expected way. I still don’t get excited about sharing what the book means to me. I do, however, continue to try out new things in my class that I’m hoping will work for my students. When I do, I try to share in a timely fashion, although I can admit that there are a couple of posts still brewing from the last couple months. I very much put relationships first to the best of my abilities (I think that’s this week’s topic?), I put in my very best effort to be innovative in my approach to what I am teaching (is it innovative to take interesting ideas that you have found elsewhere and put your own spin on them?), and I try to embody the innovator’s mindset, while being careful to hang on to the good stuff from what is already out there.

So #IMMOOC friends, I may be terrible at responding to the regular IMMOOC prompts and suggestions, but I am out there doing my best to live the mindset that we read about and discuss. I am growing a Professional Learning Network of incredible and inspiring teachers, both near and far, have learned about some awe-inspiring and innovative ideas of how to bring the world to my students through the power of technology (and the helpful guest speakers of #DitchSummit), and look forward to continuing to learn and grow with you, if in a rather unconventional way.

Experimentation and Creativity with #awesomesquiggles

I came across the Awesome Squiggles project while taking part in the online conference Ditch Summit, hosted by Matt Miller.  I love this project for many reasons.  First, it gives students an authentic audience beyond the four walls of their school.  Second, it provides an opportunity to connect with and learn from other students around the world.  For my students, some of whom have never been outside their small town, this is an amazing opportunity.  Finally, the rules regarding their work of art are simple and awesome.  You can use any materials you want and create any image you want, as long as you can still see the four original squiggles.  Brilliant!

My students spent the afternoon trying out different materials.  We had some chalk pastels, pencil crayon, crayon, marker, paint, and water colours.  I was out of the room, released to work on IEPs (Individual Education Plans), but I had to come back in a few times.  Each time, students couldn’t wait to show me what they had created.  They created all kinds of interesting things!  Most of them created with one medium the first time and then tried something new the second.  It was awesome!

He used chalk pastel on the left and pencil crayon (possibly with some marker) on the right.

My personal favourite moment was when I came in the room and one of my students was asking for white glue.  I had no idea what she had in mind, but I got it out and handed it over.  I came back to discover that she had put glue down and then used chalk pastel shavings almost like glitter to create her art.  How original!

This was the result.  It looks kind of cool and the texture in person is awesome.

There were many original works of art.  I have shared some of them in a gallery format here.

I very much look forward to re-visiting Awesome Squiggles with my students in April.  I’m excited to see what new things they try, and we are all excited to meet another class from around the world.

Winter Carnival Day: a Self-Regulation Nightmare

Today was winter carnival day. I have to admit: I have never liked winter carnival day. Even as a kid, I didn’t enjoy days like today. Back then, I wouldn’t be able to tell you why. Later as an adult, I would tell you that it’s boring watching kids play the same game over and over again while you have to just watch and somehow keep the behaviour somewhat in line. But after Aviva Dunsiger’s series of blogs about self-regulation last spring/summer (, I now understand better why I despise this day so much.

As an introvert, I find winter carnival day to be overwhelming. It causes me extreme sensory overload. I know it’s not just me. Today I got two twenty minute breaks to go to my classroom and sit in the dark and take in the silence, but by the time the kids left the station, I got a bathroom break, and I dealt with whatever else had popped up, those twenty glorious minutes were whittled down to five or ten at most.

The real difficulty, though, lies in what this day does to the kids. One of my students today chose to wait outside the gym during part of the morning setup because it was just too loud and overwhelming for him. He had the ability to recognize his needs and advocate for them, but how many kids don’t? And if every kid who was overwhelmed did what he did, would there be any kids left in the gym? Actually, the day usually starts out well. Kids are excited and ready to begin the day, but as the day goes on, so too the behaviours start to become more and more extreme. You can literally see the dysregulation that they are experiencing. So many things contribute to this.

  • First, the teams are made arbitrarily with an average of about one student per class per team. Students have zero input as to who they spend their entire day with. They spend more time with these random strangers this day then they do with their regular class, and they at least have friendly faces and familiar adults with their regular class. As teachers, we didn’t know who was on each team from other classes. One of my students got stuck with a kid who he can’t stand because she makes his life miserable. If we had known, maybe we could have avoided having a meltdown to start the day. Fortunately, there seemed to be few of these issues, but there was potential for many.
  • Second, the students have no input as to which activities they get to do. There were more activities today than students had time to do so each group didn’t get to do three or four stations. Some of them were extremely disappointed to miss out on an activity that they wanted while they did have to go to something that they don’t like.
  • Third, the older students were the “leaders” leaving them responsible for the younger students. They gave it everything they had. They worked very hard. But how can we expect a twelve or thirteen year old to handle a five year old who barely listens to his own teachers?!?
  • Fourth, there is no down time. Students are on the go all day long, switching activities every twenty minutes. Even if a student wanted a minute to take a calming time out, there is nowhere in the schedule to do it.

At the end of the day, my class came back together for a few minutes. Several of them were disappointed in their stations. Many of them commented to me that they don’t know how I do it every day as they struggled all day with the younger kids. I have to admit; I don’t know if I could do those little guys every day. I’m very thankful for my junior/intermediate students. I brought my voice down to almost a whisper and had a few very quiet moments in which I thanked them for their outstanding efforts with the kids. The organizers had cookies for them as a thank you, so we shared those and just enjoyed finally having a chance to breathe.

As I reflect on the day though, I wonder how we can make this day less distressing for the students. They had so little choice today. I don’t know if there is ever a day in my class where they have so little choice. Usually they can choose who to work with or what to work on or where in the room to work, at least one of those at least once per half day usually more. Today they had no choice. How can we allow for students to have some choice in how they participate in winter carnival day? How can we build in some self-regulation time, opportunities for students to take a break from all the kids and all the noise and have some peace? How can we make the day less stressful for the older students so that they don’t have so much added responsibility? They’re kids too! They deserve to enjoy fun days also! I know we need to know who is where and when for liability purposes, but there has to be another way, a way in which students get at least some choice in how they spend what should be their winter fun day, a way in which everybody has an opportunity for self-regulation in a positive way.

The Privilege of Teaching

It has been almost a month, maybe more, since I had time to write a blog.  A lot has happened in that time, but tonight, as I have time to finally put thoughts to words again, I can’t help but reflect on my job as a whole.  In the last month, I have been humbled in ways I never knew possible. I have to admit that this is my first real experience teaching elementary.  It doesn’t really feel like my first experience because I have been occasional teaching so long, but I haven’t had my own elementary class before so in many ways I am still a rookie.

It blows my mind the amount of impact that I can have on a child’s life and future.  Each day, something happens to remind me of this:

  • the autistic child who comes up to me in the hall, gives me a hug, and tells me that he thinks I am a really great teacher, a child for whom expressing his feelings is difficult
  • the students who, upon hearing my story of bullying and how you get through it and it gets better, look visibly relieved and optimistic in a way they often don’t
  • the student who didn’t want to do a language project, but then can’t wait for language because the light bulb went on and he just needs to tell the story in his head
  • the students who light up and ask dozens of great questions every time you teach them something about life beyond their small town

There are so many of these types of moments, that I can’t help but smile on a daily basis. Teaching, and learning from my students, is an unbelievable privilege that I am so fortunate to have.

On the flip side, I am also humbled by the reminders of all the ways in which I am a fallible human being.  I can put all kinds of structural, emotional, and academic supports in place, I can go above and beyond to give students everything that they should need to be successful, but I can’t make them learn.  I can’t make them behave appropriately.  If they are having a bad day and there is stuff going on at home and they didn’t get their medication, they might explode no matter what I do.  I struggle all the time with how to balance keeping the students who need it safe, while trying to keep the students who need to be apart away from each other in our tiny, overcrowded classrom, while trying to meet the needs of 23 IEPs (Individual Education Plans) out of 31 students.  It can be exhausting!  And exasperating on days where several of them are having difficulty with self-regulation.

I am humbled because no matter how hard I try, I can’t possibly give each student everything they need to succeed.  What one student needs conflicts with what another needs, most of them would benefit from one-on-one attention, many of them would benefit from mental health support, and I am only one person (or rather we are two with my EA, but it’s still not enough).  Some days it hurts that I can’t do more.  I know it could be worse, but I want what’s best for my students, and they deserve more than what I can give them.

So on a day like today, where I have had the privilege to experience both the unbelievably amazing moments of teaching along with the exasperating moments of teaching, I am reminded of my goal of balance.  My days do have some weird sort of balance of highs and lows.  This is my weekend to rediscover some life balance.  I finally have some time to reflect and plan forward.  I finally have some time to get active again.  I finally have some time to spend with my family again.  Maybe, just maybe, if I do this right, I can find some balance moving forward so that I can deal with all of the humbling moments of my day with patience, calmness, and a sense of gratitude for the immense privilege I have to do great work with some amazing people.

Hope for the Future

I have been blogging offline since before I had this site.  I knew that I would make one someday, but hadn’t yet figured out how, so I started writing when I had the inspiration and kept them for moments like this when I don’t have much time to write and need some inspiration.  This post was written May 19, 2016.

I don’t like my original opening question so I deleted it, but I remain blown away by the depth of thought displayed by my kindergarten students on that day.

Today, I was fortunate enough to spend the day with 14 SK students.  Near the end of the day, students had a circle time to share some of the things that they learned and explored that day.  Earlier in the day, a group of boys asked to share a play they had made at the play dough centre.  When it came time to present, the boys seemed a little disorganized.  It wasn’t easy, and they weren’t always facing their audience, but they proceeded with their play.  It was loud, shrieky at times, and I got the impression that there might be violence going on, but I was behind them facing the audience so I wasn’t positive and with four of them talking at once at times, I was having a difficult time keeping up.  Eventually it got so noisy that I paused them, thinking that perhaps they were just playing and not actually doing a play.  I didn’t let my bias run the day though, so I checked in with the audience to see if they understood what was happening.  About 2/3 of the audience was up to speed, but there were about five or six students who were also lost, so I asked the group if they could have one person explain the story and what had happened so far.  Boy was I ever glad that I did.

It turned out that there was a bug (all the characters were made of plastic bug frames with play dough bodies) that had turned everything to jelly so they had to kill that bad guy and turn everything back.  I was right, there was some violence, but I let them continue.  That’s when things got really interesting.  The bugs next had to battle the pollution cloud and all the car people.  They had to capture the car people and make them ride bicycles, and they had to get rid of the pollution cloud.  I’ll admit, their methods were a little extreme, but they were actively challenging climate change in a very specific way.  If they are thinking like this now, imagine what they will come up with when they are old enough to do something about it.  It seems like such a daunting task to have to figure out how to encourage and develop this interest in these boys, and teach them the tools they will need to solve the problem when I am not even sure myself what that would entail.  So for now, I settle for remarking on their story and encouraging them to finish it, hoping that they continue to think big and tackle the world’s problems to the best of their abilities.

What can we do to nurture the curiosity and creativity that are naturally present in small children?  What is it about school that tends to make this disappear as students get older?  How can we reverse that trend, especially when we ourselves may feel ill-equipped to adequately provide students with the skills they will need as adults in our rapidly changing world?

Stealing Freedom Part 1

My afternoon class has really struggled with transitioning from one subject to the next twice in the afternoon for 3 x 40 minute periods. They get really engrossed in what they are doing and don’t want to switch, even when they are excited about what they are doing next. They love to learn, but really struggle to keep it together through changes. With this in mind, I decided to try something new. I changed up the afternoon timetable so that instead of all the switches, we spend the first 80 minutes on either social studies or the second subject (art or drama or health) and then finish with gym as usual. The idea was that with about 15 minutes left, we would tidy up and have a snack, a break that my students seem to desperately need. For art or drama or health, this time would make a nice time to debrief or reflect as needed, but for social studies, this would make a great time for a read aloud.

The grade 6 students are currently studying communities in Canada, multiculturalism, and what makes our country what it is. The focus is on different types of communities and different groups of people. The grade 7 students are studying the history of Canada 1800-1850. I chose the book Stealing Freedom for our read aloud as the topic of the underground railroad fits the curriculum for both grades. Right at the beginning of the book, there is this picture:

I asked the students first what they noticed and most pointed out the reward, but some also mentioned the hat and unique/unusual clothing. Some mentioned that she was black. I then asked them to write down on post-its what they wanted to learn about the person pictured. They had some great questions!

We read the first chapter and talked about things like “Where is Maryland?” and “is she a slave?” and in the end, we had a great discussion about why Ann Maria doesn’t know her birthday and how old she is. I asked them at snack to discuss how they would feel if they didn’t know their birthday or how old they were. While many groups veered off topic, they did all seem to discuss and the consensus was that it would be horrible. I forgot to have them predict how old they think she is, but they are hooked.

Today we had an afternoon that went off without any serious incidents. It was awesome! We still have a few tweaks to make to the routine, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out in the longer term.  My hope is that we can be more productive during our time and that students will start to love a subject that they mostly disliked when I started.  (So far, it looks good, but I don’t want to be too optimistic too soon.)

My One Word Goal for 2017

Sometime around the first of January, along with the usual slew of resolution posts, a number of educators in my extended PLN started posting their One Word Goal for 2017. One of my favourites, Aviva Dunsiger, wrote hers a little early and as usual challenged us to think about our one word. I was always very skeptical of the concept of a one word goal. How could anyone possibly use only one word in creating their learning plan for the upcoming year. I am a goal setter and have been for a long time. I have two massive whiteboards posted in my living room in which I lay out those goals and hold myself accountable. With all the resolution posts, I noticed that my goals for 2016 had been mostly erased and that the board needed updating. (It still does.) So I took a minute and started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in the next year. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I need to learn to prioritize what gets done. I do prioritize, but I don’t think I’m always very good at it. I could get better.
  • I need to continue to cut down on my commitments. If you read my about me page, it becomes abundantly clear just how over-stretched I really am. I love everything that I’m involved in, but it’s not humanly possible to do everything and do it well, so choices need to be made. Here prioritizing will help.
  • I need to make more financial progress, which means that I need to work hard and keep as many sources of income as possible, but also I am exhausted and need to cut down on commitments, one of which might someday need to be some of the work. This one will be tricky.
  • I also have goals around working out and being healthy, finding time to read, finding time to exercise, and finding time to relax and spend time with my family and friends and stopping being a workaholic hermit.

This is when it hit me. My one word goal, the word that all of these come down to is this: balance. I need to find some balance. I need to figure out how to balance my financial imperatives with not burning myself out. I need to figure out how to balance being the teacher that I’ve always wanted to be with also having a life and not working 18 hours a day! I need to figure out how to balance the things that I love to do (the volunteering, the reading, the puppy time, the creative work that I do for fun) with the things that I need to do (like working as much as possible to pay off my student debt and not incur more debt). I need to find balance.

I have always been terrible at this. I dive into things with my whole heart and overcommit all the time. So here’s where I need your help. What do you do to find balance?

Taking a Break

Taking a Break

Going into the winter break, I actually needed the break, probably more than ever before, in my mind, just to have enough time to plan. A week before the break, I thought that I would spend most of my time planning, getting myself caught up and ready for January. But as the time wore down, I started seeing articles popping up everywhere about how teachers should spend the break taking a real break so that they can come back refreshed and not burn out before the end of the year. Most of them I found in unusual places, but one of the blogs that I usually read by John Spencer had this to suggest on the topic. The proverbial straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back was when my administrators told me as I left to get some rest over the break. I did.

I spent the first week and a half working retail (a little, but not too much), visiting with family, playing lots of games, going on lots of walks with Charlie, and binge-watching Netflix as I attempted to return my house to some semblance of normal. It was glorious. Slowly I have been working my way back to “school-mode” over the last few days, even spending a couple of half days at school, but I have been easing in much more slowly than anticipated. It hasn’t been an easy transition back. I thought I would be ready by now, but I have to admit that 3 more days of break would be nice. While I feel less prepared for the return to routine next week than I had hoped, I do know that taking a break was the best thing I could possibly have done for myself, and for my students.

My students will come back to a teacher who had some time off, who can talk about spending quality time with family over the break, and whose more relaxed brain will be calmer and more patient in dealing with the inevitable hiccups of the classroom. My lesson plans may not be as brilliant as my perfectionistic brain would like, but emotionally I’m calmer, more refreshed, and ready to deal with things as they come up. And when I come to class calm and ready to learn with the students, they get my heart as well as my head, and that’s really putting students and their well-being first. By taking care of myself for a little while, I am equipped to care for them.

As we head back in January, I need to figure out how to find some better balance. So my question for you is this: how do you maintain balance during the school year so as not to wear yourself out and to be healthy so that you can be a better person, for yourself and for your students?     


Photo credits to Ben Wood.

Fun Fact Friday

Every day, my students come in to a problem waiting for them on the board. They go up and answer that question, signing their name to their thoughts as a way to sign in and get their minds on and ready to go for the day. During the week, this entails some sort of math problem that requires them to register and defend an opinion mathematically. (For example, see my post on the WODB activity here: But from the start, I had this idea to shake things up with something a little more light-hearted: Fun Fact Friday. (I have this thing for alliteration… we also have Mindful Mondays and WODB Wednesdays…. I blame my father for this, but that’s another story.)

On Fun Fact Friday, instead of a question to start off the day, I posted a fact that I borrowed from I picked that sight because fun facts are supposed to be light-hearted, but I still wanted to slip a little mathematical thinking in there. As I was writing it up, I was nervous. Very nervous. But I put up my fact and invited them to add their own, and to my delight, the first few kids entered the room, looked at the board, and started putting up facts.  And not just any facts, but really interesting things that I didn’t know, many of which contained numbers/data/mathematical thinking somewhere! They sparked great discussions about the content (and how do we know). Some of them didn’t know any facts off the tops of their heads, but they used devices around the room to look up and find one.  I had been hoping for that but wasn’t sure it would happen.  It was a great start to the day!

Today showed me that my students really love to learn. Some days they hide it well, and often they don’t want to put in the work, but they really want to learn new things. They don’t want to do the work though so I have to hide the work well in something that seems like fun. I have been working hard all along to tap into that, and I have several ideas, but I want to hear from others as well. How do I tap into this desire to learn? How do I keep the learning light-hearted and fun so that students still see it as enjoyable?

Note:  The photograph has been altered only to remove student names in the interest of their privacy.