Parent Teacher Interviews: Time for a Make-Over?

By my calculations, I’ve attended about 104 parent teacher interviews which ended Thursday as my youngest of 4 children graduates from high school this year. While I’m sure I missed the odd one, my wife and I attended all of these meetings. I wondered if this is still a valued experience or if things need to change.

I will admit that we may not be the typical parents. First of all, our kids were generally very good students and never struggled in school or caused any problems. Secondly, as teachers, we had a better understanding of the classroom than many parents. Along with that, we trusted teachers and while we didn’t agree with all of their practices, we didn’t feel the need to check up on them or question their practices. A fifteen-minute interview isn’t the time or place to discuss lecture versus project based learning. Finally, we had good relationships with our kids and they let us know when they were excited, bored or frustrated with school. We attended these interviews mostly to avoid being seen as disinterested parents.

As I said, I’m not suggesting this is the typical parent profile. Yet in the same way we work … Read the rest

Am I Successful?

A few years ago I got a call from Elisa Carlson. She was inquiring about having me come speak in Surrey for their Digital Learner Series. I didn’t know Elisa and she really didn’t know me. As she asked about what I would speak about, she said, “I don’t even know if you’re any good.” Since then Elisa has become one of my dearest colleagues and I often point to her as an example of great leadership. But that initial question is actually a pretty good one.

I’ve had my struggles in measuring success. I first encountered my mild disdain for the notion when I was introduced to SMART goals. Every time I tried to create a goal I was excited about, I was immediately confused and challenged by my inability to identify measurable goals. Some told me my goals weren’t written correctly. They were probably right. I also struggle with such a strong focus on goals in general. Many will tell you that unless you write down your goals you’ll never achieve them. Maybe. Maybe not.

As a teacher, I knew my efforts to help students be successful went way beyond grades and scores, yet that remains the … Read the rest

Joe Bower

Today a Canadian hero in education died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Joe Bower as a middle school teacher from Alberta. He was 37 years old.

I almost didn’t write this since some folks had already written about Joe. But then I realized the more people know about Joe and his work, the richer his legacy. If you know Joe, followed him on twitter, read his blog or heard him speak, you likely already know what a smart, passionate thinker he was. My own interactions largely revolved around me introducing my pre-service teachers to his work as well as referencing him in any presentations I did around assessment. I use this slide to showcase those that have influenced my thinking around assessment. Some of these folks are world renowned “experts”. Joe was every bit as important as any of them. (Sadly Grant Wiggins passed away in 2015)


As eloquently and passionately as Joe shared, what was overwhelming evident to me is how much he cared for children. He was willing to speak the truth, even when it was harsh and unpopular with many. Not to be provocative but because he truly sought what was best for kids.

His … Read the rest

What Does A Trophy Mean Anyway?

It’s a popular sentiment to put on a curmudgeon hat and denounce ¬†society for giving kids medals and trophies for just showing up.

“Kids are too soft”
“We coddle our kids too much”
“In my day…”
“Get off my lawn”

This message got highlighted today when former Pittsburgh Steeler Superbowl champion James Harrison posted this on his instagram account.

Read the rest

My Ongoing Struggle with Diffusing the Impact of Grades


Assessment continues to occupy much of my thinking and experimentation both as a teacher and in broader conversations ¬†with educators. If you search my blog categories you’ll see I’ve written specifically about assessment over 50 times. They represent some of the most challenging ideas and change since many practices and beliefs are both deeply ingrained in institutions and also because it’s a complex subject. I don’t claim to have the answers but I have thought about, explored and implemented many ideas, some that I like, others I’m still exploring.

One area that I’m still struggling with is how much time and effort I put into grading. I believe mostly in feedback. I try to give and create an environment where students reflect deeply and I try to provide timely and insightful feedback and comments. I also work to have them seek feedback from others as well. This is where the bulk of my time is spent. Because of institutional requirements, I still need to provide a grade. I believe in self assessment and grading. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask every learning, even our youngest to assess themselves. This is essentially what reflecting entails. However, moving from a descriptive … Read the rest