I’ve been writing my blog for six years now.  It has been a wonderful experience.  Thank you for your wonderful support. I’ve learned so much by sharing what I’ve learned during my long teaching career. Teaching is a wonderful but challenging career and we need to support one another whenever we can.  Writing this blog is a way that I try to support other teachers.   I hope I continue to have worthwhile insights and strategies to share this coming year.

I am slowly, very slowing compiling the best of my blog posts into a ebook,  but it is  summer time and the garden beckons. I’m also completing my MEd this year so that will keep me busy, but since I won’t be in the classroom this fall because I’ve recently retired from classroom teaching, completing my MEd won’t be a problem.  I’m a practical person and look for practical solutions to classroom challenges in all the theory I have to read during the MEd.  I’ll be delighted to share with you what I find.


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I’m always looking for ways to improve my teaching practice to engage my academically at-risk students. In doing research for my recent MEd course, I came across an interesting teaching strategy called the flipped classroom. Now, you may have heard about the flipped classroom but I hadn’t, and I’m excited about the possibilities the flipped classroom offers. I don’t expect the flipped classroom to be the definitive teaching strategy for academically at-risk students, but it’s a strategy worth looking into and trying in small steps. My students love using digital technology in the classroom, and the flipped classroom uses digital technology so that’s promising. I like the fact the flipped classroom enables you to differentiate instruction and assessment for your students. More about that later.

As you might know, I’m working toward my MEd. Actually I’m about 3/4 of the way through. It’s a lot of work, but I’m enjoying the intellectual stimulation. Right now, I’m just completing research for a paper and am just getting my thoughts together about the flipped classroom and how it could benefit my teaching practice and my academically at-risk students’ learning. When I finish my paper, hopefully by the end of next week, I’ll share my findings with you then.

I do however want to share the cool infograph about the flipped classroom I found during my research. If you’ve had experience using the flipped classroom strategy, I’d love to hear you insights.

Knewton and Column Five Media








I can’t believe I’ve been writing my blog for five years now.  The time has passed so quickly. When I first started to write Teachers at Risk, I didn’t really know what to expect or what I was going to say beyond a few posts. I wouldn’t have even started blogging if it wasn’t for my son and daughter, Chris and Lisa. They encouraged me to start blogging and helped me get started and when I ran into trouble technically, which was quite often in those early days. Lisa was especially patient with me at the beginning. For that matter, she still is. My learning curve was very steep. Thankfully, blogging has become much more user friendly now than when I started.

I guess one of the reasons I started the blog was because I wanted to mentor other teachers. Much to my delight, other teachers started to mentor me by leaving comments sharing their experiences and insights  in response to what I’d written. I’m exceedingly grateful for any comments readers take the time to leave even when the comments challenge what I’ve said. I see myself as a life-long learner and  comments of all sorts facilitate that. I’d like to thank all of you who have left a comment on my blog or sent it to me my emailed.

I have to thank Chris for giving me the idea for the name for my blog. I was talking about at-risk students, and all I was trying to do to help them and Chris said something to the effect that I was always talking about students at-risk and what about teachers. They were at risk, too. Who was helping them. That was it. Teachers at Risk became the name for my blog.

I have to admit I wondered how people would find my blog to read it after I clicked on the publish button. Chris told me they would. I just had to be a bit patient. He was right. I can remember being so excited when the first 80 people visited my blog. This past year, over 120 000 people visited my blog. I find that amazing.  I mean I write about teaching students who are at-risk  academically. It’s  a very narrow niche  and yet…

I also used to worry about making errors in my posts.  I used to agonized over punctuation and grammar. Then one day I just decided that I’m human and if I make an error, so be it.  That decision was so liberating. I think people can and do see past any errors in punctuation or grammar I might make.  I’ve only had one person comment that  I was setting a bad example by making an error.  What can I say.  I’m not perfect.

I’ve written here before about all the exciting things that have happened to me since I started writing my blog. I wonder what the future will bring.  I can hardly wait.  Please feel free to leave a comment.  I love the insights people share.

I think I’ve finally figured out why some of my students in my grade nine learning strategies class continually insist on sneaking to other sites like YouTube when they’re supposed to be doing their assignments using sites like PreziVoiceThreadAnimotoVoki, Wordle, or Bit Strips.  Not only are these students off task when they go to other sites instead of the one they’re supposed to be on, they crank up the volume so loud other students hear the sound and crowd around the monitor to see what’s so funny and soon no one is on task. I’ve tried blocking sites to keep students on task, but they just find other sites to go to. It’s been driving me crazy. I’ve been wondering why these students choose to be off task and disrupt the class day after day despite our little talks in the hall. I can’t really ban them from computers because I so “cleverly” integrated computers into the course so they need to be online to complete their assignments. I felt really defeated because I want to use computers and online applications in my classroom but using them was causing me such grief. I was beginning to wonder if it was counter productive to have my students use computers and online technology in the classroom. Then suddenly, it dawned on me. Some of my students are behaving the way they are while using computers because they are trying to try to meet their emotional needs in mistaken ways.

Ages ago, I learned about Glasser’s Behaviour Choice theory.  The idea is that students act certain ways to try to meet certain basic needs.  Sometimes these students try to meet their needs by inappropriate behaviour. These needs are are

  • Survival- the need for for, shelter, clothing
  • Power- the need to feel important
  • Love/Belonging- the need to feel accepted and loved by others
  • Freedom- the need to choose what we want to do with our lives
  • Fun- the need to find enjoyment in life by learning and playing

For example, a child might try to meet his need to feel important by getting undue attention.  When my students are off task and go to other sites online and turn up the volume so that everyone crowds around them, they’re getting undue attention from other students and from me.  They might be thinking they’re only important when they  keeping me busy and keep getting the attention of other students.   That scenario seems to fit a couple of kids in my class.

Students could try to meet their need for power by going off task repeatedly and promising me when I try to redirect them that they will stop going off task and stay focussed but don’t, and I have to continually refocus them.  They may think that they only belongs if  they can be boss and prove I can’t make them do anything. I see that explaining some of the behaviour I see in my class.

Some of my students have profound learning disabilities that makes school difficult for them, and they don’t do as well as some of the other students.  They often feel stupid even though they have average or above intelligence. Since they have difficulty learning or demonstrating their learning,  learning isn’t much fun and they meet their need for fun by amusing  themselves by going to other sites like YouTube which they find entertaining.  When I ask my students why they go to other sites, they  tell me the other sites are fun. I can see why they think that  that because these fun alternative sites don’t expect anything from them like the sites I assign that support the curriculum. For at least one student,  learning how to take tests or write a strong paragraph can’t compete with  the fun of listening to various body sounds (farting sounds)  on www.soundboard.com. No, I’m not kidding.  A student, a grade 9 student, went  to that site and played back farting sounds to amuse himself while while other kids worked quietly on task- quietly, that is, until they heard the farting sounds.

Students could meet their need to chose what they want to do with their lives by refusing to do the assignments in class because they don’t want to be in a special education class. They want the freedom to choose what to do, and they don’t have it. They don’t want to be in my class so they choose not to do the work.  I’ve  heard students tell their friends my class is another English class even though it isn’t.  Students will even ask to keep the door shut because they don’t want their friends to see them in the learning strategies class because it’s a special education class.

When I think about some of the behaviour  goíng on in my class ín light of  Glasser’s theory, the behaviour makes sense to me. I now understand why some of my students act the way they do when they are completing assignments online.

Since I use computers  in my class, students are not sitting in the usual classroom configurations of rows or  tables.  They’re  sitting at computers facing the outside walls of the classroom. They don’t have the opportunity to  interact with me or their classmates in the same way as before I had computers in the classroom, so they have to figure out how to meet their emotional needs in the new context of a classroom with computers.  Students are trying to meet their needs in this new context  in inappropriate ways and this leads to a less than a positive learning environment.  The challenge for me is to help students  meet their needs in positive ways using appropriate behaviour in this new context. .

Any ideas?


photo thanks to sanjoselibrary

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