The Walk-through: Passing thoughts of a newbie one-year flash-in-the-pan principal

Image credit unknown
Image credit unknown

This post is the first of a series from new Principal Neil MacIntosh, as he reflects in real time on his first year on the job.

“The less you open your heart to others, the more your heart suffers” (NYT X-Word clue)

The answer was Chopra (as in Deepak).  I have found much of my inspiration and procrastination from crossword puzzles. I am not sure how far I can take this analogy, but humour me on this.    My DG and I had conversed about the qualities of being a principal – putting yourself 2nd, listening, listening, listening – and not with the intent of interrupting with your own pearls. In my quest to define what kind of principal I wanted to be, I eventually settled onto the idea of being what in Yiddish is referred to as a mensch – “The key to being ‘a real mensch’ is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous” according to Leo Rosten. I interpret this as being in the moment and real with whomever you deal (with).  So perhaps your heart opens up, the more you listen to others. I find that by listening more and by reacting less (actions, words), that I put my foot in my mouth to a far lesser extent.  And then I’m better able to move to action to support the learner or teacher.

Recently, I read “A New View of Walk-Throughs” by Moss and Brookhart (Thanks to Julie Hobbs of ASSET).  First periods are free for me to greet and circulate through the different classrooms to be visible (as per Marzano’s School Leadership that Works).  The trick here is habit, so that the walk-throughs are not a rarity but become a regular occurrence – and damn the papers that pile up in my office.  This is not to see what the teacher is doing, but what the students are doing, what that they think they are doing, and seeing if they know why they are doing this.  It helps me also know what I did not know. In the first month here, I did not know what I did not know.  As Emperor Palpatine said “Young fool, only now, at the end, do you understand.”   Well, perhaps not that bad.   Now I see a bit more.  Having sweated myself as a teacher as principals over the past 26 years have wandered through my classes, I was relieved by the statements of Moss and Brookhart, who debunk these three myths of the walk through –

  1. Only the principal has the “deep understanding of teaching and learning.” Actually, walk throughs should actually be learning opportunities for principals.
  2. The use of a “one-size-fits-all criteria” to measure the ability of the teacher.  Time on task does not equal meaningful learning, and the primary goal of the walk-through is NOT to measure a teacher’s ability!
  3. “Top-down” decision making based on what the principal sees and filters down to the teacher, ignores the most important decision maker in the class – the student.

I use the walk-throughs as the beginning of discussions with teachers, supporting, asking for clarification.   I figure that I can improve the education of the students by supporting the teacher and having them know that I support them – the teacher being one major factor in the success of a student’s education.   My DG and I rhymed off the main (f)actors – teacher, student, parent – and my DG reminded me of the principal as a factor – hmm –had not thought of that.

Until next time!

Neil MacIntosh

Ed: Do you have any words of wisdom for Principal MacIntosh? I’m sure he would love to hear them!


Wikipedia entry for Mensch

A New View of Walk-throughs by Moss and Brookhart (you must be an ASCD member to read the full article)

School Leadership That Works by Robert J. Marzano, Timothy Waters and Brian A. McNulty


Do You Need Inspiration? Connect with Others!

Photo by Steve Corey under a CC license
Photo by Steve Corey under a CC license

Some time ago I wrote a blog post about the importance of being a connected educator. In the U.S., October is Connected Educator Month with many opportunities for professional development and making connections. This seemed a perfect time to revisit the possibilities of connections and connecting.

One person from whom I get many ideas to think about, blog posts to read and other interesting tidbits (on Facebook and on Twitter) is Tami Brewster, a teacher at Hampstead School. Most of her posts on Facebook are about education, either reposts from other educators, thoughts about her own classroom or questions that she needs answered. I went to speak with her about the importance of a professional learning network (PLN) to her.

I visited Tami at her school and asked her how she grew her online PLN. She spoke about going to conferences and symposia and starting to follow people she met on Twitter. The face-to-face encounters led to an online relationship. In other cases, through recommendations from people, she started to follow educators and then was always delighted when she had the opportunity to meet them face-to-face. Hugs always ensued! Tami interacts with them through Twitter and Facebook. While Facebook started for her as a way to connect with family, it has turned into an important part of her PLN. She posts good practices, sometimes her failures (to let everyone know we are all human and not everything works out the way we expect it to), links to free apps she hears about, meaningful blog posts written by educators…  Slowly she has built up online relationships with teachers both in North America and in other parts of the world – teachers who teach in circumstances similar to hers. They are a source of ideas and inspiration.

When Tami makes connections through recommendations from other people, she always checks out the profiles and credentials of these educators before deciding to follow them. The idea is to follow those whose ideas and opinions you value, not just to collect people to follow. Twitter can be overwhelming if you follow too many people!

Photo by Chrissy Hellyer under a CC license
Photo by Chrissy Hellyer under a CC license

But online is not the only kind of PLN to have. I am sure many of you already have a PLN – you just don’t call it that. It’s all the colleagues both within your school and from other schools with whom you share ideas. Tami has made a point of cultivating her face-to-face network.

Within Tami’s school, she is fortunate to have a schedule that allows the cycle team to meet “should they wish”. PLC (professional learning community) time is blocked in a couple of times a week. And meet they do! I spoke with Tami, along with Guila Luck and Heather Strulovitch. The three, along with others in the cycle, have been preparing to implement a 1:1 BYOD (bring your own device) environment in their classrooms. They have not only used planning time in school but have been meeting on Saturdays to try to make this new way of working be a success. They, in turn, have reached out via Twitter and Facebook to get help from others who have already implemented this kind of project getting suggestions and advice on everything from technical issues, to acceptable use policies, to good educational practices. Tami described how, with the strong online connections they have cultivated, they are able to get answers to questions quickly. By putting it out into the universe, so many people see it, and if everybody is testing out your problem, the sooner answers are found. Tami described how someone was trying to see how far he could push an app to do what he wanted. He was testing the limits of the app. These teachers are testing their own limits – how far they can push themselves to make their classrooms real hubs of excited, engaged learners.  Guila, a first year iPad user, talked about the importance of being able to get mentoring from colleagues with more experience (she also relies on students to teach her at times). Heather spoke about how knowing that you have a community of teachers to turn to, to share with, means that debriefing after a lesson will help you see ways to change, to find new approaches. Not every lesson is perfect, but it is the reflection afterwards and the bouncing of ideas off others that helps her evolve as a teacher. It gives her that extra drive to keep going. This group of teachers has built a community where they can share the negatives along with the positives (trust is an important aspect) and they all have become stronger teachers for it.

Tami is also in touch with teachers from other schools in the city who, like her, work in English / inner city schools. They face similar challenges and can offer each ideas and support. They share best practices – this year , the question: “What are you doing for the month of September?”, was put out there. This resulted in each teacher finding some new ideas they could put in place in their own classrooms.  Sharing happened partly face-to-face, but mainly through the sharing of files through their Google Drive accounts and through e-mail and even texting.

Now that the students are starting to use their devices, they too are connecting out of school hours, within a closed community, about schoolwork. Tami can see that they are engaged outside of school time; the students, too, see the power of connection.

Tami described having a PLN as giving her a window into many classrooms around the world. It has given her access to ideas and resources that she may not have had. And most of all, it has given her inspiration. She turns her back on “We’ve always done it this way.” We need to change and evolve to meet the needs of today’s students. Her PLN has given her the push to try something different. Each year, now, she tackles new ideas and has found ways to differentiate and to engage her students in more meaningful work.

And it keeps her energized.

Follow Tami on Twitter @brewstami


A Teacher Learns to Code: a professional learning story

I’m an online teacher for LEARN, and I recently became a student in a classroom again, which hasn’t happened in a long time. In my development as a teacher, I tend to spend a lot of time online, learning new things independently in a just-in-time fashion, but this post is about an instance in which that didn’t work out, and I needed to be face-to-face with an instructor and peers. As usual, I learned way more than just what I set out to learn…

Audrey code


Until very recently, the only code I knew was Audrey code. For example, the first time I asked someone what “html” was, they answered me by saying “hyper text markup language.” I responded by blinking and saying thank you, which is Audrey code for “Now I have four more questions in addition to the one I just asked you.”

Probing further did not help. Every explanation seemed to make things worse, and intimidate me even more. Brow-furrowing, sighing, and wincing became part of my code. Nevertheless, I had a vague notion that it had something to do with the internet.

Coding? What is this coding?

Sometime later, I started seeing hashtags about coding on twitter, like #kidscancode, #codingforkids, and #coding. There was a lot of enthusiastic buzz from teachers about the many benefits of coding. Not only is it fun, addictive, & creative, but it improves understanding in math and languages as well. It was the creative part that interested me most!  I just wasn’t sure of what type of coding everyone was talking about, or what exactly was being created. But I knew that before I tried to get my students to code, I needed to know how to do it myself – teaching usually works out better that way.

I decided to join and try to learn coding on my own.  I started with JavaScript, because I had heard it referenced while using my favourite software, geogebra. The lessons were easy enough to follow, and I made “progress” according to the site, but I still felt like I was in the dark as far as what I was creating. Where would I use this JavaScript interactive thingy? I was missing the big picture, and I just couldn’t keep at it without that. I felt constantly distracted, even agitated by that.

Google Apps scripts

Another effort that seemed, at the time, to be unrelated to html and coding was that I tried to learn how to write google apps script. I use google forms a lot, and there were specific things I wanted to be able to do with the data that my students were entering on those google forms. Off I went to google, and entered their google apps script “tutorials”. The problem here was that each link lead to so many other links that I lost my way very quickly. Unlike my codeacademy experience,  I was clear on what I wanted to create, but the tutorials didn’t seem organized in a user-friendly way. In fact, one of the links lead back to codeacademy, specifically to their JavaScript course, which I’d already tried. What this had to do with google apps script I didn’t know, which added to my confusion.

Convergence at Ladies Learning Code

These mysteries were finally solved for me on Sept 27 at a workshop in Ottawa called Ladies Learning Code. A friend had happened to mention to me that Sept 27 was National Ladies Learn to Code Day all across Canada. LLC (@llcodedotcom) is a not-for-profit Canadian organization devoted to teaching code to anyone who wants to learn in a comfortable, friendly, collaborative environment. They were having an introductory one-day workshop in many cities across Canada on Sept 27, so off I went to register. Unfortunately, the Montreal one was already full, so I decided to go to the one in Ottawa. I was persistent, because I was really interested in not only the coding, but the people who were organizing this amazing event, for free, on their weekend. People are endlessly fascinating to me, especially people who are passionate and creative.

I’m sitting just right of centre – coding!

I was not disappointed, in any way! Everyone working at the LLC session was a volunteer – our instructor, Jessica Eldredge (@jessabean),  the mentors (satellite teachers, one for every 4 participants), and the students from U of O. And everyone was friendly. You could tell right away that they were there to have fun and to help people. My favourite kind of people! I had a very strong sense that web developers are highly creative people who love doing what they do. And they love teaching other people how to do it! As for the participants, most were young, but there were a few my age, one of which sat at my table – coincidence? Probably not.

At last – the Big Picture

Within the first few minutes of the session, a lot of my previous confusion was cleared up by our instructor, Jessica Eldredge. She said that html was what created webpages, and that you could think of webpages as being in three layers, each one in a different type of code:

  1. The first is the content (text, pictures, links etc) which is created by the html.
  2. The second is the CSS, which is another language altogether, and which makes the content have a certain colour or style or placement on the webpage. In other words, it makes it look pretty.
  3. The third is the interactive elements, such as a gizmo on That’s where code like javascript comes in, and that’s where I had unwittingly started on my unsuccessful learning-to-code journey prior to this workshop. No wonder I had been confused – I had started with the last thing – javascript! Suddenly all the pieces fell into place for me. It felt like my mind was now truly open.


I really liked the way that the workshop was organized. It was kind of a mix of the flipped class and direct instruction. Jessica would spend a few minutes explaining something, then we would work for a while to complete the accompanying set of instructions, while getting lots of support from our “mentor.” Each group of four people had their own mentor. Ours was Gavin (@GavinNL), who was wonderful.  And he happens to be a math and science teacher! He was there in a heartbeat when we needed him, which was tremendously reassuring, but we also had the ability to move forward at our own pace as well, because we had already downloaded, prior to the workshop, all kinds of software and files, including all of Jessica’s slides and instructions. Hence the flipped element. I feel validated, because I use the flip in my own classes.

Audrey learned to code!

By lunchtime, I had made this:


Incredibly, I had written some html and css, and it had worked! We didn’t get to the interactive stuff, but at least now I know what it is, what it’s for, and where to go to continue to learn.

What else did I learn?

 Learning really is social. It means so much to be able to turn to someone, for a reaction, for help, for reassurance, and to offer it to them. Humans need humans.

  • I like having the option to move ahead or go back as I wish. And at different times during the day, I did both. Although at around 2:30, my saturated mind ground to a complete halt.
  • That option to move at one’s own pace is only truly available if the material given is well organized, easy to find, and contains good visuals and examples, which Jessica’s did.
  • Hearing someone say something is way more powerful than reading it to yourself.
  • A webpage is a file! That blew my mind. To see my webpage, I double-clicked on a file with .html at the end. I don’t know why that was so eye-opening for me, maybe because it made it all seem a lot less like magic and more like logic.
  • I need to have the big picture to learn some things. Otherwise, I’m constantly distracted and agitated.
  • Web developers are highly creative people who are passionate and love to teach other people how to do the same! I’m encouraging my own kids to learn, because they are very creative people too. So far no luck, after all, I’m their mom.
  • Finally, there are an awful lot of people out there who love to teach, and are really good at it, but very few of them do it for a living like I do. I’m lucky like that.

What’s next?

So what am I going to do with this? Not sure yet – I had a vague notion that I would rebuild my own blog from scratch, but that seems like it might be a bit too much to start off with. I remember feeling this way when I started to learn geogebra  – I had no idea what to make with it, I just knew that it was really really cool. That’s where I am now – any suggestions would be more than welcome! And that’s not Audrey code for anything!

Accueillir un stagiaire, pourquoi pas!


À chaque début d’année scolaire, je reçois une lettre de ma commission scolaire qui me demande si je veux accueillir un stagiaire dans ma classe.

Depuis quelques années, je donne mon nom et je reçois des stagiaires de différentes universités.

C’est toujours, pour moi, une expérience enrichissante, angoissante, stressante, décourageante, stimulante.

Accueillir un stagiaire demande beaucoup de temps et de qualités humaines.

Ce qui me pousse à accompagner un futur enseignant, c’est tout d’abord de vouloir transmettre ma passion pour l’enseignement, car, entre vous et moi, c’est le plus beau métier du monde! Je veux plus que tout aider cet étudiant à développer ses compétences professionnelles et les attitudes nécessaires pour enseigner. Savoir que je participe à former la relève et que je redonne à d’autres ce que j’ai reçu lors de mes propres stages me procure un sentiment d’utilité et de fierté.

Lorsque je reçois un stagiaire, ça me permet également de réfléchir sur ma pratique en tant qu’enseignante, de m’améliorer et de renouer avec mon enthousiasme qui s’estompe parfois à cause de la lourdeur de la tâche. J’apprécie discuter de pédagogique et de didactique, de tenter de nouvelles expériences. De plus, j’ai l’occasion d’observer mes élèves d’une autre façon et d’en apprendre davantage sur eux. Accueillir un enseignant en devenir me permet de partager mes tâches d’enseignante au quotidien, de vivre une relation de collaboration et de me réaliser professionnellement.

Par contre, j’ai toujours cette hésitation à accueillir un stagiaire dans ma classe. Je crains que cet étudiant ne s’améliore peu, ne démontre pas d’efforts et ne tienne pas compte de mes rétroactions. De plus, je me demande toujours comment mes propres élèves vont accepter ce stagiaire. Et, est-ce que mes élèves apprendront et n’auront pas trop de retard dans le programme? Malgré ces appréhensions et des hésitations, je choisis encore et toujours d’accueillir un stagiaire et je signe donc cette lettre de ma commission scolaire.


Si vous songez à accueillir un stagiaire, mais que vous n’êtes pas encore convaincus, voici des informations sur les différents stages.

Depuis la réforme du programme de formation initiale des maitres dans les universités, le MELS souhaite offrir aux futurs enseignants une formation axée sur la pratique. Un stage est donc prévu à chacune des années du baccalauréat, pour un total de 4 stages. Voici la description des 4 stages inspirée du Manuel de formation pratique des programmes d’enseignement des langues secondes de l’UQAM (2013-2014).

Le stage 1 dure 8 jours pendant lequel le stagiaire fait des observations et s’intègre au milieu scolaire. Le stage 2, de 6 semaines, permet à l’étudiant de prendre en charge progressivement 50 % d’une tâche à temps complet. Le stage 3, de 6 semaines, est une prise en charge progressive de 75 ou 80 % d’une tâche à temps complet. Et finalement, le stage 4 dure 9 semaines avec une prise en charge complète d’une tâche d’enseignement après 2-3 jours d’observation.


Suis-je qualifié pour devenir un enseignant associé?

Selon le MELS, la personne qui désire accueillir un stagiaire doit posséder un brevet obligatoire, 5 ans de pratique et démontrer des compétences pédagogiques reconnues dans le milieu en pédagogie, dans les contenus à enseigner et dans les didactiques reliées à ce contenu.

Ai-je les compétences recherchées chez un enseignant associé?

Selon le rapport de recherche et cadre de référence de Portelance, Gervais, Lessard et Beaulieu (2008) sur la formation des enseignants associés et des superviseurs universitaires, l’enseignant associé est à la fois une aide, un guide, un modèle, un critique et un mentor. En plus de jouer une multitude de rôles, certaines compétences sont attendues de l’enseignant associé. Elles sont résumées dans le tableau suivant :



Suis-je payé pour être enseignant associé?

Lorsqu’on accepte un stagiaire dans sa classe, on est rémunéré en conséquence. À titre d’exemple, voici les montants accordés pour l’année scolaire 2013-2014 de ma commission scolaire (SWLSB). Pour le stage 1, l’enseignant associé reçoit 150 $. Pour le stage 2 : 400 $ et 40 $ d’allocation. Pour le stage 3 : 600 $ et 100 $ d’allocation et pour le stage 4 : 700 $ et 100 $ d’allocation. L’allocation sert à acheter un petit cadeau au stagiaire, à l’inviter à un diner de fin de stage, à se procurer matériel pour la classe, etc.

Pour moi, accepter d’accompagner un stagiaire, c’est l’accueillir et l’intégrer, planifier et encadrer son stage, l’observer et prendre des notes et échanger, rétroagir, évaluer.

Et puis, relevez-vous le défi d’accueillir un stagiaire?

Vous avez eu un stagiaire. Partagez-nous votre expérience!

Vous êtes stagiaire. Racontez-nous votre vécu!


L’écriture de cet article n’aurait pas été possible sans la participation de Madame Lynda Giguère, professeure invitée à l’UQAM, responsable des stages et superviseure au département de didactique des langues. Je tiens à la remercier pour sa participation à une entrevue ainsi qu’à son précieux temps.