Strong Relationships for Student Success



We have just completed another round of 3-way conferences and in some cases teachers are still meeting with a few parents who needed rescheduled times. As I was leaving the school on Wednesday evening when conferences were finished,  reflecting on how things had gone, and feeling very weary, I must admit,  I also felt lucky to have a teaching staff that always has what is best for students in mind  and lucky to have the parents that try to advocate for their children.

Even though the process requires very long hours of preparation and dedication, the importance of the relationship building and communication are priceless.

I have had quite a few conversations with parents lately who have called me with concerns, or in some cases I have had to contact them due to behavior issues.  The one thing I  tell those parents, and wish I could tell all of our parents, is how grateful I am when they are strong advocates for their children.  I wish all of our students had strong advocates.

I am always grateful when parents come to me with a concern or question and appreciate the effort they are putting in on behalf of their children.  We may not always understand the motivation behind their concerns, but, in that moment they are reaching out to forge a relationship that will benefit their child.

Relationships take time, effort and determination.  As a parent myself I can be confused  by what my son’s teachers expect from me. Do they want me to be involved, even if it comes on my terms and in my way?  Would they rather I left decisions regarding my son’s education up to them and did not interfere? or are we both seeking a balance?

I think we are not always very clear about our expectations for our parents.  It is easy to become discouraged when we reach out and they are not responsive.  Before making quick judgments, take a moment to remember we do not always know what our parents are dealing with and what they are bringing to the table.  What we interpret to be lack of interest or caring or criticism for the things we are trying to do, can in fact be something totally different.

I have been lucky to forge very critical relationships with teachers and principals as I have followed and supported my three children through school.  My youngest son is now in grade 10 and I continue to seek out ways to communicate and  be an advocate for him.  I have met teachers who were not interested in relationships and found this disappointing and discouraging.  However, the majority of teachers I work with, and reach out to, are working hard to find ways to create a positive learning team.


I just finished reading the book “Beyond the Bake Sale,” by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson and Davies.   The basic premise of the book is about creating better relationships with our parents and not just relying on superficial things like bake sales and fundraising.  It is one of my goals to create a culture in our school where parents feel welcome in the building and truly feel an important part of our team.

One of the things stood out for me in the book was  “…we know that parents are more motivated to support their children’s learning when they receive clear invitations and support from teachers and other school staff to be engaged, are confident about their ability to help their children and are clear about what they should do to support their child’s learning.”


I was having a conversation with my staff  this week after we attended a division professional development day where all the schools in our school division shared the math action research projects we have been working on this year.  Many of the presentations we listened to had a portion about connections and relationships.  This made me feel very positive about the direction we are moving in our school division and especially in our individuals schools.

If we continue to make an effort to welcome, honor and connect with our families, I believe our parents will respond by becoming loyal members of our school community and will take every opportunity they are able, to participate in their children’s education in ways we never thought possible.

Sound like a win-win situation to me!





































Striving to Make Learning Authentic

How many times have we heard the following questions in our classrooms?

  • Why do we have to learn this?
  • When am I ever going to use this in my life?
  • What is the purpose in learning this?

These seem like valid questions for us to consider.

I am an avid reader and because I am so passionate about education much of the reading I do is education related.  I have read and reflected on many topics related to change that is necessary in our classrooms today.  Our students are living in a much different world than many of us were when we were attending school.  They will spend their lives in a much different global environment created by our ability to communicate through technology.  They will need skills related to design, communication and the synthesizing of information. Classroom instruction needs to reflect these changes by moving from just “teaching content” to teaching our students how to learn.  They will need to be able to find and evaluate content, connect with prior knowledge and use that knowledge to solve authentic problems.

A real-world authentic connection requires that students see a reason to do what they are doing, other than the fact they were assigned to do it and will get a grade for doing it. Interests, experiences, significant issues, improving the real world, interacting with people we know are all ways to make learning authentic for our students.

I am not pretending to be an expert on anything.  I just finished giving my students a teacher report card to fill out on me.  Some of the feedback I received turned in the direction of providing my 13 year olds with nap time and play time.  When you ask young adolescents for feedback, it is important to be prepared that not all of it will be useful and thought provoking.

Math Olympic Problem Solving
Math Olympic Problem Solving

One the other hand, many of them did provide me with some very useful things to reflect on.  One of the things I took away from what they said was that I was not providing them with enough choice and I was directing them too closely perhaps, especially in the ways they were going to show and share their learning.  Listening to student voice is crucial to engagement in learning and I am planning to make some changes starting in our next class.

Grade 4
Grade 4

Our school has been working on an action research project this year.  We are trying to see if we can improve some of our math understandings and therefore math achievement by making  real world connections for our students.  It has been an interesting journey and I have been very pleased with some of the things we have been able to accomplish.  We will be sharing our results with other schools in our school division at the end of the month.

Kindergarten Students
Kindergarten/Grade 1 Students

Yesterday I was asked to judge a cooking contest taking place in grade 5 math.  The students have been learning about decimals and were creating their finished products using what they had learned and practicing ratios.  As I listened to the teacher describe what they had done,  I could tell a lot of authentic learning had gone into the process.  The finished products were all delicious, so perhaps the ratios were not too far out.  The students were excited and fully engaged in what they were doing.

Tasting our recipes.


There are many examples throughout our building of students moving away from textbook problems to the creation and sharing of authentic learning experiences.

One of the other things we have done is try and have as many parents, grandparents, community members as we could come in and talk to our students about how they use math in their jobs.  Our visitors have been great and our students have been very engaged in hearing that we don’t only do math during math class.

Many of our students have created videos showing their learning but also for the purpose of sharing and teaching someone else different math skills.


We have been looking for every opportunity we can to make connections for our students and try and make our learning authentic and connected for our students.  Over the course of the year we have been sharing our learning on twitter @PDaleSchool using the hashtag #reallifemath, we have had an Olympic Math Day followed by creating math problems using pictures and data collected during the afternoon and we had a family games night inviting our families to join us for some fun games.

We have yet to see if we were able to improve our actual math scores, but one thing is for sure we improved our engagement in math and were able to share with our students how we use math in our lives and work on a daily basis. Our next challenge will be to see what other ways we can continue to make our learning authentic.  Any suggestions?