The Joy in Saying “YET!” What a 3 Year Old Can Teach Us About Having a Growth Mindset

The other day I took my 3 and 5 year olds to a playground at a local park prior to watching my wife play her slo-pitch game. My 5 year old easily crossed a chain bridge and then my 3 year old attempted to cross and fell a couple seconds after grabbing hold of the chains with her hands.

She was about to give up when she told me, “I can’t do it.”

I replied, “You can’t do it… YET!”

She happily said, “Oh yeah… YET!”

She then proceeded joyfully to attempt to cross the bridge a 2nd/3rd/4th/5th time in quick succession.  She fell each time a few seconds after starting. On the 6th attempt she finally figured out the one step at a time strategy we were talking about previously and completed it.

She was so proud of herself, and she asked if I could video her doing it, “so I can show Mommy.”

The video above is the 7th attempt, and she couldn’t be more happy with herself!  This is the power of YET in action, and I was in tears when she high-fived me.  I only wished I videotaped all her attempts, so she can see what joy and perseverance looked like to her when she was 3.

I can’t help but constantly question myself on how I can inspire myself, family, students, and colleagues to continuously find the joy in saying yet, and enjoying the learning journey along the way.  Using the word yet changes a fixed-mindset to a growth mindset and a growth mindset brings  joy in the hard work when we face challenges.  Thank you to Carol Dweck and her book Mindset to contributing to my awareness about the power of a growth mindset.

Hugh McDonald


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Why the Global Read Aloud Matters


The importance of being connected gives students endless learning opportunities. I love this story shared by Pernille! Enjoy!

Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:

Wednesday started out as a normal day at school.  I walked into the office to check my mailbox when our amazing secretary handed me a mystery package.  I immediately looked at the mailing label and was astounded when I saw this.

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Immediately curios, I ripped open the package and was surprised when I saw this

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The package came from Cathy Kreutter, the librarian at the International School of Uganda, and she was reaching out to me continue the global connectedness started by the Global Read Aloud.   Not only was I shocked, but I was also over the moon excited, because the other thing in the package was this…

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A book, written by Cathy, based on the American Folk Tale “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” meant to tell readers more about Uganda.  I couldn’t wait to read it to my students!  And what happened next…

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Paper Airplane Challenge Part 1 – Telling Our Learning Story

I rececently watched an English Fan who created a paper airplane and let it go from the upper deck of Wembley Stadium.  The paper airplane he created danced gracefully through the sky for what seemed like minutes and hit an unsuspecting Peru Soccer Player in the side of the head near midfield.  I don’t believe for a second they were trying to hit anyone.  In fact they themselves referred to it as a lucky shot.  They were just having fun and trying their best to see how far they could go.  Here is the video:



There are numerous videos shown from different angles that show this video was not altered in anyway.  After seeing this video I was immediately inspired and we attempted to recreate this event from the top of our skynet on our playground.  However another factor came into play that we didn’t initially think about.  Not all students/people are comfortable with heights.  Therefore students understood that they could throw their airplanes from whatever height they were comfortable with.

The students came up with many factors to what contributed to the airplane hitting the target.  Some of these included wind, airplane design, strength of throw, distance needed to cover, height, and the angle at which they throw their airplane at.  Below is a video of us documenting our attempts and noting that we need to adapt and tinker with our creations in order to attain our goal of hitting our target.  Enjoy our humourous attempts to hit our intended target.  Please note this is Part 1.



We will share Part 2 in an upcoming blog post.  The students have already started tinkering with their designs and throwing techniques.  In Part 2 we will share more of what they learned from their first attempt and what they did differently in their attempts to get more airtime to hit their intended target.


Enjoy!  My students would love to hear about your successes or challenges you had if you tried a similar challenge.







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Please Don’t Tell Me to Pick


I struggle with this as well. How can you choose when you have seen so much growth and success in each of your students? This is why we are not doing awards at our school this year.

Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:

image from etsy

“…Please pick one or two students…” my heart freezes as I read the email.

Don’t make me pick, please.  Don’t make me single out one or two students, even if it is for recognition.  Why?  Because I don’t just have one or two students who deserve to be recognized.  I don’t have just have one or two students that have been representing our classroom well.  I don’t just have one or two students that are above the rest.  I have 27 students that all through the year have proved people wrong.  I have 27 students who all through the year have given me their best, even when they had no energy, even when they were lost, even when life threw one obstacle after another at them.  I have 27 who deserve special recognition, maybe not for the same things, but they all deserve the praise.  they all…

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Early Sports Specialization and Its Links to Education


I really enjoy reading Chris’ thoughts on education and youth sport. I believe in what he is saying. Raising life long learners and life long participants in sport is preferable to the burn out most feel in attempting to keep up with the Joneses. Enjoy… the parallels are striking!

Originally posted on :


Outside of work, I spend many hours coaching my kids and other parents’ kids in school and community sports.  There is a  lively debate right now in the youth sports community about the value of focusing exclusively on a single sport from a young age. I wrote on the topic in a 2012 post on the Multi-Sport High School Athlete, and in 2013 on Being a Sports Parent Today.  Part of what really draws me to this challenge in youth sports are the parallels and similar debates in education.

I find the conversation around sports and whether we should be keeping score and ranking players and teams from youth, akin to the conversation around the purpose and appearance of elementary school report cards. Letter grades are very much like keeping score; those who argue for them remind us of the competitive nature of the world we live in and the need to let kids know where they stand, with those opposed contending the…

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To Bammy Or Not to Bammy


I too wonder about awards and appreciate hearing that the “Bammy’s” will have more student voice involved. Pernille always gets me to think a little deeper and she does again with this post.

Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:

image from icanread

I have been going in circles the last few days, thinking out loud, pulling my hair a little bit.  Nothing new if you ask my husband, but I am finally at a point where I feel ready to write about it.  You see, I was nominated for 2 Bammy Awards this year.  One as elementary education teacher of the year, the category I was up for last year as well, and new this year as education commentator/blogger.   To those who don’t know me or know this blog, this wouldn’t seem like a bad thing.  After all, being nominated for anything is an honor really. But the Bammys and I have a little bit of a history after last year.  And so I don’t whether to be proud or to hide it.  I don’t know what to think of this anymore, not after last year.

I had…

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Fortune Does Favour The Bold – My Genius Hour Presentation

This Blog was written in response to the December Precept from R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder” I am reading with my class.   In this post I wanted to model reflective thinking of the precept “Fortune favours the Bold” which is highlighted in the book by one of August’s teachers and deeply thought about from the perspective of the character Jack Will.  Here are my awesome student’s Fortune Favours the Bold reflections from the novel Wonder.  I’m sure they would love some comments and feedback.  :D

Here goes me being bold…

I have many examples in my life of when I was bold.  Being bold to me means that I challenge myself to be great.  One of the most recent examples of me being bold was when I presented 2 workshops at the Provincial Intermediate Teachers Association Fall 2013 Conference in Burnaby.  I found out shortly after registration had started that both the workshops I had agreed to lead were full.  This was exciting to hear but also nervewracking to know that the pressure was on for me to educate and entertain 2 sessions of 40 people for an hour and a half.  In that moment I kind of felt like this girl:

In the lead up to my presentations I was tinkering for late into the evening each night prior to the day of the presentations in order to make them just right.  One of the topics I was presenting on was Genius Hour.  I was reading on twitter that some people were coming from as far away as the island and Prince George to come learn with me during this presentation.  This is a lot of responsibility, and I was afraid that this was not going to go very well.  When the session started I immediately felt comfortable because I love the topic and I felt prepared.  The room was over capacity and they were there to learn about Genius Hour and my story with it.  As I presented I showed them videos, pictures, led discussions, and read their faces.  They were engaged and were feveriously writing down everything I said.  It was personally rewarding to know that people wanted to know my story and learn about awesomeness of Genius Hour.

Had I not taken the opportunity to present at this Provinical Pro-D Conference I would never have know if I was capable.  I would have always wondered if I had it in myself.  Since that conference I have been asked to lead other workshops on Genius Hour.  I have realized that I have an interest in leading workhops and would like to continue to be bold and see what other opportunities I create for myself.  It was scary, but I am so glad I did it.  I have learned so much about myself as a learner and it has given me a deeper understanding and respect for Genius Hour and to others who present to large audiences on a regular basis.

Here is a link to my Genius Hour presentation with embedded video links.  I look forward to learning from your boldness.

Thank you!



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BYOD Permission Permission Form and Device Registration Form

Last year my colleague Gallit Zvi underwent the big task of tailoring a BYOD use policy for the students in our classes and school.  Thank you to her for all her efforts.  I’ve adapted the form she created last year for our students this year.  I hope you find them useful.  Feel free to use, adapt, and share.



School District No. 36 (Surrey) and Westview Elementary recognizes and authorizes the use of privately owned personal computers within the school’s communications network.  Computer/Device owners agree to:

  • Adhere fully to the SD36 Acceptable Use Policy (previously signed in consent package) and that computer and network usage will also be governed by school and classroom rules and expectations
  • Strictly ensure that software installed on their privately owned computer/device are licensed for their use
  • Give their computer/device a machine name acceptable to the School District

SD36 and Westview Elementary are NOT responsible for:

  • Repair of privately owned computers/electronic devices (hardware or software)
  • Compatibility problems with its networks, computers, and software
  • Network connectivity problems
  • Theft of or damage to privately owned computers/devices, software, or data
  • Providing licenses for software used on privately owned computers/devices


Process for Staff/Student ability to connect their privately owned computer/device to the SD36 network:

-Student fills out the Registration Form and submits it to the educator responsible for the process

-Computers/electronic devices can then connect to SD36 network.


Use of Online Learning and Communication Tools

This year, students will be documenting their learning on their personal ePortfolios, with the use of online tools, such as Twitter, Weebly, Kidblog, Youtube, Skype, Educreations, and other web 2.0 programs we will learn about throughout the year. The BC Education Plan supports these 21st century learning skills:

BC’s Education Plan will encourage smart use of technology in schools, better           preparing students to thrive in an increasingly digital world. Students will have more opportunity to develop the competencies needed to use current and emerging technologies effectively, both in school and in life…The Province will promote the use of technology for both students and educators.

With the use of online learning and communication tools, we can better personalize each student’s learning.  Students’ last names will NOT be used online and their images will not be connected online with their names.  Through the use of technology we will be learning along side fellow students in our school, our school district, and around the world.


I have read “Use of Privately Owned Personal Computing Devices” and understand the conditions in which my child may bring personal electronic devices.

Parent or Guardian’s Name (please print):  ______________________________

Signature:  ______________________________         Date:  _______________


Mr. McDonald


Use of Privately Owned Personal Computing Devices

Registration Form:

Name: __________________________________________________________


Description of Device: _____________________________________________

Model Number: _______________________

Serial Number: ________________________


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Dear Bammy Awards, Where Did It Go Wrong?


I feel her voice and understand her pain. It is another example of how sometimes in an attempt to honour we miss because we focus on the awards and the show rather than the amazing stories of educators and students. What we say and do matter! Surely there is a way we can celebrate educators and learning without giving out awards.

From what I’ve read the connections made were the highlight of evening. Now these stories and their impact on each person involved would be ones I would love to read about and learn from.

Thank you Pernille for sharing your story. Your experiences and voice inspire me.

Originally posted on Blogging Through the Fourth Dimension:

Dear Bammy Awards,

For the last 16 hours or so I have been trying to find the words to describe what last night’s event did for me as a teacher, not as an honoree.  And while this letter may come off as too blunt, there are things we need to talk about.

When I first heard about you last year, I was curious and mildly excited that someone was finally trying to put a positive spotlight on educators.  When I was invited to attend as one of the 100 Connected Educators, I was honored, even though I knew my two babies at home would prevent me from coming.  I thought what you had was a great idea, even if there were bumps in the road to figure out.

This year when I heard that I was a nominee, up for elementary teacher of the year, I was humbled, confused, and…

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We Need Awards… Really?

I pulled the following quote from the Bammy Awards Website.  It was posted under a tab titled Promoting Your Nomination.

“The Bammys do what all of us should: acknowledge teachers and great practice. Awards tell us, the educators, who the leaders are in our profession. They are the signpost that says, “These are the models, and we have much to learn from them.” In addition, these awards say to the public, “There are those in our midst worth appreciating, worth admiring, and worth respecting.” The Bammys so that and more. They acknowledge the difficulty of a challenging profession and those who excel at it, making it their own.”


The only thing I can counter is that surely we can find better ways of honouring the amazing work that educators do?  I truly do respect all the nominees and winners at the most recent Bammy Awards.  They do wonderful things for students and our profession.  How do I know this?  I’ve read some of their stories.

All I can say is if what matters in education are publicizing your success and promoting a nominee we lose focus on what really matters… the stories.  Why is this even mentioned when talking about the amazing stories of educators and students?  We need to find ways where the stories shine and not an award.  How we recognize the work we as educators do matters.  How we honour the learning students do matters.  What are we saying to students who win and students who lose when we do the same thing to them in a school?  What are we saying to kids?  Your stories are important but not important enough to get an award.  This person’s story, grades, actions, etc… are better than yours in our opinion.  The voice of a colleague and friend, Chris Wejr has influenced my feelings on this topic a lot.  He has shared the journey him and his staff has taken to removing these awards ceremonies and honouring the stories of all.  I encourage you to read his stories.  They are inspiring and is a picture of where we all can go as learners, educators, and people.

If we want the public and students to see what learning is we need to do a better job of sharing and honouring the stories rather than award nominations and wins.  We minimize our work and the stories get lost in the shiny badges, trophies, or plaques.  It is the same way we are perceived by the public when the work and learning of students is minimized to a singular test score.  If we want this to change then the amazing learning stories need to be the front of any conversation related to education.  Why are some educators in the business of marketing themselves/others for awards?  Surely the focus is lost.  This is why I love Genius Hour.  It is about the students excited about sharing their learning stories.  They are not motivated by a letter grade.  They are motivated by their love of learning.  It is magical to see a student who struggles with their learning confidently explaining their learning while standing in front of a large group of students and adults.  Stories of success like this are the ones that attempt to honour all and need to be the focal point rather than awards.

One story for you.  When I was younger I strived for awards and badges.  I often cut corners in order to achieve.  I am reminded of when I was in cub scouts, and I tried to get all the badges that were available.  It wasn’t because I loved everything I was doing.  It was because I wanted everyone to see all the badges I got.  It had nothing to do with what I was learning.  It was about status and how everyone saw me.  I know every educator who wins awards are not “in it” for awards.  My only question is then why are there structures in place to promote their nominations?  Our why is important and should be the focal point of any story involved with education.

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