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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Sharing… Obvious to You. Amazing to Others

I am nervous and excited about my first day tomorrow.  As a new school year starts I am reminded about the brilliance of the students, teachers, and families around me.  I encourage you all to share your obvious with the world in order to inspire those who will learn what you do is amazing.  Below is one of my favourite videos of all time by Derek Sivers.  I have shared this video multiple times because it epitomizes how being brave enough to share what is obvious to us can make a world of difference to people who find what your sharing amazing.  Often we are our own biggest critic and don’t give our obvious ideas an opportunity to grow.  Often they are halted in their tracks because of fear we are not good enough or I don’t have anything valuable to offer.  I know I am not alone when I say that I once felt that way.

Imagine… the education world as a whole being a  community of learners sharing successes and sharing difficulties.  Through sharing we can be inspired by someones else’s obvious in order to come up with creative solutions to difficulties us and our students all face inside and outside our classrooms each day.  The smartest person in the room is not the person standing and speaking the most… it is the collective of the room.  The world is the room.  Reach out and share!  Thank you to George Couros and the countless others in my learning network who have helped me understand that deeply.  We are all smarter together and our worlds will benefit from us sharing and learning from each other!  Model your sharing with your students and see them be inspired to engage in learning about how they too can spot amazing ideas and inspire amazing in others.

Have a wonderful first day back and find 1 obvious thing to share this year.  Your obvious is amazing to others.

Hugh McDonald

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Awesomely Normal vs. Winning

For those that know me know that I am a highly competitive person.  However over the last few years what I value in education and coaching has shifted to finding opportunities that create a participatory and skill teaching/building environment rather than actions that support hierarchy and winning first.

I initially wrote this for the Surrey Elementary Athletic Society blog, but I feel this has a lot of tie ins to education in the classroom and what I value.  I will let you make your own connections in regards to that.  I would love to hear them, and I hope you enjoy the post below.

I love how awesomely normal baseball is for Adam Bender, his teammates, coaches, and the team he is playing against.  This is why we need to keep the perspective on defining why we coach and why participation and skill development at young ages is so important as opposed to pushing winning all the time.

We need to be very careful about the age we impose adult beliefs on kids about winning and what it takes to win.    We risk losing out on the important lessons we can learn from all the young athletes in our care if winning is the focus over participation and skill development at young ages.

I hope you enjoyed the powerful video!


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Dear Mr. McDonald, I Will Never Forget Genius Hour

Near the end of this post is an emailed letter I received from a thoughtful grade 7 student the day after our final day of school.  It warmed my heart and brought a tear to my eye.  It will have a deep impact on me, as I move forward in my life.  She didn’t have to write it, but she did.  It was personal.  It was reflective.  It was meaningful.  It was her being reflective, and it will impact the learning of many students in the future.  Our class had a wonderful year this year filled with fun, and a variety of learning experiences for teachers and students.

This letter teaches me that our students are passionate, creative, and thoughtful learners.  We just need to give them the opportunity to ask meaningful questions about topics that are meaningful to them.  Engaging students as active learners and bracing them for the impact they can have in their school, community, and the world is important for them to understand.

Learning can be fun.  Learning can be for them.  Learning is personal.  Learning is collaborative.  Learning is intrinsic.  Learning is reflective.  Learning is transformational.  Learning needs to be modelled.  Learning stories need to be shared, so the why, and how we learned becomes more important than the topic we learned.  This way we set students up to be learners for life instead of slaves to the grade.  We connect life to school because school should be life.  School should never just be school!

Thank you Simran for helping teach these lessons to me!

Hugh McDonald

Here is Simran and Blea’s documentation of their learning during their “Honk if You Love Someone” Genius Hour project.  Be sure to watch and be patient with the little audio issue near the beginning.  It is brief.  This is their learning journey!

Dear Mr.McDonald

First off thanks for my comment box, especially the quote. I’ve been reading it over and over again to see what it means to me, I think it means that if I have a dream than do what I can to make it real.

I will never forget Genius Hour in our class! And thank you so much for your support in our Genius Hour project. It already has 83 views. Its amazing, what I really hope for next year is that you and your class will do this in front of our school again to make people’s day.   Just for fun!

Thank you for being such an amazing teacher. I loved the iPads and how we used them and our blogs. And remember to keep updating twitter and our Website once a week or so. ☺

Remember the 30-hour famine. At like 8:30 we were playing basketball. You and Mr. Jones and me and James. Remember when Ms.Zvi would be making fun of you. Saying I’m sounding like Mr.McDonald now!  All the great times in our classroom.

I will always come and visit so make sure you never leave. I will never forget this year because of all the changes brung into the classrooms. We used iPads and Tables and so much more.

I know you may meet another Simran but make sure you don’t forget me. ( your most likely not going too 😏)

I will try to change things where ever I go. I will try to bring Genius Hour to Frank Hurt or Sullivan.  I will try to make sure we get to express ourselves in the ways we want.

But never ever in life,
No matter how hard I try, I will never get another, amazing grade seven year like this one.

“No matter where I go or where I end up, I will bring change” -Simran

I will make your and Mrs. Zvi’s dream come true. But it may take time. But one day, I’ll promise you, you’ll see that something has changed.

“Dreams are made if people only try. I believe in miracles….. I have to… Because somewhere the hurting must stop” – Terry Fox July 10, 1980

-Sent from my IPod

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23 Videos That Sparked Genius Hour Thinking, Collaboration, and Actions

In our classroom this year my colleague Gallit Zvi and I used many youtube videos to inspire resiliency, grit, and hope in our students prior to guiding them in formulating their inquiry questions about their passions and wonders during our weekly Genius Hour time.  Many of the videos were shared with me through wonderful connections I made with educator learners on Twitter, Facebook, and at various workshops.  I love my PLN!  However I am proud to say students and teachers in our room inspired each other too.  Some of our work is shared on this list too.

Enjoy the list and please share your own favourites!


Hugh McDonald

1.  Creativity Requires Time

2.  TMB Panyee FC Short Film

3.  Girls First Ski Jump

4.  15-Yr-Old Kelvin Doe Wows M.I.T.

5.  Obvious to you. Amazing to others. – by Derek Sivers

6.  I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate

7.  The Time You Have (In JellyBeans)

8.  Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner

9.  Caine’s Arcade

10.  What is Genius Hour

11.  Making the Most Out of Every Second

12.  Thanksgiving 2012

13.  Genius Hour Project: Stop Motion

14.  How to Make A Pull Apart Cake

15.  Honk if You Love Someone

16.  Honk if You Love Someone – Documenting Our Learning

17.  We are Silent

18.  A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

19.  Boy Inspires Kids – Kids Inspire Us All (Amazing Finish)

20.  Act of Sportsmanship Gives Texas High Schooler Shot At Glory

21.  Bubba’s Hover

22.  Sesame Street: Share it Maybe

23.  How Bad Do You Want It?

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Out of My Mind

I picked up Sharon Draper’s “Out of My Mind” after signing up my class for the Global Read Aloud 2013.  It is a brilliantly written novel intended for young adult readers.  However, it is really a story of triumph and fortitude that will inspire many to pick up this book to read.  It is 1 of 3 books to choose to read with your class after signing up to part of the Global Read Aloud.  It is an event I learned about in 2012 when connecting with Pernille Ripp … @pernilleripp on twitter.  I highly recommend connecting with her.  She is a grade 5 teacher, and the driving force behind the Global Read Aloud and is a thoughtful contributor to the community of learners on twitter and via blogging.  Pernille is an inspiration to many of us who are seeking global connections to talk about books and issues that affect the lives of the students in our classrooms.  The Global Read Aloud will take place for a period of 6 weeks starting September 2013.  I am excited beyond words to share this book with my students and have them share their views with connections we make with other students reading the same book.

I don’t want to spoil this book too much for others, but what I will say is that I will see our world in a different way moving into the future.  This book challenges our belief systems about what we thought we knew about members of our society who struggle with a variety of disabilities. The following quote rang loudly through my mind as I laughed, cried, hoped, and debated while eagerly turning each page:


Although Melody, the main character in “Out of My Mind” never walked in shoes I think you get the message I am trying to convey.  Attempting to understand all our student voices and how their stories gel together is one of greatest responsibilities a teacher has when building a trusting community of learners in a classroom.  Starting with this book in September 2013, I am flooded with ideas (field trips, in class visitors, shared videos, Genius Hour action projects, blogging, and skype chats) that will spark discussions, inspire actions, and help build a community of students in my classroom and the world who are agents of hope for everyone.

I hope you join the Global Read Aloud this year, and the inspiring conversations that will be sparked around the world from students eager to gain a greater understanding and be the change in their communities.


Hugh McDonald

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