Build Their Character – Don’t Make Them Become One

It’s late and as usual, I give my social media accounts a glance before bed. This summer, while being at home with my kids who are 5, 3 and 1, (I won’t go by months, because I know how annoying that is for some people :P), I’ve been conscious about not being on my phone so much and to be present and engaged so that I catch those moments that slip by so easily when we are hiding behind screens. (Note that I am all for Social Media and that when the time comes, I will be teaching my kids how and when to use it appropriately so they understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint- Social LEADia  IS my next read, after all!! :).

Forgive me for rambling-I’m known to do so on occasion as my mind wonders and wanders!! As I was saying – as I was sitting in bed checking our school #SageCreekLRSD, I came across a Tweet from my principal wanting to know our thoughts on this picture. I had to get out of bed and blog about it, because 140 characters didn’t allow me to express my thoughts thoroughly. I’m also known to be a night owl so here I go….why not?!

Immediately- I agreed with Tom Loud‘s tweet. Since I joined the world of Twitter for the purpose of growing my PLN and learning from people who are passionate and driven, I find myself liking and retweeting many of his thoughts. When I read something that resonates with me, I like it and retweet it so I can reference it later. But then, my principal pushed my thinking by asking us to reflect on this statement. If it was an either or, I would definitely chose the later statement because as we know it, success can be defined in more ways than one and if I were to teach my students how to be successful based on my definition of the word, I would be unsuccessful in doing so. But in this case, I don’t believe it’s a one or none option. That, is the beauty of teaching, leading and learning.

I believe resiliency needs to be taught and modeled in classrooms and in homes- but being successful and what it means to be successful is a topic that deserves to be discussed with our students. I do agree it is crucial to teach them how to respond when they are not successful, but would also add that it is as important, if not more important to discuss how to respond when others aren’t succeeding. Do we stare, let them be, give them space? Do we offer help, ask them a question, notice their struggle? That whole collaboration piece can be and usually is the solution. Brian Aspinall said it himself – when we’re stuck and need ideas, we go to google. Responding to others’ needs and offering help (and asking for help) is empathy at its finest – which is a point I think we can all agree on –  that empathy is an ability we want our students and children to develop.

Earlier this week, I was watching one of Brian Aspinall‘s TEdx Talks on Education Reform. At one point, he explains the impact his Papa had on him growing up and how his teachings changed once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brian then shares with us how he still continued to learn from his Papa, even though he had Alzheimer’s, by watching him work. This man never gave up and was determined to find a solution to a given problem. He remained persistent even when the task became challenging. In a classroom setting, having explicit discussions are important, but we can’t forget that our students also learn from observation. They are always watching, feeling, and tuned-in, which is why it is so important we respond appropriately when we, as teachers, are not successful. What we choose to say and what we don’t say both give students a message. I believe the statement in this picture can and should be a message intended not only for kids themselves, but adults as well. This tweet also ties in well to Brian Aspinall‘s latest Golf Cart Vlog Reflection – How Do We Evaluate Failure?In his vlog, Brian mentions the importance of defining failure, the concept of embracing it, providing good feedback, and reevaluating evaluation.

In the picture shown at the top of the post, we talk about not being successful. My interpretation of these few words is synonymous to failure. Keep in mind though that I am one of those who believe failure is proof that we are trying. That failure gives us feedback into trying again but while changing a variable, tweaking, tinkering and reflecting to ultimately find a solution or to better ourselves. Failing is a way to move forward. To me failing is a reason to not give up and to persist in order to reach the objective we’ve set for our self. I am one of those fail-forward-type-thinking people. Failing is not black and white as long as we are learning from the moments when we are “not successful”. Attitude has so much to do with how we see failure and/or success for that matter.

To wrap it up, because I don’t like reading long blog posts myself – I think the best thing we can do for kids as teachers is to reflect on such statements and push our own thinking, especially in times where we are unsuccessful, which subsequently will have an impact on our students mindset and mindsight. As Brian puts it, and the saying on the picture suggests – “We need to shift our(their) thinking from failure is bad, to failure is good.”

I also want my students to create content and not just consume it. Consumption is playing the game of school. George Couros has mentioned this many times before including when he spoke to our staff in April. I don’t want my students playing the game of school because I played that game and like many of my PLN friends, even though I won each and every year, in the end I came out losing. I lost opportunities to think critically, to speak my own mind, to fail and take risks and embrace the process of learning. It’s only since becoming a teacher that I am catching up alongside my students. They say that as a parent, you want your child to have a better upbringing than you had yourself. The same is true for what I want for my students.

I want my students to be makers not fakers. Read John Spencer‘s post “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset” here , to understand why making and creating is so important when developing students’ character. I want these qualities to last their lifetime – not just the duration of the school year. As my title suggests, I want my students to build their character while staying true to who they are….not become a character in an everyday play for ten months to “succeed”. This isn’t a play or a game. School is a big part of their everyday life. Make it matter.


PBL in my Class of First Graders 

This post is a response to Frenchteach, who recently asked me through Twitter how I’ve done PBL in my classroom.

This morning as I was driving, a Twitter friend, Fenchteach, asked me how I have used PBL in my classroom. Although there are no limitations and that the projects ultimately come from the students, here area few examples I’ve done this past year to marry curriculum content and students’ interests to answer our big questions in Grade 1. All of these projects were a hit and witnessing student growth was so rewarding. The best part is not having to go through 25 carbon copy “projects”. Some were individual and others were collaborative which kept student engagement high and empowered them as they went through the motions.  I hope these inspire you, Frenchteach, with your university course this summer and that your students get to live yours out next school year! ​

​See pictures and short descriptions below! If you have any further questions, let me know!
Bon succès!


Example 1: ​Traditions, Seasons and Community


Example 2 : Gardening, Growth and Changes in Living Things, Math, Health



Example 3: Community: 2D and 3D




What my Students can expect next year from A to Z

As this year wraps up and I move to a new school that has a reputation for innovation, forward thinking and collaboration, my nerves are high with excitement and a bit of uneasiness. There are so many unknowns for staff and students alike because École Sage Creek School will be new to us all! Seeing as how I am full of questions and look forward to what awaits us in Room 147, this post is dedicated to my students. Here’s what you can expect from A-Z!

In September, we will:

I can’t wait to learn with you and from you! Until then-have a great summer! I hope you sleep peacefully knowing that you’ll  have an amazing adventure and that you’ll play a big part into where we go and what we discover!

Mme Nycol

2016: The year I allowed myself to be a student in my own classroom

As the school year comes to a close and staff and students are counting down the days until summer, I’m also counting the days until I get to set foot into my new learning space this September at École Sage Creek School. This year more than any other, I’ve taken greater risks, allowed my students to lead and have grown in ways I would have never even imagined. From flexseating, to Hangouts, to coding, to Seesaw, to Twitter, to blogging and vlogging, I have become a better teacher for my students. On top of that, I have become a better learner because this year, I allowed myself to be a student in my own classroom. This was the turning point for me. 

Being a student in my classroom has allowed me to better understand and define my role as a teacher, to practice empathy and to show my students that there are times when things don’t go as planned. Being Type A, I always wanted to micromanage every.single.detail. of every.single.moment in my classroom. Now that I’ve come to realize that placing the power in the hands of my students is where learning soars, I’ve learned to let go of the small stuff. I used to want to be the sole leader- now I adore being a co-leader, a collaborator and a co-constructor in the classroom with my students. It’s impossible to believe we can solely rely on ourselves to be able to do it all. As much I’d like to take the credit for taking these steps forward, it’s all thanks to my village. There’s an entire community of people who have shaped me into the teacher I am today. As I continue to read and reflect, I’m at peace knowing there will be many more (students, colleagues..) that will influence the teacher I will become years from now. I also find relief knowing Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. constantly has incredible educators hot off the press! I’ll always have a book in hand and a few more waiting on my nightstand! On Twitter tonight, I came accross Rex Ferguson-Baird and I found what he said to be true : “It takes a village to raise a child but it takes a Community to be a village”. This supported the very message I wanted to pass on. Everyone needs a village, not just children.

I’m a life-long learner. I’ve said it before, and I’ll never stop saying it. I love learning. It’s the main reason why I never stopped taking university classes once I got my Bachelor of Education degree. I thought I would have had enough when I completed my post-baccalaureat degree in counselling, but I still felt I needed to learn more so I enrolled in the Master’s program, specializing in Inclusive Education. Learning from and with others is my thing. I used to say if I could get paid to take university classes to continue  to learn and grow, I would earn my living that way. What I didn’t realize at that time, was that I was already doing just that.

Allow me to explain.

A number of years ago, I used to think that I could only learn from attending university. I thought and was brought up to believe that this type of education was considered superior to any other form of learning. Was I ever wrong! Although I would never want to alter or take away my formal education (I value what I’ve learned and take pride in what I’ve accomplished), there’s so much to be said about spending time and learning from people who make you better- whether it be in person, on youtube or from the comfort of a good book.

Last summer I got my hands on Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and it was the spark that fueled my fire. Throughout the entire read, I wanted to be a student in his classroom. That had me thinking about whether or not my students wanted to be in their classroom. After reading The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros and Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz, I joined Twitter, read blogs and I was hooked. These high profile authors who had such an impact on me were educators who started out just the same. Today, they spread their message to better the system, to spread their passion, to make a difference… and are they ever making a difference!! Simply put, they are amazing, brilliant and what I aspire to become. Even though these authors are Education Gurus, at their very core, they remain teachers and still have those same everlasting qualities. They are kind, caring and compassionnate. They’re human and that’s what makes them so incredible. The people I have connected with through PD and my PLN/PLC are also outstanding. They are my village and my community. Because of them, I am learning more than ever and funny thing is, I am getting paid for it! I’m learning in my classroom with my students everyday as I put into practice what I’ve learned in my spare time.

img_3019.jpgI came accross a picture of dominoes and it reminded me that perspective is so powerful. Some may look at these tiles and see they are falling, crumbling, failing to withstand the pressure of others. For me, this image represents the very opposite. Each domino is standing strong and has a purpose. In a circle, they form one unit, a community. When someone in line falls, there is always someone within reach to catch them, support them and help them get back up. There is always someone to lean on and learn from. That’s what community is. You don’t give up on one another, you don’t all fall down. You help one another get back up and become a stronger unit… and that’s the mentality I plan on having this September as I welcome my 23 new community members into their village.

Everyone needs a village. I’m grateful that in the past year, I feel that I’ve found mine.


When Two Worlds Collide

At École Sage Creek School, both the French Immersion and the English programs are colliding, something that’s happened only once before in our division. When I applied for a teaching job in this dual track school, my friends who previously worked in one had many comments to share with me, some positive, and others not. But deep down, I knew this would be a different situation. I felt it would be different. ÉSCS would be a teaching and learning opportunity like none other I had ever experienced. When I thought of these two worlds colliding, I can’t deny that at first, I wondered how challenging it would be to maintain the integrity of the French Immersion program in a dual track school. I constantly worried about interactions in the staff room or learning commons and how I didn’t want to upset, insult or exclude anyone. I worried about my students having to learn a second or third language in an environment that didn’t allow them to be fully immersed. I worried about how all of our expertise and big ideas would fit into one building. How could all of our voices be heard? Thinking of having these two programs colliding led me to an old clip from Seinfeld. I haven’t always been a fan of the show, in fact at first I couldn’t stand to watch it, but when I met my husband – 15 years ago now –  we used to watch it early on in our relationship as teens (before life happened and we had kids). Low and behold, the oneliners and characters quickly grew on me and seeing how much my husband enjoyed watching the show, I couldn’t help but watch it with him. Even now, as he reads my post and watches the clip, his laugh still gets me! In this episode, George’s “two worlds” are colliding (his friends and his girlfriend) and he’s devastated. Nothing great can come out of his two worlds colliding. See SlapstickGuru2’s YouTube video below.

When I think of our two worlds colliding at ÉSCS, I know we won’t combust, we will strive to work as one unit. The staff has only met a handful of times and in the few interactions we’ve had (only four to be exact), it’s clear to me that we are all focussed on building one learning community and one school culture. One where learning will take flight and we’ll lead by innovation and collaboration. This was evident in our first meetings when a teacher I had met once before took the time to share the division’s reading and writing continuums with me so I could better be prepared as we planned in our respective teams. It was also confirmed when we toured our building for the very first time last week. What a masterpiece!

sage creek photo blog.jpg

After our walk through the school, teachers had the rare opportunity to decide where their second home would be (as all the classrooms are different in size and in function). As neighbourhood teams, we’ve also been emailing back and forth constantly, sharing materials and creating resources, offering suggestions, providing feedback, voicing our opinions and knowing how to dance – when to push, when to pull.  The same is true with same grade levels in both programs when it came to idea sharing, placing classroom orders and creating our supply lists. It was incredible how we were communicating through email, text and phone calls to get our lists completed over the weekend. It was a daunting and overwhealming task but this collaboration piece was critical to ensure we’ll be well equiped when our doors open this fall. As individuals, I sense that we are all open and excited to trying new ideas and firm on continuing what works best in each of our classrooms. Collaborating takes time. An awful lot of time, but I firmly believe that we were able to reflect a little deeper and make decisions that were clearer while we get to know who we are and who we are working with. Although there is still so much work to be done, we are well on our way towards making incredible cohesive learning spaces come together.

As I walked though the learning commons and our classrooms to get a feel of what our space will look like and feel like, I imagined our students using these spaces together to develop their 21st century skills along with their soft skills. I could see them collaborating, discovering, trying, failing and finding solutions. I could almost hear the buzz of students questionning, negotiating, celebrating and tinkering. The feeling I had when I walked through those doors is one I won’t soon forget and I just can’t wait to witness the students’ reactions as they walk into their learning spaces this September.

Unlike the Seinfeld video, I assure you that if I start using your lingo, it’s because I love your creativity and I am inspired by you. When I’m in the staff room and you’re looking for a place to sit, I will pull up a chair for you to join. If you offer me to join you at lunch to grab a bite to eat, I will take you up on it. If I come to school dressed in a puffy white pirate shirt (if you’ve watched Seinfeld, you’ll understand), please note that I am so inspired by Dave Burgess and that I am not impersonating Jerry Seinfeld (I mean, I LOVE the show, but I don’t love it THAT much!). When we give ideas and people a chance- we may surprise ourselves- just like me learning to love this sitcom. And lastly, even though the West Wing is forbidden in Beauty and the Beast, ÉSCS’s West Wing is open to all :).

We’ve been told time and time again that this process wouldn’t be easy but it would be worth it. That statement couldn’t be more true. Although there will be some courageous conversations to be had and difficult decisions to be made, the result of having these two worlds collide will be out of this world!

Comfort Zone Quotes - A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but n