Importance of using students’ names in class

When I tutor students, I get to know them quite a bit better than the ones I teach as part of a class. They open up to me about anything and everything, and sometimes this lets me understand them better. I learn from them, just by listening. A thing that came up during one of my tutoring sessions (with a girl named Erin) was the use of names. She was complaining that one of her teachers only used terms of endearment to her students, instead of their proper names. So instead of calling her Erin, she would say: “Sweetheart”, or “Dear”. Even though this was of the only complaint (that she could really verbalize) about her teacher, Erin could honestly say that she didn’t like her teacher. Why is it that this seemingly small thing bothered her so much?

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Does a bottle filled with water or snow roll down a hill faster?

One jar filled with water, the other filled with snow… which one will roll down faster?

Question: Does a bottle filled with water or snow roll down a hill faster?

Prediction? Take your time. Think about it. Ask your friends, ask your kids, ask your parents.

Make sure to get explanations from yourself and all the people you ask, not just guesses.

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Textbooks – what is their purpose in our classroom?

In Canadian schools textbooks are usually large, hard cover, with glossy paper, filled with beautiful pictures, drawings, many “interesting factoids”, spanning a large amount of information. With these gorgeous books, the publishers and authors think that the books are devoured by our students, and that the students read them everyday expanding their mind. I don’t think this is really the case. There are many disadvantages to these textbooks

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Thinking about Diploma Exams – the dilemma of a teacher

What I teach in the class is usually not mirrored perfectly by the diploma exams. The types of questions I ask on my tests are different from those posed on the provincial exam. The topics emphasized by me (due to my preference or what I think is more important content) are not always the ones emphasized in the examinations at the end of the year. Therefore, when teaching such a course, during the final part of the year, I spend time on preparing my students for the provincial tests.

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Students of “Now” versus “Before”

Are students really all that different “Now” than they were “Before”? It is a very common proclamation that young people now have no respect, no motivation, and no problem solving ability. But really, I heard this for a while now, including when I was in school. And I still hear it now. Is each generation getting worse and worse, or do we just have that perception, that our generation was better somehow, and the generation before us, even more?

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Alberta vs. Quebec Standardized Provincial Exams

Another difference between the two schooling systems I found interesting was the provincial testing.   Here is a quick overview of both provincial testing methods along with my two cents.  

Alberta and Quebec both administer provincially regulated exams for specific courses.  In Alberta these exams are held in grade 6 and in grade 9 for Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies, and in grade 12 for most courses.  In Quebec the exams are administered only in High School, in particular, in grades 10 and 11 Science, Math, English, History and French. 

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Alberta vs. Quebec School Setup – Having Junior High vs. No Junior High schools.

The general school system in Alberta is setup slightly differently than in Quebec.

In Alberta, children first go to Elementary School (Kindergarten to grade 6), then Junior High School (grade 7 to 9) and then High School (grade 10 to 12), after which the student chooses to go to college, university, or work.

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Is standardized testing what makes Alberta’s education system superior?

Originally written in September, 2006. But still very relevant:

Recently, I was reading The Economist, and to my surprise, there was an article on Alberta Schools ( According to Statistics Canada, Alberta ranks tops in education, not only across the country, but also in the world. Specifically, the article mentions Edmonton as an innovative education system stressing choice, accountability and competition, stating that each school controls its own budget, spending money on its own educational priorities.

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