Category Archives: PLP

Ideas and thoughts that have come from the Powerfull learning Practice Network

Let’s make the supply teacher cry…

The supply teacher is often one of the hardest roles we as teachers are asked to fill. Often at the beginning of our careers when we are the most unsure of ourselves, we are dropped in a unique situation on a daily basis.

So what does a 21st Century supply teacher look like?

There are essentially two scenarios that we as the teacher going to be away have control of. It all depends on what we leave for the supply.

  1. We leave something we would do. This is often a difficult option because of the unknown. Will the supply understand the specifics of the lesson? What about the technology – if it fails? What if the supply is uncomfortable with this style? Will I have to reteach this lesson or concept?
  2. We leave a “conventional” lesson or worksheets and textbook work or dare I say it, the dreaded movie and a fill in the blanks… *shudder*
OPTION 1: If we choose to leave a lesson that we would have done, then there are two further outcomes that may occur:
  • A: The supply has no problems with the content, learning style, and technology that is left for them. Your students respect them because they know what they’re talking about – as well as the good sense you’ve instilled in them. Hopefully that supply teacher also brings in aspects and elements of their teaching style and personality to augment and compliment your lesson.
  • B: The supply can’t handle the style, content or technology you’ve left and either muddles through, not effectively leading the class in the learning you intended, or they ditch the lesson and pull out a copy of Ferris Buler’s day off they keep with them.
OPTION2: If we decide to go with a less difficult more straight forward approach, then are we cheating our students? Is this the opportunity to give for the essential personal work, where they can work independently? We want to leave the class easy to handle, but we also want the students to be challenged and rise to the occasion. So two things often happen:
  • C: Students work well at what was left for them, but ultimately uninspired.
  • D: Students ditch the work knowing they will have to go over it again, and it makes more sense coming from their regular teacher. You then have to redo that lesson, essentially losing a day.
Occasionally this happens.
  • E: Supply teacher ditches what was left because students aren’t buying in and on the fly re-imagines the lesson as some other interesting way. – For example using song-writing to better engage the learning and production of the persuasive letter. (yeah, I did… and the kids seemed to buy in.)

Sometimes the subject restricts what can be done – Music teachers won’t often leave playing instruments, Shop teachers won’t have any work in the shop, Science teachers won’t do any experiments involving chemicals, etc… BUT beyond dangerous situations, why do we not trust supply teachers with what we expect of ourselves?

Supply teachers are teachers too, in fact, they have varied and distinct skill sets, a fresh view, often experience or unimaginable energy. Unfortunately, there is the dark side. Teachers who haven’t perfected their classroom management strategies, or have given up.

I think it comes down to the fact that we are afraid of the unknown. Take a chance next time you have a supply coming in because your off to a conference to learn a great new approach or tech tool. Try to get a hold of them before hand and co-plan the lesson, or leave them a lesson and encourage them to add to it and make it their own.

What do you do for supply teachers? What good and bad experiences have you had with supplies?

Music and 21st Century Learning


It’s been said before and will be said again

“Teaching<insert subject field> is different”  followed sometimes by “you wouldn’t understand” and “it’s hard to explain”.

Musical pedagogy has a history steeped with pre-existing “norms” that are currently being pushed.  Even “recent” Pioneer musical educators such as Kodaly(1925), Orff(1920’s), and Delcroze(1910’s) and even the Suzuki Method (1950’s) have fallen by the wayside unable to cope with the new way of thinking.  Some teachers still cling to these values because they’ve worked in the past, but what could 21st Century teaching and learning do for or to music education?

In a world where you can be shown exactly where to put your fingers over and over to make it sound like the original on youtube for free, masters who have studied and honed their skills seem boring and dated.  Everyone with access to the internet can pull up a website and start to learn any instrument, so why do we need music teachers?  In PLP we are challenged to shift our thinking from being the “sage on the stage” to being a partner in learning and knowlegable other.  I don’t know everything about music, but I have to know a pretty substantial amount to teach 30 fresh, eager, full of energy grade nine students to play at least 13 different instruments at the same time.  It is much easier when a student asks you what fingering Bb is to just answer them while oiling a trumpet, printing off the bass part (because they lost it again), conducting, while listening for mistakes that the saxes make and realizing that they’re making mistakes because they’re not using the octave key.  You watch the drummers because, well – they’re drummers and like to get into trouble, so you plan more advanced rudiment exercises for them to do while the rest of the class still struggles to make a sound.  And practicing… let’s leave that for another post.  Oh, and try to practice for yourself somewhere in there. (another blog post)  So, when my brain tries to process what I do on a regular basis in a music room and tries to shift thinking it melts a little, but does spit out some interesting ideas:

  • Have students create their own method books – compose their own short pieces to address a certain element of learning their instrument or musical concept.
  • All tests done at home and recorded to or
  • Record a practice session before a test to – and have your peers make three comments at specific times as to two things that went well in the session and one that could be improved (in regards to playing or planning of the practice session)
  • Create a digital footprint for an assigned composer from the Medival to Modern era *(allready in production @ – email me if you want to have a look inside)
  • create a youtube video on “how to” play a certain element of their instrument
  • Skype symphony – might be tough with latency issues – although Peavy has software out there that almost eliminates latency and allows simultaneous jam sessions!
  • Class album – write, record and produce their own songs put together in an online album as well as a physical one

Most of these ideas will take more time than I have to implement – plus I havn’t weighed the value that they would have v.s. the time to work them through is.

What is the future?  I hope that clarinets and trombones don’t go the way of the sliderule and abacus.  I don’t think that they will though, music has survived through worse – the dark ages, crusades, wars, etc.  Instruments are tools of music, so are the new tools of music in the 21st Century going to be computers alone?  If we use tools with tools, there’s too much time being spent on how to play the instruments and compters and not enough on the music itself.  It’s hard enough to get a grade nine class playing something recognizable in under five months let alone having to teach them to use sound recording software, mics, software, sequencers, tuning trackers and proprietary software. – Is this a separate post (What is a successful music program do?)

I see much more value in a class full of flutes and tubas than just a lab of macs running garageband loops.  The collaboration and communication that can happen with a single gesture, or glance, or nuance of a note without even a word spoken has so much power and is lacking these days in general let alone the education world.  Can I have both?  I want a trombone player that can take a tablet out in the hall and play a passage he or she’s having trouble with, and post it to soundcloud and get feedback from peers, me, and the rest of the world.  Who knows, someone might sample their recording and make something else that makes a million dollars!

A music program is like life, it needs balance, and until I find just the right weightings and more than a year in one school, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.  Haven’t had many complaints yet!


Darren Kools

Kenner Collegiate and Vocational Institue – Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Challenge of Distractions…

While driving in this morning, a beautiful but chilly sunrise on the horizion, my ipod spouting off the first Webinar 3 (Thanks again for the audio copies) I realized what one of my biggest challenges is.


Not bad distractions, but distractions that take me away from what my original focus was.

For example:  Friday I started reading Ben Rossman’s post about classroom tech ideas when Todd, jane, and Steven  Mentioned and endorsed – curious, I started my meandering wander…

A fabulous tool in itself, prezi also brought me content that I found facinating – no to mention the best terms of useexplanation EVAR – which uses Prezi (bullet 4)  

I discovered a prezi that a music teacher – bass player had put together – and spent a bit of time revisiting the awe and love of victor wooten


I also found an interesting presentation by Chris Anderson which went with a TED talk about crowd accelerated innovation.…

So throuroughly inspired, I shot a link off to a collegue who had been talking to me about passion, jotted a note on twitter, and the bell rang – I had spent an hour and a half, and had only covered one small discussion in the community hub.  

Even while writing this blog post, I was tempted to stray again – TED-active – such a wonderful concept, but I can’t run out of time, I still have things to setup for my students coming in 15 minutes – what?? my 15 minutes alloted turned into 30.  

So, I’ve found one of my challenges in my new connected learning state, and it makes me think about students.  The wild tangents that they may see themselves on, as well as being tempted by social media (my facebook time is afterschool)  and games, and friends, and other classes, and the list goes on.  No wonder they don’t want to dive deeply when the breadth is so inviting and accommodating.  The grass is #4DBD33 on the other page..


Darren Kools

Kenner Music – KPRDSB, Peterborough, Ontario Canada

 ** Cross posted to**


Can’t sleep, blog will eat me

Yes, I’m still at home, and I’m trying to sleep so that I can get up at five to drive to Guelph. I know I should have gotten a hotel, or at least stayed at my parents house in Cambridge, but my family needed me. I also delivered pizza until nine.

So now I sit here, moping about PCVS, but still excited about tomorrow/ today. Someone tell my brain to turn off, that it will do fine tomorrow if it just gets some sleep now.
Now, where did I put those sheep to count…..