With Self-Regulation Intention Matters.


In my current Master’s of Education course amply titled “Self Regulation Inquiry,” there has been a number of pressing moments of realization that speaks to both my teaching and student learning.

  1. What I thought I knew about Self-Regulation as a classroom teacher with 13 years of experience was quite limited. Although I valued the importance of Self-Regulation as a learning skill, the understanding of goal setting as an urgent factor of Self-Regulation was something I was missing. I was challenged to explore what goal setting looks like through the context of Distal Goals and Proximal Goals. In doing this, it became pressingly aware that although classroom learning goals based on curriculum expectations are established the personal goals of students were not truly activated.
  2. For there to be effective Self-Regulation there must a plan for integration as a mechanism to reach goals. Based on my course learning, you truly can’t have Self-Regulation without the establishment of a goal; an end game if you will. As such, as a teacher responsible to assess Self-Regulation as a learning skill as indicated on the Ontario Report Card then its upon me to ensure that I have something meaningful to assess; not just a letter grade for the sake of a letter. As such, to intentionally integrate Self-Regulation as a teaching practice is to provide students with intentional opportunities to establish goals that are managed as a result of Self-Regulation skills.

So, why does this matter?

Whether you’re currently a classroom teacher or a school administer, the fostering of Self-Regulation is by extension the enabling of a global competency that is truly transferable beyond the educational milieu.

If our goal as educators is to nurture students to have the “entrepreneurial spirit” as shared in Achieving Excellence A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario, then students must have tool kit that allows them to not merely find doors of opportunity but importantly create their own. In a global world composed of great civil and economic diversity, students must evolve as thinkers who are acutely aware of how they think and do. Self-Regulation is being cognizant of one’s end destination and importantly the mapping (or re-mapping) of the journey.

This practice of establishing an end destination is a principle that can be easily embedded in classrooms or as professional learning. Whether it is a grade 11 Comm-Tech student establishing a learning goal that is specific to who they are or a teacher establishing an Annual Learning Plan, the goal is essential to foster Self-Regulation and thus effective Self-Regulation is urgent to meet the goal. Presenting these two examples is to reinforce that Self-Regulation is part of the everyday and is a learning skill that must be taught with purpose, time and patience.

In regards to my own Self-Regulation inquiry, my goal for my current course inquiry has been to intentionally integrate goal setting and Self-Regulation assessment in my Gr. 11 Comm-Tech class as a mode to enable my practice of cultural responsive teaching and learning. This recognizes that cultural transcends race and ethnicity but also speaks to the culture of student learning, student interests, how students learn and their sense of self. As such, culture is also a student’s respective relationship with learning and school itself. By establishing a climate of goal setting and Self-Regulation at the onset of my course (the start of semester 2), I can work to meet students needs through their practice of self-regulation.

So, what do student think?

My students seem to have bought into the practice. Mainly, this is because the goal they have set will play a key role in their learning. For example, a student who has shared that they want to grow in their critical and cultural understanding of media in order to provide such thinking to their own creations, will have learning tasks geared specifically to them. As such, in having twenty-eight students, I will be shaping twenty-eight personalized and extending learning opportunities that speak to said goals and support the journey of learning the students have established for themselves.

As highlighted in the video below, there are a number of successes but one big challenge. For most of my students the practice of goal setting and thus Self-Regulation has not been established in other courses of study. I don’t share this a a punitive comment as I’m on my own inquiry which is new and speaks to my own important next steps as a teacher. However, their sharing speaks to the need for more and shared understanding and activation of goal setting and Self-Regulation across all formal learning areas.

Thinking forward, this could very well be a PLC that speaks to the next school year; exploring Self-Regulation as a skill that is truly transformational.



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From Input to Output: #Medialiteracy is a Critical Literacy


This past Friday I had the unique and privileged opportunity to facilitate a workshop for a group of Toronto Catholic District School Board colleagues. In coming together as part of a self-directed professional development day, it was a humbling experience to spend time with people who selected to be engaged in a shared and active learning experience.

Focusing on the idea of media literacy as a mode to enable cultural responsive teaching and learning, the workshop provided teachers with a critical overview of not only media thinking but doing.

As part of the thinking, teachers were challenged to embrace media literacy as critical literacy that can readily nurture global and thus transferable comminivatice skills and provide a platform in which students can explore real world narratives and importantly share their own. When speaking to media such as popular film through a sense of “realness,” the conversation is not merely about the cultural realities of a particular artifact but the articulation of the student. This is to say that empowering students to shape their stories and share them – regardless of subject or curriculum – is pressing and transformational.

As teachers shared in the learning it was important to ground the context to the everyday. I realized someone in the room could be thinking: How does this connect to me and my curriculum?

Importantly, the students are the curriculum and the opportunity to engage them to share who they are shouldn’t be seemed as an after thought. Whether it is the A within STEAM or a mode to share student experience, media such as video production has a place in all curriculum if utilized with purpose.

The epicentre: the foundation for all of this is in the secondary level in which I teach is the Individual Pathway Plan Portfolio. Such a learning portfolio, if leveraged and designed effectively can be a place where students grow as a effective and skilled communicators along with responsible citizens who share their critical points of view, stories of themselves and reflections on learning. The portfolio, a place that can transcend curation, becomes the distribution space for student articulation.

As shared with my colleagues during the workshop, the start of each course could begin with a mobile video project where students create a 1 minute biography about themselves. This biography then becomes embedded within their portfolio. This allows the portfolio (a media artifact in and of itself) to be not just about learning but the students. This is only one example of how video can become REAL CINEMA that transcends anyone curriculum.

Think about it. With students readily streaming video and intrenched within media culture, how can we pass on including their language with purpose? We have a responsibility to ensure that students move from a place of passive input to active output. 

For more on this, read my article below from The Catholic Teachers Magazine – published by OECTA.

Real Cinema

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Finding the Success in Failure


Like many high school teachers across Ontario, I’m presently navigating the turbulent seas of culminating activities and final exams. This is an incredibly stressful time of year for students. As students thrive for the best mark possible, I often ask them to also reflect on the journey.

The journey does matter.

As a teacher, it’s easy to pass judgment on students’ lack of readiness for this time of year.  However, I choose to reflect on my own experience in high school (at a time when we still had OAC – that extra year to mature) and I can truthfully assert that I may not have had the same resilience that I expect of my Gr. 10 – 12 students. As such, its important for me to remember my own journey when working with my students. I was by no means the A+ plus student with  perfect work habits or a master of learning skills. I grew into a responsible learner with time, practice and when the stakes were high – paying for post-secondary tuition.

As such, as my students work on their final short films, I have encountered a group of learners who will not successfully finish their project. Rather than contributing further to their shared sense defeat, I promised myself to help them find success within the “failure.” Yes, they will fail in achieving academic success with the project but there is opportunity to find success as a self-regulated learner.

Inspired by my current Masters of Education course, I will be giving these students a revised project; one grounded in an exploration of who they are as learners. This doesn’t take away from the fact that have not fulfilled particular course criteria but speaks to the need to shape deep learning that is transferable. As such, these students will complete a self-regulation self assessment looking at : initiative, collaboration, engagement, independence and  more.

The students in the small group, will individually reflect on their ability to self-regulate and then complete a journal looking at limitations and next steps.  Although their project was not successfully completed that doesn’t mean they are failures. There is still so much to learn.

For me, it speaks to my own need to be more cognizant of nurturing self-regulated learning practices throughout my course of study along with goal setting. This means I must provide intentional opportunities for students to establish individual goals, complete the self-regulation assessment already noted and re-visit that assessment with the intention to meet their goals. As they manage their goals, I then have an opportunity to foster self-regulation and cultural responsive teaching and learning; adapting with the students on their journey.

Specifically, in regards to next semester, each course will begin with a focus on self – not curriculum. The first week will be directly about students and establishing the journey.

This is something that I will also be doing with Gr. 9 STEAM students who I work to support in regards to the implementation of the A within STEAM. The ability to set a goal and manageable path and reflect as an effective communicator is paramount to establish and maintain high performance. Although I have already worked with STEAM students in curating and reflecting on learning tasks through portfolio design, the idea of goal-setting as an anchor to self-regulation has not yet been explored. This is of paramount importance.

Here’s looking forward to semester 2 – new beginnings and fresh starts for me and my students.

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What my son taught me about Self-Regulation

self reg

Yesterday, I was schooled by my five-year old son.

Coming down the stairs early morning yesterday, my son was already in an assertive mood. Always the self-advocate, he expressed how he didn’t want to attend a new sports program I enrolled him in. His very stern dismissal of the program did not come from his disliking of such activities. He thrives in such a setting and loves being part of any team sport. In his words, he was “tired.”

Regardless, I carried on with the morning and at 8:45am started to get him ready for the activity that began at 9:30am. As he changed and brushed his teeth, he continued to express his discontent for the activity. Whereas, I challenged his thinking and tried to sell him on the value of such an program, he responded with “you did ask me if I wanted to do it.”

He was right, I didn’t ask him.

Out of my own sense of what he should be doing, I enrolled him without consultation. As he expressed to me yesterday, “Sundays are for church, family and rest.” Again, he was right. This comes from a five-year old who arrives at his school’s before school care at 7:30am, comes home at 4:30pm, engages in post-dinner learning activities, practices Taekwondo twice a week (a hour each lesson) and swims for an hour on Saturdays.

The kid is tired – I would be at his age as well.

So, as tears ran down his face, we sat down and talked about what he wanted – not what I wanted. He asserted that he wanted Sundays to be a relaxing day – a day he can rest in the morning, go to church and be lazy in the afternoon. Basically, he just wanted to be a kid free from expectations.

Yesterday morning, provided me both with a real dad moment that speaks to the world of education itself and my current Masters of Education Course specifically on Self Regulation. In this course, as with the goal to infuse self-regulated learning in a classroom and beyond,  learners, kids and adults, need an opportunity stop, reflect, rationale and advocate. Specifically, in reference to celebrated academic Stuart Shanker and his work in self-regulation and mindfulness, yesterday’s narrative speaks directly to his Shanker Method: 5 Domains of Self-Regulation.

  1. Read the signs of stress and reframe the behavior
  2. Recognize the stressors
  3. Reduce the stress
  4. Reflect: enhance stress awareness
  5. Respond: develop strategies for responding to stress and returning to calm

In regards to my son:

  1. His morning began with concern over the program, wanting to “chill out” at home after a busy week and day/night before. I failed in reading his assertiveness – first thinking he was just being lazy and disinterested.
  2. He was adamant – and releasing his stress through crying. The tears weren’t passive. They were real.
  3. Although I first challenged and dismissed his tears, I stopped and started a positive conversation where I asked him what he wanted and thought.
  4. I asked if he was crying because he was frustrated – he asserted “yes.” From this he was very articulate in regards to what he wanted.
  5. Moving forward, he asked that I consultant with him about activities etc. As he shared, “If I’m too tired, then I won’t like what I’m doing.” As such, consultation is so important.

In the end, my son provided me with a real parenting and teacher lesson in self-regulation. If we want to foster self-regulation in young people, then we also have to empower. We have to ask the right questions, encourage reflection and promote self-advocacy. Importantly, we (whether a parent or teacher), need to be ready to respond.

So, how did I respond?

I’ve removed my son from the Sunday program with the understanding (as directed by him) that he will try the activity in the Spring once his Saturday swimming is completed at the end of March.

In respect to his self-regulation, this is an effective compromise. He feels empowered by the conversation and also encouraged to try something new when he is ready. 

Needless to say, as a parent and teacher, the learning never stops.

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Tis’ The Season: “Gremlins” and the Power of Horror

GREMLINS1One of the joys of my teaching career is that I’ve had the privilege to take my fandom of all things movies and pop culture and translate that into a legitimate study of media literacy all while working to empower students to produce digital media works that are expressive of who they are. As such, although I’ve been teaching for nearly 14 years, it’s really doesn’t feel like I’ve worked at all. My days are filled with the pleasure of either working with students directly in the creation of media artifacts or writing about film and and the empowerment of personalized education through media.

In regards to being a cinephile, one of my deepest joy is sharing my memories of youth with my students. As such, my students within the context of legitimate study of genre and film academia have been engulfed in my 80s cinematic consciousness. E.T, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gremlins, The Burbs’ and so many others. In passing on such film bible works, the hope is that students can appreciate movies as time capsules; reaching back into a particular time to reflect on a shared sense of culture. This in essence is the power of genre as it provides for rich cultural dialogue in relation to both the past the present.

This was the sentiment shared with me by legendary filmmaker Joe Dante. Earlier this month I had the privilege to Skype with Mr. Dante about all things horror, movie fandom and his classic works. The conversation was a free education in genre and movie going itself.

Inspired by that conversation, here is a classroom lesson on horror and Joe Dante’s classic Gremlins. Gremlins is a great in-class watch for the Christmas season that provides for a rich understanding of media literacy as study of meaning and purpose and a reminder that the genre of horror is so much more than gore and violence. Horror, is a great enabler of critical voice and when leveraged by students can allow for an active exploration of self and their world.

This lesson is suitable for Gr. 9 to Gr. 12 students. Feel free to use and modify as needed.


  • Form small groups and provide students with chart paper.
  • Ask students to share what scares them. The goal is for students to reflect on personal or cultural fear.
  • As a prompt, ask students to reflect on pressing issues of today? What makes us anxious? The goal is to ground the genre of horror within a cultural discourse of anxiety.
  • As students work, walk the room and prompt conversation where needed. Engage in dialogue with students – be a partner in the learning.
  • Once the small group conversation is has concluded, facilitate a large group conversation and encourage students to share reflections.
  • Once the large group conversation concludes, watch the video below of Professor Barry Keith Grant (author of the Genre Film Reader series). In this video Prof. Grant speaks to the mythology of horror and the idea that what scares evolves with time.

Teacher’s Note: In working to cultivate a “minds on” opportunity to reflect, its important to understand that popular film is very much a reflection of our shared sense of self. As such, genre filmmaking as mythology rises from the political. Genres, provide learners with an opportunity to understand the evolution of cultural values at any particular time and offer insight in a shared cultural experience. In regards to film horror, the genre as a product of post WW1 storytelling rises from a direct cultural sensibility. To understand horror is to be cognizant of what is horrific in the real world and the pressing idea that horror films either mirror, reflect or challenge that said horror.

The following is an incredibly pressing read published in the Toronto Star that grounds the origins of horror cinema within the history of World War 1. How the First World War Created the Horror Genre

For further background, watch the video below of Prof. Anne Lancashire, professor Emeritus from the University of Toronto. In this video Prof. Lancashire speaks to the notion that popular film “rises from the political.”


Watch the film in class


Post-screening, have students in small groups or individually read the following article from Nightmare from Film Street and/or watch the videos below, which highlights the films and sensibilities of Gremlins director, Joe Dante.

With an elbow partner, small groups or as a large group, have students reflect and share:

  1. What does Joe Dante say about the Gremlins as an entity of humanity? What does this idea say about the horror genre?
  2. What does Joe Dante say about the horror genre? Why do you think the horror genre continuously resonants with audiences?
  3. Acting as the teacher, develop a question that speaks to your understanding of the film and horror as a genre. Answer the question.


With the goal to consolidate and personalize learning, have students “show what they” know through a multi-modal context. This activity promotes the practice of multi-literacy and empowers students to reflect on who they are within the framework of genre.

Leveraging the meaning and tropes of the horror genre, have students produce a one-minute video, teaser trailer or short film (3-5 minutes) that speaks to a current anxiety. This anxiety can be personal or speak to a greater sense of culture and the political.

Individually or in small groups, students can shoot video with personal devices if classroom technology is not available and can use online editing software including WeVideo if in-class applications are not available.

The following are student exemplars produced in my Gr. 11 and Gr. 12 Communications Technology classes.

The Decision: This 1 minute short film speaks to the pressures of post-secondary applications and the voices and stresses students feel at this point in their life. Students produced this film with the use of an iPhone 6 and leveraged Adobe Premiere Elements for editing.

Undead: This short film pays homage to the works of George A. Romero and leverages the tradition of the zombie film to shape a narrative about the fragmentation of humanity and civil society. Students used a basic Canon HD camorder for this production and replaced all dialogue in post as microphones were not available. The film was edited using Final Cut Pro.

Abigail: This teaser trailer works within the context of genre tropes and speaks to students critique of “safety” and the idea that evil lurks. Students used a basic Canon HD camcorder for this production with dialogue being captured with a mini Lavalier Lapel Microphone. The trailer was edited using Adobe Premiere Elements.


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Multi-literacy and Student Empowerment


As a current Masters of Education student at Queen’s University with a focus on media literacy, my goal is engage in deep learning that will not only let me reflect on practice but also impact and evolve my pedagogy. As I’ve explored the meaning of teaching, learning, creativity and innovation in my most recent course Innovation in Teaching and Learning, I’ve been reminded that the key urgency of  teaching, learning, creativity and innovation is a shared ability to ensure that the student experience is not trapped in a “deficit mentality.” This mentality is the counter-thesis to “growth mindset” and is built upon a culture of indifference where students are disengaged, feel devalued and believe that learning is not for or about them. 

With this, I’m currently writing this post while listening to Dr. John Portelli from OISE’s Centre of Culture and Diversity, reflect and charge teachers with the challenge to recognize that teaching, learning, creativity and innovation is in service of equity and inclusive education. It’s within this mindset that educators work to ensure that “deficit mentality” does not take root.

Who students are matter.

Their home life matters.

Their perspective matters.

Students must be valued and empowered as a core principle of learning.

This is all to say that teaching, learning, creativity and innovation is not about the teacher but the student. As such, being a teacher is in service and is a practice of mobility that evolves over time as students (and who they are) evolve and change. As such, to teach students in 2018 in the same way as 1980 provides room for evolution of practice as it does not take into account the evolution of economy and culture and how the lives of students have changed. With this, teacher practice must change with time, patience and practice.

Within the context of literacy as an enabler of deep learning, my focus on media literacy within the framework of innovation as a mechanism that mobilizes culturally responsive teaching and learning speaks to the need for multi- literacies. In looking at literacy directly, video production as a mode of multi-literacy can be a great transformative agent that allows students to not only document learning but also share their expressive voice. Gone are the days of the singular essay, where “intelligence” is defined by the written word. In recognizing that education cannot be founded within a “one size fits all” framework, video production is just one example of a global and transferable skill that can personalize learning and empower students through a critical, creative, collaborative and communicative practice.

Below is a recently published article that I wrote that looks at the viability of video production as a critical literacy. The article, published in the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association Catholic Teacher Magazine highlights my teacher-teacher professional learning initiative “Shoot for the Edit.”


Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 9.25.26 PM

For the complete December publication, please click here. Warm thanks to OECTA for giving me the opportunity to share and reflect.

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Media Literacy is a Critical Literacy


Well before I became a teacher, I was in the intellectual minefields of justifying my film studies within the circles of english majors and aspiring political scientists. Although film is without argument the most global industrial art form with an unprecedented reach (only heightened by Web 2.0 and Streaming), with its own evolving technical language and over 120 years of technological and narrative history, the study of film (or popular media) is consistently deemed or viewed upon as “lesser.” For example, in my work as a high school teacher, when I take my students to see movies at our local multiplex, I’m aware that colleagues may pass judgment – reinforcing the notion that sharing in the movie experience is just entertainment. Although entertaining, popular film and media holds great cultural meaning and taking into account the visual dominance of the medium, it’s a missed opportunity not to empower students within the context of what they so readily consume and access. As such, within the realm of education and the moral imperative to empower student voice and narrative, film production is a medium that readily marries cultural literacy with personal experience.

The practice of leveraging media literacy an enabler of cultural responsiveness is my critical focus for my work as a Master of Education student at Queen’s University and is rooted in my 14 years of teaching experience. With a focus on media literacy the goal is to construct learning where students are provided with the multi-modal tools to share who they are. Within this context, learning becomes personalized. The promise of personalized learning is a cross-cultural responsibility for teachers to shape – providing students with deep learning opportunities that motivate and foster self-worth. Equally, film (or video) is a viable enabler. As most students readily hold a production and distribution device in the palm of their hand (the smartphone has democratized the model of production), they can easily tell a story – their story.

Whether is be financial literacy and documenting their journey at a grocery store as they work within a budget to religion class where a short film is produced within the context of Catholic virtues, video production provides for the activation of voice and global competencies. Video production is all encompassing – students growing as collaborative, critical, creative, innovative and communicative learners.

For a deep read into this, check out “The Past, Present and Future of Media Literacy” by Renee Hobbs and Amy Jensen. Their deep exploration of media literacy with a focus on popular film is a real education in the power of the medium to shape deep learning and how media literacy was intentionally displaced by traditional academic thinking.




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