Replied to Emily and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Professional Development Session (Mrs Fintelman Teaches)

I’ve tried to come up with answers to the question “What makes good professional learning?”. My answers are questions.

  • I believe I know how children learn. Do I know how adults learn? If I don’t, should I be in charge of running this session?
  • What is the point of the session? What do teachers REALLY need to leave with? Answers? Questions? Skills? Content? Attitudes? Enthusiasm?
  • Do I want to teach them what I know? If I do, what do I know that is so important that 30 adult professionals all need to hear it, in the same way, at the same time? Is me putting it on slides and talking about it the best way for them to learn it?
  • I believe people learn by meaningfully doing. Will people be learning by doing or will they be passive? How can I remove that tendency for the presenter to do all the doing?
  • Is my ego involved? How can I remove it if it is?
I really enjoyed your reflection Emily. I wonder if there are times when we learn as much from failed experiences as we do from those that truly succeed? It reminds me of riff I once made on something Douglas Rushkoff once said about solving riddles or posing new ones:

For me, what matters is not necessarily the content, but the conditions created that provide the possibility for personal problem solving. To reword Rushkoff’s question, is professional development meant to solve our riddles or pose new ones?

I was intrigued by your statement about being an ‘expert on learning’:

I really believe that people educating room full of experts on learning should be absolute masters of learning – otherwise they’re hardly qualified to be doing that job.

I wonder if all learning is the same and with that if all professional development is the same?

Bookmarked The New Normal: Teaching Amidst Coronavirus by Emily Fintelman (DLTV Journal)
Emily Fintelman reflects on the move to remote learning. For her school the focus has been on guiding learners, rather than delivering lessons. This has included the creation of a ‘learning menu’ with a balance of open-ended tasks, problems worth solving, investigations, personal inquiries, games and tasks. Student contact therefore is centred around well-being, and the maintaining a emotional, social and psychological safe space.

So much of the talk is about what students won’t have access to… a carefully scheduled timetable, a teacher on hand at every second of their 6-hour school day, materials, internet and so on. But a compelling thought is that so many factors that are important for learning have not disappeared… agency, curiosity, goal setting, interesting questions, learning about things that are personally meaningful, feedback from teachers, peers and relatives, a genuine audience. They just look a little different.

Replied to Getting Started with Writer’s Notebook (

Sometimes called the ‘messy attic of the mind’, the writer’s notebook is a magical place. It’s a place writers can collect, store, grow and nurture their ideas for writing. It is often filled with a collection of seeds (artefacts that provoke writing) like photos, sketches, holiday mementos, lists, news clippings, postcards, assorted ephemera. It is personal and varies in style from writer to writer.

It is an invaluable tool in helping our young writers to understand that their own ideas are the epicentre of the writing they will do during their time with you. It’s a place where writers practice being writers…

Thank you for sharing Emily. Another source of inspiration that might interest you is Austin Kleon. He often shares thoughts and strategies associated with keeping a notebook. Also, Riss Leung recently shared some reflections from Claire Saxby on the topic too.
Replied to Relief Sets In: Teaching Amidst Coronavirus (Mrs Fintelman Teaches)

the thing that stood out for me was how many great things we have prepared for our students. Now that the school wheel is no longer turning like it used to, there’s no room for fluff – we are thinking about what’s essential. What has to stay. What is worth the effort to get through to our students from a distance. What message we want to send about learning. And it’s good.

Our kids will be

-setting intentions for each day… developing the learning asset of managing their own time.

-collaborating with peers to figure out how to attack problems and give each other feedback.

-undertaking a beautiful balance of game-based, problem solving, investigative maths.

-reflecting on their learning… what made them happy, what was difficult, where to next…

-checking in with teachers often – teachers who will meet students where they are and gently guide their next steps.

-undertaking their own investigations and projects based on their interests.

-publishing and sharing their projects, investigations and ideas with an authentic audience (peers, families, communities).

This is the kind of learning we should have been facilitating all along.

And not a worksheet in sight.

Thank you for pulling yourself out of paralysis to post Emily. With so much written about technology and synchronicity, it was refreshing to have something from a pedagogical perspective. I must admit that after finishing the post I kept thinking ‘yeah but’, then realising that I was caught up in my own prejudices. It also reminds me of a provocation from Edna Sackson, who asks:

What if, instead of trying to replicate or reinvent school, we allowed this to be a time of creativity? What if we took advantage of the way limitations can encourage innovation?

Replied to How I’m Spending the Class Budget (Mrs Fintelman Teaches)

In the last few days you have probably been given a few hundred dollars for your class budget and a catalogue for some ordering. Come the Back-To-School season, a Norah Ephron film would recommend …

Emily, I really enjoyed this post on budgets. It really had me thinking about the story we tell though the resources that we provide. Are they open-ended? Are they ethical? Do they promote messiness and creativity? Or are they about order? Are they ethically inclined?
Bookmarked Island Survival: A Cooperative Game | Mrs Fintelman Teaches (

This one will sweep them away. I play Island Survival with year 4, 5, and 6s either at the beginning or end of the year and it is always a hit! They often ask for it again. It’s a great game that allows for problem solving, justification, reasoning, creativity and cooperation.

Emily Fintelman shares an activity designed to help students work collaboratively. What I like is that it is as much about the solution as it is about the process. In some ways it reminds me of the use of different ‘ingredients’ with the Iron Chef challenge. I was also left thinking about ATC21s‘ focus on collaborative problem solving.
Liked 9 Types of Reading Journal Entries | Mrs Fintelman Teaches (

There are so many ways reading journal entries can look so I have decided to share some of the ones I use that I typically find to be popular with students, effective for developing reading strategies and open enough to encourage students to really think and make it their own!

Bookmarked Effort and Achievement Charts (Mrs Fintelman Teaches)

Once we have determined what effort looks like, we map out what kind of achievement we would expect to get out of it using real scenarios.

Emily Fintelmen provides a useful reflection on the co-construction of charts and culture in the classroom. This approach offers an opportunity to unpack various myths, such as a silent classroom is a good classroom. Maria Popova provides a lengthier introduction to the concept of growth mindset.
Liked Mulling Time by Emily Fintelman (Mrs Fintelman Teaches)

The topic of what good professional learning looks like is always contentious. Some of us love to sit and listen and soak up some new knowledge from a great speaker. Others argue that the best professional learning happens in schools with colleagues through inquiry, observation and dialogue.
I thin…