Feb 21
Weekly Update - February 15/23

"Kindness is one size fits all"

Hello Fish Creek School Parents/Guardians; 

As we head into the long weekend, please keep in mind that next Wednesday is “Pink Shirt Day". 

Why and when did Pink Shirt Day originate?

In 2007 two boys, David and Travis, noticed another boy being bullied at school for wearing a pink shirt. 

That night they went out and bought 50 tank tops, and sent out a message to their classmates asking them to wear pink to show support for the boy who was being bullied. The next day David and Travis handed out the tank tops in the school's foyer to anyone who wanted to stand up to the bully too! 

Please keep this wonderful cause going and encourage your child to wear pink on Wednesday. 

If you want more of the history, here is a link: 



Ever Active School Survey 

This year, Fish Creek School is participating in the 'Active and Safe Routes to School' program.  This program aims to increase the number of students using active and sustainable modes of travel for their journey to school.  The program will also help to address and solve ongoing transportation and traffic safety issues around our school.  

Active school travel is any form of non-motorized travel such as walking, cycling, skateboarding, roller blading, scooting or using a wheelchair to get to and from school.

This program is student led with the support of teachers and an Active Schools Facilitator. Students will have the opportunity to develop and implement an action plan placed on our school needs.

Please help us! To help us better understand the travel behaviours of the Fish Creek School community, we ask that parents/guardians complete this Baseline Family Travel survey before February 27, 2023: 


Thank you!

Important dates ahead: 

  • Thursday, February 16, 17 Teacher's Convention - No school for students
  • Monday, February 20 Family Day - Enjoy! 
  • Tuesday, February 21 - School Council 7:00pm
  • Wednesday, February 2 – Writing Day! And Pink Shirt Day! Anti-bullying awareness 
  • Thursday, February 23 Fun Lunch and Spirit Day – Wacky Mixed Up Socs Day

Have a wonderful LONG weekend!

Mike Hebenton 

Christine Hewitt ​

Jun 29
Well We Made It! 2021-22 Year-End Message

Oki FCS Students, Staff and Families, 

Well, we made it! The year-end comes at the right time as it's been a long and trying year for us all. We have heard from lots of parents that it was a good end to the Pandemic to be able to interact in person.  

Our School Development Plan continued to expand with the Learning Gap funds provided by the Alberta Government. Plenty of literacy and numeracy initiatives began to unfold to try and recoup from the Pandemic and all the challenges that came with it. 

As the year began, FCS started out with our past Principal and moved into a new leadership opportunity with myself, Mike Hebenton, and everyone has been so welcoming since my arrival. We also welcome a new Assistant Principal, Tim Birchfield, and say farewell to Crystal Good Rider who moved onto a Principalship in another Area. 

We had the opportunity to also witness masks being downgraded to optional and see the smiles on kiddos faces once again. It has been a nice way to end off the school year with social gatherings being held once again and we are so thankful for the volunteers that made it happen. 

A common comment from parents, staff, and students is this year had a great deal of change. So, I am hopeful that you can be rest assured consistency will once again be part of the fabric of Fish Creek School. 

Our teachers have really been the backbone of this pandemic and in fact this school year could not have proceeded without them. Their effort and dedication to children are unsurpassed. I wish them a restful summer knowing that we appreciate all the hard work provided by them. 

Most importantly, our School Development Plan has continued to be an important part of each classroom with our writing, reading, and math goals. Students wrote excellent pieces guided by writing rubrics. Children participated in reading groups. And they also had the opportunity to play and learn math techniques. 

FCS looks forward to a super summer and even better year ahead. We are excited about what next year holds for us. 


Mike Hebenton & Crystal Good Rider 
Principal & Assistant Principal 

Jun 27
Year-End Message and Thank You!

FCS Students, Staff and Families,

 Well, we made it! The year-end comes at the right time as it's been a long and trying year for us all. I have heard from a lot of parents who have sent a consistent message containing gratitude but followed quickly by “but, we're done". This is a very fitting sentiment.

 Our School Development Plan well-being goal is focused on developing students who “engage in learning with confidence and persistence". While this goal is created specifically for learning, the extension applies to all areas.

 As the year began, we had so many unknows, and our students returned with both excitement and trepidation. These mixed feelings held true for staff and parents alike. School didn't look or feel like normal and there were a lot of changes to manage. Masks, cohorting and new rules and routines made for a lot of new ways of working together. Things just felt weird.

 Then, something magical happened. Teachers adapted quickly, students followed suit and parents trusted the process. Within about a week everything just settled and life in school started to look and feel just like it should. Smiles ruled (albeit behind masks), and learning carried on.

 There was always the threat of quarantine and a move to online learning, and we did have the mandatory province-wide move to online in early 2021, but again, we pivoted with very little interruption. Students from kindergarten to grade 6 realized they could navigate the online environment with the support of teachers and parents, and we still brought a robust program forward despite interruption.

 One COVID case would be too many, but for our whole school year to pass by with only 4 impacting cases was, in many ways, a minor miracle. In a school of our size, it is clear that our protocols and community awareness and support made the difference. The effort symbolizes a true collective commitment and we thank everyone for making the year a success in the face of so much adversity and obstacle.

 Ultimately, our school development plan goals were realized by so many, and in so many ways. Our students found out that they could carry on, with confidence, in their learning. They were proud of their accomplishments and they even took on a little extra shine in the face of hardship. Change forced resiliency, and we all figured out this newness together. There was a sense of being able to take on any new challenge and all of a sudden that math problem seemed so much easier when you just had to do it and get it done.

 We look forward to a super summer and even better year ahead. While we hope that we can get life in school back to normal, we know we are prepared for whatever lies ahead. As a school community, we are ready for whatever comes our way. Thanks again, and please enjoy a summer of love, play and well-deserved rest.

 With Love and Gratitude,
Ian Fero,
Proud Principal

Sep 20
COVID-19 Safety Measures at Fish Creek School

We are extremely happy to currently be in Return-to-School Scenario 1, near normal conditions. Teachers, staff, students, and parents seem very happy to be able to have the doors of our school open once again.


Our teachers and staff began preparation for this school year going back to May and June 2020. The first order of business was to declutter our classrooms. As you can imagine, after 26 years of operation, there was no shortage of places that needed some attention. Unrequired furniture as well as those with soft coverings were removed from the school. We also reconsidered our storage and paper usage going forward. The result was a series of sleek, clean classrooms. The spaces were easily deep-cleaned by our facilities teams over the summer, and when teachers began to move in this August, the spaces were ready and waiting.


All those entering the building are required to go through the AHS Screening Questionnaire, and parents are asked to get in the habit of doing this with their students each morning before coming to school. Keeping sick kids at home will be the number one preventative measure to assist maintenance of health at Fish Creek School. The Student Illness flat sheet guides our process when students do come to school sick, or are demonstrating symptoms. Parents will be asked to come to the school to pick-up sick children directly.


In school, we have used the cohort system in organizing for the school year. A student's primary cohort will be their classroom. An extended cohort may extend to classrooms that do shared activities like PE, and the grade grouping for outdoor activities like recess. Each grade team has their own set of designated doors, and where doors are shared there is a definitive entry process to keep cohorts separated. Staff deployment has also been done according to cohorts, and all cross-grade activities, such as buddying are currently on hold. Our Learning Commons is also currently closed for student activity in an effort to assist with cohort system.


Hand washing and hand sanitizing is required upon entry into the building and there are several times throughout the day where students are required or invited to wash or sanitize their hands. As we know, in addition to staying home when sick, hand hygiene is another key risk mitigation strategy.


Calgary Board of Education mask guidelines provide us with the direction for mask wearing. All students are asked to bring a mask to school (with some exceptions) and each teacher is very familiar with the mask requirements for their particular grade.


Cleaning procedures are constantly happening throughout the day supported by our facilities team. High touch points are cleaned regularly, and teachers and staff have product to keep their spaces clean. Lunch preparation and cleaning is a key aspect of the day and we are fortunate to have a large staff of lunchroom supervisors to assist in these efforts.


Prior to school, families feeling uneasy about a return to school for their child were provided with an alternate option from the Calgary Board of Education through the creation of the Hub. Hub students will continue learning online at home while supported by a CBE teacher. Hub students will have the chance to return to in-person learning for February, 2021.


Alberta Health Services and the Calgary Board of Education work in concert to identify positive cases, and manage these with each school. Through the cohort organization process, schools will serve as key partners in contact tracing. Swift and direct communication with all Fish Creek School families will occur should a need arise. If the provincial government were to make a choice to move to either Scenario 2 or 3, all classrooms are ready to assume online learning almost immediately.


Staying safe requires a concentrated effort from all parties. If we all do our part, we will be able to continue excellence in teaching and learning at Fish Creek. Thank you to our staff, parents and students for your efforts, and welcome back to school.


Kind Regards,
Ian Fero,
Proud Principal

Nov 27
Our Province's Greatest Asset? Education.

Scrolling through Twitter, I came across an interesting Tweet from a former colleague and mentor that seemed to sum up some of my recent thinking about education in our province. As someone who is both immensely proud of teaching in Alberta, and someone who has been to several conferences over the past several years (both locally and internationally) one thing is abundantly clear – Alberta teachers are respected, world leaders in education.


One prominent international researcher, Pasi Sahlberg, has been at the fore of identifying the excellence of teaching and learning in our province. In presentations in Alberta, Sahlberg has pointed out Alberta’s standing based on the OECD PISA results. In the 2015 PISA results (the most current published results, with the 2018 results expected to be available beginning December), Canada and Alberta’s worldwide rankings are as follows:


·      Reading – Canada 3rd (Alberta #2 province). If Alberta were considered a country, they would rank #3 in the world.

·      Mathematics – Canada 10th (Alberta #3* province). If Alberta were considered a country, they would rank #14 in the world.

·      Science – Canada 7th (Alberta #1 province). If Alberta were considered a country, they would rank #2 in the world.


I don’t mention these results to debate the merits of standardized testing, or the legitimacy of OECD or PISA, but to rather to provide context that there is data to support the “eye test”. I have engaged with international visitors who have come to ULead, an Alberta-led education conference, to learn from and with Alberta educators. I have also had the pleasure of hosting and envoy of educational leaders from Singapore (a country that routinely ranks at the top of PISA) who came specially to the Calgary Board of Education to tour our schools in action. They are coming to our province to see the things we’re doing right, and there is plenty to see.


What many might not know is that Alberta Teachers are designers of curriculum, not merely deliverers of curriculum. Sounds like a subtle difference, but it’s not. In Alberta, teachers work with a series of curricular outcomes set forward in the Alberta Programs of Study. From there they organize them in sequential, patterned ways, always mindful of “hooks” that will ensure engaged learning throughout the series of planned sub-tasks and accompanying assessments. The design also allows for personalized learning to accommodate different learning styles, and inclusive accommodations for students with mild/moderate and complex learning and social/emotional needs.


Published results for Fish Creek School tell only part of the story of our teachers and their students. What you see in our Provincial Achievement Test results is the culmination of years of hard work by our entire staff – to a person. Literacy and ELL support and intervention starts in kindergarten through collaboration with teachers and the joint CBE Early Learning Team, and continues through the grades with allocated supports organized and managed at the school level.


Included along with the daily work of our teachers is the delicate dance of assisting in management of the well-being of our students. Emotional considerations such as anxiety, stress, and managing peer relations are all taking place within real time under the influence of an ever-expanding digital influence. With all of these considerations, Fish Creek School and Alberta teachers continue to set the standard for education on the world stage.


JFK famously said “children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future” and we can all agree on this. As the sun rises on a new day, it’s important to recognize that the work that Alberta teachers are doing is ensuring that our most valuable resource is set up for success. Let’s ensure we keep our collective focus on our most important Provincial asset – Education.

Oct 20
Inspired by Struggling Readers

Inspiration is everywhere. As an educator it’s one of the most amazing parts about the job. One of the most inspirational moments in my early career came when I was teaching grade one. There were more than a few students in my class that had trouble reading and I knew that it was going to be a long year with a lot of hard work ahead to get these students where they needed to be.

As I began that year of teaching I came in with the intention of covering all my curricular outcomes for the year. My fancy teacher binder housed all my day, week, month, and year plans and I was ready for the year. Accompanying my plans, I had an actual checklist with all my grade one learning outcomes and I was set to go through them one by one until I could successfully say that I had done my job and taught the entire curriculum.
My first mission was to make these non-readers into readers as quickly as I could so that I could check that box off and just get on with other things. On a day-to-day perspective, working with these struggling readers was daunting. There was little additional support, and success was slow or non-existent. One student would start to make gains, and then two more seems unresponsive to intervention. It felt like the proverbial one step up, two steps back. Every. Single. Day.
My day plans soon went out the window. My month plans got set back. My year plans therefore also needed a complete overhaul. What were these non-readers doing to me? I was a complete and utter wreck because everything I had set up before the year had even started were now obliterated thanks to all the time I was needing to devote to basic literacy skills.
I decided to turn my blame on to others - the kindergarten teachers, the parents, the school administration, my team partners, my educational assistant, my university professors, and my teacher preparation program. If I’m honest, I even thought about dropping my intervention altogether and turning my attention to my other students who could read. I thought, “maybe these students just aren’t ready to read yet” and wondered if I could just leave the heavy lifting to the grade two teachers.
For a time, the despair was a constant in my world, but there was another constant, and that was a group of eager students who wanted to read. One day, one of my students with whom I was doing intervention came up to me and said “Mr. Fero, when can we read together again” and that simple comment provided all the inspiration I needed.
So I didn’t give up. When one strategy didn’t take hold, I tried another. I consulted with colleagues and accessed system supports. I made sure my readers had the right materials, and I was giving them the right feedback. But the most important part of the work is that I didn’t lose faith. I persisted. And while I thought it was my efforts that encouraged my students, it was the persistence and resiliency of my students that pushed me on. You see; they didn’t give up either.
I would love to say that the story had a perfect ending. I would love to say that each of those non-readers became great readers, but that would be a lie. While they all didn’t become readers that year, many did. What each of them did achieve during that grade one year was a set of skills that would benefit them in the years going forward and I would like to think that they developed a sense that there were teachers there to help them, and push them and work alongside them.
For me, the year taught me many things too. It taught me that despite the best laid plans that things may need to go in a different direction. I realized that my work might not be THE work, and that the students and their needs were the most important part of the job. I thank my non-readers for providing me that inspiration, and equally thankful for the lessons they taught me.

(this is a repost from my blog. For more, visit http://principalfero.weebly.com/​)
Sep 01
The Best First Day Ever

The best school year ever starts with the best first day ever. The first day is always exciting for everyone. From a principal perspective, having seen the hours and hours of preparation by the teachers getting ready for the first day, the energy level is high. We’re all excited to see our students and families again.


As a parent, I know how it feels to send a child back. While there is some sense like “yes, it’s time to go back”, there is also a little sadness after breaking things up after a fun summer together. As adults, we can feel the anxious about the year to come, so it’s no doubt that our children can become anxious too as they take cues from us.


For our students, the first day back can be a mixed bag of emotion. We see it all on this day – from happiness to tears, it’s all there. To help minimize emotions, here are some recommendations for little things to do to ensure the first day goes as well as possible:


1)    Familiarize Yourself with School Information – as a parent, there is a lot of work that goes into preparing for the first few week of school, and this certainly involves a lot of reading. Information comes fast and furious and through a variety of sources (website, email, and social media) and people. Take the time to read through it all. This will assist in your preparation and trust me, it really is too much to read on the morning of or even the night before.  


2)    Talk it Out – You might think your child is emotionally ready to go back to school, but it’s always a good idea to talk about it. Simple questions like “what are you most looking forward to?” or “what do you think your teacher will like most about you?” puts their thinking into transition mode. Avoid conversations about “what teacher are you hoping to get?” or “who do you hope is in your class?” because these questions create anticipation, which may sometimes not play out.


3)    Do a Dry Run – For younger students, they may not only benefit from talking through things, but also doing a dry run with you. Some simple things you might want to practice can include putting on, taking off and hanging up a backpack, noting the difference between snack and lunch, practicing taking shoes on and off, modeling sitting on the carpet and how to raise a hand to ask a question (ex. “may I go to the washroom?”). More complex modeling might include how to ask a friend to play, what to do if they’re stuck with an assignment, or going through what your after-school routines are.


4)    Create a “Things to Know About Me” Document – In recent years, I have seen students and parents work on a flat sheet to give to their teacher on the first day of school. I’m not sure where this idea came from (Pinterest perhaps) but it’s brilliant. Some of the important information to include might be a picture, birthdate, and things they like about school, and things they like to do outside of school. If the student is able to indicate information about how they feel they learn best (ex. Do they like to participate in hands-on learning? Do they need a quiet space to learn sometimes?), that can be very valuable to the teacher. It is also fun for the student to hand something they’ve made to their teacher on day one.


Of course, there are countless other logistical and practical things parents need to do before their children go back to school, and it’s a busy time in the house to be sure. If, in all the busyness of the preparations you might be able to make use these suggestions I am confident they will benefit in an even smoother first day back.


Here’s to the best school year ever!​

Mar 17
Win Your Child's Student-Led Conference

Student-Led Conferences are now a staple in most schools, yet I hear from many parents that they still find these non-traditional conferences very confusing. The top comment is that parents aren’t really sure what exactly they should be doing. Well, here are some simple DOs and DON’Ts to lead you to a parenting win at your child’s next student-led conference.


Attend! – This sounds simple enough, but in the flow of the school year many parents may feel that things are going well and there isn’t much to say about your child that you haven’t already heard. It’s also highly possible that you’re leading busy lives with extra-curricular activities and sibling events. While this may be true, you should view this opportunity in that your child has a starring role in a one-person play. I don’t think anyone would want their child to do without an audience as they took the stage for their big night.   

Listen In – The star of the show will be well-prepared to share the best of what they’ve got and they’re anticipating an attentive audience. In their excitement, they are very likely going to whip through things really fast. In many cases they will have a script or agenda to run down and they may be overly eager to get through it all. Stick with them and pick out some key points to refer back to. Pro tip – leave your phone in the car.

Ask Questions – When you get that right break in the action, and after you tell them how happy you are with their work, keep the conversation going with some key questions. Depending on the age, they may lead you with “so this is my writing” before they start flipping through the pages. On the other end, they may begin their sharing with a complex review of curricular outcomes which can sounds just like boring technical language. Some great questions might include the following:
  • “What makes this so special / important to you?”
  • “How did you feel when you started working on this, and how do you feel now?”
  • “Where do you think that you’ve improved the most since the start of the year?”

Focus on Conversation with the Teacher – This particular evening is not the time for you to review your child’s progress with the teacher. Your child has spent a long time preparing for your visit and they’re expecting to be the star of the show. If you feel that a separate conversation is needed, just indicate this to the teacher at the end of your visit, or send them an email at another time and make a time to chat about your questions or concerns.  

Compare Your Child’s Work to their Peers – Since many student-led conferences are set up in open house style format, the work of all students will likely be on display. While you may be inclined to compare, keep the focus on your own child. In that brief moment when you switch your attention to another child’s work, your own child will recognize that you’re sizing up their work up. Students don’t like to be judged at any time, let alone on the night where they have you all to themselves.  

Focus on Little Mistakes – In browsing through your child’s work, you might notice some particular pieces that might not reflect their best work. You can easily encounter spelling errors, rushed drawings, mathematical miscalculations, incomplete assignments, teacher comments, and graded assessments. In fact, you will likely encounter more imperfect work than perfect work. Keep in mind that you’re looking at assignments in various stages of progress so don’t derail a great evening by focusing on the one or two things your child didn’t really prepare for you to see.  

​Thank you in advance for making your child the star of this conference. From a teacher perspective, student-led conferences as one of the highlights of the year because each child has a chance to share their day-to-day life in school with the most important people in their lives. Hopefully you might use this advice to make your visit a memorable one. Finally, if you really want to get it to the next level, taking your kid for an ice cream after the conference may just put you in parent-of-the-year territory. Enjoy!​
Feb 10
You Might Not Know It In the Moment

This week, I had the chance to catch up with a former colleague who is also a current principal. We had the pleasure of working together at the start of my career at a very complex elementary school. When I say complex, I mean that the range of student need was both varied and significant. It’s that school where some kids would not necessarily come to school having had breakfast, or perhaps even a lunch in tow. Learning needs were almost secondary to basic needs, but we were a great staff who worked hard to make a difference, and I think we did.


When we get together, we have many stories to share about our teaching and learning experiences. There are many fond memories and a few laughs to be sure. However, the one thing that we always seem to come back and bond most over is our animosity, fear, respect, and love for our former principal. To be clear, I did use all four of those descriptors together. If you’re scratching your head, here’s how that works.


The feelings of animosity were usually pretty easy to see and probably feel. Late and long staff meetings and professional learning sessions (we would do after-school meetings on both Tuesdays and Thursdays, and they would often go past 5:00) after an already long day of teaching will do that pretty quick. In those moments, we all had the right answers and all her decisions were simply wrong. As a beginning, wrongfully confident teacher, I wasn’t too sure of what to make of it all, but I remember putting in really long days and thinking about work a lot. You for sure did not want to be that teacher in the staff meeting who didn’t get their “homework” done, and you needed to be darn sure you had something to share. There was a lot of grumbling, but in the end, we were always active (some more than others) participants.


During one casual pop-in, my principal dropped this on me: “Hey Ian, can I see you after school? And bring your planning and assessment with you.” I have talked about this moment before as my career-defining moment. This was not uncommon – my colleagues had told me about their encounters – but that simple interaction struck instant fear, and those 3 or 4 hours before the end of the day were some of the longest moments of my life. I can still see and hear the tick-tock of the clock as the moments slowly passed. When the day was over, I collected my things and headed to the office for our meeting. Thankfully, I felt like I had some of the right stuff. I know for sure that I has something more than nothing, but I just wasn’t sure why she had asked for it. In the end, the meeting was very positive, and she encouraged to take my first steps from a relationship-based professional to a master teacher. She paired me with another colleague who had some great assessment strategies and I took it all in. To shorten a much longer story, I learned from it, took the advice, and soon became an area lead teacher in assessment.


As I settled into my new position, and started to pass along some of my freshly adopted learning to others, I found myself more and more reflecting on where I had come. In those moments, I started to wonder just what would have happened to me if my principal had not cared enough to ask that question of me that day, or paired me up with a trusted colleague. I realized that upon reflection and departing the school that I had developed feelings of respect for my former principal, and for what I had encountered.


Coming back to my recent meet-up with my former colleague, we always end our reminiscing and come quickly to the realization that six of the teachers on staff at that complex school had gone on to become principals or system leaders. The hours of staff meetings, professional learning, and hard questions had paid off. At this point, none of the grumbling means a thing and respect and admiration turn to love. Love for each other, the experiences, the hours of hard work and even more hours spent worrying, and perhaps more than anything, love for the principal who had the courage to take us to places we didn’t know we needed to go.


On the off-chance that I run into my former principal, I always tell her about these stories and some of these feelings and she always laughs. She thinks it’s funny that I look so deeply at things and always says things like “oh Ian, I was just doing my job”. Whereas I find myself using the conversation to try and draw more wisdom for my own use, she is more interested in my kids and family, how coaching is going, and the state of my golf game.


Ultimately, my message to my colleagues, teachers experienced and new, is that sometimes you might now know what is happening in the moment, but if you are open to learning, trust the process and believe in your leadership, something wonderful just might happen. You just might not realize it until years later.


Sep 16
Make the Right Kind of Difference

One of the things that I admire most about our profession is that teachers deliver day after day in an environment where they have to be always at the top of their game. The consequences of their actions and words are always impactful and they literally have the ability to change the lives of their students.

I loved sports and in high school I quickly became the prototypical gym rat. I got up early and got to school when it opened, often asking the janitor to turn on the gym lights so I could shoot some hoops. The trouble was that I really wasn’t that good. My initial technique was to throw the ball in a two-handed overhead motion toward the hoop (picture a soccer throw in). I didn’t know any better, but I practiced so much that I actually got pretty good at it.
The right kind of difference came one morning when one of our PE teachers approached me in the gym. I had come to know him a bit as both a teacher and coach and he would always say hello to me in the morning when he got in. On this particular morning, he approached me and said something like: “Listen, I see you in here every morning shooting hoops, and you’re driving me crazy. You’re not even doing it right. I need to show you how to do this.”
From there, he took the time to show me the correct shooting technique – bend the knees, set ball in the right hand, bend the elbow, push upward as you rise with your legs, release with a bit of backspin, and finish with the wrist. I would imagine the whole exchange took less than five minutes, but it was all I needed. I would like to say I went on to become a high school basketball star, but I didn’t. I did manage to play on our teams, but I did grow into a really good shooter, and it made playing the game a lot more fun. I still remember that exchange, and remain thankful for the time that my PE teacher took with me.
Much like basketball, I had a similar academic profile. I was no report card all-star, but I did ok. I worked hard and knew the content of what we were learning about in class. When I was in high school in Ontario they had just eliminated the mandatory grade 13 year. In the transition, students who required upgrades or OACs (Ontario Academic Credits) to attend University, often needed to come back for an informal “grade 13” year. As a result, if you were in an OAC class, you were there because you had sights on University.
Much like it is now, University acceptance was a competitive game. You needed good to great marks. Like me, many students scanned the course options and looked for those courses that could get you the grades you needed, but also offset the intense rigor of core courses like Language Arts, Mathematics, or Sciences. Courses like drama and fine arts were fun and easily favourites of many of my fellow students. A new course, Art History and Appreciation, appeared among the selections and I decided to give that one a shot.
This Art History teacher was a long-serving staff member at the school - late 40s or 50s, short, stalky, and bald. He was a serious teacher who taught the most difficult math courses in the school almost exclusively. He was passionate about the subject matter, and expected a lot of his students. I had heard he was very strict and was notorious for assigning homework and holding students accountable. He always wore the stereotypical sport coat with the elbow patches, and would wear his glasses low on his nose. He could hold a stare that could do his talking for him, and it was icy. In short, he was the most intense teacher I would ever know. To say I was intimidated walking into the class would be an understatement.
The wrong kind of difference came on the first day of Art History. The students filed into the room, every one of us glancing around the room to see which of our friends were there. Mine were not. In fact, most of the kids in the class were what I would call our school’s academic elite who had come to love this particular teacher during the math classes they had with him.
The first five minutes of Art History class were the usual introduction and syllabus review. I think I was the only one in the class who had not had this teacher in any other class. The teacher then asked “who here is looking to go on to University next year?” and, since it was an OAC class, every single student put up their hand. The teacher scanned the crowd with his icy glare and his eyes locked on me…
“Fero, you’re looking at going on to University?”
How could I possibly respond to that? Normally I would have probably dropped a quick and witty one-liner, but this was not the room for that. It was all I could do to breathe. I went through five different emotions in about 10 seconds – anxiousness, fear, embarrassment, sadness, and anger. I settled on anger. I think about this exchange from time to time.
In the decades since that day I have entertained many ideas, including getting in contact with this teacher. I guess I just wanted him to know the impact he had on me in that moment and how it’s shaped my own career as a teacher. I had a romantic vision of this conversation, which would end up with me forgiving him.
This, however, is a reconciliation that doesn’t need to happen. I’ve been able to forgive the teacher for his misstep, because I know it happens. It’s unfortunate, but in the life of a teaching career – number of days taught, number of interactions in a day - I’m sure he had no idea at the time, no memory, and no need for forgiveness. Time heals, and I've learned other lessons.

I am sure that there are many students out there, like me, that are may be hanging on to something from school. It’s this realization that makes me aware of the impact that my actions and words have on the students that I interact with. Toward this end, here are some simple rules that allow me to make the right kind of difference:

  • No bad days – leave your stuff in the car before you come into the school
  • Positivity rules – make someone smile, and be the person that others want to be around
  • If you don’t think it you won’t say it – if you truly believe the best about everyone you don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing
  • Make the time – be aware of what your students need from you. Often, it’s time.
  • Don’t be afraid to say sorry – if you make a misstep, fix it immediately and work hard to make things right.
On any given day, a teacher can be my former PE teacher, or my former Art History teacher. Always be aware of the influence you have over young lives. What might seem like an insignificant moment, or a fleeting comment can be the ones that matter most. Memories of these moments, positive or negative, can last a lifetime.


Thanks for reading. My hope is that this week's blog post might spark a memory of a teacher who made the right (or wrong) kind of difference for you. If you would like to share your story, please leave a comment. You can also message me on Twitter via @PrincipalFero or email at itfero@cbe.ab.ca. I can post your comments for you if that's easier.​
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