Posted by: bwoof | April 30, 2017


Yes, it’s true. I have not been at PLog in recent months. Let this not be a lament to action but a recognition that life is busy and I am just getting better and setting things aside, relaxing a bit more, and looking for balance. To that end, and upon recognition that I’m now 365 days in the principal’s role, here are my gratitudes and attitudes, aka “Grateful for” and “Curious about.”

I keep kept a PLog, personal learning log (not a Blog!), and realize that my intention to reflect online has taken quite a hit since becoming Principal at Sherwood exactly one year ago. And that’s OK. There’s no need to be perfect every day, so if it’s not online, reflection can still (and must) happen. But it’s always a good time to step back and ponder, so since it’s 365 days since I unexpectedly landed at 25 High Street, it seemed appropriate to look back a bit. And what a year it’s been. The highlight has been learning, learning, learning. Non-stop!

In keeping with my long-standing PLog framework of reflection that works for me, two themes emerge:


  • The surprise! I’ll never forget when I learned there were about 48 hours to transition from OP to Sherwood. It meant I had to cancel a World Championship St. Louis trip with the OP Robotics team, for whom I still cheer. It meant I had to choose flexibility, adaptability, and choke down a gulp of excitement and fear.  It meant staying home that weekend to be quiet, get anchored, and think about the humbling responsibility we as educators have. We hold the lives of kids in our hands. It’s a calling.
  • The welcome support of so many people including teachers, EAs, office staff, caretaking, Student Services people, and my admin colleagues including the greeting committee of John Forbeck, Estella Jones, Shelly Ferney, and Jamie Nunn. And now I get to add Brian Goodram to that outstanding team.
  • The incredible learning from former colleagues at OP including Marco Barzetti and Dawn Merlino – we three couldn’t have been more different, but the constant bantering back and forth of ideas and styles was extraordinary and helpful in ways beyond words.
  • The opportunity to contribute to a culture of learning at Sherwood that is in continuous improvement. I see many pieces of evidence that confirm we as a school community want to be effective, current, and impactful. We care. Deeply.
  • The honesty of staff and student voice about the things that are working and those that are not. I may not always like what I hear, but believe it all comes from a good place.
  • HWDSB and the privilege I have of a) having a job, and b) being paid for doing the things I’m passionate about, and c) be in an organization that although not perfect, is committed to learning and improvement.
  • My family and the joy of seeing three kids grow up well and become people I’m so proud of. This includes their life events of post-secondary education, vocations, avocations, and admirations. A recent wedding video tells part of that story and includes Wes who is beyond all else a man of integrity, commitment, and compassion. I am realizing that I lead a privileged life in many ways.


  • How best can I/we honour the 50 year legacy of a community school and also lead into the future now that many things are different than they were when the school first opened including curriculum, technology, leadership styles, and socio-eco demographics? What traditions do we keep? What new paths do we create together? How do I/we approach change?
  • How do teenagers think and feel in the year 2017? After Netflix-binging on the “13 Reasons Why” series I am deeply aware that life is complicated and what I see through my adult eyes may not be what teens are seeing. How will I/we honour teens and help them achieve in a world that is changing at a pace and rate much faster than I remember as a teen?
  • What does it look like and sound like to really, like I mean really really, act upon our two Sherwood foci, Learning for All and Well-Being for All? As someone so honestly (ouch!) said recently on one of those stickies we’ve collected as part of staff voice, “it’s got be more than just another pretty poster.”
  • How do I/we develop a culture of trust and safety for all, staff included, that creates the optimum conditions for learning and belonging. I wonder how to encourage staff to grow and learn while also recognizing and building upon their current strengths. What does it mean for all staff to feel a sense of belonging at Sherwood?
  • What will happen to the Sherwood building? What will it look like five years from now? Or maybe even in three years? How might we live together in community in a less than optimum space with more than our fair share of uncertainty?
  • How does visible thinking impact learning? I’ll keep this curiosity front and center on my Annual Growth Plan (it’s on my bulletin board for anyone to see, especially me!).  I wonder….will my attempts to use more graphics, sketches, and white-board thinking help me and others?
  • What will life be like when my grad program is over in July!!! Can’t wait, but also don’t want the challenging learning to end.
  • Will the peregrine falcons I watch every year (yes, there’s a reason for this small curiosity) have chicks this year? Will hope flourish?
Posted by: bwoof | November 26, 2016

Busy…no time to reflect

restReflection and quiet thought is important. I actually believe that. And….recently have not got to that quiet place, but am OK with it. For now.

Sometimes life just gets full and ever present but it we have got some good patterns in place, we can sustain a period of no reflection, no respite, no rest, no relief that is longer than usual or desirable.

Grateful for:

  • Sherwood Grade 7/8 Night and all the many students and staff who pitched in for an incredible event
  • Meds for pain — and prayers for a teacher and an early educator who both struggled mightly this week
  • Calmness

Curious about:

  • Math and how it relates across the curriculum
  • How all the wedding details will come together
  • How J can come first not second in a soon-to-be-round-of-interviews. So close….so close…


Posted by: bwoof | October 11, 2016

Trump Clinton

With considerable dismay and disdain, I watch the ongoing presidential election race unfurl south of the border. Never before in history has such a debacle with so much rancor and loathsome behaviours beset upon our senses. The lockerroom talk wrangles even the most coarse and unfazed spirits to rile in condeming astonishment. This can’t be true….it can’t!

But it is.

Enough said.

Grateful for:

  • Canadian health care, despite the disparaging slams by Trump
  • Canadian election systems which, at most, run a few weeks with minimal acrimony and maximum harmony
  • Canadian metric system which is easy to follow and honours patterns around the globe
  • Canadian education system and appropriate standards-based tests
  • Canadian tax laws which are firm but sensible
  • Canadian decorum and genuine exhuberance during Blue Jay ball games and other public events

Curious about:

  • how good might come of the travesty of locker room degrading comments about women
  • how much of a margin Hillary will have on Nov 8th
  • how many ‘defectors’ will leave Trump and perhaps even the Republican party
  • how can I help a big department in my school make forward movement in learning and thinking


Posted by: bwoof | August 25, 2016

Adaptive Schools (and lots of other things too)

With considerable gratitude to the the folks at Thinking Collaborative, John Clarke and the goodwill of HWDSB, I’m in another session of Adaptive Schools and recently finished Cognitive Coaching (again).

Day 3 learning is summarized as follows:


Grateful for:

  • Kathy W, Dr. Debbie D, Lynn, and other whom I have serendipitously met at conferences, Twitter, and learning sessions
  • Our Dept Heads at HWDSB — fantastic learning time with them on Tuesday and I’m so energized by their positive stance.

Curious about:

  • women and heart attacks — what are the symptoms and should I urge a friend to see her doc?
  • how to reshape school culture
Posted by: bwoof | August 22, 2016

Williamston reprise

As a follow-up to my recent trip down memory lane in the small town of Williamston, Michigan, here are some additional learnings I don’t want to forget:

Famous radio shows that my Great Grandfather, True Lincoln Reese (1860-1951), listened to are:

  • Amos and Andy
  • Fibber McGee and Molly
  • Ma Perkins
  • The L-O-N-E Ranger
  • The Shadow Knew

My dad and his friends liked cough drops and Smith Bros. licorice.

My dad and his classmates collected milkweek pods along the schoolyard fence in order to earn a few cents and also support the soldiers who needed lifejackets.

My grandpa raised big white carrots which were a treat for the goats who would get one each per night.  They were fed by lantern light and my dad has wonderful memories of hearing Leila (white coat) and Sally (multi-coloured coat) chew in their delight. There were also two kids named James and Timothy.

My great-aunt Ruth lived in Korea for many years and lived a prim and proper, art-infused life, a long ways away from her humble roots on a farm.

Grateful for:

  • story-tellers
  • memories that allow us to get past the history textbooks

Curious about:

  • how will we go on now that Louis has passed? So sudden! So sad.


Posted by: bwoof | August 17, 2016

Sad, very sad….

Goodbye Louis. You’ll be so so missed…always. Don’t worry, we’ll look after G and the kids.


Grateful for:

  • hope
  • rainbows
  • Benji
  • changed lives even though we’re not perfect

Curious about:

  • Celebrate Recovery
  • how to be a friend in the midst of grief


Posted by: bwoof | August 16, 2016

The ‘dreaded’ August letter to staff

It’s that time of the summer when I think I’m supposed to communicate something intelligent and inspirational to staff. After all, there are only three weeks left before schools starts again!

But, it’s summer, and the Olympics are on, and frankly, no one (myself included) wants to read a letter right now.

So, instead, I have decided to continue my visual learning skills plan. Here’s today’s practice, and I think I’ll send it out soon to others. Maybe it can be followed up later with the requisite and predictable text-heavy letter. Or not.


Sherwood Staff Mid-August letter 2016

Grateful for:

  • Thinking Collaborative and the Cognitive Coaching Foundation course
  • freedom to try and sketch
  • The Olympics — lots of fun watching all the games

Curious about:

  • Will I have enough pluckiness to send out the ‘letter’ above as is? Or will I defer to the traditional formal letter?  Hmm…
  • GAFE summit in October at Crescent School.

This past week I was so incredibly pleased to be part of the Technology Enhanced Leading and Learning Institute (#TELL2106). It’s an incredible collaborative event pulled together by Ontario’s three administrator entities, OPC, ADFO, and the Catholic Principals.

Four keynotes (more notes to follow) and several workshops made the two days rich and beautiful with learning.

Anita Simpson gave the closing keynote and at least three of us, Debbie Donsky, Kelly Power, and Beth Woof (that’s me) sketched in live time what we heard and processed. It’s amazing to see how our thinking aligns and also differs. Yes, amazing.

Debbie and Anita do their sketches on paper first, then shift to digital versions. I, on the other hand, start in digital with Paper 53 and then export to other formats including .pdf or printed versions.  All versions are authentic representations of those things that resonated with us as individuals.





Grateful for:

  • Awesome professional learning and professional colleagues
  • Karen and her helpful contributions
  • Kelly and Debbie whom I met for the first time this week and feel as if we are already best-co-learner-friends

Curious about:

  • How much energy does the current heat spell drain from our electrical grid. Today the big towers in Toronto were asked to go offline and use their generators.
  • What must it be like to commute to/from Toronto everyday? Today’s drive, 1 hour on a good day, took 2 1/2 hours!
Posted by: bwoof | August 11, 2016

Sketchnotes from TELL2016

This week has been such rich learning. Without further adieu, here are some summaries from the presentations by Isabelle Fontaine, Tony Wagner, and Garfield Gini-Newman, all of which were very engaging, stretching, and though-provoking. Thank you!




Grateful for:

  • a good meeting yesterday with Shelly and Brian
  • a wonderful conference hotel location with everything I need at my fingertips

Curious about:

  • power walks in high heat and humidity. Is this healthy?
Posted by: bwoof | August 6, 2016

Memory lane and related new learnings

Today’s visit to my childhood-town-full-of-memories, Williamston, Michigan, reminded me of many tidbits of life I once thought about frequently. My dad’s anecdotal stories added many more dimensions to the memory bank. Here are just a few of things I want to both learn from, and remember always:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABarrett’s store is where my dad worked for many years when he was a student. He had to arrive before 8 a.m., stoke the wood furnace, shovel snow, and then when Mr. Barrett arrived at 8:55 a.m. my dad would leave and run to the nearby K-12 school where he spent 13 years. This store is still going strong and carries several lines of quality clothing and footwear lines.

williamston-cityhallThe Williamston City Hall reminds me that my grandma and I would walk to the park every day and wait until the noon siren pealed out from this location. It was both a scary sound since it was a war-time community practice to be on watch for emergencies. The practice didn’t stop during peace time. It was also a happy sound since it meant we were to walk home and make lunch. I loved those days…very much.

williamstonnnn-summitcemeterySummit Cemetery is where my grandparents and other relatives are buried under the biggest catalpu tree I’ve ever seen. In this idyllic sand spot with a gentle hill there are countless reminders that many have served in wars across the decades, in particular the Civil War. williamston-civilwarmarkerFlags and monument markers tell the story, so many stories. One family lost eight babies in succession, almost one per year. The late 1800’s were not, it seems, kind to children. In this location there is also a 200+ year old White Oak tree that spans ‘a city block’. Well, maybe not that far, but it’s big. I wondered today about the merit of burial plots — the call back to the land is powerful and the sense of geo-space for memories has impact.

Grateful for:

  • memories
  • 175 years of sustained community presence for 1st Baptist Church in Williamston.
  • parents and grandparents who model curiosity, exploration, and discovery.

Curious about:

  • why are there so many wind turbines in southwestern Ontario, and why are they on the south side of the 401?

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