Labels – can we scrub them and move forward?

At the core of an inclusive society, community, school, classroom,  is a core belief in equality. Our attitudes, our thoughts, our words and our actions all feed into how we treat each other, work with each other and support each other in being the best we are capable of becoming.  When I ponder our classrooms how quickly do we want to fall to labels while somewhat losing sight of the individual. Regardless of who we are, what we look like, what we believe, we have much more in common than what we often sadly allow to divide and separate.

Ponder this first then consider the video:

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Collaborative Problem Solving -CPS

One of our regular presenters at our Education Assistants Conference is Kent Hollingsworth who does an excellent job presenting on CPS and the principles of rethinking our approach to students presenting challenging behaviors.  At the root of this training is the work initially done together by Dr. Stuart Ablon and Dr. Ross Greene.

When working together Dr. Ablon and Dr. Greene co-wrote “Treating Explosive Kids: The Collaborative Problem-Solving Approach.  Dr. Greene has gone on to write “The Explosive Child” and “Lost at School” (we have placed dozens of copies of Lost at School in the hands of teachers, administration and education assistants over the last couple of years).

As is sometimes the case collaborators move on to develop their own programs and expertise but we are provided with access to the combined wisdom of both authors and researchers and some of that information is included below.

Dr. Ablon’s Think:Kids Rethinking Challenging Kids Website can be accessed here and has a wide range of references, video links and research articles to consider.

Dr Ablon’s model for a checklist and inventory of problems to be solved – skill deficit and challenging behaviour can be viewed here.

Dr. Ablon speaking at TedX :Rethinking Challenging Kids – Where There’s a Skill There’s a Way.

Dr. Greene’s perspective on this work can be accessed at two websites.

The first is the Center for Collaborative Problem Solving it contains links to articles and information on the two books mentioned above by Dr. Greene.

The second site contains more hands on information, videos, and resources tied to Dr. Greene’s non-profit organization, Lives in the Balance.

Much like Dr. Ablon’s checklist above Dr. Greene has developed a sheet entitled Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems which is referred to as the ALSUP. He also provides a Problem Solving Plan (formerly referred to as Plan B flowchart) Plan B is fundamental to Dr. Greene’s approach to working with students.

Dr. Greene also maintains a youtube channel with a series of videos that outline his approach to working with students. I’ve included the first video from that website below.

Dr. Greene “Kids do well if they can”




2016 Westwind Education Assistant Conference Feedforward

Thank you for your participation in the EA Conference day in Magrath. Here is the link to the survey for you to provide your thoughts on the day, the sessions, any suggestions for sessions next year and this year your thoughts on any of the sessions which you feel we should also find a way for teachers to experience.

Click on this link 

Have a great balance of the year.

As promised the slides from the opening are shared here, once again my thanks to those “Yellow dots” for their active participation in the session.


Through what lens

It was my hope to present a few thoughts that might invite us to reflect upon our perceptions, point of view or lens in terms of how we view the students and team with whom we work.  I’ve included the PDF file of my keynote slides for you here and some of the resources I referred to as well. Thank you so much for all that you do for our students and their families.

EA conf 2016 Opening Thoughts

TParaprofessional's Handbookhe two student comparison slides are referenced to chapter 5 Rethinking Thinking Students – Presuming Competence in the book “The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms” This has previously be shared with your principals and copies of the book are available in your schools. Dr. Julie Causton has written a series of these books including one for administrators that every school has received as well.  Well worth taking the time to read.


“Failure is not an option” video clip and book

Failure is notI really do enjoy that orange “Failure is not an Option” shirt from the Johnson Space Center in Houston – the teacher who picked it up for me, may have had a tongue in cheek to begin with but proved to be an excellent leader for his department of 8 science teachers challenging them to retain 100% of their students through the semester and get everyone through. Adapt – Modify- Accommodate and collaborate he got it.  The principles behind Failure is not an Option – the Book – are extremely aligned with the Professional Learning Community model – think about it in the movie and real life – is it really better to have people try to solve complex challenges in isolation? Nope – share, challenge, support… Whenever I watch this clip I ask myself which of these team members best represents me today – focused on excuses, roadblocks, reasons it will fail or focused on solutions, strengths, what I have on hand – I’m reminded of this positive mindset with the recent movie “The Martian” by the way – excellent for creative thinking and applied learning strategies.


Above the LineThe “R” Factor related slides are drawn from the book, “Above the Line: Lessons in leadership and life” by Urban Meyer , this may come to a surprise to some of you but that is a football book (I have been blessed to coach over 50 football teams in my life) but a book with so many outstanding lessons in terms of guiding our thoughts, words and responses and the six key “R-Factor” elements is one of those great points.  The slide on “Reaches and Reps” draws from the same book – anyone who’s ever been on a team, or part of a play/acting, can or should be able to relate to pushing yourself to reach beyond what you thought you could and rep what you need to perfect.  I remind myself it isn’t practice that makes perfect it’s working toward perfect practice that leads to perfection.

DecisiveI am particularly fond of the notion of Bookending as presented by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. The idea of planning the parade, particularly when you can engage the student and family in the planning of that parade really speaks to a vision for success and helps commit each other to working toward that achievement – fall a bit short, stumble a little along the way what should you do, I like to occasionally (emphasis added)  listen to grade 5 and 6 band so that when I hear the award winning marching band I can remember the stumbles that led to the great parade. Bookending anticipates a little what could go sidewise reducing the shock and potential disappointment to a we anticipated this moment now let’s move along.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 10.33.59 AM.pngFinally a new book (to me) that I referred to briefly but did not have a slide in the presentation “Learning outside the lines” by Jonathan Mooney (the student I referred to) and David Cole.  Jonathan writes, “Don’t feel bad. There is a special talent locked in the mind of the unusual learner. The trick is to unlock it. This book can help you do just that” well even if all it does is change our mindset and vision just a bit that can help but it’s proven quite good so far.  A warning Jon and his family are fond of words in the English language that not everyone uses quite a liberally but like Ido sometimes expressing the frustration of what has been forced upon you and your children might lead to more colourful language than we might expect.  Jon also wrote, “What has gone unrecognized for centuries is that this unusual learner is not stupid, neither is he bad. Indeed, he may be gifted. He carries within his mind the cognitive equivalents of genetic mutations, the ability to recombine elements of experience in new ways.” An interesting point to ponder.






Westwind School Division is part of a the Southwest Regional Collaborative Services calm alert learning coverDelivery consortium and as part we’ve received the ability to access a series of self-regulation webinars from Dr. Stuart Shanker, author of Calm, Alert and Learning classroom strategies for Self-Regulation.

The Webinar topics include:

Self-Reg and the Anxiety Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Bullying Epidemic
Self-Reg and the ADHD Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Depression Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Illiteracy Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Learning Disorders Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Obesity Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Declining Resilience Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Sleep Deprivation Epidemic
Self-Reg and the Truancy Epidemic

The first three are up – the website to access them is here but you need to get the login and password from your administration or learning support teacher.  As of today (January 28th the first two topics are up and a new webinar will be added about every two weeks until May 10th.  Each school has a couple of copies of the book as well.

A brief overview of the ideas of Self-Regulation are included in this short article “Calm, Alert and Happy” by Dr. Shanker

At the very foundation of all this work is the notion that we as educators, education assistants, parents, bus drivers, receptionists, recognize that there is a wide world of biology and chemistry at work in each of our, and our students minds and bodies that impacts positively and negatively on our ability to act and learn.  We can easily misread the actions and certainly misunderstand the causes of those actions in not recognizing anxiety for opposition or emotional exhaustion for lazy for example all of which are assisted by an understanding of the principles of Self-Regulation.

Here are a couple of Dr. Shanker’s presentations






Westwind EA Conference 2016

The registration link for the 2016 EA Conference is here:

The conference is for Education Assistants working for Westwind School Division. We are also inviting Education Assistant students from Lethbridge College who are doing their practicum with Westwind to attend. Any others who may be interested in attending the conference should contact Rick Gilson Asst Superintendent at Westwind.

The Conference is scheduled for Thursday, January 28 at Magrath High School.  The schedule for the day will follow a pattern we’ve established over the last couple of years and looks like this:

The Schedule for the day looks like this:

There will be light snacks available upon your arrival at Magrath High School.

8:45 – 9:35 Greetings and Opening Comments – Tom K gym at Magrath High School.

9:35- 9:40 moving to session one and grabbing a snack.

9:40 – 11:00 Session One – A list of sessions can be seen below and will be in your registration document.

11:00 – 11:45 Lunch – Soup and Sandwiches

11:45 – 1:00 Session Two – A list of sessions can be seen below and will be in your registration document.

1:00 – 1:10 Snack Break

1:10 – 2:30 Session Three – Meeting with your school’s EA’s – Each School will have a room  assigned to meet. Please plan to use this time to review and share what you have learned in the opening and two sessions  specifically look at how what you’ve learned can be best utilized with the students of your school.   As well with what you and your fellow EA’s learned today what can we help you with, what else do you need to help develop your skills and work with our students?  We would like one member of each school to summarize for your school and share that summary. Your feedback the last couple of years has lead to this session time being provided to you.

Room Assignments for Session Three:
Spring Glen Elementary – Rm 93, Spring Glen Jr High Rm – 92, Mountain View Rm 91, CES Band Room,  CJHS – Rm 90, CHS – Rm 81, MHS – Rm 75, MES – Gr 6 Josh Sherwood Portable, RES Rm 74, RJHS -Rm 80, RHS Magrath HS Staff Rm, Stirling Rm 62, Colonies Rm 76.

2:30 On your way home. This early wrap up respects the travel time for schools away from Magrath please plan on staying until 2:30 and maximizing the opportunity of the day.


Band Room – Worry DragonsConrad Boehme (Ed Psychologist) and Debra Gazeley (FSLC) – training in the use of Worry Dragons to assist with anxiety issues with our students.

Room 93  – Fit for Life – Brain Breaks – Active LearningTiffany Wideen  – participants will be provided with effective strategies and activities which can engage the student, support their transitions, and prepare them for learning.  (A related resource: Spark: The Revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain by John J. Ratey)

Room 90 – Waking the Sleeping Giant: Positive Behavior Supports for Junior and Senior High  *Elementary EA’s will also benefit. Lorraine Leishman (Lethbridge College)  and Ranae Hatch (EA MHS)   Description: Come and learn to find that one “tiny” behavior, that if increased, can make ALL the difference. The sleeping giant is our student’s potential. We can wake it up. The presentation will share a current, exciting high school project. Participants will interact, gain knowledge and take initial steps to help to wake their own sleeping giant.

Room 74 – Make Up Your Mindset: Enhancing your own learning and influencing the growth and learning of the children you work with. Nathan Smith – FSLC Ready for a look into Dr. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential? Participants will explore an exciting paradigm for personal and professional growth and learn strategies of learning for both themselves and the children they work with.

Room 76 – Literacy and Communication SupportJulie Gilson – Literacy learning Support teacher  This session will focus on providing participants with strategies to quickly assess while supporting students in attaining the goals for learning, reading and writing as the primary focus, as established by their teachers.

Room 80 – Strategies through speech and communication  – Regan Bikman (SLP) -Working from the perspective of a Speech Language Pathologist Regan will share strategies and approaches to work with students in improving their ability to communicate with others and function in the classroom.

Room 62 – Practical Strategies and Resources to support Literacy and language development in youth with Complex communication needs. Shoba George-Jansen and Jocelyn Roberts (Alberta Health Services)  This session will assist you to build capacity to develop literacy skills of children and youth with Complex Communication Needs (CCN) including those with significant cognitive disabilities and sensory impairment. We will familiarize you with a range of technologies, and a variety of materials and resources that support language learning and literacy development  by students with CCN. We will share a range of resources and  practical strategies that you can use with your students.

Room 91 – Early child development and the role in plays in future learning. Erin Stonehocker (PT) Erin works with some of our schools on the east side of the division. In this session you will gain understanding of key underlying processes of gross motor development that prepare children for learning.  You will be given skills that will help you identify when movement patterns are inappropriate and possible strategies to help.

Room 92 – CPS in Action – Strategies for Skill Building   Kent Hollingsworth, MA, CSFT

Many adults work with children and youth for whom positive motivators and negative consequences do not help in terms of managing their challenging behaviours. Typically, these students also struggle in the areas of flexibility/adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving.

The Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach, pioneered by Drs. Ross Greene and Stuart Ablon, helps adults working with children and youth who experience these difficulties, while reducing the frequency and intensity of inflexible, noncompliant behaviours.

In this brief, interactive workshop, participants will:

  • Review the key differences between the motivation deficit paradigm and the skills deficit paradigm that the CPS model is founded on
  • Complete a Thinking Skills Assessment of a child or youth who requires support and identify areas of growth
  • Review a selection of resources and strategies that help build skill deficits
  • Discuss selected case scenarios presented by workshop participants and apply the 3-Step CPS Approach to Building Skills.

*Participants should have previous knowledge of the Collaborative Problem Solving Approach, (Which Kent has presented on the last couple of years at our EA conference)  either through reading or attending previous workshops.  Participants will be expected to provide some case examples / scenarios that can be used for group discussion  Feedback the last couple of years was that participants appreciated the theory covered by Kent but desired further “practical” examples or strategies.  Rather than work with “what if’s” Kent’s inviting people to think about your students jot down a couple of thoughts – challenges, what has, what hasn’t worked and come prepared to share. 


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