Olympic Relationships: The Importance of Positive Teacher-Student Relationships

Why did you become a teacher? What inspires you and makes you look forward to getting ready for school, day after day? Why do you push yourself to create interesting and motivating lessons? Why do we get first day jitters and work so hard for our classrooms to be welcoming on the first day of school?

I am certain that you, like me, are not in it for the money, the recognition, because you love correcting tests or look forward to marking reading responses. I’m certain that what drives you is your love for your students and to feel those faces light up when they understand something new, when they experience success or have a moment where they feel special. (Yes, I wrote feel it. You really don’t need to see it on your students’ faces. You feel it like a tingle, like a special spidey teacher sixth sense.)

Unfortunately, we also feel it when we don’t have those special connections, and we often know that these kids are the ones who are going to struggle academically or socially.

This is the same with Olympic athletes and their coaches. Marianne St-Gelais, a Quebecois athlete, knows first hand how important that relationship is and how a negative relationship can affect our path to self-actualization, the final block on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In November 2017, Callum Ng, a reporter for CBC Sports, wrote an article called “How Marianne St Gelais Got Her Groove Back”.

In this article, Ng describes Marianne’s journey as a Canadian Olympic short-track speed skater. He explains that In 2010, Marianne won two silver medals at the 2010 Olympic games. However, in 2012 her team’s coach left and was replaced by Frederic Blackburn. Marianne had had a lot of success with her former coach and didn’t believe in Blackburn’s coaching style. Their communication suffered as a consequence. In her interview with Ng at CBC Sports, St-Gelais admits that instead of opening up to her new coach, she closed herself off and didn’t want to work with him.

At the next winter games in Sochi, St Gelais did not have the same success as at her first Olympic Games. During the 2014 games, St Gelais says that she felt like she was doing laps and that she did not push herself to her full potential. She did not enjoy herself or have fun. She’d lost her drive.  

In the article, Ng writes, “Nearly two years into their working relationship, the skater and the coach finally resolved to move in the same direction. And it worked. During the season where Marianne and her coach did not get along, she won a single World Cup medal.” The following season, after working out her issues with her coach relationship with her coach, Marianne won eight medals, and the next season, 11.

Ng proceeds to describe what a sports psychologist calls a “prime need” for an athlete. He explains that it is important for an athlete to feel part of the relationship or process.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs illustrates the foundation for self-actualization and self-fulfillment. Even if a human’s basic needs are met, without psychological needs being met, such as positive relationships with peers, positive self-esteem, or a feeling of respect for and from others, a person cannot reach their full potential as an Olympian. Marianne’s lack of respect for her coach, as well as her impression of not being cared for by her coach, prevented her from flourishing. Whether her impressions were correct or not, I believe Marianne felt that her psychological needs were not being met. This prevented her from growing to surpass her own accomplishments and made her question her ability and even desire to continue to push forward with a sport she had previously felt passionate about.

Miss Chantal Cares

In the educational system, isn’t this also true? Isn’t the relationship between teacher and pupil, like the relationship between a coach and an athlete? Aren’t the trust, the risk-taking, and the belief in one another, prerequisites for a student’s academic success?

As teachers, our primary goal is to build positive relationships with our students. Before teaching arithmetic, spelling or grammar skills, before teaching organization or problem-solving skills, we need to make sure that our students trust us and know that we respect them.

Several research papers, such as “The Effects of Teacher-Student Relationships: Social and Academic Outcomes of Low-Income Middle and High School Students”, by Emily Gallagher, describe how the positive relationships between teachers and students, and more specifically, a student’s perception of a positive relationship, will increase the student’s desire and motivation to learn and may be the key to academic outcomes and explain how students’ motivation to learn is positively affected by a supportive relationship with a teacher.

When Marianne’s started to view her relationship with her coach in a positive light, her performance drastically improved. Gallagher’s work supports the athlete’s theory that Marianne’s success depended on her relationship with her coach, the same way a student’s success depends on his or her relationship with his or her teacher.

Marianne is an adult who is working with another adult. She is able to articulate her difficulties and make the first move to build or repair a connection. Our students are children who need guidance and assistance. They are likely to have trouble verbalizing their need to have a positive relationship, let alone know the steps to take to repair one.

Miss Chantal Cares

So knowing this, the question is, what do YOU do on a regular basis, to ensure that students feel important and are motivated to perform and grow in your classroom? When, and how, do you work on building your relationship with your students? How do you prioritize relationships in our busy days packed with academics, evaluations and remedial assistance, with phone calls, reports to fill out, planning activities and emails to respond to?

Maybe it’s worth taking a few minutes every day, during morning routines, while preparing for recess or when kids are reading quietly, to book a few “coffee dates”, where you can just sit down and chat with a student about a topic that connects you for a minute or two.

Perhaps if we took time to connect with our kids, our students’ overall development and academic success would improve more steadily than by investing time in remedial courses, test retakes, and tutoring.

Easy, Fast and Free: A Simple Approach to Integrating Flexible Seating in the Elementary Classroom

On Edutopia.com, Ira Socol describes a flexible classroom as an environment that give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and help them to work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking.

In my classroom, I provide different types of seating that my students can choose from. From a low table, to a standing table, wobbly seats to camping chairs, bean bag seats, “lazy-boys” and stability ball seats, my students have many options. They can sit on on the floor or lay on their stomachs throughout the classroom. Students may work using lap desks and clipboards. I also have traditional student desks in groups of four or along the wall in pairs, and single desks facing the wall in different areas of the class.

On the very first day of school, I wanted to make sure that students didn’t just rush into the classroom. I didn’t any confusion about seating arrangements. I wanted to have a really structured introduction to flexible seating in my classroom.

Instead of leading my students into the school right away, I took attendance, steered the kids to the back of the schoolyard and we sat under a tree.

Before going into the school, we discussed students’ favourite places in their home to do different activities. We discussed preferences. 

flexible seating elementary school classroom

When they are at home, where do they like to to read? To write and draw? Where to they like to build things?  

What distracts them? Is it when their siblings are playing nearby? Does it distract them when people are talking? When music or the TV is on?

I provided a Flexible Seating Reflection Foldable to students, which they used to reflect about the questions above. (Get it for FREE by clicking on the picture below).

flexible seating free

Before entering the classroom, my new students and I had a clear discussion about their jobs at school. We determined that a student’s job is to be a good learner/classmate/student. When they are at school, they need to choos

e a seat that allows them to do their best at their job. I was clear that if chosen seating does not allow them to be a good learner and classmate, they are permitted and encouraged to change seats. Students would not have assigned seats. They would choose the seating and environment in the classroom that would maximize their learning potential, depending on the activity they could be working on.

We proceeded to enter the classroom together, leaving school bags in lockers. We sat on the floor at the front of the classroom and hypothesized about the seating that would be best suited to help them do their best learning possible.

I told students we were going to begin with a drawing activity. They proceeded to choose a type of seating to try out for the activity based on their reflection of seating at home for such an activity and indicated their choice and reasoning in their reflection foldable. After the drawing activity, students wrote feedback on their reflection foldable and decided which seating type they would try next.

I repeated the reflection process at the beginning and end of several activities over the span of the first few days. We revisited it in the following weeks when I saw students were making seating choices that were not beneficial to them.

flexible seating

Today, almost 2 months later, I am still introducing new seating types. Students still make inappropriate choices at times, but I refer to the reflections we made on the first day of school and help guide students towards better seating choices. Overall, I see students on task, who are making good choices to help them stay focused and to be good learners.

I strongly encourage all teachers to try a flexible seating approach. You can start small, maybe with a few stools instead of regular chairs. You can make a few lap desks available during certain activities. Move at your pace, introducing options as you see fit.

I believe that the key to successful a flexible seating approach is to prepare your students, and to reflect and talk with your students throughout the process.

Make sure that they know what behaviours are expected and what your goal is with this approach: to help them be the best they can be at their job, to be the best learner/classmate/student they can be.


Let’s Talk (About Mental Health and Children)

In the spirit of the Bell “Let’s Talk” campaign, I have decided to do just that. I know this is a long post, probably the longest I’ve written, but it is honest, true and heartfelt. I am writing this based on my own experience and those I have witnessed in my 13 years as an elementary school teacher.

Thanks in advance to those of you who read it all the way through and an even bigger thanks to those of you who are inspired to talk and share your own stories. 

Jack’s Story

Jack is in second grade. He has diabetes. His parents are really upset with him. His teacher is discouraged with him. They keep encouraging him, but he’s so lazy.

They tell him, “Come on! You just need to focus and work harder.” “I know you can do it.” “Show your pancreas who’s in control.” “You can process that sugar if you try hard enough.” “We believe in you.”

Those messages of positivity and growth mindset just aren’t working though. Jack is trying hard and doing everything he can. He is careful not to eat food that makes him feel unwell. He is getting lots of sleep. He is trying to exercise.

He still is unable to make his pancreas work the way it should. So his family and teacher get upset with him.

This is ridiculous. Isn’t it?

We know that sometimes, diabetes can be controlled with proper diet, exercise and close monitoring from a doctor. Sometimes, it can’t. Sometimes, despite trying to regulate diabetes naturally, people need to take insulin.

My Story

I suffer from depression and anxiety, and have throughout my life. At first, I didn’t talk about it at all. I tried to deal with on my own. I didn’t want to be judged.

I remember being anxious from the time I was in elementary school. My anxiety was at its worst at night, so I would turn my mirrors around in my bedroom so that they wouldn’t face me during the night, I would keep a light on or my door open just so, then I tried to keep it closed and sleep in total darkness. I would listen to music to calm myself down until it began to annoy me, then I’d shut it off and finally fall asleep. I would sit in my 9th grade math class and plan my evening routine. I couldn’t focus on a single lesson, let alone pass my exams. (If I drink a glass of water exactly an hour before going to bed so that I would go to the bathroom before getting into bed, then I wouldn’t wake up during the night to go to the bathroom and have to go through the entire routine all over again.)

I would have stomach aches every morning. My mom took me to doctors and I was tested for food allergies and digestive disorders. We made all kinds of changes to my diet, just to end up back where we’d started, with questions and no answers.

I would have extreme feelings of guilt over ridiculous things. My anxiety was about potentially upsetting someone I cared about and then dying, without being able to make up. I always made sure the last thing I said to my family members before they or I left the house was “I love you”, in case it was the last time I would see them.

“Crazy”, right? It must be because I experienced some trauma and maybe had never dealt with it, right?

I knew it didn’t make sense. I came from a caring and present family. I hadn’t experienced loss. I was healthy. Everyone around me was healthy. So I didn’t talk about it, because I was afraid of being accused of attention seeking.

Finally one day, after I’d started college, it was unbearable. I went to my parents and told them I was afraid to go to sleep that night. Something would happen and I wouldn’t wake up, or I wouldn’t let myself wake up because I was so tired.

The next morning my parents took me to the doctor’s and we got a referral to see a psychologist.

I had a few appointments with the psychologist. At first I felt encouraged because someone was finally going to be able to tell me what was wrong, tell me why I was the way I was. She was going to fix me. I spent a few hours in the nearly empty office, talking about everything and anything, without being able to explain to me why I felt this way. Eventually I gave up and stopped seeing her.

One night, my breaking point was when I was alone in my apartment. I called my sister in distress. I was done. I didn’t want to live this way anymore and it terrified me because I didn’t want to die, but I’d found myself intentionally driving through stop signs, hoping to be hit and be done with it. I had really scared myself. She came and spent the night with me and brought me to her doctor the next day.

This was the beginning of my road to understanding who I am and how my body works. My doctor followed me closely, with weekly visits. We tried different medications. Some made me feel worse, some made me gain a lot of weight, but I didn’t feel alone anymore. We were working as a team to find a solution to help me. Eventually, when she wasn’t sure what to try with me anymore, she sent me to see a psychiatrist.

This doctor finally had an explanation. He looked at my entire medical history and family history and was able to figure out why I am the way I am.

As a child, I had vagal syncopes. This means that my nervous system was too sensitive and when it would experience a shock (which could be as simple as being startled or banging my knee on a coffee table), my body would shut down and I would have a seizure. As a baby, it would happen up to 12 times in a week, but as I grew older, it stopped. My nervous system, however, was still very sensitive. This was why I was so anxious and persistently depressed. I was diagnosed with dysthymia and prescribed the medication that would allow me to feel normal. My medication helped regulate the chemicals in my body so that I could deal with situations without extreme feelings of doom and guilt. When I think back to that time, I remember feeling the weight of those dark clouds moving off of my shoulders and feeling light for the first time.

I’ve been on the meds for since then. For a short while, I stopped taking medication. I had occasional ups and downs, and tried cognitive behavioural therapy, which still helps, but ultimately I ended up needing to resume taking medication. My meds allow me to function the same way as everyone else. When I take my meds, I am rational. I don’t have physical symptoms for anxiety or depression. I can be reasonable about fears and tell the difference between justified anxiety (a necessity, to help protect ourselves like when driving in a snowstorm) and when anxiety is irrational.

No matter the encouragement, the diet, exercise, support I had, I have a physical issue that prevents me from functioning well without medication, just like Jack, the little second grader with diabetes.

Today’s Classroom

In today’s classroom, we have students with all kinds of struggles such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome. We have students who are gifted and need to be challenged, and students who just have to work a bit harder than their classmates to get the same grades.

The diversity is beautiful. Each child is unique and brings their own color to the canvas that is our class.

I strongly believe that students need to be accepted the way they are and that their needs need to be met by their teachers, no matter how they learn.

I think that before turning to medication, we should try everything we can. We should look at diet options, try to exercise and work on sleep patterns. We should encourage our students (children), we should differentiate our lessons and modify activities. Most importantly, I know that parents, students and the school (teachers, administrators, school psychologists, classroom aids) should work as a team so that every student can experience academic and social success and so that all students can have a positive self-esteems and feel proud of themselves.

I also believe that, like for Jack and myself, sometimes the human body needs some help. Jack needs insulin. I need my meds. And some students will need other types of medications like Ritalin, Concerta or Paxil to help them function properly.

Don’t get me wrong. By function properly I don’t mean “must fit in a mold”. By function properly I mean to be able to learn and progress academically and most importantly, feel good about themselves and be able to maintain positive social relationships.

In Conclusion

Some people will be able to function properly on their own, with lifestyle changes and support from the medical community. Others will be able to do so with the help of medications.

We need to stop stigmatizing students, parents, individuals, for going with the medication route. A student on meds does not equate to lazy parents or quick-fix teachers. Students with meds does not mean that without them the students don’t try hard enough on their own. Sometimes, our brains or bodies need some help, the same way someone with a bee sting may need an epinephrine injection to survive while the person beside them only needs a cold compress for the same bee sting.

During this month’s Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign, Let’s Talk about mental illness differently.

Let’s Talk to ensure that no one is embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help, to talk about the help they are getting or the type of help they are getting.

Let’s Talk about stigmas in schools.

Let’s Talk about the correlation between learning difficulties, social development and self-worth.

Let’s Talk about the judgment parents feel depending on the type of help they get for their kids.

Let’s Talk about mental health and kids.

Me at a friend’s birthday party, when I was 10 years old.
My friend and I in a photobooth, when I was 18 years old.

4 Simple Ways Kids Can Learn About Plants in the Classroom

I’m teaching science this year for the first time EVER!

It is my thirteenth year teaching, and although I’ve taught many science concepts through language arts and math curriculum, I have never been the science subject teacher.

Not only is it my first year, I am teaching it to two groups, in two different grades: fourth and fifth.


I LOVE science. Understanding science helps us to become problem solvers.

I especially love earth sciences, particularly ecoliteracy.

(If you want to know more about the Green School Project initiative I started at my school, St Jude Elementary School in Deux-Montagnes, Quebec, Canada, check out the article on pages 36 to 41 of Garden Culture Magazine here.

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 3.25.49 PM

I want for my students to have hands-on experiences with nature. I want for them to learn about how plants reproduce by reproducing them. I want for my students to learn about basic needs of plants by taking care of them. I want for students to understand how parts of the plant work by experimenting with them. I want for students to see the growth stages of trees by seeing the stages in person. I believe that these experiences spark an interest and passion for plants and then snowballs into an understanding of their importance.

We started our school year by talking about what we know and questions we have about plants. We watched videos, read articles and found diagrams about plants. We then proceeded to complete several hands-on activities.

1- Reproducing Plants


In an effort to understand how different plants reproduce, we have begun propagating succulents. This is a simple and inexpensive activity to do with your students.

Succulent 1: Darley Sunshine

This succulent propagates by extracting individual leaves, letting the ends heal and then letting them rest on moist cactus/succulent soil mix. Roots then grow from the base of the leaf and a new plant starts to grow.

Succulent 2: Kalanchoe

This succulent propagates by extracting individual leaves, letting the ends heal and then letting them rest on moist cactus/succulent soil mix. As opposed to its Darley friend, baby Kalanchoe grow from the indentations on the leaf, rather than the base of the leaf, thus resulting in multiple new plants per leaf cutting.

Succulent 3: Christmas Cactus

This succulent propagates by making cuttings of 2 to 3 leaves at a time, letting the ends heal and then planting them upright into moist soil.

Sprouting Mango Seeds

Our principal came into the classroom with the pit from his mango and started a growing activity with the students in each of the groups to which I teach science. He cut the pits open and retrieved the seeds. He then placed them in damp paper towels, then into closed ziplock bags, and put them in my cupboard, where they waited and sprouted after about 2 weeks. When the roots were long enough, we transferred the sprouts to a pot and into soil, where they are slowly becoming little mango plants.Watermarked(2017-10-22-1441)

2- Creating A Tropical Ecosystem


Students in my fourth grade science class made jungles in a bottle.

First, they brought empty 2L soft drink or juice bottles from home.

Next, we cut them horizontally about a third from the bottom.

Then we added river rocks to the bottom on the bottle, followed by potting soil and sections of Bella Palm plants.

We finished by to sealing the bottles by adding the tops to the bottles, wrapping masking tape around the seams and watering our plants through the bottle opening (unscrewing the bottle caps).

Students were able to observe water draining to the bottom of the bottle and the complete water cycle. Students also learned about the needs of a plant by incorporating everything but the sun into the bottles. The project allowed students to think about what plants need in the wild in order to survive and to provide these elements to their plants.

3- Taking Care of Classroom Plants


I have added a cyclamen, African violets and a Venus fly trap to my classroom. Students water and care for these plants. They have learned that cyclamen and African violets should be watered from underneath rather than from the top.

Cyclamen are particularly expressive plants that wilt dramatically when they require watering and rapidly perk up once their needs have been met.

Venus Fly Traps are kids’ favorite for obvious reasons, and students enjoy tickling the leaves to see them react and snap shut.

4- Field Trip to the Woods

Last week, I brought all of my science students to Bois de Belle Rivière, a nature centre in Mirabel, Quebec. I visited the site in advance in order to plan the semi-structured activities listed below, which students completed in their small groups with their parent or teacher chaperone. However, this activity can easily be done in any local wooded area, and often, in the school yard.

Scavenger Hunt

Students needed to find, measure and take pictures of items on a scavenger hunt list and add the photos to a their group’s file in Google Drive. Items included animals, fungi, plants and trees, with a few bonus challenges that required the creation of PicCollage images or videos describing the life stages of a tree or the interdependence of animals, insects, fungi and plants.

Tic Tac Toe

When I visited the site prior to our field trip, I took photos of phenomena that may be interesting or new to students. I created a numbered table with the photos that students would use in order to play the game. When students found the item from the picture, they had to refer to the corresponding question photo and discuss what they had found with their chaperones prior to marking the Tic Tac Toe board.Watermarked(2017-10-21-1516)

Art Projects

While students discovered the park, they were asked to collect at least three items from the forest floor that they would use for art projects.

I purchased some vellum paper for leaf rubbings. When students used their colouring pencils to complete the project, the color adhered to the paper. When we place the paper to the light, the color really pops off of the page.

Next, students explored texture by placing aluminum foil on top of leaves to make imprints of the leaf shapes.

Lastly, students made leaf/nature print patterns onto canvas paper.

Three groups at a time, I explained which materials went together for the art projects and let students proceed at their own pace.

Forest Walk Inspired Art Work

What’s next:

In the next few weeks we are going to begin an aquaponics project. Using the materials purchased on Amazon, we are going to be growing plants and seeing the interdependence and connection between species and life forms.

We will also be reintegrating the vertical hydroponic growing system into my classroom and learning about needs of plants and how we can substitute natural elements in order to grow indoors during winter months. (Learn more about hydroponics in the classroom here.

Lastly, we are starting vermicomposting. Students will learn the difference between vermicomposting and traditional composting and what types of foods or materials should or shouldn’t go into each.


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10 Money Saving Tips for an Eco Friendly Back to School

Back to School season is just around the corner, and as all teachers know, this means the wheels in our heads have been turning, thinking about classroom decor, organization and themes we want to use with our kiddos for the upcoming school year since the second week of summer holidays.

Here are ten terrific tips to help your return to the classroom eco-friendly:

1. Use Eco-Friendly Classroom Decor.

Use ribbons or burlap as bulletin borders. Not only do they look fantastic, they can easily be rolled up and reused year after year. They don’t get new staple holes every time they are taken down and they can be thrown in the wash if they get dusty or dirty.

(Tip: Put ribbon and burlap borders in lingerie bags and wash them using the delicate cycle if you want them clean and untangled.)

ribbons classroom decoration back to school

2. Use butcher paper or newspaper as bulletin board background.

This inexpensive background can be recycled and even better, reused! From papier mache for art projects to backdrops for class plays and puppet shows, these backgrounds can be transformed in so many ways before making their way to the recycling bin.

bulletin board classroom decor ecofriendly decoration burlap

Do you like the classroom jobs display in this photo? Get the Classroom Jobs Set here.


3. Use real plants to decorate parts of the classroom.

Use succulents as table centres or air purifying plants near windows to add a green, clean touch to the classroom.


4. Use old milk crates seating and storage.

Slap a couple of pillows onto the tops of these items to create your own inexpensive and flexible seating. Below is an example, including instructions for adding the cushions.

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5. Hit yard sales and the internet to learn about used items.

The chair pictured below was absolutely free, given by a friend who was closing her furniture store. The vintage milk crate used to hold clipboards and books was purchased at a yard sale.



6. Repurpose cereal boxes.

Cereal boxes can be used to make file folders, paper trays and mailboxes for your students. They can also be used as magazine holders!

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7. Keep those styrofoam meat trays!

Those pesky styrofoam meat trays that are used for packaging our ground beef or chicken can go into the dishwasher to be disinfected, to be reused as paint pallets. They rinse easily, can be reused over and over again and if they are forgotten and unwashed over the weekend, it isn’t as heartbreaking to dispose of, as opposed to their plastic counterparts.
Meat trays can also be used as an arts and craft material, as well as for STEM/STEAM activities.


8. Include reusable water bottles on your student supply list.

Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year. Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.

Help your students use less disposable water bottles throughout the school year. Parents will save money, while you and your students save the planet.

The bottles below, available on Amazon (click on the image to get one), are BPA and PVC free, are spill proof and are easy to clean (no straw). My daughter and I have enjoyed the model below for years.



9. Use less paper.

Communicate with parents and colleagues using the internet. (For a comparison of different paperless means of communicating with students’ families, check out this post.
When you do use paper, such as when you are planning field trips and activities that require signed consent, consider using eco-friendly tools such as these Eco-Friendly Field Trip Consent Forms to use less paper product and when necessary, always try to use paper and envelopes that are FSC certified! (See below).

EcoFriendly Consent Forms


10. Look for the logos.

Many office and school supplies have eco certification. Check out this list of possible eco certification the supplies you’ll potentially order will have. A perfect example of certification for paper products with Forest Stewardship Certification have been produced following practices that promote the regeneration of forests and that does not damage forest ecosystems.


For more tips and ideas that will help you engage, empower and motivate your students, follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest by clicking the icons above and below.

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3 Important Things You Need to Know About Parent-Teacher Conferences

“Before we begin talking about my child, I have some questions about (…) and I would like to discuss something that is really bothering me about the way you do (…).”

Uh-oh. This is where the heart palpitations, sweaty palms and eyelash tugging began. This is where I knew that the notes I’d prepared so carefully about this person’s child would not be addressed and that no matter how ready (I thought) I was for my appointments.

This was the first sentence I heard from a parent at my first appointment of parent teacher conferences last fall.

This spring, I am starting my 12th year of teaching in elementary schools. I have participated in Meet the Teacher night and at least two parent teacher conferences per year. I’ve met with parents countless times. Hearing a comment such as the one I’d heard still makes my heart drop. But they keep me learning and growing.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from parent teacher conferences:  

  1.   Parent teacher conferences are a learning opportunity for teachers.

Parent teacher conferences feelings We work hard on our systems. We choose each method of communication carefully, we choose the sequencing of our instruction, we make choices about our homework systems and we think about every last detail, with the hopes that we are making choices that will benefit the majority of our students and their families. We also, generally, try to avoid conflict and try to build positive relationships with students’ families.

So, when parent teacher conferences come along and you learn that everything is “just not working” for some parents and that they are feeling frustrated, it can feel like a punch to the gut. You KNOW that your system makes sense and that you’ve weighed the pros to the cons and tried to predict all possible outcomes and it’s a blow to your ego when parents don’t absolutely love your ideas and your methods!

Here’s the thing: You can’t ignore parents’ concerns. Whether you think they are founded and justified or totally from left field, if a parent is feeling unhappy or frustrated about something, their area of concern deserves acknowledgement. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you need to drop everything you’re doing and change your system and/or methodology to please a parent. I am saying that maybe there can be a small compromise that can be made to make everyone’s life easier.

For example, I have been communicating with parents through the World Wide Web with apps/websites such as Class Dojo and Facebook (see my comparison of different communication tools here) rather than agendas.

While it is my belief that grownups should jump on the tech bandwagon and get in the habit of turning on school related message notifications on, some parents feel overwhelmed and prefer traditional communication methods such as the use of the student agenda.

As the classroom teacher, I could say, well, this is the system I’ve chosen and I’m afraid you’ll have to adapt or miss out.

However, I strongly feel that I need to acknowledge this frustration and find a compromise. I opted to try to find a way to meet the needs of the parent and still keep things simple for the other parents for whom this system worked.

  1.   Parent teacher conferences are an opportunity to work on our empathy skills.

While learning about child development, as teachers in training, we learned about the hierarchy of the needs of children that must be met before they are able to learn.



In addition to learning about child development, having been raised a certain way, and being a mother, I have my belief systems. I have certain standards about autonomy, expectations and independence.

Sometimes, our beliefs just don’t align with those of our students’ parents. Whether it has to do with hygiene, diet or studies, I have learned that as long as students are not in danger or neglected, I have to try to put myself in the shoes of the student’s parent and try to understand, or at least accept, that not Parent teacher conferences values educationeveryone has the same values as I do and it doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is being neglected or mistreated.

  1.   Parents are your most important and valued partners in your students’ education.

Each of our students’ hearts are beating simultaneously with those in their parents’ chests.  Our students are their parents’ worlds.Parent teacher conferences hearts important teamwork. I know that this is true, especially since my daughter came into my life. There is absolutely nothing that I wouldn’t do to help my daughter grow into a confident, autonomous and happy person.

I’ve learned that when parents know that you are open-minded, accepting, and that you really have their children’s best interest at heart, they will want to work with you. Parents want to make their children’s education as stimulating, motivating and enjoyable as possible. They will volunteer, communicate frequently and be involved in various ways when you build a positive relationship with them.


It takes a village to raise a child.

– African proverb

In conclusion, parent teacher conferences are an opportunity to get to know parents and work with them. Maximize these short moments, not only to talk about their Parent teacher conferences collaboration teamwork villagechildren’s successes and struggles, but to get to know them, acknowledge their concerns and work together as teammates to help their children grow into happy people and into contributing citizens.


For more articles like this, click here…


7 Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day Craft and Gift Ideas

7 Eco-Friendly Valentine's Day Craft and Gift Ideas


With Valentine’s Day around the corner, there are LOTS of ideas for crafts and gifts that can be made so that kids can show their love for their friends and family members.

Being someone who tries to be as green as possible, I went on the hunt for gifts and decorations that students can make from recycled materials. I found many activities and crafts that can be completed by kids varying in ages and grade levels. As an added bonus, most of the activities and crafts that I found are inexpensive.

Below you will find some of my favorite ideas for an Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day.

1) Magazine and Flyer Clipping Collages

With crafts like this, old magazines and flyers find new life. Students can practice fine motor skills and sorting (classifying) with their clippings. You can adjust time for activity based on the size of the canvas and by pre cutting for the younger kiddos. Also, to save money and be even more eco friendly, you can use the side of an empty cereal box, or other cardboard box rather than an actual canvas to do this activity.

2) Paper Roll Crafts

For toddlers and primary grades, this activity using paper roll edges bent into heart shapes is simple and fun for the kiddos.

These owls can be made with toilet paper rolls and rather than decorating them with Valentine’s themed paper, you can use old newspapers and red accessories to make the owls more lovey looking.

3) Seed Paper Hearts

What better way is there to teach kids about recycling and to begin units about the life cycle of a plant than by making recycled paper with seeds in them to give as gifts? Here are two methods that can be used for making the seed paper that you can choose from.

Making seed paper using moulds:

Making seed paper by laying the pulp flat to dry and cutting out the hearts:

4) Heart-Shaped Bookmarks

Encourage reading at home and in the classroom. Students can make these bookmarks for their friends and family members. The first method, made with used envelopes, is the simpler of the two I’ve pinned. The origami version is a bit trickier and should probably be used with older kiddos.


5) Puzzle Pieces Valentines

Most family homes have puzzles with missing pieces or puzzles that the kids have outgrown. Scout them out! Ask families to send their gently loved puzzle pieces to school to use for these neat Valentine’s Day gift ideas.

6) Recycled Crayon Crafts

Save your crayon remains and broken pieces throughout the school year to melt down into moulds for all holidays. Use heart shaped moulds for Valentine’s Day crayons.

Below you will find instructions for making heart shaped crayons, as well as an example of a card that can be made to display the heart crayon with.

7) Heart-Shaped Bird Treats

Help those critters that haven’t flown to warmer climates for the winter by showing them some love and making them some heart shaped snacks. Add pretty tags with sweet messages to their strings and ribbons to add some charm to these adorable outdoor decorations.

For more ideas like those shown above, check out my Pinterest board by clicking here.

Also, click on the image below to sign up here for my newsletter before Tuesday and get your Valentine’s Day themed Supply Refill request notes for FREE!

Part of an editable pack for themed supply request forms for throughout the school year.

If you’d like the EDITABLE version of the Supply Refill Request Forms, including supply replacement notes for throughout the school year, you can get it here.7 Eco-Friendly Valentine's Day Craft and Gift Ideas

4 Simple Tips to Make Parent Teacher Conferences Less Stressful

Parent teacher conferences are just around the corner. (For my school, they will be taking place this week.) Parent teacher conferences used to make me feel very anxious and stressed, because I didn’t know what to expect. These will be my 21st conferences and after many stressful conferences, I now look forward to getting together with my students’ families and exchanging ideas.

Here are some tips to help make parent teacher conferences more pleasant, productive and stress-free.

Be prepared. Have your notes and supporting documents ready. Have examples of work that your students enjoyed, that they struggled with and that demonstrate their strengths and growth.

Also, remember that parents want to know that their children are being taken care of and are important to you. If their child is having difficulties, they need to know that there is a plan in place and you know what you will do in order to help their child make improvements.

(Scroll to the bottom of this post to get your free editable Parent Teacher Conference Notes form).

Know your parents. Don’t wait until conferences to build a relationship with students’ parents. Build trust with them and communicate with them regularly, from the start of the school year. When you know your students’ families, conferences feel more like catching up with people with a common goal rather than a stressful meeting.

Make your classroom and waiting space inviting. Make sure your classroom is tidy and that the waiting area is inviting.
There should be something for parents to look at, read or do, while they wait for their appointment outside of your classroom.

Prepare a list of apps they can download to support their child’s learning. Provide examples of work that parents can read (such as a class book) or videos that students have produced to welcome their parents to the conference. Provide a beverage and some treats to munch on while they wait.

The little details will help reduce parents’ anxiety about meeting their child’s teacher. They will feel welcome and it will set a positive tone for a collaborative meetings.

Display your certificates and diplomas. The purpose is not to show off to your parents but to remind you that you are a professional and that your observations and concerns are valid and based on years of studies and professional development. You can trust yourself and have confidence in your abilities to teach, assess and report students progress.

You are in this profession because you want to help your students grow up to become productive and contributing citizens who are happy with their accomplishments.

You care about your students and you do everything you can to help them become confident, successful and proud of themselves.

Your students’ parents will see that you have a common goal and that you are looking out for their children’s best interests.

You’ve got this.

To get your FREE Editable Parent Teacher Conferences Notes form and other freebies, tips and tricks, click here to subscribe to my newsletter.

Welcome to my classroom

Several factors influenced my classroom decor and layout decisions when I moved back to second grade this year. 

I had to think about functionality, practicality and age-appropriateness. 

I want for my students to be able to collaborate and help each other in their learning. I want for my students to learn to be organized and because of the experiences I’ve had, I do not believe this can be achieved with closed desks at this age. I believe that students learn organization and responsibility from having it modelled and set up for them to succeed. 

To get your own personalized planner, visit bit.ly/MissChantalCares

I wanted to integrate flexible seating and make different work positions available to suit student needs. 

For interesting articles and blogs about flexible seating, check out these links:

Top Dog Teaching Starbucks Classroom
Amy W Harris (Special Ed Teacher) Flexible Seating 

Finally, I also believe in bringing nature and green thinking into the classroom. 

There are several studies that have been conducted that show that the more natural light we use and the more we maximize it, the more academic success students will have. (Click here for ideas and statistics). 

There are also studies that describe how getting nature into your life reduces stress and improves health. (Check out the book Vitamin N by Richard Louv). 
I hope you’ve enjoyed the small tour of my classroom. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. 

Simple Eco-friendly Field Trip Organizing

The school year has begun, and so has planning for field trips!

In the past, when organizing a field trip, I would draft a consent form. I would include details about the trip and its purpose, as well as a section at the bottom that parents could cut and return to school (hopefully) in a ziplock back with the money required to pay for their child’s expenses for the field trip. 

When field trip time would come around, students would submit the money and consent forms many ways. I have received consent forms in baggies that don’t have a zip top, I have found it paper clipped and/or stapled to a in part of or the entire consent form, I have found loose money on the floor that may have fallen out of a student’s agenda with no consent form attached, or any way of identifying whose money it is.

Last year I finally came up with a solution to my problems. I created a template for consent forms that are printed on envelopes, which parents could use to sign for consent and seal in field trip fees. 

For my field trip to the ostrich farm last year, I was even able to repurpose some envelopes with some label stickers and print on top of them. 

Below is an example of an eco-friendly field trip consent forms I used for a field trip to the local ice cream parlour. I added a table to the back of the envelope on which parents could indicate their child’s treat preferences on the back. 

I got so much positive feedback from parents and administrators from different schools who’d learned about my new method of organizing field trips that I decided to make editable eco-friendly field trip consent forms for different themes and various destinations, as well as check lists and organization pages.

To simplify your field trip planning and get your eco-friendly field trip consent forms, click here

If you are interested in a custom consent form for a theme that is not included in the pack, get in touch and leave a message below!