Creating Welcoming Environments in our Schools and Libraries


In many schools, there can be a lack of cultural diversitiy, symbols and practices that make students and parents feel welcome and important. This is unfortunate, because creating Welcoming Environments are essential to improving Student Learning.

However, it is a challenge to continually create Welcoming Environments in our schools.

With increasing demands surrounding school report cards, test scores being linked to school funding, and demands for increased accountability for educators and students, Educators, parents, and students can feel overwhelmed, and forget that creating a welcoming environments can be the most powerful tool in our quest to improve student learning. Welcoming environments invariably increase parental involvement and support, and parental involvement is paramount to improving student learning both directly, via activities such as tutoring and homework help, and indirectly, via activities including reading aloud to a child and discussing the value of education. Parents and community only become invested in their schools when they feel invited and welcome!

Welcoming environments can be created and improved upon by attending to the Physical Environment, School Practices and Policies, Personal Interaction, and Written Materials and Communications. Here are just a few ideas that can be used:

Physical Environment:

  • Embed Culturally significant symbols, ie., Medicine Wheel, 7 Grandfather Teachings, Dream Catchers, into hallways, classrooms, offices, libraries and websites.

Practices and Policies:

  • Promote strong sense of Community, Culture & Caring Policies
  • Restorative Practices
  • Character Education Models
  • 21st Century Technologies and Digital Citizenship Policies
  • Involving Parents in decision making perhaps through surveys or other assessment tools, parent groups


Personal Interaction:

  • Leaders in the school working on teambuilding to bring staff together & recognize accomplishments;
  • Co-create and share visions at Staff meetings by brainstorming key ingredients of a Welcoming Environment;
  • Do the same with Parent Groups;
  • Staff as friendly and inviting to students, staff, and parents

Written Materials and Communications:

  • Regular Classroom & School Newsletters,
  • Classroom & School Websites
  • Recognize parent & community volunteers
  • Write articles about staff members, volunteers & students
  • Parent Handbooks
  • Twitter Feeds
  • School Facebook Page
  • Ministry Learning Management Systems
  • Telephone answering machine messages
  • And always remembering to limit educational jargon, and write communications at a 6th to 8th grade reading level

Deborah McCallum


Seeing your school as others see it.: Welcoming environment.

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

First Nations, Metis, Inuit Stereotypes in our Media



Who’s voices matter in our Canadian Society? Who’s voices matter in education systems?

The image you have of First Nations, Metis, & Inuit peoples has been impacted by many forms of media, government, society. If you truly consider someone to be an equal, then you cannot think of them as inferior and yourself as superior, or vice versa. So therefore, to think negatively about FNMI people, is really to think of yourself as ‘better’. If we think ourselves better, then we are less likely to be open to hearing any voices other than our own. This has dire effects in education, and perhaps no other education system in Canada has demonstrated this as the Residential School systems. However, First Nations, Metis, Inuit student and family voices are still not being heard or treated equally within our classrooms, curriculum, and pedagogy.

Distorted stereotypes and images of all Aboriginal people are damaging to ALL people (Doxtator, 1992). Most FNMI stereotypes foster extreme forms of thinking including:

a)    FNMI culture asSavage’, wild and uncontrollable: where Aboriginal people have no self-control and are wild or brutal.

b)    FNMI culture as perfection: where we assume that FNMI people have the answers to everything;

c)   ‘Disney’-ifying views: where anything in costume is immediately ‘game’ for photographers. Therefore, ‘Indians’ in ‘costume’ are comparable to ‘Mickey Mouse’ at Disney, or one of ‘Santa’s Elves’, or another storybook character at the local mall, and

d)   Reverse stereotyping, when Aboriginal peoples use stereotypes against each other to deem who is more traditional and ‘real’, and who has sufficient ‘blood’ to be real enough to be considered ‘Indian’.

e) You do not ‘LOOK’ First Nations, Metis, or Inuit, therefore you are NOT! I do not have to include you in my curriculum or pedagogy. No ‘special treatment‘ for you.

There are many more that can be added to this list.

All forms of stereotypes are equally destructive.

Most of our generation has been raised with the story that Christopher Columbus ‘found’ North America in 1492, and that is when ‘civilization’ began. This ‘Story’ was never really about FNMI peoples, because in this ‘Story’, Aboriginal people were just ‘there’, but in negative ways. This ‘story’ still functions today. Especially to the extent that whenever our Country finds itself in competition with FNMI people over resources and land, the images portrayed by the media are always negative, and work to create feelings of hate and anger.

Our school systems suffer from these stereotypes. In the school system, from day one, children are organized and ranked in a hierarchy according to academic performance, athletic abilities, and creative skills. Standardization is still highly valued. FNMI stereotypes do not successfully ‘fit’ with these schemas. To be at the top of the hierarchy, means that someone always has to be at the bottom. Someone needs to be superior, and someone needs to be inferior. Someone’s voice matters more than another. This cannot foster equality.

Whether we are looking at the school system, or conflicts over land and resources, negative stereotypes are continually being perpetuated through our standardized school systems, and media portrayals, thus ignoring the fact that we are all just human beings who deserve to be equal.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Doxtator, Deborah (1992). Fluff and Feathers. Woodland Cultural Center; Brantford Ontario.

First Nations, Metis and Inuit Stereotypes in Media: Part I

Josh Hallett (Flickr user hyku)

Impressions learned in early childhood can last a lifetime. Which is why stereotypes perpetuated in the media surrounding First Nations, Metis, & Inuit students are damaging. Books in particular invite students, and all people, to learn more about themselves, and the world around them. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all books and media in our schools and libraries work in concert to illustrate the fact that people from diverse cultures can live together, be educated together, play together, work together.

Media stereotypes surrounding Aboriginal people continue to convey many of the wrong messages that we want all students to learn. As educators, I believe that we need to promote multiple cultures, perspectives, and values, and we need to highlight the experiences of those who have been traditionally marginalized throughout history. Safe and inclusive Education is the key that can unlock personal success and well-being.

For aboriginal students, media perpetuated stereotypes can be devastating. It is the stereotypes that prevent opportunities, understanding, tolerance, and inclusiveness. Personal success and well-being can be nurtured when First Nations, Metis, & Inuit students can see themselves reflected positively in media, books and in positive role models.

Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cognitive Science: How thoughts and behaviours impact achievement and success in Education

Cognitive Science is a valid, quantifiable field that is able to help us understand a wide range of issues as they pertain to Education and Learning. The research behind Cognition has been focussed on how we think and the way we learn, and more specifically on the systematic biases in of the schemas that we hold about the ways the world works. Our biases and distortions are often the barriers to an effective education, and therefore, we need to address them within our education system.  Once we begin to recognized what those barriers are, we can engage in discussion, assessment, and appropriate intervention strategies. Intervention strategies can include effective ways for educators to begin to disrupt the thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviours. This is essential to help students and Teachers alike to create positive change in the education system.

Aaron T. Beck developed Cognitive Theory because of the belief that humans have the ability to evaluate their own thoughts, which in turn elicit behaviours. Thoughts certainly affect personality. Therefore, individuals must identify and change dysfunctional thoughts and maladaptive cognitive functioning, in order to improve behaviour.

The theory behind our Cognition basically posits that our cognitions (thoughts, beliefs and assumptions), will trigger our affect, behaviour and our motivation. In other words, how we feel will affect how we behave, and they will in turn have profound effects on our motivation to learn.

Self-monitoring is an excellent tool that teachers can use with students, to encourage more reflection, and metacognition skills (thinking about the way we think). Once students develop an increased awareness of their thoughts, then educators can help students engage in appropriate activity scheduling to help students actively dispute maladaptive thoughts, which will in turn affect maladaptive functioning and behaviours in the classroom.

Three cornerstones of Cognitive Theory include:

a) The necessity to recognize the ability for students to self-monitor their own thoughts and behaviour,

b) The ability for Educator(s) and students to collaboratively engage in appropriate activity scheduling, and

c) Active thought disputation.

Maladaptive behaviours basically occur because of maladaptive thoughts and reflexive responses. However, we as humans have the power to be active agents in our own development. Therefore, dysfunctional thoughts can be replaced if an individual engages in activities including deliberate thinking, goal setting, problem solving, and long term planning. With careful questioning and activities such as personalized homework assignments, Cognitive Science really helps to teach us that students can learn to use conscious control of their thoughts in order to recognize and override maladaptive behaviours and poor choices. Other specific activity scheduling strategies can include (but not limited to) Role Playing, Social Skills training, Assertiveness Training, and Talking Circles.

In addition, embedding Character Education, Community building, and a Culture of Caring within our schools is also extremely important to restoring public confidence in the education system, in addition to improving transitions from elementary to high school, and high school to higher education.

It is important for Educators to use questioning to bring about new learning by:

1) Clarifying and defining problem areas

2) Assisting in the identification of thoughts, images and assumptions

3) Examining the meanings of events for a student

4) Assessing the consequences of maintaining maladaptive thoughts and behaviours.

Cognitive Science also has the ability to inform maladaptive behaviours and thought patterns including anxiety and depression in our students. An increasing variable that we as educators are facing when educating each cohort. Cognitive Theory posits that people suffering from depression and anxiety are not consciously seeking failure in their lives, but distorting their own reality by adopting negative views of themselves, and of their potential for happiness. Another key assumption is that negative automatic thoughts are developed through everyday experiences that are perceived as negative. Activity Scheduling interventions are excellent ways to actively dispute negative thoughts and behaviours!

In Cognitive theory, we as educators can use these thoughts to serve as hypotheses that can be subject to empirical validation. Many Educators appreciate the tasks of homework assignments where students  test their own hypotheses, and can make personal observations to refute (or confirm) their hypotheses of their own thoughts and behaviours. Therefore, individuals are always active participants.


D. McCallum

Who is Tracking You on the Internet?


Internet Privacy & Behavioural Tracking

I just watched a very imformative TED talks video by Gary Kovacs on ‘Tracking the Trackers, and have been introduced to ‘Behavioural Tracking’ on the Internet. I have downloaded the Collusion add-on to be used only in Firefox, and have just had my eyes open to just how our visited sites and personal information is easily tracked by other websites. This is definitely something that we need to educate our children about, and something that will inform how I use the internet from now on!

The video can be watched here:


Collusion Add-On for Firefox:

Livebinders Educator Resources

A compilation of Excellent Educator Resources, based on the Ontario Curriculum!

Please check it out!

Some of the categories include:

  • Media Awareness
  • Library Resources
  • First Nations
  • Smart Board
  • Special Education
  • Research
  • Technology in Education

and many more!!!!

Mrs D.Mc:)

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