The back and forth on motivation and rewards

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I suppose there will always be two (or more?) schools of thought about external motivation and the impact of rewards on behaviour and learning.  I still often read things that catch my eye on the topic and I try to stay open to different ideas, theories and research.

A few articles recently made me go, “Huh? Hmmm”.

The first was really about introverts, but it referenced a study about external stimuli and rewards.  The author of the article suggested that the findings may indicate that introverts rely less on external rewards than extroverts.  The study and its purpose was a bit confusing to me.  If extroverts respond more to stimuli (rewards) in their environment, does that mean they need or should have rewards (external motivation) more?  I am not sure if it is that “cut and dried” and maybe some other variables need to be considered.  It is still a pretty good article about introverts, What it really means to be an introvert, according to a psychologist.

The second article was about screen time, and another study. One finding was:

For parents who use screen time as either a punishment or a reward, children’s screen time increased — particularly on weekends. The researchers found that, when used as a behavioral tactic, children spent about 20 more minutes per day in front of screens over the weekend.”

Not really a “huh..” from me on that one.  More like a “duh, of course..” 🙂  But should they have considered the introvert/extrovert question?

A third article was about what a middle school is doing to reward good grades, attendance and behaviour:  School is giving kids free movie tix, credit card-like perks to show up, get good grades.  I struggled with that one with a big “Huh?”  I know educators are often concerned about low attendance rates though.

I read 2 more postings on the topic which got more of a “Yes!” from me.  5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Unmotivated Students is a 2016 post, but it showed up in my Twitter timeline recently.  It’s a good post with a Q&A format to help teachers reflect on their instruction.  The author dug into the research on motivation and summarized her findings with these statements:

  1. Students are more motivated academically when they have a positive relationship with their teacher.
  2. Choice is a powerful motivator in most educational contexts.
  3. For complex tasks that require creativity and persistence, extrinsic rewards and consequences actually hamper motivation.
  4. To stay motivated to persist at any task, students must believe they can improve in that task.
  5. Students are motivated to learn things that have relevance to their lives.

Lastly, a tweet by someone informed me that this was a very popular read on the ASCD site: Tear Down Your Behavior Chart!  Good stuff.  I like the summation at the end of the article,

Let’s stop “managing behaviors” and instead guide and support engagement, persistence, and positive interactions. Let’s build relationships that promote growth of the whole child—and the skills each student needs for a lifetime of positive interactions and success.”

Is there any meeting in the middle of the “schools of thought” on this topic?  How do schools and families “meet up” on this topic?

Please share any thoughts you have on any of the articles, or share what has helped you sort out questions about motivation and/or rewards.


Who Knows…?

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Where does the time go? Who knows where the time goes.. ?

Who hasn’t expressed a similar statement like that?  I recall adults saying it when I was younger and now I catch myself saying and wondering it.

Where does a decade go?!  Two decades? I often tell my adult children to enjoy and cherish their 20s, as each decade seems to go faster after that.  Why is that?  Is it a thing?  (Check out this interesting post by Matthew Oldridge that helps answer that).  We can take the time as young adults for granted — I know I am guilty.  But maybe it is supposed to be that way — why worry about life going too fast when you have youth and time on your side?  Just live it, as one never knows…

It was by chance and curiosity that I discovered the music of Sandy Denny recently.  She had been a lead singer in a few early British folk bands.  One of her songs really stuck with me for some reason:  Who Knows Where The Time Goes?  Maybe it was the title…  maybe it was because the singer also died young (at 31, I learned).  Or maybe because my daughter’s best friend since high school died unexpectedly this past summer at the age of 22.  Although quite melancholy, the music and lyrics were comforting when I had a listen.  I read that it was one of her “signature” songs.  I think Judy Collins is also known for her cover of it, but I prefer Sandy Denny’s original.

Lyrics: Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving
But how can they know it’s time for them to go?
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming
I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know it’s time for them to go
But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?
And I am not alone while my love is near me
I know it will be so until it’s time to go
So come the storms of winter and then
The birds in spring again
I have no fear of time
For who knows how my love grows?
And who knows where the time goes?

Although Sandy Denny died 40 years ago, there have been a few recent articles written that speak well of her musical talents and contributions during her short life.

The Delicate Artistry Of Sandy Denny

Sandy Denny was the most outstanding female singer that Britain has produced

She also did a number of Bob Dylan covers, if you wish to have a listen to:  Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

My perspective about time has shifted over the years and decades, but also recently again.  How I look at the past and present and the future has changed, but in a good way.


Chocolate by Trial and Error


It all started with a craving for chocolate.  And pie.

Since it was close to Christmas, I decided on making a dessert that would have both chocolate and mint.  I turned to my trustworthy Company’s Coming (Jean Paré) cookbook collection.  In “Pies“, I found a recipe for Chocolate Mint Pie.  I don’t care for too much mint in baked goodies but this recipe claimed, “Just the right amount of mint”, so… I quickly set about making and baking the suggested graham cracker crust first:

Nutty Graham Cracker Crust: Melt 1/3 cup of butter in saucepan.  Stir in 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (almonds or walnuts — I used walnuts) and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar.  Press onto sides and bottom of a 9 inch pie plate.  Bake in 350 F oven for 10 to 12 min. Cool.

I was on a roll…

Then I noticed that the filling called for eggs, but no further baking of the pie required.  Just beat, mix and chill.  I have long since stopped using recipes with raw eggs.  I just can’t do it.  So now what?  I was determined to fill this yummy cooled crust!  And hopefully with chocolate!  Maybe some mint…

I reviewed a number of recipes online but eventually turned back to the same cookbook.  There was another recipe for a “No-Crust Fudge Pie”.  Hmmm.  The filling looked good, but no mint.  It required eggs, but it did require further baking in the oven.  This recipe made the claim for a moist fudgy center that “satisfies a longing for a chocolate dessert”.  So I am winging it now….

The Filling:

Beat 3 eggs in mixing bowl until smooth.  Add 1 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 of flour, and vanilla.  (The recipe called for 1 tsp. but I reduced it to 1/2.. **to be explained). Beat to mix.

Melt chocolate squares ( 3 x 1 oz., unsweetened, cut up) and 1/2 cup of butter in small saucepan over low heat.  **Add 1/2 tsp. of peppermint extract.  I was determined 🙂  Add to egg mixture and beat until mixed.

This is when the recipe says to pour the filling right into a greased pie plate, but I have a crust…

I still followed the suggested baking time:  350 F oven for about 35 minutes.

It turned out great! Lovely texture, light and crisp top layer, and rich in the middle!  A No-crust Fudge Pie with a great crust (and a nice hint of peppermint)!  It was yummy, with or without ice-cream or whipped cream on top.

I had to write out the variations I made to the recipes somewhere before I forget what I did, so I chose my blog.  I am sure I have a few readers who might be on the lookout for a good chocolate fix!  So if you trust my judgement in creating this pie…

I welcome other chocolate recipes… please suggest your true and tried.. or invented!  Happy Holidays!




Featured post re: Effective School Councils

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I haven’t seen much written about Ontario about school councils lately (although I am not paying as much attention to the topic anymore).  Today I appreciated reading a post, Effective School Councils, by an education superintendent from Alberta, Chris Smeaton.  I have followed Chris (@cdsmeaton) on Twitter for many years.  Although he writes for the Alberta context, I thought his insights and list of discussion questions would be useful to Ontario’s school councils as well.  I thought I would post here to keep it handy.

Chris mentions a workshop presented by their provincial school council association,

The presentation reminded me of the important work that should be done by this group but often gets lost because of well -intentioned volunteerism. I don’t believe that staffs will ever say no to the work that many of our parents do in schools today but, the true essence of their role is far more reaching than simple involvement.”

He describes the realities and challenges of engaging school councils and parents in school planning and improvement discussions but offers some good suggestions on how to improve these opportunities and make them more parent-friendly.  He also provides list of possible discussion questions for the school council table.  Please read his full post.  What would you add to the list he has started?  Have Ontario school councils made any significant shifts in roles lately?

Fixing or Fighting Public Education?


I have become more selective in what I read about public education lately and I also pay less attention to the issues now that my own children are out of the K – 12 system.  I spent years trying to be informed of the issues and advocating where I could.  I didn’t always feel effective then, but even more so now.  When I was more involved in education advocacy, I would always wish that the general public would also keep informed and care about education, but I get now how easy it is to drift from the issues and feel powerless to make a difference.

As I stated to Doug Peterson, I only read this article about fixing public education in Ontario because he wrote a response to it on his blog, here.  The author of the article is a former president of an education advocacy organization.  She discusses 7 areas to address in order to “fix” public education in Ontario, and claims that 6 out of the 7 recommendations will save money.  She also states in the article’s subtitle, “It won’t be easy to implement any of these recommendations. The educational establishment will fight every step of the way.”

I thought Doug did well in addressing each of the 7 areas with his insights and thoughts (Non-Government Tuition Subsidies; Teacher Training; Curriculum; Textbooks; School Boards: Ont. College of Teachers; Provincial Testing).  I am only going to share some thoughts on one area/recommendation.

Given that I have thought and written a fair bit about school boards, that section jumped out at me. From the article,

The school board trustees, who theoretically represent the voters, are basically powerless: I have yet to hear of a parent who successfully sought help from his elected trustee. The trustees’ representational responsibilities would be better relocated to democratically-elected and influential school councils in each school.”

and with that,

Recommendation #5: Abolish the school boards”

Doug states a good case in his post,

This has long been a controversial issue but the fact that school districts exist ensure that local priorities can be addressed.  The notion of a High School Major is a perfect example.  The careful design plays to the importance of certain fields to the local community.  What works in a downtown community may not be appropriate to a rural location.  Having said that, within a community, there can be so much duplication of services with four school districts in operation.  Since they all teach in Ontario, there may well be significant savings by rethinking this way of organization and addressing the duplication of efforts.”

My thoughts:

As a parent, I received good help from some elected trustees — others, not so much.  Trustees have their limitations in power too.  Am I the only one who “successfully sought help”.  As for school councils being the better representational structure because they are “democratically elected and influential”, when has that been the case in any consistent and supported way across the entire province? (A post I wrote about representation here) I highly doubt that the abolishment of school boards would lead directly to improved functioning, representation, or influence of school councils.  Careful what you wish for?  What do others think?

I agree, the education system is hard to change.  There is also much disagreement on what change should look like.  I see the comments and exchanges are adding up on the original article though.  When I skimmed, most were about public vs. private schools.  Opinions are abundant, but no straight path to change.  I wonder if big shifts will occur anytime soon in Ontario.

Here is a podcast I hope to listen to soon, but if anyone else would like to beat me to it:

When Public Isn’t Public: Education in Alberta

All in a day’s drive in NW Ontario

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I get asked from time to time, “What’s the drive like from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg?”.  Often my first thought is, “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”  But then I do try to give the best advice and safety tips, especially for those about to take the trip for the first time.  Many people have to drive it — for work, medical treatment, family support, etc.  And soon there might be no another choice with cuts to the Greyhound bus service and routes.  Sometimes I get a surprised look when I mention that it will take about 8 hours.  One could drive from Thunder Bay to Minneapolis in about the same time.  Or one could head south from Thunder Bay and be in the beautiful area of Grand Marais, MN, within an hour and a half.  But that means crossing the border….

After a recent road trip this past summer, I thought it might be fun to write a blog post about this familiar (to me) stretch of Highway 17 — maybe it will also be useful to someone. (a link/pdf of a map of this part of NWO here via Ministry of Transportation)  It is not a trip I like to take very often, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without some positives.  Our family avoids driving it in the winter, but each summer we usually take at least one vacation trip as far as Kenora, ON — that 6 hour drive (approx.) is close to my limit in a car for one day.  We might take the trip into Winnipeg from Kenora on a separate day, as one could do the 2 hour drive there and back to Kenora on the same day.

When we head west out of Thunder Bay, we don’t usually stop at Kakabeka Falls (about a half hour out), but other first time travellers on this stretch might wish to do so.

There aren’t many rest stops between Thunder Bay and Kenora that are reliable and always open for gas and washroom breaks.  However, I would recommend stopping at a few no matter what.  You will be thankful if you get held up by road construction or an accident that shuts down the highway for an indefinite time.

After we enter the Central Time Zone, we make our first “pit stop” about 1 1/2 hours out at a little town called Upsula.  We stop at “Xtra” (not much else open anymore).  Although the signs inside remind that the washrooms are for their “valued customers”, I doubt anyone would be denied.  We still feel obliged to purchase something, and one can’t go wrong choosing from the bakery there (I suggest a slice of pie, or the whole pie, made on site with various flavours/fruits).  The stop also has every candy or chocolate bar you could want.  It is the only place I can find licorice “Nibs” in black.  Yum!  Some chewy candy can be a good thing for the long drive.

I always have a chuckle at the well-supported/reinforced hydro poles along this stretch:

Next stop/town is another hour and a bit — Ignace.  There are a few more choices of rest stops and stores there.  We usually choose the tourist centre, as by that time, we don’t need any more coffee or food and we can use the facilities guilt-free and stretch our legs by a nice water fountain and picnic/playground area.  It is our “half-way” mark if we are going to Kenora.

With a sense of good progress, we head onward for Dryden, which also means another hour and a bit to the first Tim Horton’s since Thunder Bay.  There are plenty of more options for food and shopping there and I would highly recommend a driving break in Dryden — the highway changes dramatically shortly past there and the next small town, Vermillion Bay.  The winding, hilly, and narrow single lane highway needs fresh eyes for both safety and the beauty as one heads on towards Kenora.  The high rock cuts close to the highway will always intimidate me.  Don’t get too distracted by the beautiful lakes and views!  Try to avoid this stretch at night and as the sun is going down.  The semi-trailers need to be contended with always, but there are plenty of passing lanes.  Be patient!

If you are continuing on to Winnipeg, you could easily take the “Kenora By-pass”, but then you would miss one of the prettiest small cities (especially in the summer) that you will see before crossing the Ontario-Manitoba border.  Kenora is situated on the north side of the Lake of the Woods area in “Sunset Country” and it has got to be one of NW Ontario’s best kept secrets.  But it is not a secret to camping enthusiasts and cottage owners from Manitoba and the U.S.  Pull into any parking lot in the summer and you will question if you are still in Ontario as you spot the many (if not the majority) of license plates from Manitoba and various northern and southern states.  If you are into fishing, boating, camping, etc, there may not be a need to continue to Winnipeg.  But if you want to explore a large city (the only big city in MB) with many attractions and shopping options, you won’t be disappointed!  West of Kenora, the mostly flat, straight drive with a divided highway most of the way to Winnipeg is a breeze!

I have taken the Greyhound Bus service fairly often in the past between Thunder Bay and Kenora or Winnipeg.  There are certainly pros and cons, but it concerns me that the option may not be available anymore come this fall.

Greyhound axes Northwestern Ontario bus service

Greyhound cancels most of its routes in Western Canada

It has been many decades since there has been railway service direct to Kenora or Winnipeg from Thunder Bay, but that interest has come up again.

Pressure grows for Via Rail return to Thunder Bay, Ont.

It is funny what we come to expect from modes of travel.  My father-in-law often told the story about dirt roads and the slow cars back in his day, not to mention clearing brush out of the way.  A trip between Kenora and Winnipeg would take a full day.  The story certainly stopped any complaining about getting somewhere faster (or nowhere fast).

Do you have a story about this stretch of Highway 17?  Have you vacationed near the Lake of the Woods?  Will you be affected by the cancellation of the Greyhound bus service?  Please share!

More silly photos from a recent stay in Kenora:

A storm had just passed through, so no boats docked for grocery shopping in Kenora just yet:


The “round hotel” will always be “The Inn” to me:

I thought the beach sand around Kenora’s sidewalks and street edges had a quaintness to it.  Leftover from winter sanding?:


History Refresher: About A Border

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When I noticed that the War of 1812 was trending on Twitter this past week because of a dialogue between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau, it caused me to refresh my understanding!  Having taught Canadian citizenship classes for adult newcomers a number of times in the past, I went directly to my teaching resources and reviewed the information on Canadian history, which includes the War of 1812.  I taught the material provided for newcomers in the Discover Canada study guide developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  This is section on the War of 1812 (plain text below as well):

In plain text:

The War of 1812: The Fight for Canada

After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), the Royal Navy ruled the waves. The British Empire, which included Canada, fought to resist Bonaparte’s bid to dominate Europe. This led to American resentment at British interference with their shipping. Believing it would be easy to conquer Canada, the United States launched an invasion in June 1812. The Americans were mistaken. Canadian volunteers and First Nations, including Shawnee led by Chief Tecumseh, supported British soldiers in Canada’s defence. In July, Major-General Sir Isaac Brock captured Detroit but was killed while defending against an American attack at Queenston Heights, near Niagara Falls, a battle the Americans lost. In 1813, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Salaberry and 460 soldiers, mostly French Canadiens, turned back 4,000 American invaders at Châteauguay, south of Montreal. In 1813 the Americans burned Government House and the Parliament Buildings in York (now Toronto). In retaliation in 1814, Major-General Robert Ross led an expedition from Nova Scotia that burned down the White House and other public buildings in Washington, D.C. Ross died in battle soon afterwards and was buried in Halifax with full military honours.

By 1814, the American attempt to conquer Canada had failed. The British paid for a costly Canadian defence system, including the Citadels at Halifax and Québec City, the naval drydock at Halifax and Fort Henry at Kingston—today popular historic sites. The present-day Canada-U.S.A. border is partly an outcome of the War of 1812, which ensured that Canada would remain independent of the United States.

The history chapter can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers to Canada.  To prepare them for writing the citizenship test, I would highlight a few things, including the support that the British got from people already in Canada (volunteers and First Nations) during the War of 1812.  They learn that the name of Canada became official in 1791 (The Constitutional Act of 1791), but they also learn that it wasn’t an official country until 1867 (Confederation).  I also highlight the war’s outcomes regarding the border and Canada’s independence from the United States as mentioned in the study guide.

If all the above details from the study guide are correct, the “Americans burned Government House and the Parliament Buildings in York (now Toronto)”, and in retaliation Major-General Robert Ross (a British Army officer) led an expedition from Nova Scotia that burned down the White House and other public buildings in Washington”.

But I don’t mean to be petty 🙂

I try not to let the uninformed and flippant things that politicians say get to me, but sometimes… well, sigh.

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