Virtues as a Way of Life

This is a blog I wrote several years ago on a previous blog but felt it was worth revisiting.

“Too many of our children are technical wizards and moral illerates. Power plus control leads to violence. Power plus compassions transforms bullies into leaders.”

~ The Virtues Project (

As a society our focus appears to be more on “anti-bullying” and less on “building character”. In my heart I feel we have it backward.

When I first heard about The Virtues Project I felt hopeful. Hopeful that, as an educator, I would find a language and the resources to further promote character education in my classroom. I had always been interested in service learning and democracy in the classroom but this took it a step further for me as I was introduced to the five strategies: using the language of the virtues, setting clear boundaries, using teachable moments, honoring the spirit and offering companioning. You can learn more about these on The Virtues Project website (above).

Virtues are the qualities of our character. They are within each us. They are like seeds. By acknowledging the virtues within yourself and others you are nourishing the seeds and watching them grow. Instead of shaming, encouraging people to use their courage in a difficult situation honors their spirit and builds their confidence and self esteem. I like that LynnAnne MacNeil, one of my workshop facilitators, describes the virtues as “the gems within us”.

There are an abundance of virtues. At first, being able to think of the right one, in those teachable moments, seemed like a daunting task. I’ve learned that it takes practice and commitment. I have to remain diligent. I was fortunate enough to have received a set of the virtue cards and The Family Virtues Guide as gifts. I began reading The Family Virtues Guide and doing daily “virtues picks”. Sometimes I do a few “picks” a day because I love doing them. I randomly pull a card, read it and think about how it applies to my life. This can also be done on The Virtues Project website ( if you don’t have your own set of cards. There are also apps available.

Personally, I try I try to incorporate the five strategies into my daily life but it isn’t always easy. I offer myself compassion when I falter, like forgetting to use a teachable moment. I am fortunate to be surrounded by other people experimenting with the same language (the language of the virtues). This way we can offer support to one another. Our school has a virtue of the month that we work on. My job share partner and I have started a project honoring the gift of service with our students. You can learn a bit more about that The Virtues Project also inspired me to write my second picture book, Whispering Wings. Along with giving concrete examples patience, helpfulness, cooperation, friendliness and determination Whispering Wings provides an avenue to discuss the virtue of compassion. It allows readers to make connections to other stories of determination, like Terry Fox.

Anyone and everyone can benefit from knowing more about The Virtues Project. I aspire to make the five strategies of The Virtues Project a habit in my life. Like with any habit it will require constant commitment and practice, something I believe will be very rewarding for all involved.

Watch a trailer for Whispering Wings here.

Traits of Writing

Traits of Writing

As a teacher, I believe one of my responsibilities is to instil a love of writing in my students. Playing with words, creating imaginary worlds (and characters to live in them), exploring who will tell the story and from what perspective are all part of the process (and the fun). Even though the “traits of writing” are built naturally (or with a lot of hard work) into each piece of writing, I like to take them apart and examine each one individually so that students have a better understanding of ideas, word choice, voice, conventions, organization and sentence fluency. One of the ways I do this is through mentor texts. These are often picture books that will allow students to understand what we mean when we talk about a certain trait.

One of my favorite books when talking about “voice” is Dear Mrs. LaRue. Ike, Mrs. LaRue’s mischievous dog, is sent off to obedience school. Through his letters we are able to hear his “voice” very clearly. This is one you really should read to your class (or your own children).

Dear Mrs LaRue

I would love to hear your thoughts on the book and whether or not Ike’s voice is coming through loud and clear.

Books to be shared

Perfect Snow by Barbara Reid

Barbara Reid’s Perfect Snow is a wonderful book to read, especially now, during our Canadian winter. Children and adults can relate to the excitement felt after the first snow fall. As a teacher I can hear the stampede of children as they head outside to make snow angels, forts, snowmen and catch snow falling with their out stretched tongues. And… Barbara Reid is able to capture it all, in great detail, using plasticine, ink and water color as her medium.

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 2.17.04 PM

Scott wants to create the largest snowman while Jim wants to create the “indestructible Snow Fortress of Doom”. When they team up and enlist the help of all of the school yard children they’re able to create something everyone is excited about.

As a parent or teacher, what can you do with this book? First, ask if anyone can make connections to the cover and have them predict what the story will be about. You can listen to Barbara Reid reading Perfect Snow here.

I love to use plasticine/ clay with my students and Barbara Reid is a master when it comes to plasticine. She has several videos that you can watch before making your own clay scenes.

Making Plasticine Pictures Part 1

Making Plasticine Pictures Part 2

Making Plasticine Pictures Part 3

Creating Perfect Snow 

So… have some fun with clay and be sure to head outside and play in the snow!


My Childhood Home

I’ve been doing some writing with my students. Here is a sample of an acrostic poem.

My Childhood Home

Long walks on the shore

In my bare feet

Feeling the waves as they crash, washing away sand

Exploring the caves

A big gob of spit on a rock to make paint

The jellyfish that are left stranded when the tide goes out

Too many marshmallows for roasting

Heat from the campfire as my feet start to blister

Every kid in the field joins in

Covering myself in mud at low tide

Overly smooth sea glass and interesting shells

The life jackets, always in the boat

Turning out the lights and reading under the covers

A huge garden out back where I ate peas by the handful

Getting to spend time with my family

Enjoying every moment.


Active For Life Reviews Messy Jessy Gets Active

I was very pleased when the website Active for Life agreed to review my latest book Messy Jessy Gets Active. They are a website filled with great information on how to raise physically literate children. There are an abundance of resources for parents and teachers (and anyone else who is around children). If physical literacy is a new term for you, you need to check them out. If not, you should check them out anyway!

The review can be found here.

Messy Jessy cover FINAL