Teaching and Learning in Canada

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This a blog about my overall experiences from visiting Canada in February in 2015. My visit was for educational purposes.

McGill University Crest Logo Montreal Canada

I have already shared a pre-cursory blog here, The Vitruvian Teacher which was part of the Distinguished Educator Seminar Series at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. In this teacher-training day, I share 8 CPD presentations with 40+ teachers. You can download all the presentations here.

I also shared a blog, 5 Time-Saving Tips for Teachers which was delivered online to 30 schools all over the Quebec region in Canada. Did you know, Quebec is larger than all of Western Europe(!) and in Canada, this is one single province for education in the region. Can you imagine working in the same borough/council, 12 hours away from where your colleagues live and work in the UK?! That’s what it must feel like to work in Quebec. The first spoken language is French as are the vast number of schools.


This blog captures the 3-day experience of my time in Montreal, Canada.


The journey:

This trip has been 8 months in the making …

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Travel and Arrival:

I travelled from Heathrow, London with Air Canada. The journey was 7 hours.

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Day 1:

After settling down in my hotel room, I set out for a short walk to McGill University campus which was just outside my hotel. It was -17C outside! Strangely, I was keen to know what this felt like. Bravado prevailed and I waltz out of the hotel onto the side-walk with no hat or gloves. Everyone was covered from head to toe snow-boots, duffel coats, gloves and scarves, covering their mouths, noses and ears and every other exposed part of skin. Equipped with a pair of trainers(!), two pairs of gloves, a scarf, 2 t-shirts, a hoodie and what was soon called, a summer jacket; no sooner had I started to walk, the Arctic wind began to blow and I soon covered up!

McGill University Montreal Canada

Outside McGill University – February 2015

Within a matter of minutes my fingers began to ache. I’m not saying it was frostbite, but my right-hand definitely started to feel quite unusual (burning sensation) when I retreated back to the hotel bar. It made the beverages even harder to hold …

Day 2:

After spending most of the first evening tweaking presentations, I was up early and off to set-up on the penthouse floor of the hotel in one of their conference rooms. There was a poster of me on the door and there was a great view. I grabbed a coffee as I had been awake since 4am (Canadian time) which was the equivalent to 9am in the UK.

I met each of the professors from McGill University, Faculty of Education;

  • Dr. Lynn Butler-Kisber | Director | Office of Leadership in Community and International Initiatives | Graduate Certificates in Educational Leadership.
  • Mary Stewart PhD | Managing Editor of LEARNing Landscapes
  • Donna Wilkinson | Program Coordinator | Office of Leadership in Community and International Initiatives

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After setting up, I welcomed 40+ teachers from all over the Montreal area. The teachers who had travelled the farthest were from Ottawa and Quebec City (2 hours away by car). Below is a quick selfie before kick-off.

Ross Morrison McGill McGill University

The programme for the day was The Vitruvian Teacher which is a prelude to my forthcoming book, focusing in on teacher-resilience. Details here.

Ross Morrison McGill McGill University

In this face-to-face session (above) I offered:

  • Make instruction highly engaging and active for students
  • Simplify lesson planning Improve marking so that students act on feedback
  • Design assessments that require student responsibility
  • Set inspiring; differentiated and self-selecting homework
  • Identify ways to gather evidence in observations of self/peers
  • Review teaching and shift pedagogy to be a leader of learning
  • Become a “Vitruvian” teacher and enrich your work life.

You can download all 8 presentations I presented on the day, for free, on this page.



McGill University CPD Seminar Face to Face @LCiiMcGIll @McGillU

Above you can see teachers talking to each other during my Bring and Brag Speed Dating session. This was deliberately planned after lunch to avoid the graveyard feeling setting in. At the end of the session, I offered a voluntary CPD session on tweeting and blogging and was delighted to have 7 or 8 teachers stick around to learn a few tips. I walked them through some of my secrets in this Vamoose presentation.


There were some very interesting discussions throughout the day; particularly on the demands of teachers and their workload. It appears, we all face the same challenges, yet there is little or no high-stakes accountability which we are so accustomed to here in the UK (e.g. Ofsted; DfE). It appears that local school administrators (senior leaders) are fully in control of what happens (or not), and it also is apparent, that teachers are assessed, judged, or graded in some form by assessors who come to see them teach 3 times a year. However, this may be in your first year and then never again for another 10 years, or even 20 in one colleagues story!

The other difficulty for English educators in Quebec, is that French is the main spoken language. So the vast majority of schools focus on French-speaking teachers and that this (French) curriculum and training is very different to English needs. McGill University told me that they are finding it very difficult to maintain the English-speaking schools, funding and teacher-training events.

I will share the evaluations from the day in another blogpost; about CPD impact (or not).

I have to say, this is the first full-day INSET I have ever lead (abroad) and it was exhausting to do with jet-lag! After the event, I retired to my room to refresh and then popped out to a local steak restaurant recommended to me by the locals.

At L’Entrecote (Saint Jeans) they only have one item on their menu. An excellent concept! For a moment I felt as though I was in France and the interior, the music and the staff were all very warming. Despite this, I barely lasted beyond 8pm, but at least the restaurant did not disappoint.

Day 3:

On day 3 I had the morning to myself. Enough time to tweak my first article for @SchoolsWeek and my 170 slide presentation for an online session in Laval, Montreal in the afternoon. Before heading off to Laval, I popped out to have a walk around town. I couldn’t help myself grabbing a few photos of buildings and memorabilia around McGill University.

As I ventured into the McGill University book-store, it was a challenge to keep my wallet in my pocket. Luckily, I managed to come away with just one item for my son. You name it, it had my surname on it. The boxer shorts were a tempting purchase, but I resisted!

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Back to Work:

As part of my online session at LEARN in Laval, located north-west of Montreal, I focused on one key issue for every teacher across the world – not just the UK – workload. In this CPD session, the purpose was to offer effective time-saving ideas for all teachers; ideas that can have immediate impact in the classroom! In this resource, I have amalgamated all my thoughts from a wide-range of existing strategies. You can download it here at the bottom of this blog.

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LEARN Laval QuebecLEARN is an educational foundation supported in part by funding from the Quebec-Canada Entente for Minority Language Education.

There were 30 schools (locations) in total that logged in online to follow my session. I was told that one school was 12 hours away by car, which was still in the same educational region from where I was sitting! This is unfathomable in the UK …

And a photo of me in the room with colleagues prior to kick-off.


LEARN online CPD Seminar Ross McGill @TeacherToolkit Mary Stewart Lynn Butler-Kisber


Oh Canada. You were cold. Very cold! But colleagues were so welcoming. All in all, this was an excellent experience. The seeds have already been sown for a follow-up. Thank you to all my colleagues at McGill University and to the interesting teachers I met.

Back to work on Monday …

Maple Leaf Canada Montreal
Photo Credit: caribb via Compfight cc

11 thoughts on “Teaching and Learning in Canada

  1. That’s what you call a productive half term Ross. It sounds a fantastic experience. Thanks for the resources too- very useful as always. It’s fascinating to read about the similarities and differences with our Canadian colleagues. Perhaps we have much to learn off each other. I hope you get done sleep before Monday!!!

  2. Interesting to read, Ross!

    John and I went to Montreal, and Quebec, at Easter a few years ago. A fascinating place, but I have never been so cold in my life!

    Glad your trip went well.

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