TDSB Director, John Malloy’s Keynote Speech at TDSB Unleashing Learning 2019 (Summarized)

“These are challenging times right now.  And yet the focus of my reflections this morning are going to be on each of us who represent all educators who are committed to our students’ success and well-being.”

“It’ll be amazing because we’re all together, learning.”

-John Malloy, Unleashing Learning 2019


💭 The Role of Public Educators

“Does this structure called Public Education help us change the world for the better?  Or, might it keep everything moving the same way?”

The role of public educators is nothing less than to change the world.  We currently have an environment where certain students thrive and reach their goals, while others don’t thrive, and struggle.

Learning is NOT rigid and static; Learning opens doors and windows. 

It’s creative, it’s energetic, it’s fluid, it’s flexible.

Educators must create conditions to:

  • Connect
  • Share
  • Learn


💭 Mobilizing Brilliance

Teachers know their students.  Teachers understand how to create conditions for them to succeed.  Teachers are excited when their students succeed.

⚠️ Multi Year Strategic Plan

Teachers must be focused on TRANSFORMING Student Learning. 

🔖 Teacher Focus

“More than ever [we need to be] ensuring that our kids are growing as citizens who can make a difference.”

Teachers must work towards:

  • Student-Centric Learning
  • Global Competencies
    • Critical Thinking
    • Creativity, Inquiry, and Entrepreneurship
    • Collaboration and Leadership
    • Communication
    • Citizenship and Character


🔖 Student Well-Being

“Now I’m giving you my complete, biased opinion.  We live in a physical and digital world.  The answer is not to ban things.  The answer is to be healthy in the world we live in now, and the world that is to come.”

Students need a culture of well-being.  Right now:

  • Our students are struggling;
  • Their sense of connection and belonging is decreasing;
  • Their ability to create relationships is becoming more challenged.

They need to be provided with equitable access to programs and learning opportunities, which is not currently happening in our school board.

Our finite resources must be used strategically; we must build partnerships and relationships that connect to both our students and our families.



💭 The Vision for Success

“[The Vision for Success] takes important components that are not always explicitly in the curriculum expectations.”

Success is demonstrated when students are excited to come to school every day.  It is shown when teachers have created conditions for students to think and to wonder and to create.

⚠️ Focusing on Something Real

“When kids are engaged, no matter what their learning need is, there aren’t behaviour problems.  And, teachers are happier.”

Students need to be provided with the opportunity to do real-life work.  They must be allowed, and encouraged to:

  • Work on problems in our community;
  • Problems in our country;
  • Problems in our world.

Students must be given a chance to think about different ways to look at an issue, work collaboratively to get new ideas, and create exciting strategies and solutions.

⚠️ Beyond High School

Success is something students take with them all their lives.  When they graduate from our schools they must:

  • feel good about who they are;
  • feel strong about who they are;
  • feel that they can serve;
  • that they can change;
  • that they can connect;
  • that they can make a difference.



💭 A New Model for Learning

It’s not what goes on at a central office that drives things.  It’s what goes on in your classroom that drives things.  And what I truly believe is that real learning is organic.

The school board understands the importance of DIFFERENTIATED approaches to support, because not all schools are the same.  They understand that staff and staffing and PROFESSIONAL LEARNING for staff is key.  They understand that educators need to continue to ENGAGE parents, guardians, and students.

⚠️ De-Siloing the Learning

And then you want to find a few other colleagues who might have similar questions so you can go deeper together.  And then, if those colleagues are not in your building, you might find some way, virtually or physically, to connect with them.

It is importance to understand that real learning cannot be forced.  Real learning must be organic:

  • It can’t be orchestrated.
  • It’s got to be flexible.
  • It’s got to be virtual sometimes.
  • It’s got to be physically connected sometimes.

⚠️ The Digital Reality

For me, I was able to see the importance of being able to collaborate with an educator, bringing that educator’s strength, skills, and her knowledge of students’ identities in her classroom combined with, I guess, my knowledge of standard pedagogy, how we’re able to create a learning experience that was engaging for all students.

Teachers need to consider how they’re using Technology.  Real digital fluency creates deep learning opportunities using technology. 

Teachers must create a space for students to create knowledge for themselves, and educators must overcome the challenge of finding a network of like-minded colleagues that can deepen their own understanding

⚠️ Student Ownership

Providing opportunities for students to feel a sense of ownership in their learning is vital for them to feel that they have a say in what is happening, that they can share their own ideas, their own lived experiences within their class community, but also to enhance their own understanding of the world around them.

Students need to be placed in a role where they can be in charge of their learning.  Their voice needs to be embedded in classroom activities, and all aspects of their education.



💭 A New Model for Leadership

The board must focus on SHARED Leadership, ENHANCED Learning Communities, and FOCUSED Improvement.

⚠️ Creating Change

Our current structures aren’t inclusive for all our special education students.  Educators need to consider who isn’t being served. 

It’s not enough to think of the classroom as a democratic system where the majority rules.  Educators must consider the needs of the minority.  They must:

  • Be Committed to equity, anti-oppression, and anti-racism
  • Challenge their own bias to understand barriers
  • Think about their privilege

⚠️ School Improvement

“We have 20 years if data that says we are not serving … our black students [or] our indigenous students.”

Change must be owned at the School Level, not the system level.  Teachers know their students, and must decide where the focus needs to be.  They are the ones who work with staff to make change happen.

They must determine what evidence to collect, and how to best communicate what they’re doing.

⚠️ Confronting Bias

“When we use words like racism, people call me and ask me to stop.  But we can’t, because it’s real here and it needs to be interrupted.”

Educators need to INTERRUPT in order to provide conditions that our students require.  Equity must be the driving force for both achievement and well-being.

⚠️ Creating Change

“When I’m challenged I have to be able to receive it in a way that’s not defensive, or it actually won’t move this important work forward.”

There is no space that is free from oppression.  This must be acknowledged, and owned before teachers can make the changes they need for student success.

Educators need to examine suspension and expulsion data to determine what they are trying to communicate, while considering how they can be more restorative.



💭 Closing Thoughts

💬 “Patient Urgency.”

“We have to be patient because learning takes time.  But we have to be urgent because we can’t let one student fall through the cracks.”


✍️ The Final Question

“So how do we learn–which takes time– but deal with the urgency that all students deserve to be successful?”


📄 Downloadable Resources

John Malloy Keynote – Unleashing Learning 2019 – WhatBinderDotCom.PDF

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