Different Strokes, Same Canvas


Spanish teacher Tyler Petrini shares his start of school experiences with Canvas, the new Learning Management System that HCPSS implemented this year. Read about the lessons he is teaching his students about accountability by beginning with himself!

I apologize, fellow educators, for possibly throwing you (and me) under the proverbial bus.

You see, sometime during the first week of school I told my students that come August 31st, we – the faculty at Howard High School – had no excuse for a lack of Canvas development or activity. I informed them that we had received multiple opportunities for training, development, encouragement, etc. prior to the start of the academic year and that they should anticipate seeing the minimal expectations met on each and every one of their teachers’ Canvas pages by the given deadline.

“And what if you don’t have a Canvas page ready by August 31st?” asked one of my attentive students.

“By all means,” I replied, “hold me accountable. Call me out. Pull me aside. Express your disappointment in me for not meeting the clear expectations communicated to me by my superiors.”

Hold the expletives, please.

“In fact,” I continued, “hold all of us accountable. Even the most technologically illiterate teacher at this school had access to a wealth of training resources and to tech-savvy colleagues who could answer questions and assist with the development of the most basic pages.”

Now you can unleash the fury. But keep reading while you curse; I know that you can multi-task.

It was evident that my students felt empowered when I gave them permission to hold me accountable. Their excitement was surging, even as I changed course and delivered what they deemed “the catch.”

I repeated that by the following Monday all teachers at Howard High School had no excuse for empty Canvases. I quickly added, “But, to be fair (they love the “fairness” card), by the end of that same week, you all have no excuse for missing contributions to Canvas. You all will be held equally accountable for your Canvas use. I or your other teachers might call you out or pull you aside or express my disappointment in you for not meeting the clear expectations that were communicated to you.”

I assume that the annoyance turned to applause.

My students mulled this proposition over for a few seconds. I broke the silence by asking if they thought this mutual accountability was fair. Most heads nodded. One student shot up his hand and rattled off a series of queries that I had expected to receive: “What happens when our internet doesn’t work? What if Canvas is down the exact time that I try to log on? How are we expected to understand a new system in a week?”

All fair points, I informed him. I waited a few moments before I posed a concluding question: “Who else do you think is asking those questions? Who else do you think is equally concerned about messing up – about accidentally (or deliberately) breaking, misusing, or neglecting Canvas?”

There was no need for a vocalized response.

The following Monday I overheard two female students from the same class arguing about my page on Canvas. One claimed that she was able to access it and view the outrageous picture that I had placed there; the other pushed her phone closer to her friend’s face and invited her to see the empty space where my quirky home page should be. Guess who forgot to publish the “Spanish 3” course after posting the “Spanish 3 Honors” course? (And no, I will not be discussing that idiotic course split process in this post) Recalling what I had communicated to my students a few days prior about accountability and excuses, I immediately apologized to the students and promised to fix the problem. The girls looked at each other, laughed, and remarked in unison, “Está bien, señor” (“It’s okay”).

I suspect that even the late or misguided “brush strokes” will contribute to a Canvas “masterpiece.”

Tyler Petrini


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