Friend: You’re having your staff party at PBR?
don’t say it
don’t say it
don’t say it
don’t say it
don’t say it
don’t say it
me: It’s not my first rodeo.
Ha ha. That line was thrown around quite a few times last night as we gathered as a staff and went to the Professional Bull Riding finals. It really wasn’t my first time at a rodeo, but it was the first time watching PBR and they put on quite a show! It didn’t take long before someone made the connection between teaching and bull riding, and because our staff are nerds, I mean creative lifelong learners, we came up with some great analogies!
Take the bull by the horns:
Riding the bull is like teaching, with twists and turns and bumps. There is a crowd cheering you on but there is also a crowd cheering on the bull. When he gets bucked off, the rider has no choice but to get back up and try again.
Whether you are ready or not, or successful or not, you just jump in. Just in teaching, you are hanging on for dear life for the whole year, not just 8 seconds.
Unpredictable. Challenging. Nerve wracking. Rewarding. Takes practice.
Bull riding and teaching both require you to make changes on the fly. You have to have lots of flexibility, and sometimes you just have to throw out the lesson plan and be in the moment.
Take it a day at a time, just like they take 8 seconds at a time, and then stay on that bull till summer.
Bull in the china shop:
Education is the bull. Kids are the bull riders, just trying to hang on.
Our students are the bull riders: jumping on and hoping they don’t fall off, and learning something along the way. The crowd is the public and parents giving feedback and being fans, and teachers are the roper on the horse making sure that stuff stays on track.
Bulls are the teens. 100 percent unpredictable.
Teachers are the guys helping in the chute, roping the bull, and sometimes being the clown. The guy on the tractor, harrowing the arena? That’s our administrators, cleaning up, smoothing things over, and preparing all the conditions for our school to be successful.
Mess with the bull, you get the horns:
I really didn’t understand a lot of what happened in the arena, aside from the fact that they needed to hang on for 8 seconds…I’ve seen the movie! It was exciting and heart-stopping at times, watching the sheer strength of the bull, and the rider, and the unpredictability of each ride. I asked a lot of questions which was likely completely annoying (sorry Barb) but as we know, that’s how we learn.
If I had to pick just one moment for comparison, it would be the time in the chute. The rider and bull, both ready to go out, ripe with anticipation. For 8 seconds they will be tied together as one. And even though their tasks seem contrary, they will be working toward the same goal…a wild bucking and rearing ride. For us, I think sometimes we are the bull and sometimes the rider. Which means that our students are also sometimes both. And that’s okay. The roles of teacher and learner are ones that we should share. As we hang on to each other educationally, it does get harried, it isn’t always easy. In fact, it feels as though we are having 8 second rides over and over and over. Throughout a day. Over the year. And in the end, our championship is ultimately the learning and success of that student (without flying cowboy hats and fireworks lol.)
Last night someone had said, “You think you know what you are getting into, and it seems like a simple concept, but when you actually watch it happen, none of it is simple.” To me as an outsider, it seems like they just have to hold on for 8 seconds. How hard can it be? Obviously, it’s hard!! And it’s not just about holding on. Likewise with teaching. It may seem like a simple enough concept, but it is a complex and challenging job that we do.
My colleagues made some great connections between teaching and bull riding. For me, when I look at the many different people involved at PBR last night, I think that teachers play every single one of those roles. Simultaneously. Consecutively. Consistently.
We guide. We redirect. We protect. We announce. We cheer. We entertain. We prepare. We open doors. We hang on. We get bucked off. We get back on. And as a someone pointed out last night, we also need to remember that there’s a support team down there too. You are never on your own.
Have a great week! Everyone is welcome. Tervetuloa. Tawâw.
Confession time: I can be very tenacious. I don’t doubt that my teachers when I was younger would probably have described it as being arrogant and stubborn. I chalk a lot of that up to surviving as a middle child surrounded by even more ‘tenacious’ siblings! But over time I’d like to believe that it’s softened into persistence and determination. As someone who loves solving problems, I love a good challenge. And when I come across something that stumps me (iPads, I’m looking at you) I don’t give up easily.
Tenacity is also a foundational trait in the “It’s Not Lost Until Mom Can’t Find It” file. It's no different as a teacher - just today I helped three students find missing documents on the computer….we really need to work on saving our files with more descriptive and accurate titles!
But on Sunday, I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t manage to accomplish anything around the house or for work. That night when I just couldn’t get out of my living room chair, let alone get my blog written, I knew I was in a funk. I’m sure it was missing my daughter after visiting her over the break in Calgary. I’m sure it was being alone all day when my husband and son were at work. I’m sure it was because I’m feeling a bit run down and likely coming down with something. I’m sure it was the cold, crappy, overcast weather. And the one thing I am most sure about: on any given day, a lot of people in our lives are feeling the same way.
Including our students.
Even big kids have days like that. Okay, especially big kids, sometimes. My daughter is in Nursing at Mount Royal University, and she’s had a stressful few weeks with midterms and papers. Her Sunday wasn’t going much better than mine, and in our phone conversation, my attempts at cheering her up kept falling flat. I finally (almost) gave up trying and told her: This is really hard. I don’t know what to say and I don’t know how to help you solve this.
Her response: I don’t need you to fix it. I just need you to hear it.
And maybe that’s all most of us really need, not just on the bad days, but every day. Someone to talk to. Someone to hear us.
One of my favorite educators to follow, Amy Fast @fastcrayon, tweeted this out this week: “The best way to manage your class is to like your students. It’s not a feeling; it’s a choice. Make the choice to connect. I’ve never spent time getting to know a student and liked him or her less as a result.”
Or another by Paul Ketcham: “What if school leaders shared these words with staff members each and every day? I believe in you. Your work makes a difference. How can I help you? Thank you. I value you. What do you need? What if teachers shared these same words with students every day?”
This week’s goal? Make sure I say them. Make sure I hear them.
Since that wasn’t actually what I planned to write about this week, here’s a 10 point condensed version.
This past weekend, I ate an Oreo candy cane.
1. Yes, November is a little early to be eating candy canes.
2. Yes, Oreo flavor in a candy cane is disconcerting at first. My brain was expecting one thing but my tastebuds relayed a totally different message.
3. It wasn’t as awful as you’d imagine.
4. Somebody, in a candy lab somewhere (maybe the north pole lol) thought this would be a good idea and pitched it. Someone in a position of authority trusted or believed in the idea, and approved it. And Oreo flavored candy canes arrived (yes, in November….) to a store near you!
5. Honestly, they weren’t amazing and I doubt that I would buy them again. But thank goodness for people who don’t just think outside the box, they throw the box away and start from there.
6. We didn't come up with the Oreo candy cane idea, but we have some amazing, creative, and innovative thinking happening at DCS right now. I really need to write more about it because I only have four points left on this list, and this is only a few! But in the interests of sharing, these are my favs.
7. School-wide reading time continues to amaze. Every person. Twenty-five minutes. MWF. Reading. It’s like a literacy marvel.
8. Multi-level senior ELA classes based on interests/themes. What a gift of choice for students. No offence to Hamlet, but selfishly thankful my son had this opportunity.
9. We love our DES neighbors and my 7/8s are awesome. Best part about prepping and serving daily breakfast this past week? Community building…everyone pitches in…no arguing…just doing…just visiting. Feels like a family Thanksgiving in my mom’s kitchen. (Did I mention without the arguing? Just kidding!!)
10. Staff passion projects. Mine will be a post for another day, but touching base with others at Monday’s staff meeting just reinforced that I work with some really great educators who are passionate about student learning and about making our school a great place to learn.
Only five days till Sunday, so keeping some thoughts till then lol. Have a great rest of the week!
Tervetuloa! Tawâw! Welcome!
“Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still, let this be our song, no one stands alone, standing side by side, draw the circle wide.” Song lyrics by Gordon Light.
Watching students try to arrange themselves in a circle is a surprisingly complex task. The first students quickly get their chairs in order, sit down, and eventually a pseudo-circle-shape starts to form.
Right away there’s a problem. The circle is too small and a bunch of kids still need to get their chairs in there. So what happens now?
The quickest way would be for everyone to pull their chairs back, slide them together to create space, and put those extra chairs in. But what happens is more of a social shuffling…who am I going to put my chair beside? What?? They aren’t making room! And the place there is a space, isn’t beside one of my friends. Now what?
Eventually all the chairs get in a circle and everyone is seated, but it struck me that this is a metaphor for how we operate in our lives too. Why is it so hard to draw the circle wide? To draw it wider still??
I’ll be the first to admit that I keep my circles pretty small. I don’t let people into my life very easily, but those that I do are stalwart. They are important. They are special. They are keepers.
But even online, where you don’t really need to physically or emotionally manage your sheer numbers of friends, I keep my facebook small and curate my posts. Why? Maybe it’s the old-school belief of not needing to share the (often boring) details of my life with every person I know, but I think it also comes down the ideas of trust and support. We need our online groups, just like our real-life ones, to be people and places that we know have got our back.
(Then there’s Twitter, but that’s another story lol.)
In our workplaces, we have different professional circles too. Several years ago, the PLC or professional learning community movement was very strong. I was in a PLC with two colleagues who would become some of my absolute favorite people in the world. We freely shared ideas and resources to make our courses stronger and more learner-centered. At the time, it was a new and exciting venture buoyed by mutual respect and collaboration. Best PD ever.
Where the PLC ran into difficulties in a rural area, was in specific areas like Home Ec or Band where you might be the only teacher of that subject in your school. So the circle was drawn wider, and the PLC concept transferred from the school level to the division one. For a time being, it was successful and I made a few new connections and added to my professional learning circle, but the meetings didn’t have the frequency to sustain momentum, and the PD model shifted again.
More recently, with the explosion of online PLNs or professional learning networks, our circles have moved much farther away from home. They have given me the chance to connect with, and learn from, educators all over the world; plus I am finding lots of local PSSD teachers that I have never met before and am learning from their posts as well. For the most part, I am still a consumer of their knowledge and experiences, not really a contributor. It’s like I’m there with my chair on the outside of the circle, just not sure where to put it down yet. I really believe in the power of PLNs…the more time I spend there, the more I am learning, and the more I can bring to my students each day. But it still just translates into my own small circle…my classroom.
How do I take these circles, like some convoluted Venn diagram, and make meaningful change that benefits all students in our school?
Some of you maybe familiar with Simon Sinek, or his book “Leaders Eat Last.” He has soooo many ideas about leadership and collaboration including this one:
A team is not a group of people who work together.
A team is a group of people who trust each other.
So one more acronym! For me, the all-encompassing circle is the PSN, your personal support network. To some extent, it includes my online PLN, but those people don’t know me, and aside from a click of a mouse, are only virtual support. No, these are the people up and down the hallway, and in the main office. They are colleagues with doors open, letting you pop in and out to observe, give feedback, and seek each other out with questions and ideas. These are people with their own PLN, active online, and sharing ideas from there or what they have seen in other classrooms. These are the ones you bump into at the photocopier and get that much-needed pep talk on a tough day. These are the people who come out to support our students, but also their colleagues, in activities and community events.
They are also the people who took time out of their busy prep day on Friday, to play in the gym together over noon hour…building our peer relationships with laughter, but more so building trust.
It is starting to feel different. We are slowly moving beyond the point where we don’t just work in isolation together. We have developed a shared vision of what is best for our learners. We listen. We set visible goals. We support each other and trust each other. We are viewing our work through a community lens. We are becoming a team. It didn’t happen overnight and it isn’t perfect, but the circle is being drawn wide…now to draw it wider still…no one stands alone…standing side by side…drawing the circle wide.
Everyone is welcome. Tervetuloa. Tawâw.
Hello November. It’s too bad we didn’t get to gain an hour here in Saskatchewan (since we don’t do Daylight Savings Time) because I think we all could have used it!
Okay, I’m kidding about the time change. It’s ridiculous and I’m glad we don’t do it. But the extra hour? Totally would have appreciated that today. I could have slept in a bit! Or now at the tail-end, I can always use more time to write this blog post lol. When I only start it at 9pm, all hope for a quasi-coherent piece start to go out the window.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that at this point in the year, we are all tired.
Weary, exhausted, worn-out, drained, bushed, sleepy, drowsy, fatigued…fall-asleep-on-the-couch-tired.
(I’d actually just written tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired…tired, but after you look at a word long enough, and you are tired enough, it starts to look funny so I did what every self-respecting writer does and used the right-click-synonym feature in Word. Voila!)
I know that for many teachers, in addition to hours planning and marking, our extra-curricular commitments can be heavy on our time. I’ve said it before: these things are important in building relationships and engagement with our students, but it comes at a personal cost. I looked at the last nine weeks on the calendar and ball-parked my hours at 96. In a highly scientific survey, I texted two other people to get their best estimates: 100 and 120. Another colleague has spent 48 hours in a gym at tournaments in the last 4 weeks.
That doesn’t even take into account all the time planning and marking, plus saving a little bit of it to go watch your own kid, or grandkid, in their activities. (And for many teachers, that also includes coaching or managing those community activities!)
Just to be clear: in no way am I disregarding other people’s volunteer efforts either. My one sister is on more committees than I can count, and I don’t know how she can keep them all straight! But I do sometimes just smile and nod when I see posts by tired parents that compare their 20+ hours of volunteering to a second job. In that case, most teachers would have three or four.
I often see themes in people’s facebook posts and the memes they share. This week was definitely a ‘take care of yourself too’ week. It seems overly simplistic, but that meme might be the first piece in a domino-effect to self-care. (Or cat videos. You really can’t go wrong with cat videos.)
“Keep your thoughts positive because your thought become YOUR WORDS.
Keep your words positive because your words become YOUR BEHAVIOR
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes YOUR HABITS
Keep your habits positive because your habits become YOUR VALUES
Keep your values positive because your values become YOUR DESTINY”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I really believe that starting and ending my days with positive messaging helps to get me in the right mindset in the morning, and to calm all the worries in my head at night. (All the rest of the internet garbage and news from south of the border gets tucked into the middle of my day lol.) I can’t remember if I wrote about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s book “Gmorning, Gnight” but it’s a great place to start! Also, a shoutout to robyn_carleslarson on Instagram too. I love those posts, and everyday there is something motivational in there.
So here are two little pieces of internet inspiration from this past week on people’s timelines:
You’re allowed to walk away from the chaos. It’s not your job to fix everything and everyone. You can’t carry it all. It’s okay to rest. Brooke Hampton
Sometimes the strength within you is not a big fiery flame for all to see, it is just a tiny spark that whispers ever so softly ‘You got this. Keep going.’
This post is a little short, but I’m tired! So as we head into Veteran’s Week with services at our schools, and then a long weekend, you’ve definitely got this! Keep going! And take care of yourself.
Everyone is welcome. Tervetuloa. Tawâw.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy...okay website template!