So I had a story to tell tonight about our family cross country skiing adventure this weekend. It was a doozy. And for a relatively simple sport, I’m returning to work tomorrow with a worse injury than my snowboarding experience from a couple weeks ago. I’m going to have to rename this blog to “Stupid Sh*t I Find Myself Doing” but then mom would quit reading because I used profanity. So I won’t.
But tonight as I was surfing Twitter and procrastinating, I mean, contemplating my blog post, I ran across this great visual on blogging. “10 Blogging ‘Rules’ You Don’t Have To Follow” by Aaron Hogan.
Oh, you know I had to read that.
It’s getting close to the one-year beginning of my blog. I hadn’t counted entries for a while. It’s #31 tonight. 26,399 words. A lot of Sunday nights spent thinking and reflecting and contemplating life and education and learning…and I’m so glad I started.
The other day we were working on a ‘BIG’ writing assignment in ELA. It was 500 words, and you know there were kids making groaning noises when I mentioned that part. I rarely ever put a word count on things. As a writer, you know when your story is done, or not done…who am I to dictate otherwise? But because the curriculum sets the metaphorical high jump bar at 500-700 words for grade 7, we were doing one writing piece with that goal in mind.
Students picked their writing style, and to model being a writer, I pulled up my blog. It was the first time we’ve talked about it. I’m not sure why, and I think that’s a whole other conversation. But I scrolled through the posts and said that I usually write 600-1000 words every Sunday night.
“That’s because you’re old.”
Ha ha ha. It’s a valid point.
But we had a good discussion about practice, and how I find it easier to write each week because I do it more often. So I found Aaron’s blog post a refreshing (and validating) read about my own writing. Using Aaron's ten points you don't need to follow when blogging, here are my thoughts! The first point was about word count.
“Blogs are always about 500 words.” I haven’t had a blog post under 500 words, and if the average reader only gets that far….well…most of you never get to the end of my stories. Which is where I try to make a point.
TRY being the operative word.
“Blogs require storytelling expertise.” I think that blogs require stories. Period. I had anticipated writing a lot more stories about my cats in these entries.
“Blogs look a certain way. Blogs sound a certain way.” I’m never convinced that anything SHOULD look or sound a certain way. In Health this week, we were discussing family structures. It was interesting that almost half of the students had non-nuclear family structures, yet they would catch themselves talking about a ‘normal’ family. What does that look like? What is normal anyway??
This blog looks like my life. It sounds like my life.
“Blogs are filled with answers.” Most of mine are filled with connections. If you have read any of my entries, you’ll know I love analogies. I see connections to education and learning everywhere BECAUSE LEARNING IS EVERYWHERE.
“Blogs make you a bragger.” Lol. Blogs make you almost debilitated with self-consciousness. Have I mentioned I’m a very private person? Next question.
“Blogs are ready to share when self-doubt has been overcome.” See above.
“Blogs must be perfected before sharing.” I re-read these blogs before posting. Once. Twice. More than I should admit. And not just for the spelling, although I would be greatly aggrieved if I missed a typo in here. No, it’s the self-doubt and questioning questioning questioning. Should I write that? Does it sound the way I mean it? I even spent quite a few minutes debating whether to put the swear in the fourth sentence, just in case mom does read this!
“Blogs are entirely original.” I’m pretty sure that almost every one of my blog ideas has been ripped off from a conversation I’ve had with colleagues, or ideas I’ve read on the internet. But despite the absolute evil that does exist in the comment sections of Twitter, I still believe that the best way for us to grow as individuals, is to share ideas as a collective.
And to the people who I am always ripping good ideas from…you know who you are. And you know I appreciate it.
“Blogs are always for a wide audience.” When we write in class, we talk about our audience. Who are we writing for? It’s important. So when we were looking at my blog, I joked that I only had six people who read it each week and that one of them was my mom. A student asked me if I ever looked at the tweet activity. I told him that honestly I haven’t. And I don’t. As I put in my very first blog post, “This is for me. You can come along for the journey if you want to.”
@aaron_hogan, thanks for the inspiration for this week.
Anyone who wants to hear my cross country adventure, well, that’ll wait for next time.
Tawâw. Tervetuloa. Everyone is welcome.
p.s. 875 words, not even a record lol.
As one of our writing activities when we came back from break, we used the #oneword goal setting that was circulating on Twitter. Students generated ideas for their one word, and then we did some small writing snippets in different styles around it. I’m not a huge fan of making resolutions, but I do like goal setting; it might seem like it’s just semantics, but to me a goal feels like trying to visualize the big picture, not a task that is doomed to fail by February.
Seeing the variety of word choice also gave me some insight into what students value and aspire to. I was surprised by how many times ‘patience’ showed up.
Lots of annoying little brothers and sisters, I was told.
My own #oneword started with a list, just like everyone else. Picking one? Now that was harder. In the end, it was a good exercise in thinking about where you are, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there.
This past week, I had the opportunity to think deeply about my educational philosophy, working my way through the same exercise but in a more formal vein. I’ll share my #oneword another time (and once I’ve got some anecdotal evidence on how I’m doing) but for now, here is what I believe about teaching and learning.
Considering your educational philosophy comes down to knowing your ‘why’ – what you believe and value, and how that translates into your everyday practice. I believe in a holistic, student-first approach in education, where students are valued as individuals and empowered as individual learners. Our focus is always on what is best for them, and our actions are always guided by how it will best improve their learning. I want our children to be lifelong learners and believe that the way to create that mindset is by providing innovative conditions for learning, a safe space where trust is paramount, where self-efficacy is nurtured, and where students are empowered to take charge of their own learning to discover and develop their interests. I believe in the power of collaboration, building community, and embracing divergent thinking. Most importantly, underpinning and intertwining everything that we do, is relationship.
Lifelong learning is committing to a growth mindset, one where creative and critical thinking is prominent. I believe in the use of technology as a vehicle in which innovative ideas can be developed with limitless opportunities to share with others. Whether we are creating a virtual space, or the literal space in our classroom, in order for true sharing and collaboration to occur, students need safety and trust – physically, socially, and emotionally. It also must be a safe space for risk-taking, which may sound incongruous, yet is true. In order for innovative ideas to flourish, they first take shape in a caring and safe learning environment, one where children see themselves not just as a student, but as a writer, reader, scientist, or musician. Authentic occasions for demonstrating that learning are essential.
I believe that education must strive to create conditions to engage learners and their families in a collaborative manner, to develop a sense of community, and to learn within various communities both inside and outside of the school. Essential to that is building relationships: creating a dialogue with our students and getting to know them personally. We need to affirm who they are and visibly display our commitment to the success of all students. As educators, we need to model empathy and authenticity. Most of all, we need to unconditionally believe that all students can learn and do our utmost to provide opportunities for their success.
Have a great week ahead! Welcome. Tawâw. Tervetuloa.
“She read a hundred-year-old quote from a mountaineer. He was asked, ‘Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?’ The mountaineer replied in bemusement, as if the question was ridiculous and the answer obvious, ‘Because it’s there.’ Kira understood then, because why had she wanted to go to university when no one else in her family had been? Why had she chosen law when everyone had told her it would be too hard? Why? To find out if she could do it. Because she wanted to climb that damn mountain. Because it was there.” Fredrik Backman, Us Against You
There are a lot of things that I am not (or that I’m not very good at) but there’s one thing I can confidently say: I am a lifelong learner. I love to try new things…the challenge, the setbacks, the ‘seeing-if-I-can-do-it.’ I’ve written before that half of it is likely Irish stubbornness from mom’s side and the other half is Finnish sisu from my dad. But whatever it is, I don’t like to quit. For as much lake water as I sucked in trying to learn to wakeboard, and for as often as I said, “Just one more time and that’s it!” there was always one more run if I hadn’t quite got it. It might be that I’m just a slow learner, but I’m definitely a persistent one.
Hands-down my favorite way of learning most things, though, is by reading. The holiday time was very quiet at our house so I had ample time to sit and read, which was awesome. As I tweeted, my reading pile included a re-read, a deep slow read, three mysteries, a tear-jerker and a heartbreaker. Our daughter was home from university, and our son even detached himself from his PS4 and came up out of the basement to hang out. Of course, going back to the farm to see mom and dad at Christmas is like a touchstone to all things family. At one point there were ten grandkids under the age of 10 and it was chaos. Now the upper age limit is 19, so it’s calmer but more crowded. What a treat to visit and socialize with them now as mini-adults…and beat them easily in crokinole. That never gets old!
I also know I probably worked a bit more than I should have over the break. Teaching is an exhausting and complex job and we should recharge whenever possible and not feel guilty about it. But thank goodness for friends who will call you on your crap when you need it most! So when I was contemplating taking my computer to the ski hill to do some work while my son went snowboarding, I took the advice to “learn how to holiday properly…” and I decided to learn to snowboard myself.
This didn’t come completely out of the blue. I’m a competent skier but both of our kids snowboard and have bugged me in the past to try it. My biggest concern was always about breaking something, but the other, quieter, part was telling me that I just wouldn’t be able to do it. And since I’m always quoting Brene Brown to everyone else, I took her advice and reminded myself: there is no courage without vulnerability. (Although, to spare myself extraneous embarrassment from trying to keep up with a group of 7 year olds, I did book a private lesson.)
It’s a funny thing being a student.
It was physically hard. Pushing yourself up off the snow with one arm, repeatedly, was no small feat. Especially when you are on a hill and gravity is sliding you in an opposite direction. I swear snowboarders must have one arm longer than the other just for this purpose! Trying to stay up was just as difficult and my legs burned. Really burned.
But the two most difficult parts were actually not physical.
The first was asking for help. That’s not easy for me to do. My teenage instructor probably wasn’t used to having a middle-aged woman as a student, and to his credit, he didn’t mollycoddle me. He’d just casually put his foot on the edge of my board to keep it from sliding, or give a suggestion about technique. He also patiently answered all of my questions…and I had many of them! Only once, when I absolutely couldn’t get it, did I ask him for a hand up. Sometimes we need that from our teachers too.
The second difficult part was just doing it. Well, more specifically, FEELING like I was doing it. “You need to pick up a bit more speed and feel it in the turns…feel like you are snowboarding.” (As opposed to just putting the brakes on and heeling it all the way down lol. But I knew what he meant!) How many times do we lament the difficulty in getting kids to feel that they are writers, and not just ‘do’ writing? Or feel that they are readers, and not just having them read?
I spent the afternoon boarding with my 17 year old son, and I learned even more with him. He noticed I was wearing the binding wrong and took the time to repair it (my instructor said it hadn’t been set up properly by the rental shop, but didn’t show me what to do about that…) which made me think of how many times I might point something out to a student, but not ensure that they understand the WHY and HOW of fixing it. Noted!
We also ventured off the ‘bunny hill’ onto the main runs. I won’t deny that I was pretty anxious about getting on and off the chair lift, and to have competent skiers and boarders going around me on the hill like I was a pylon. But by upping the level of difficulty, I was also able to pick up some of that speed and 'feel' it too. I also felt it when I fell down, over and over again. But it was soooo much fun.
The bar for trying new things is now literally set at a six-inch continent-shaped bruise. On my butt. Even a week later. I’m not sure if it is a compilation of falls into one giant bruise, or if it’s a compilation of many smaller bruises from my many falls. Regardless, it’s a reminder that trying new things doesn’t come with instant success, but repeatedly (and sometimes literally) getting back up again. And that’s a lesson for every thing that we learn in this life.
Miyo Ohcetow Kisikaw! Hyvää uutta vuotta! Happy New Year!
This past week was a great week.
It wasn’t perfect, of course. We are imperfect human beings working with smaller imperfect human beings. In the interest of transparency (and if you really wanted to know) I could make you a list of all the things that could have gone better, or of the behaviours that could have been better, but that’s not what this post is about. Just trust me, everyday there is something. And that’s okay…it’s the whole imperfect human thing. The main goal is learning from those mistakes, and as I read on Twitter this week: the only real apology is corrected behaviour. @zellieimani
Yet there it was. A great week.
We did several lessons on sketchnoting technique in ELA, a way of compiling main ideas from a speech, story, etc. using a combination of text, images, and connectors. It’s accessible to all students, as it can be as simple or detailed as you choose to make it. One student said how much he hates taking notes off the board (which to be clear, we never do!) and that he loved being able to put what he wanted into his notes. By the third lesson, the students listened as I read a story to them with the suggestion (but option) to sketchnote along with me. Every student participated. Every one.
I’m exploring more and more with the ideas of the thinking classroom, in particular having students up out of their desks and using VNPS (vertical non permanent surfaces, so in my room that’s whiteboards.) After having sat and observed for quite a bit while my intern was teaching, it was good to remember how hard that is on students. In another tweet I read, “Behaviour issues are often students just reacting to the difficulty of remaining in this passive position for too long.” (Ariel Sacks) And even it if isn’t causing behaviour issues, it certainly isn’t engaging, and if I’m not paying attention then I’m not learning. So my new mission is using VNPS almost every day in some way, and the kids are totally into it. Just this week we used it for our sketchnoting practice in ELA, in problem solving survival scenarios for a motivational set, and in social we brainstormed solutions (plus pros/cons) for our environmental issues from last week. I’ve added a mini gallery walk to the end of the activity, so the groups do a small loop of the classroom to see what other groups were thinking before sitting down and discussing as a whole class. My timing has been a bit off since returning to full time teaching, and our discussion got cut off by the bell on Tuesday. I apologized to the kids, saying that my pacing is still a bit off, and that we’d have to finish the next day. A boy piped up, ‘That’s okay. Class went by so fast!” The engagement of the thinking classroom at work!
To go backward one week, I want to mention that we also took the thinking classroom and combined it with the walking classroom to make a ‘walk and talk’ activity. There was a set of 10 separate questions on chart paper in the hallway. Students were in pairs and given different starting numbers. Then because our school is a perfect square, they literally walked a lap of the school talking about their question. When they came back, they added their thinking to the chart paper, looked at the next question, and started on their next lap. As I circulated, it was great to see students who wouldn’t normally talk to each other, walking and talking about the issues. Sometimes when students are to discuss something with their ‘elbow partners’ they will talk for a minute and then wait till the time is up, so I’m curious why it was easier to walk and talk. Is it because we do this all the time naturally? Was it because it was awkward to walk beside someone and NOT talk?
The next class, we put the papers back up in the hallway and students got to choose three different ones to read the responses on, plus a news article that I had added to the chart papers, before we debriefed as a whole class again. It was a success both days, as students were asking if we were going to ‘walk and talk’ the next lesson too lol.
So just to allay the idea that it’s a teaching utopia in the middle years, here is Arts Ed 8. We are doing some music skills right now, and I had the students choose an instrument to become a mini-expert in (as much as you can become a mini-expert in three hours lol.) Then I set up a schedule where the expert group teaches their classmates as learners. To be honest, it was a bit hit-or-miss. Some groups were well prepared and did a great job of instruction but there were kids not trying or had their phone out or were just generally not working with the ‘teachers.’ Wow. That was an eye opener for some of them to be on the flip side! But each time they taught a new group, they revised their instruction and got more confident, until this week it really clicked. I sat in with the ‘voice’ group as they had been struggling more. They finished a bit early, so I grabbed a boy in grade 12 who I knew enjoyed rap. He came and (without even realizing it) taught a whole lesson on rap music, giving a bit of its history, pointing out levels of language in the lyrics, explaining what an ad lib was, and more. The kids were captivated. And at the end of class, a boy from the piano group stayed to tell me that ‘it was so much fun today. I learned three different songs and I even remembered them!’ A great week.
Finally Friday. It’s the week before the week-before-Christmas. Every day I stopped by the office to say what a great day it had been. Kids are getting exponentially ramped up, and maybe I thought it couldn’t continue. Brené Brown calls that the ‘idea of foreboding joy’…when things are going really well you’re waiting for something bad to happen! We do games day in ELA on Friday’s. Students can choose who they are playing with and what game to play – lots of language based games like Apples to Apples, Scrabble, Anomia. Visual games like Pictionary, Blokus, and Tellestrations. A group of boys who’ve designed their own way to play Guess Who with four boards lol. And I brought a new game called Spice Road that I grabbed two kids and had them learn how to play it…it’s pretty complicated but they caught on quickly (and I totally lost!) As admin was doing a walkabout, I waved him into the classroom to see two things: the level of engagement kids had (lots of laughing and having fun) and the level of noise in the classroom (it wasn’t loud at all.) But mostly, I still love to see them interacting socially with each other – talking, taking turns, relationship-building, strategizing.
More than ever, I’m committed to having students move more, sit less, with as much engagement as possible in both strategies and content.
Yep. There it was. A great week.
Tervetuloa. Welcome. Tawâw.
There are not enough teacher memes out there about school life in December. It is harried, and tiring, and exciting, and frustrating, and joyful, and…it’s essentially a paradox of emotions where time is moving too fast yet simultaneously not moving fast enough. Today was evidence of both lol.
The weekends are no different, thus the reason I didn’t manage to get a Sunday night blog post written. Late night hockey games and getting home at 11pm doesn’t really help for motivation either.
Because I am insistent upon not missing a week of blogging, but can’t manage to formulate a complex thought in my head right now, I’m perusing my phone for some recent posts I’ve saved from social media to share with you. Of course, tonight when I was checking my bookmarks in Twitter, I realized that nothing was saved from beyond a week ago. I’m hoping a quick update will find them again. (IT DID! Whew.)
So here is my collection, an homage to the perennial Christmas classic ‘My Favorite Things’ from “The Sound of Music” which, to be honest, I have never once seen from beginning to end. This is the part where I’ll see if my younger sister actually reads my blog…she is a musical aficionado and will likely be mortified that I’ve never watched it. This is likely a good time to add that, despite a couple of catchy songs, I can’t stand the musical “Grease” either. Ha ha.
“The kind of teacher you will become is directly related to the kind of teachers you associate with. Teaching is a profession where misery does more than just love company – it recruits, seduces, and romances it. Avoid people who are unhappy and disgruntled about the possibilities for transforming education. They are the enemy of the spirit of the teacher.” Christopher Emdin @chrisemdin
“The importance of focusing on behavior: A student’s behavior is a much stronger predictor of future success than test scores are, according to a large-scale study encompassing 574,000 ninth graders. Teachers who helped students improve their behavior (measured by things like attendance and suspensions) were 10 times as effective at improving their students’ graduation rates and GPAs as teacher who focused on test scores.” @edutopia
“Social justice teaching is not a lesson or a unit. It’s about building a lens for students. So that students may look for social justice in all content areas and all classes and their personal lives and then some.” @PresidentPat
“I always hear that our job as teachers is to prepare students for the “Real World,” like it’s some magical land far off in the future where kids and their experiences actually matter. My question is always “isn’t their world real now?” Brett Kirk @brettkirk97
“Each school is a unique organism comprised of the collective struggles, history, & hopes of the community it serves. There’s no sweeping ‘fix’ for education just as there’s no curriculum that’ll work for all students. The only ‘fix’ is getting knee-deep in the humanity of it all.” Amy Fast @fastcrayon
“We are not just teaching history as some detached narrative. If we do our jobs right, we are teaching our students how to see history around them, how to confront it, and ultimately how to see themselves in it. In those moments, the past and the present collapse.” Kevin M. Levin @KevinLevin
“As writers we live life twice, like a cow that eats its food once and then regurgitates it to chew and digest it again. We have a second change at biting into our experience and examining it…This is our life and it’s not going to last forever. There isn’t time to talk about someday writing that short story or poem or novel. Slow down now, touch what is around you, and out of care and compassion for each moment and detail, put pen to paper and begin to write.” Natalie Goldberg
“Continually ask yourself: what’s important? To you? To the author? To others? What’s interesting? New info? Connections? Surprised?” Tanny McGregor @TannyMcG
“Fill the page with the breathings of your heart.” William Wordsworth
“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Gretchen Rubin @gretchenrubin
“Things that are good for your planet are also good for your mental and physical health. Clean air, walking, working less, oceans, forests, plants, avoiding artificial chemicals. A kind, vibrant, verdant world is good for us. The ultimate act of self-care is to protect the planet.” Matt Haig @matthaig1
“No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.” George Evans @kruevans
“This is the path. These are the ingredients. But none of it is possible until, as the great theorist David Hawkins once said, we realize that ‘the more magic gift is not love, but respect for others as ends in themselves, as actual and potential artisans of their own learnings and doings, of their own lives, and thus uniquely contributing, in turn, to their learnings and doings. Respect for the young is not a passive, hands-off attitude. It invites our own offering of resources. It moves us toward the furtherance of their lives and thus, even, at times, toward remonstrance or intervention. Respect resembles love in its implicit aim of furtherance, but love without respect can blind and bind. Love is private and unbidden, whereas respect is implicit in all moral relations with others. Adults involved in the world of man and nature must bring that world with them to children, bounded and made safe to be sure, but not thereby losing its richness and promise of novelty.” Sam Chaltain @samchaltain
Tervetuloa. Welcome. Tawâw.
Is it what happened that’s making you mad? Or is it the story you’re telling yourself about what happened that’s making you mad?
It’s not a bad idea everyone once in a while to check yourself.
Sometimes we live in a little echo chamber, either in real life or online. It’s easy to gravitate to ideas and people that you agree with, and then reinforce our beliefs with their validation. It feels good because it’s comfortable and safe.
But after a while, the story we tell ourselves isn’t always the most accurate. The memories we have are probably being recalled through blissful rose-colored glasses, or conversely, whatever color the opposite emotion might be. Grey? Black? Was it really as good as we remember? Was it really as bad?
When we use reading comprehension strategies with students, we encourage them to make connections to their lives, to other things they have read, or to the world around them, in an effort to both make sense of what they are reading and to internalize it in some way. To make it stick. It feels like our memories work that way too. I’m not always remembering just the facts of what happened, but how it made me feel, and the ripple-effects it had.
And therein lies part of the problem: it has been colored. It has been changed.
And in my remembering, often over years, it has changed me.
So once in a while, it’s a good idea to separate facts from feelings to get nearer to the reality of the story. I needed to do that this week. *Correction: I needed help doing that this week.* It’s hard because it requires some intense personal reflection. Working out my own biases and perceptions helped to clarify why I was upset: not to discount the emotions involved in it (those are real) or to diminish the anger (I was still mad) but to see things in as clear a light as possible.
Meeting with my liaison students this week, this came up for some of them as well. Thinking about our own part in relationships, not just putting it off onto the other person. Recognizing areas that we haven’t been honest about, especially being honest to ourselves. And most importantly, thinking of how to move forward…mending broken connections, making a plan to catch up on work, advocating for ourselves, and (sometimes sheepishly and reluctantly) acknowledging our own failings and thinking of ways to make it right.
It’s important to question all the stories we hear. I picked up a copy of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” for reading time. It’s a true story, and although not one of the most captivating books I’ve read recently, it was interesting. (Not sure how it ends yet…I’ll be done it on Monday!) I also follow the Auschwitz Memorial on Twitter and was surprised to see that they don’t endorse the book. “Due to the number of factual errors it cannot be recommended as a valuable educational reading to understand the history of the camp…the book is an impression about Auschwitz inspired by authentic events, almost without any value as a document.” The story is colored by memory and feelings, and had I not come across that, I might have taken everything in the novel as fact. As I lend my book out, I’m copying the caution from the Auschwitz Memorial in it so that people read it with a more critical lens than I did.
In Social 8, we have been using Concentus.ca and Tolerance.org to examine our Canadian stories, specifically to determine how Canada’s identity has been shaped by our history. It has been interesting to watch as students wrestle with the idea that Canada has always been a welcoming and open-hearted country, juxtaposed with the facts….Acadian deportation, internment of Ukranian and Japanese Canadians, treatment of indigenous people in residential schools and the 60s Scoop, the Chinese Head Tax, turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, and much much more. Cognitive dissonance in abundance as they weighed the story and the facts.
In an era of fake news, it’s a horrifying thought that we are undoubtedly forming new stories in our lives based on information that isn’t even true. There are days I really long for pre-internet ignorance when things were never in doubt. (But then I need a recipe off allrecipes.com, need to know how to get water stains out of cowboy boots, or dm someone overseas and I wonder how I could live without it lol.)
I’ll finish with a tweet by Ashley Semrick (@HelloSemrick) where she poses the following questions:
Who is telling the story? Who is being left out of the story? Why are they being left out? What do we do with parts of our history that make us uncomfortable? Who gets to decide which parts of history are told? Does telling your story give you a voice? Does not telling it take your voice away?
As we go into this first week of December, write your own story (good job Lori N. on starting your blog!) and make everyone welcome. Tawâw. Tervetuloa.
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.
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