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!
Perpetual amateur. Lifelong learner. Vice-Principal. Teacher. Musician. Mom. Annnnd if you're reading this, then I'm still a blogger.