Summer Holidays 2016 – Part Two: Family Trip to Winnipeg

In Summer Holidays 2016 – Part One: Edcamp Global, I wrote about the great experience I had learning online with and from enthusiastic educators from all over the world at the end of July. Shortly after that crazy 24 hours of online fun, I left for my first real holiday ever and it too, ended up being filled with powerful learning experiences that I wanted to write about.

One of my brothers moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba over ten years ago. Last fall, my dad and stepmom invited my younger son and I to join them on their trip to see my brother this summer. At one point, my whole family was planning on driving across country, but, in the end, my son and I decided to fly with Dad and Betty and have a mom/son holiday all our own.

This trip was a big deal for a few reasons. First, family (not including me) has only ever visited my brother in Winnipeg three times before. He usually drives out to BC each summer so to have family come visit and stay was pretty special. Second, up until the trip, I’d never been in an airplane before (insert standard reaction of shocked ‘NEVER???’ here). Still not sure about flying (is takeoff and landing always like that?! Yikes!). And third, I’ve never gone away on a real holiday before. Ever. Week long camping trips? Yes. Three nights away in Vancouver or other BC city? Yes. Ten days away from home doing tourist-y things in a city I’ve never been to before? Nope.

So, off we went! It was absolutely wonderful to travel with my dad and stepmom. Since retirement, my dad has become an experienced worldwide traveler. I didn’t have to worry or stress over anything. Basically I just showed up at my dad’s with my son and we basically went along for the ride. I was spoiled rotten at my brother’s, partly because I’ve been so sick and partly because I’ve never visited him before and he was so happy to have me come stay at his house.

I have to say that I liked Winnipeg way more than I expected to. My brother and his partner were excellent hosts and we went to all sorts of amazing places. Our first destination was the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). How to get me to love a city? Take me to the art gallery first thing!! So cool! The collections were amazing! So many incredible works of art. I literally teared up when I spotted a Lawren Harris painting (Clouds, Lake Superior). I love Lawren Harris and had never seen his work in person before. I could have looked at that painting for the rest of my life…so beautiful. And the current exhibit? Karel Funk. You really have to check out his work if you’ve never heard of him before. Seriously, google him, or click on that link above. Absolutely breathtaking, detailed paintings. Final happy surprise of the day was that some art galleries have picture books about art in the gift shop! I bought a great book that I can’t wait to share with my students!

My brother and his partner are teachers like me so, not surprisingly, we visited two very cool bookstores during the trip. The first bookstore was Whodunit Mystery Bookstore, a new and used bookstore devoted solely to the mystery genre. I limited myself to one book written by a new-to-me author or I would’ve been there forever! So many books! My mom loved mystery novels so visiting Whodunit certainly brought an emotional connection for us all. The second bookstore we went to was McNally Robinson. Not only is McNally Robinson Canada’s largest independent bookstore, it has a restaurant inside that came with a live jazz band playing the night we were there! How cool is that?!  Needless to say, I was not able to limit myself to one book there and I left with a bag that included two great pictures books I’m super excited to share with my students.

Another full day was spent at Lower Fort Garry located about 30 minutes north of the city. What a neat place that is! Lower Fort Garry is a national historic site. The original site of the Hudson’s Bay fort was situated at what is now known as The Forks in Winnipeg where the Red River and Assiniboine Rivers meet. Because of damage from flooding and a terrible fire, the fort was relocated to Lower Fort Garry in the mid-1700s. My great-grandmother’s dad worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, so aside from being a really interesting place to visit, the site brought up all sorts of personal connections and family questions. It was a great learning experience for all of us and I was really happy that my son enjoyed it so much (you just never know how teenagers are going to react to family outings, yes?).

Our last full day in Winnipeg was devoted to The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). I still can’t (and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to) fully articulate how much that museum affected and changed me. If you have a chance to visit this amazing museum, do it. It’s incredible for so many reasons. It’s the first museum in the world dedicated to the past, present and future of human rights. It is the first national museum built in Canada in over forty years and it is, I believe, the only one located outside of Ottawa, our national capital. The exhibits are gut-wrenching, inspiring and change the way you view the world. The use of multimedia is brilliant and the architecture is truly a work of art all on it’s own. And guess what they had in the gift shop? Yup, you guessed it – picture books! And yes, one came home with me to inspire my students.

After the profoundly emotional learning that we experienced at the CMHR, we spent the rest of our afternoon at The Forks. If you’re from BC, The Forks is quite a bit like Granville Island in Vancouver. There were all sorts of neat shops and an absolutely fantastic variety of food. We purposefully spent time debriefing over a late lunch about the museum. We were particularly aware of the boys (my son and nephew) as we wanted to make sure we could help out if they needed help processing all that they saw at CMHR. Thankfully, the boys were fine and proof of that was the fun they had playing Pokemon Go together for the rest of the day.

Summer Holidays Part Two – Family Trip to Winnipeg was a wonderful holiday for so many reasons. I am super thankful to have spent the time with my family. That was definitely the highlight and what I hoped the trip would be about. But what I didn’t expect was for the holiday to be such a great learning experience. I learned about travel, and art, and history, and human rights in Canada, and human rights around the world. I learned about a wonderful Canadian city filled with some of the nicest, friendliest people I’ve ever come across (think small-town friendly/nice/helpful but in a city!). It was an amazing experience filled with memories that warm my heart and will last a lifetime with a good dose of thought-provoking, profound learning added in.

Summer Holidays 2016 – Part One: Edcamp Global

There are officially ten days left of summer holidays. It’s been a strange one for me, having been off work for a medical leave at the end of the school year last year, but the last month has actually felt like summer holidays.

I was craving some online pro-d and Edcamp Global 2016, which took place for 24 hours straight on July 29/30, absolutely exceeded my expectations! It was great to jump right in to a completely new learning experience and participate in the online challenges and sessions. I really enjoyed meeting and learning from all sorts of enthusiastic educators from all over – the organizers were amazing and the participants super excited to share and learn. I even earned my first digital badge (see left)!

As a participant, it was fun to play around within a bunch of sites/applications designed specifically for learning with others online. Sessions I attended used Periscope, Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts and Voxer as the platform through which to connect. I learned about oodles of online tools and there is a very long list of sites to explore (EDpuzzle, Word Swag, Ziteboard, TES Teach with Blendspace and Adobe Spark, just to name a few!) and think about. It was really interesting to learn what others are doing and trying to do with new technologies, and, more importantly, to have the opportunity to ask questions and hear the ‘why’ from teachers all around the world.

Soon after recuperating from the lack of sleep that came from Edcamp Global, I was on my way to my first ever real holiday. I learned a bunch (and relaxed a whole lot, plus, I absolutely loved spending time with my family) while away on that trip – stay tuned for Summer Holidays 2016 – Part Two!

 

Midsummer Check-In

Summer has finally arrived! July was filled with rain (weird), cool temperatures (strange) and stormy weather (normal). My health is finally improving to the point where I almost/usually/kind of feel normal again – yay!! – and although I haven’t done any posting here, I have written a bunch in the last few months. I’ve settled into a great routine of self care and, for the first time in my life, I feel like I’m actually living in a healthy way. Not sure how full time work will fit into all that in September, but I’ll figure that out in the next month. I am looking forward to work, really looking forward to it actually, which I take as a very positive sign. I’ve been craving lesson planning and teaching kids and cool learning activities. It feels a bit like a fresh new start and a fresh new me, which is strange considering my age.

So, I’m diving back into professional development because I’ve missed it and my brain is craving it. Thank goodness for Twitter and all those amazing educators who tweet and blog because they’ve been a huge inspiration in the last week or so.

More to come!

From Teaching to Life’s Teachings

For the last few weeks I’ve been on a medical leave from teaching. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me that’s life threatening but there are still a lot of unknowns with my medical challenges at this point. Even with a few weeks of resting, I’m still sick. I don’t think there’s anything happening that I can’t recover from. I’m hoping there’s not.

My job right now, then, is to heal and commit to self care. I need to be the priority. I’m not good at that. Even feeling as rotten as I do, it’s hard to convince myself that resting is actually useful. It’s difficult for me. I was complaining at the start of all this about how much I love my job and working with the kids and how guilty I felt about the medical leave and how much I love teaching. The person I was talking to said, well, now you need to focus on life’s teachings instead of teaching. Huh. Simple shift, really. So, for the first time in a long time I’m focusing on myself and paying attention to life’s teachings.

What life is teaching me right now is that I need to sleep (10-11 hrs a day of that deep, healing sleep right now…it’s crazy…). I need to exercise – walking and yoga are part of the plan to get better. Drawing and writing seem good (time to blog? me? weird…). I’ve been reading and taking photos. I’m spending time with my kids. One big daily goal is to try to find food I can eat. That is a huge challenge. I can’t get better if I can’t eat so this is a priority. I can eat next to nothing without an allergic reaction or a variety of other symptoms but I’m learning what sits well and what I need to stay away from.

I need to stay away from certain mindsets too. I need to not become housebound and slide into an unmotivated slump. It’s my biggest fear. I’m not a good stay at home person. I get bored and disinterested when I’m not faced with a ton of external pressures and responsibilities. I’ve said before that, as much as I love spending time with my sons, I’d be a terrible stay at home mom. I have to keep my mind active and make sure I live each day and not just exist, if that makes any sense.

I was quite hesitant about writing this post because I don’t know how long I’m off work at this point and this is my professional blog. But, I’m only human and humans get sick. I’m still a life-long learner regardless and I want to write here regularly while I am off. I love writing. I’ve missed blogging. A lot. I think reflection with the purpose of writing in this space will be valuable learning and a great way to focus on what life is teaching me, right now.

New in the ECC This Year: Multimedia Teacher Introductions

I spent my Saturday morning searching for distraction. My husband and son left for a day of travelling for team sports and, because I can’t go today, I needed to distract myself from feeling sad and disappointed that I’m not on the road with them.

I decided to check out something that I knew would distract me and cheer me up: the multimedia teacher introductions created but the ECC team that we are sharing with students next week.

Sitting here now, after watching those introductions, I am so impressed!! What a great way to start my Saturday morning! It’s obvious that each teacher put a huge amount of thoughtful, purposeful effort into creating amazing multimedia files. What an awesome introduction for the students, and what a powerful way to role-model citizenship in this digital age. The kids are going to love the intros! We will most likely embed the files into our online hub, which is a moodle site at the moment, but if you’d like watch my video, it’s here on our ECC vimeo page.

There’s so much I could write about the process of creating my teacher introduction. I’ve never done anything like it. First, I am thankful to have learned a great deal about Quicktime, Keynote, and iMovie. I’ve worked with all before, but I’ve never created a multimedia file with embedded video clips and voiceovers like this one. It was a new level of multimedia learning (and frustration – oh the frustrations!!) and I’m glad I pushed myself to do what I set out to create in the first place. Yesterday morning I was ready to give up and play it safe. But then I was at school, working through this on my prep, and at recess, and when I realized my students were interested in what I was going through and they kept asking questions, and kept trying to help me problem solve, I knew I had to push through and figure it out. And I did. Late, late last night, but I did. I’m going to thank my students for that extra motivation.

After watching all the introductions this morning, I’m also humbled by the wonderful group of teachers in the ECC team this year. Those introductions are awesome. They exemplify pure teacher passion to do well, to share and to create an important piece to start building the relationships within our unique learning community. And even though we are all at different levels in our comfort levels with technology, everyone pushed to try something new and make it work. I’m so impressed, and I’m so excited to work with this team of dedicated educators who aren’t afraid to take learning risks themselves. And the content? These people are super interesting! I can’t wait to talk to them about what they put in the videos!! And if I can’t wait, I’m guessing the students will be excited to meet them too. Even deconstructing the many layers of excitement the teacher introductions will create (are already creating) in the ECC is the type of complex engagement that seems to me to be unique to this project. I’d never seen anything quite like it until I was a part of the ECC.

While we’ve always done teacher introductions in the ECC to start our year, the multimedia teacher introductions are a new idea that was proposed by Jen when we met in the summer. We had originally planned to do a live video connection between all five classes and have a gallery walk around the room with the teacher introduction files loaded up at five computer stations around each room. I had envisioned looking at the video conferencing screen to see five classes of kids eagerly rushing from station to station, laughing and talking and waving at the video cameras as they moved around and actively learned about the five teachers from the introduction files. Jen also had the idea to create a Jeopardy type game for kids to participate in after watching the introductions to see how much they could remember about each teacher. We had planned a fun, active, hands-on, multimedia, connected lesson to start the year.

In reality, things are working out a little differently, which is often (usually?!) the way at the start of the school year, especially with all the technology we depend upon to connect and learn in the ECC. There’s always that need to be flexible as a teacher, yes? At this point, only four sites can connect at once with the good quality of video conferencing we are used to and we are hoping that the tech department can work their magic and find a way to make that work with all five sites at the same time. The SD #74 tech department is a vital part of our extended ECC family; I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for all they do to keep us up and running the majority of the time.

So, in the last few weeks, after numerous emails, we decided to complete the teacher intro files as planned and share them as best fits our classes next week. I hope we can still do the Jeopardy lesson idea as I think that would be a great way for kids to communicate their learning. We’ve also decided to give the students the challenge of creating a classroom introduction next week and I’m super excited to see what happens with that too.

It’s neat to see the ECC unfolding in a whole new way this year! Thanks for reading!

This post was also shared on the ECC collaborative blog here.

Summer Reflections Part 3 – Feeding Teenagers, Driving your Husband Crazy and How to Lose Your Voice at the PNE

I started working and preparing for the upcoming school year this week. I had one full day of collaborating and planning with the ECC team last week, but, at that point, the first day of school still seemed very, very far away. After that collaboration day, I went on a short holiday to visit family and have some summer fun before the return to work. Since arriving home, it’s go time. Time to get ready, time to start thinking about all those expectant kiddies who will walk (or skip, or run, or something) into the classroom in eleven days!

Unfortunately, I hit a block today. I can’t organize another pile of ideas, or write another email, or even think about work at all. I’m going blank. All I want to do is write and think about the summer which gave me a perfect reason to sit and think about summer while writing the final instalment of my summer reflection blog posts…sounds so fancy when I write it like that!

So, in addition to part one and part two posted earlier, here are a few more things I learned this summer:

1) Never, ever, ever, buy a puzzle with the words ‘endless skies’ in the title. Don’t ask. Just take my word for it. What was supposed to be a pleasant diversion ended up being a project that was equal parts frustration and enjoyment.

2) Eating carrots and tomatoes and other food grown in your own backyard is totally worth all the time and effort it takes to put in and maintain the garden.

3) The best place to swim is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. The best time to swim is right before dusk on a night when the water is smooth as glass and the beach is almost completely deserted. Oh, if I could do that every day of my life…

4) The PNE is a ton of fun! While I went every year as a little girl when I lived in Vancouver, I hadn’t been for ten years. One unexpected thing I learned is that you can lose your voice from screaming throughout the Haunted House and while on rides like the Wooden Roller Coaster. It was worth it though! So. Much. Fun.

5) When going for a long walk, it drives your husband crazy if you stop every two minutes to take photos like these:

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There are 43 more from that one walk, but those are two of my favourites.

6) Always feed your teenagers before asking them to do anything. Actually, let’s just shorten that to ‘always feed your teenagers’. Life is just so much easier.

7) I still love my job and am following the right path in my life by continuing on my journey as an educator. While I love being home with my boys, and summer is a lovely respite from work, I am excited to go back to school. This will be my 20th year as a teacher. A real milestone for me. And I’m super excited, a bit giddy, energized and ‘up’ about going back to work. That’s so reassuring and feels really good. Nice to know I’m still doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Well, I think I’ll stop on that note. Thanks for reading along as I’ve shared my thoughts and reflections from the summer. If you’re in the middle of a school year, or just returned back, or starting soon, I hope your school year is wonderful and makes real, positive change in the world.

 

Summer Reflections Part 2 – Photos Included

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a few reflections on my summer so far, including the fact that I’m learning how to use a Canon E60 this summer. It’s been fun something other than my iPhone to take photos with and I love being able to zoom in on my subject! As promised in my earlier post, I’m sharing some of my favourite photos from the summer (so far!) below. One thing, I haven’t done any digital processing on these at all – they are straight off the camera.

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A good portion of summer this year is on the road. This photo of the Tantalus mountain range (above) was taken from the Tantalus viewpoint on the Sea to Sky Highway. It was a bit hazy from forest fire smoke in the air, but other than that I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I’m awed at the natural beauty of British Columbia.

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The blue moon at the end of July was stunning! This photo (one of my favourites – ever!!) was taken just after moonrise above Fountain Ridge just west of my hometown. I posted this to the #bcedchat summer slow chat and received good feedback!

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There is a large osprey nest on top of a local bridge. It’s a perfect place to go take photos because you have the Fraser River, an old bridge and the osprey nest complete with chicks!

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Whenever he can, my older son loves to ride his skateboard. He’ll spend hours, days, weeks, trying to perfect different kickflip tricks and I love this action shot of him attempting a no-comply pressure flip (yup, skateboarder mom). And yes, he does wear a helmet when he’s riding vert (vertical ramps/bowls, etc) but not when he’s practicing street or learning flip tricks.

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Ever summer, my younger son spends as much time as possible swimming in local lakes. He loves snorkelling or swimming completely underwater. One memorable moment this summer was when he popped up out of the lake excited that a 20 centimetre trout was right beside him!!

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If I could sum up the perfect summer, it would include something like this last photo. Water, a beach, flip flops and time to just relax and enjoy the sunshine.

I’m learning quite a bit about the camera and enjoying the quality of images as compared to all the photos I take with my phone. I don’t like the extra step of putting photos onto the computer before I can share them out on flickr, twitter or instagram but that’s the only frustration so far. That and remembering to bring the camera with me – I keep forgetting to bring it with me and have missed some great shots as a result!

More summer reflections coming soon…

 

Summer Reflections

I see today as the halfway point of the summer. July now becomes memories while August sits in the future, full of possibilities.

I’ve chosen time with my children over time with a screen lately but I enjoy blogging every summer (like now when it’s 4:48 a.m. and I can’t sleep) so here I am, sitting at the laptop, listening to a very enthusiastic rooster while the blue moon sets and the sky lightens on August 1st.

One last confession before I launch into my reflections – my urge to blog was also pushed along by the fact that my older son, a very tech-savvy teen, gave me a hard time recently about not spending enough time online. Just when I think I have the work/life balance all figured out and I feel I am being a good mom, along comes the teenager to make me question my decisions. Not surprising, really, as he’s the type of kid that constantly pushes you beyond your comfort zone in general and I (usually) love him for it.

Enough preamble…time to reflect and share about my summer so far!

Summer Reflection #1: New camera equals new learning about photography

 For the first time in my life, I’m learning how to use a really nice DSLR camera. My dad (who took up photography when he retired from being a principal ~10 yrs ago) loaned me one of his many fancy cameras so I’ve been happily taking all sorts of cool photos and learning a lot in the process. I’ve taught photography to students for 12 years now but this camera is well above and beyond what you’d work with at a school. It’s been a wonderful learning experience and hopefully I can share some of my favourite photos here soon.

Summer Reflection #2: I love summer because I have time to read for fun

 I’ve read at least 2-3 novels a week since the start of the summer holidays. I. Love. That. I inherited a Kobo e-reader in the spring and I’m learning a new reading experience through that device. I love the convenience and ease of access it offers and I’m guessing that’s one reason I’ve read so much.

I’ve also had the time to tackle the pile of books to read for school. By far the most memorable book I’ve read in that pile is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. A great book to read during the summer. So good. Thanks to Pernille Ripp – it was her post that brought it to my attention.

Summer Reflection #3: The summer of last minute ‘there’s been a change in plans’

 This has been making me a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy. The entire month of July was me making plans and organizing events, trips, etc., only to have them be cancelled, changed or spiral right out of my control at the last minute. After a month of what I can only call chaotic upheaval in my family life, I’m trying to adjust my outlook and just go with it. Not easy for me, I’ll admit, as I’m the planner/organizer in the family. I’m not, however, planning anything else this summer. I’m going to live in the moment and work on being more flexible. Instead of creating a summer holiday, I’m going to experience it instead. Lots to learn here.

Summer Reflection #4: The summer of drive here. Now drive there. Now drive somewhere else.

 Along with the chaotic upheaval and constant last minute ‘change of plans’ has come numerous day and overnight trips. I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time in a vehicle as the time I spent driving around the southern half of the province in July. Now I don’t like traveling and I get fairly carsick, even when I drive, so this hasn’t been easy. In retrospect, it’s been nice to see family living in other places and I’ve been reminded of how stunningly beautiful British Columbia is. I also love that the highways around my little hometown are the only ones on which I regularly see wildlife. There’s something to be said there.

Summer Reflection #5: The summer of starting to learn to let go

This is the most difficult thing I’ve experienced in awhile. My kids are growing up fast. Both are in high school and I love this stage of family life as I’ve loved all others, but this one comes with the future of adulthood right around the corner. This summer I’ve had to let my older son go away on his own, for the first time, more than once, and it’s been really, really tough to do. The most difficult situation involved him traveling hundreds of kilometres to the US for six days with a local sports team. It was an incredible opportunity for all the boys and my son was noticeably changed (in a good way) and matured when he returned home, but wow, was it a tough experience personally, and not just for me, but for a bunch of the parents. While it’s necessary to be supportive and positive and help your children move along into this next phase of their lives, it’s hard because it also means letting them grow up and learn how to be away from home. I know it’s the next step in this parenting journey but I just don’t know how to do it. Thankfully I have some time to learn and adjust and figure it out.

Here’s hoping that the learning journey that is life is a little smoother, easier, kinder for the second half of the summer. Happy August and thanks for reading!

 

 

Scattered, drifting, lost, anchored and trying to figure it all out.

I’ve felt a little lost professionally for awhile now. Well, I don’t know if ‘lost’ is exactly the right word. It’s definitely something, though; even my blogging is unsettled, inconsistent. I feel scattered. I can’t focus professionally. It’s starting to irritate me, partly because I can’t figure it out.

There’s still, thankfully, a strong sense of purpose. A real sense of ‘right’. I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to do. But for the first time in a long time, as a professional, I feel like I have no firm direction. And it’s not as if there’s no directionality to my thinking and professional development. There is, but there’s almost too much. I’m not really getting anywhere. There are too many things I want to think about, focus on, learn. I’m at the point where I’m not experiencing deep learning and I think that’s what I’m craving. Maybe that depth is what’s missing.

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When I think about all this and try to figure it out, I keep thinking of ocean imagery. I envision drifting aimlessly along on a gentle ocean. The water is calm with subtle swells and gentle movement. I’m enjoying the ride even though I have no way to control the direction I’m headed. But I love being on the water. I’m not afraid. It doesn’t feel bad. Just a little aimless. Like I should be doing more than drifting.

Up until a year or so ago, I would regularly come up with a professional plan for learning and follow through. But lately, I move in one direction and learn a little bit, then my attention is caught by something else, so I switch and think on something else for awhile. It feels a bit like a strange, scattered holding pattern. Like there should be something more, but I don’t know what it is, but also like I’m craving a profound immersion in professional learning that will bring purpose and a sense of direction.

At this point, the only way that I can see experiencing that kind of immersive learning experience would be to go back to school. I really, really love the push and obsession that comes with formal education and there’s a big part of me that wants to go back to school eventually. But eventually isn’t now, and maybe that’s part of the holding pattern.

The holding pattern is partly the stability that comes with where I’m at in life. I love my family life and feel that each day with my sons is more and more precious. I’m keenly aware of the fact that in half a dozen years or so they’ll both most likely have moved away. And by moved away I mean different town because most young adults have to leave this small town to find their way in the world. I don’t even want to think about it. An elder told me not too long ago that I will have a tough time with the empty nest when it comes along and I’d wager she’s right. For some reason, I thought it would get easier to let my children go as they grew older, taller, stronger and more independent. It’s not.

So while I feel a little lost professionally, at the same time I guess what I’ve figured out by writing this is that it’s home life, especially motherhood, that anchors me. There’s an overall balance there. I may be drifting around professionally but I think I’m drifting around that stable little island called home. I can see all the lovely learning possibilities out on the horizon, but I’ve anchored off the place that has profound personal relevance right now and I just don’t want to travel too far away. It’s starting to make some sense. Maybe.

I guess I’m not really lost and drifting, but instead, anchored where I need to be while experiencing the ongoing struggle with the balance between home and work. And that’s okay. Love my family. Love being a teacher. Being pulled both ways but anchored at home.

 

Photo accessed February 24, 2015 and used with permission from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-JHtCb9JrqKo/U4ZTkrt8bKI/AAAAAAAAPBM/-vwXQGjZBo4/s1600/CayoLargo-ocean.jpg

Thinking about Literacy

One of my main focuses for the school year is literacy. One of my main focuses every year is literacy, but I’m trying to step outside of the professional echo chamber that I think I’ve been a bit stuck in for a year or two and take a fresh new perspective. I kind of feel like I’m starting over as a teacher. And I am in a way, as I’m teaching grade seven again for the first time in almost twenty years. It’s where I started and the feeling of coming full circle is a constant in my mind.

Back to literacy. I enjoyed Will Richardson’s keynote at the CUEBC fall conference and wanted to hear more from him in person while I had the chance, so I attended his session on literacy later in the day. During his keynote he talked about how there were so many two word phrases with the word learning in them: mobile learning, e-learning, distance learning, etc., etc., etc. Will reminded us that it’s all ‘learning’. Do we need all those extra words?

He talked during his literacy session about the same sort of thing: digital literacy, visual literacy, information literacy. Isn’t it all just literacy?

So then what is literacy. Without looking it up, I’d say literacy is a person’s ability to understand and process information and to communicate. The dictionary I just looked in (written in 2006) defines literacy as “the ability to read and write”. My definition is an expanded version of that and I think it’s expanded because people like Will and experiences with students like those sitting in front of me have made it expand.

I want my students to be able to read and write. I also want them to be able to communicate through a multimedia slideshow. And look at a painting and tell you about the elements and principles of design. And be able to find a reliable, good source of information if they have a question they want to answer. And be able to critically read through information online. And, and, and, and, and…

I’m guessing that not only have I come full circle back to students in grade seven, which has prompted a reinvigoration in my practice including the literacy focus, but I’m thinking that being a teacher of students in today’s world, not to mention students in the Elementary Connected Classrooms project, is forcing me to shift my ideas and learn more about how I define literacy.

More to come…