Evolution of Interest

I drove to Vancouver and back this weekend. As I was by myself, I had lots of time to think, which, these days, is a luxury. Being a mom to two teenage sons and a teacher who is at the end of the school year means that I have a very full schedule at the moment. Even though I’m committed to self-care, quiet time to reflect and let my mind wander is rare. I enjoyed the drive because of the beautiful sunshine, gorgeous scenery and the realizations that came with the time to think. One of those realizations was the evolution of my research interests. Here is a list of my musings in no particular order as these topics constantly jostle and re-rank themselves day to day.

Research Interest #1: Visual Literacy and Arts-Based Methods

I had a lovely day Saturday with the BC Art Teachers’ Association (BCATA) Executive. It was the last meeting of the school year and many of us went out for lunch afterwards. I’ve been a district rep for the BCATA for over ten years but only joined the executive as the intermediate rep last year. What an amazing group of people. So inspiring. I feel as if I’ve found my tribe. I want to help them advocate for the arts and love sitting at that table.

I realized, when driving home Saturday, that being a part of the BCATA Executive feeds my interest in the Visual Arts, and, in particular, my passion for visual literacy and arts-based methods. This strand of my MEd research is still super important to me and I wasn’t aware, until Saturday, that I was carrying on with learning about this strand of research in this way. I think it’s pretty neat that I found my way to such a cool group of people that can gently push me along in my continued learning about Arts Education.

Research Interest #2: (Digital) Citizenship

When I was starting to jot down the notes for this blog post, the continuation of my learning with this topic was the one that is the most obvious. Unlike the other two interests that somehow snuck up on me in a formal-research-kind-of-way, I know that I’m always immersed in learning more about digital technologies. I don’t see how a person can teach kids today and not be. It’s such a huge part of the world and a huge part of kids’ day to day lives. Being a part of the Elementary Connected Classrooms project allows me the opportunity to integrate technology into my teaching practice and student learning on a daily basis. I love that I can always learn more about technology and constantly feed my curiosity to check out the latest platform, explore a new tech tool or read the latest updates on anything and everything tech. This strand of research always seems present in my life.

Research Interest #3: Métis and Cree Epistemologies

This one’s a big one right now. Well, it’s always a big one, as it  flows through my veins and shapes every thought, interaction and behavior each day, but it subtly took over last year and is quietly and persistently refusing to be ignored.

You see, when I was off on a medical leave last year, I quickly became very, very bored. Netflix was great for awhile, but I lost interest sooner than I’d expected. And, disappointingly, I could only read so many books. What I needed was intellectual stimulation. So. I started to write.

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I attended a Young Author’s contest when I was 12 and have always wanted to be a writer.  So, because I was bored and had the time, I started to write. I also began to dive in to the whole world of being a writer. I joined writer’s groups online, bought a few highly recommended books on writing and even attempted NaNoWriMo (I failed. Miserably. A story for another day…).

I have a good, and I think, unique question that is driving my story. One Saturday night in March, sitting on the floor of my study, surrounded by all of the articles I’d read when working on this strand of research for my MEd in 2011, I realized I had slipped right back into researching again. Somewhere along the line, I started diving deeper and deeper into the Métis and Cree storyline (now and in the past 300 years or so) as that plotline crept it’s way into farther into my book. Through writing I had slipped back into my MEd research, which immediately made me think…hmm…I wonder if I can write a novel as part of a PhD? (A question I’ve since had answered. Again, a story for another day…). And so, through writing as inquiry, in a way, I continue to learn more and further my research on Métis and Cree epistemologies. And I’m over 14 000 words for my book too!

It was a powerful realization that I feel the need to continue to follow these research interests in some way. I’m compelled to do so. I can’t be me without learning more about my Métis and Cree heritage. I’m not truly happy if Visual Arts isn’t some sort of priority in my life. I don’t feel right if I’m not immersed in learning the latest about educational technology and the effect this has on children and youth growing up today. I’d had no idea what a transformative experience the Masters coursework would have on me. Thanks again to Vicki, Lynn and Leyton – the MEd experience doesn’t seem to have an end point. I like that it’s become so fully and completely integrated into my personal and professional learning in general.

The Shift that Spring Weather Brings

Somehow, it’s May. I can’t believe it. I think the very long and very cold winter has something to do with the fact that the months have slipped by quickly. Today is the third sunny, warm day this year. The third. That’s unusual in recent years. There’s still snow on Fountain Ridge which means it’s not time to plant your garden yet (according to the elders, who know what they’re talking about) so instead of working in my garden like I usually do the first weekend in May, I decided to write instead.

With the nice, sunny weather came a shift in the classroom. PE outside. DPA outside. Anything we can sneak outside, we do. I finally heard the familiar “Ms Gregory can we go read/draw/play outside?” from students several times on Friday. Also, a retired teacher of mine was in Friday as a TTOC and, during my prep, took the students for a nature walk around the school grounds. We are lucky to have a ravine with a creek flowing behind our school property. It’s a great place to take the students for all sorts of outdoor learning. I was prepared for the “He took us on a walk” comments when they returned. I was not prepared for the “We ate dandelions and he showed us how to eat certain cacti” comments! Lucky kids…I’d love to have tried the cactus. Apparently it tasted like cucumber!

With the shift we also have the year end craziness setting in. One or two major events happening every week from now until the end of June. This week there is a fish dissection demonstration (the students can’t wait!), the St’at’imc Gathering and our school carnival. Next week there are student led learning conversations one evening after school. The week after there is a really cool learning event happening at the local spawning channels called Walking with the Smolts.

And then it will be June. Poof, May will be gone.

I love the end of the year. So many fun activities. The weather is nice. I know my students well and have more fun teaching them because I do know them better and feel that I can help them to learn more efficiently and effectively.

I hate the end of the year because there is always so much that I want to finish up and do with my students and there is never enough time to fit it all in! I’ve figured out, after 21 years of teaching, and having taught many students for more than one year in a row, that teaching a student for one and a half years is the perfect amount of time for me to do all that I want to do. Anyone up for changing the school calendar?!

Anyway, the sunshine and spring breeze (not mention the hammock chair on my deck) are calling to me. Thanks for reading and hoping you have a lovely spring day!

 

 

Watershed Moments (Inspired by Dean Shareski and Chris Kennedy)

I’ve purposefully returned to reading and commenting on blogs in recent months and I read two really good (and connected) blog posts this weekend. I first read My Own Watershed Moments on Chris Kennedy’s blog Culture of Yes which led to me to Dean Shareski’s post, Watershed Moments of Learning, on Ideas and Thoughts. At the end of his post, Dean Shareski invited  his network to write about their own watershed moments of learning. That challenge was the inspiration for Chris Kennedy’s post and, in turn, they both prompted me to spend some time thinking and writing about my own watershed moments.

This task, which initially seemed pretty easy, was, in retrospect, not as straightforward as I expected and turned out to be a good exercise in thinking and ranking. I’m guessing that this list will change with time so think of this as a snapshot of my ideas at this point in my life. I decided to organize my ideas using most of the same categories as Dean and Chris: PD Event/Conference, speaker or presentation, book, tool, and person.

 PD Event/Conference:

TEDx West Vancouver ED (2013) is my watershed PD event because it is one of the PD events I’ve attended in the last few years that continues to standout in my mind. It was my first (and so far only) TEDx, the first TEDx West Vancouver Ed, and one of those PD events where you finally get to meet all sorts of people in your PLN face to face (many for the first time – it was the first and only time I’ve ever had the chance to talk to Dean Shareski!). I loved the event. It reminded me that I became the educator I am because I left my small little town and ventured out to PD beyond. It inspired me in so many ways – the speakers were absolutely incredible (see the youtube videos here). It also, indirectly, reminded me that I learn best through arts based methods. At the time I had been tweeting at conferences to record and share professional learning but for whatever reason (serendipity I think), my devices were not connecting to the wifi that whole weekend so I switched to my default, old-school method – a sketchbook and colored, dry media. My doodles from that day, and a bit more of an explanation, are here.

Speaker(s)/Presentation(s):

Choosing just one speaker or presentation is super tough. For today though, I’m going to pick Helen Keegan as my watershed speaker. Her presentation on gamification at Edmedia in Victoria a few years ago dramatically changed my thinking. She introduced me to gamification and I’ve since become fascinated by this. Because of Helen, I co-created and taught one of the coolest units I’ve ever used with students last year – the Battle of the Books: Canadian Authors. That unit is a new twist on online literature circles that uses gamification as the method through which to engage kids and trick them into loving reading novels. I also have to give credit to Justin deVries and Mike Koppes from Kamloops for their awesome workshop that deepened my understanding of gamification at the PITA conference last fall. I’m still fascinated with gamification and plan to continue learning more about how to use this as one method to engage kids.

Book(s):

I love to read and I read a lot. To have to pick just one book, ever, to answer a question that starts with “Which book…” usually seems like an impossible task to me. So, accordingly, I decided on my top four watershed books as of right this minute, today:

#1: The Arts and the Creation of Mind by Elliot Eisner – This book was recommended to me by Dr. Vicki Kelly (see my watershed person below) when I was writing my thesis. When I started reading this book, I couldn’t believe that there was a book, written by a famous Stanford professor, that summed up everything I believed as an arts educator in such an articulate, academic way. It blew my mind. It still blows my mind. I’d been teaching a certain way and developing certain pedagogical beliefs during my years as a high school visual arts teacher (that transform my practice to this day). This book fit perfectly within, and gave sound theoretical basis to, all that I had learned, experienced and struggled with as a teacher passionate about arts based methods and the integration of the visual arts into students’ learning.

#2: Look to the Mountain by Gregory Cajete – This book was also recommended to me by Vicki when I was writing my thesis. It was the first book I ever read that actually described my mother’s way of teaching. You’d have to read my thesis or sit and chat with me for the complete explanation about that. My great-grandmother raised my mother (and my siblings and I) and my great-grandmother, in turn, was raised by her Cree grandmother. Essentially, my great-grandmother’s and my mother’s pedagogy and child-rearing philosophies were rooted in indigenous ways of learning and knowing. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to read a book that actually described how my mom taught me to teach and to be with kids as a teacher. I think it will forever be one of my favourite non-fiction books for that reason.

#3: The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman – This is the same book mentioned by Chris Kennedy in his watershed post. In 2005, when this book was first published, I was starting my graduate coursework, learning about the emerging online tools, and attempting to wrap my head around the impact of what was taking place in the field of education because of the internet and the world wide web. This book really helped me to understand the changes happening at the time and pushed me to think about where learning in schools and the world in general was heading.

#4: An Imaginative Approach to Teaching by Kieran Egan – I really like reading books by Kieran Egan and I’ve admired and followed his work for a long time now. Several times when reading this book I would read a chapter at night and try out strategies the next day with my students. Many of those strategies are firmly embedded into my teaching practice. Because of this book, I often weave storytelling into my lessons and kids always seem to respond well. I once saw Kieran Egan when I was completing my MEd. He was working in a garden outside of the education faculty at SFU. I was starstruck and too shy to go say hello. I kick myself for that to this day. He looked so peaceful though, working away, surrounded by plants and I respected him and his peace too much to intrude at the time.

Tool:

The watershed tool would have to be Twitter. It’s been interesting to experience the evolution of this tool since I created my account in 2009. I enjoy spending time learning with and from other enthusiastic educators who love teaching and working with kids and Twitter allows me to do that with people all over the world from a small, rural town in the interior of BC. I can dip in to talk or comment whenever I feel like it and rarely does a day go by that I don’t check my feed to see what’s happening in the world. Of all the technology I’ve tried and use, I think that Twitter has transformed  professional learning for me (one example of how in this post here) more than anything else. Even with the changes that seemed to have come with the explosion of people using it in recent years, Twitter continues to be the tool that impacts my practice the most.

Person:

My watershed person, and someone who definitely had a profound impact on my thinking, teaching, personal life, and everything, really, is Dr. Vicki Kelly. She is one of the most important teachers of my life. Vicki was one of my professors during my Masters year at SFU in 2010-2011. I don’t think there’s any way that I could explain how much I learned from/with her and through her teaching. She is an expert teacher and one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. She helped me in a way that I don’t think any other professor could have. especially when it came to my learning about traditional Métis and Cree beliefs surrounding education and child-rearing. And it’s no small coincidence that two of my watershed books above were recommended by her.

Those are my watershed moments. Thanks to Dean and Chris for the inspiration and thanks for reading!

 

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!

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.

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.

CayoLargo-ocean

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…

Stormy Skies, Rough Seas, Deluge

I’m thinking that this has been the longest gap between posts in my blogging history. Not surprisingly, the reason for that is that life has been incredibly full. That’s not an excuse, just my own reasoning and, as this space is for me to share as I choose, that’s as good an explanation as any.

The phrase “incredibly full” is a simple statement that encapsulates a very complex five months of life. Last year was one of the most difficult of my career due to reasons beyond my control. During the last few months of the school year, when the stress I was under manifested as medical issues, there was a personal tragedy within the family of old, very close friends and this affected our entire community. At that point, my body and mind went into survival mode and I had to make my health a priority. Life was pretty dark and rough for awhile.

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On top of a difficult year end, personal tragedy and medical issues, there were months of chaos and uncertainty surrounding contract negotiations between the teachers in British Columbia and our employer. A breakdown in this process meant that the school year ended suddenly as teachers in BC walked out on a full scale strike two weeks before school was supposed to end. Even now, two months later, there is no resolution in the dispute and while the beginning of the next school year is scheduled to begin in less than a week, teachers may still be on strike.

I like to keep this blog a positive place full of ideas and thoughts that need to be clarified, deconstructed, remembered and shared, so it was a conscious decision not to write and pollute this space while in a negative deluge of life. I only share these thoughts now because it’s time to move forward and to do that I need to clear my mind by consciously placing the struggles and negativity behind me and firmly into the past. Basically, acknowledge and shift forward.

Tomorrow I’d like to shift my mind further into the renewal that comes with a new school year (even if we are still on strike) by remembering and sharing all the goodness that came with the summer. And there was a lot of it – “incredibly full” from above also refers to a whole bunch of fun. I had a wonderful summer, the best in years. I’d like to end such a great holiday by reminding myself of the abundance of blessings in my life and then carry that feeling as I move on into the transition ahead. So, another post tomorrow I hope, full of fun and happy times, to balance out the darkness I let in above. Until tomorrow…

Photo Storm Light by jekrub