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.


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.


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

The Learning Power of Educational Video (as taught to me by my son)

Here’s part of the prompt for this month’s Blog A Month Challenge found here:

Our optional topic for March centers on the learning power of educational video.

Great movies challenge our thinking, speak to our emotions, and take us to distant worlds both historical and fantastic.  Integrating the power of videos into your classroom, professional development, and/or school culture offers even greater potential impact as there is the opportunity to reflect, discuss, and critique the quality and message of the video.

Suggest one to two of your favorite videos (Ted Talks, YouTube Clips, Vimeos, Movie Clips…etc) that you have used in your school setting, and share how you used it. Explain how incorporating this visual into your presentation or lesson has helped you to achieve your goals.

Now I’d better admit right at the start; I’m not a ‘video’ person. It’s not my first choice of media to learn from. I rarely click on links and watch videos. I will, however, gladly read an article/blog post/etc., and I almost always click on links to photographs or images. I’m not even really a movie person anymore, much to my husband’s dismay. I think it has something to do my notion that a video or movie will take too much time. I would need to think on it a bit more to figure out the resistance and general disinterest.

You may be wondering how the direction of this post is going to turn around to the learning power of education video, the topic for the month shown above. I’m getting there through the lens of motherhood and leaving the obvious direction that the topic above seems intended to take. Hope that’s okay. It’s the way my mind went…

Like many of our youth, my teenage son is a video fanatic. While he would barely read a book to save his life, and he hates reading in general, he devours youtube videos like no one else that I know. He’s one of ‘those boys’. He’s really, really active, he’s really, really quick & bright, and he’s really, really horrible when he’s bored. He doesn’t like school and he’s a bit of a nightmare to engage in a classroom (understatement of the year), but when he wants (key word here – ‘wants’) to learn or do something, absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, can stop him. He’s more than a little intense and has this indefinable quality that I love and can only describe as his ‘edge’. I love him to pieces.

So what does this have to do with the learning power of educational video? Well, for him, and for many of those lumped in with him into that demographic that we want to keep in school and engage and help succeed, for him and those like him, the fact that the content can be engaged through video as the media IS the learning power. I’ll expand on that, and hopefully it will make sense.

Lately my son has been watching TED and TEDx talks. All on his own. No prompting from me about educational value. He watches them on his phone, anywhere, anytime and at home on his computer. He watches them first on his own and then, if he feels that it’s worth it, he’ll invite me to watch with him. He also shares links with friends. I’ve noticed him quoting the speakers from the videos in general conversation. The topics of the videos usually make sense to me. I understood immediately why he wanted to watch Rodney Mullen: Pop an ollie and innovate with me and why he’d want to watch Forget what you know: Jacob Barnett but he branches off and engages with other, seemingly random, topics too. Vine, Instagram videos and his own youtube channel round out the multimedia aspect of his lifestyle.

He’s paying attention. He’s learning independently and making meaningful connections to his life and his interactions with his peers and his family. I’ve been analyzing it a bit because it’s obviously deep learning and it’s interesting to me because he is a really tough kid to ‘teach’. It’s tough for teachers to get him to learn. It’s also interesting to me because video is such a foreign way for me to learn. Yet it’s so natural and easy for him, not to mentions a complete and total contrast to trying to get him to learn from a book or virtually anything written on a piece of paper.

I should mention at this point that my two sons are being raised with a high critical awareness of the content they consume and participate with online and elsewhere. Anyone who knows me will understand the passion for (digital) citizenship that I carry around deep seated within me, and that has been an important contributing factor to my childrens’ behaviour online and in general. We talk about gaming, social media, online interactions, etc., all the time. And don’t get me wrong, he still watches his share of ridiculous content too (he is fourteen and stupid humor is at an all time high with him) but the fact that he’s choosing to watch high quality educational content is noteworthy. And it makes me proud, and hopeful. Maybe this is how he will get through the next few years and find success after high school. Maybe video is the key.

I didn’t exactly take the prompt and answer the questions above. But I did make a powerful connection between video as being key for some children to engage with content and learn in a meaningful way. For some students, like my son, the learning power of educational video is the fact that because it is multimedia, it is more likely to engage. For whatever reason, multimedia content will make some students pay attention. Is it their ‘language’? Their learning style? Their literacy? I’m not sure, but if your goals are to engage and help your students to learn, then the type of content is something to attend to. A small shift, but potentially huge gains for our students.

I have many, many more questions on this but I think that’s enough for today. I’ll keep paying attention to learn more and I’m looking forward to the Blog a Month Challenge topic for April! Thanks for reading!

Afterthought – if you’d like to check out some great videos with educational content, check out the Rodney Mullen and Jacob Barnett links above – lots of interesting bits that relate to learning and the field of education! 

Blog a Month Challenge, or My Latest Formal Push to Learn

If you know me, you know I need/like the push and obligation of a formal learning commitment. That’s how I seem to work best. Left to my own devices, I become happily lost reading works of fiction, spending time just being with my children, making satisfying creations with my hands and enjoying frequent rejuvenating naps. Life at it’s finest.

But I like professional learning too. Problem is, I really only experience professional learning efficiently with a formal push. As I do from time to time, I’m signing up for a blogging challenge to force myself to write in this space. I love writing here, don’t get me wrong, but to make myself find the time I need a little extra outside motivation.

So, thank you to a tweet I noticed this morning from Shawn Davids, I learned about the Blog a Month Challenge. Yes, I need a little encouragement and accountability and yes, I need a formal push to post once a month, so, yes, I signed up! I can do a post a month. And now I have to.


A Little Sunshine to Start the New Year

Thanks to Sarah and Claire for giving me the purpose to write a blog post in the form of a little “sunshine”. What does this mean, you ask? For those who haven’t seen it yet, there is an internet/blogging/Twitter meme going around and Sarah and Claire were kind enough to include me. Sarah explains what this meme is about perfectly in the following excerpt from her recent post:

Here is a description of this blogging, twitter-generated, meme-type task:

The Sunshine Award gives others an opportunity to learn about me as a blogger and then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 (or so) other fine bloggers for you to get to know! Although I know every one is busy at this time of year, I hope the bloggers I nominate will be able to share a few interesting things about themselves. They can then highlight bloggers that they have enjoyed following.

Here are the rules:

Acknowledge the nominating blogger. Share 11 random facts about yourself. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition! Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Thank you Sarah for that perfect explanation! So, here’s my Sunshine Award info:

11 Random Facts about me:

  1. As a child, I lived and grew up in Kitsilano and the West End in downtown Vancouver.
  2. I spent almost the entire year from the time I was two to three years old in and out of oxygen tents in the pediatric ward of Vancouver General Hospital. Asthma wasn’t so controllable in the days before Ventolin and inhaled steroids. Back then you received a shot of adrenaline in the behind. Not fun when you’re two. I have vivid memories of my hospital stays during that time. Horrible.
  3. During my childhood, my mom and I spent many years scouring used book stores in Vancouver and Victoria looking for old editions of Nancy Drew novels and I have a fairly complete collection. It was special time spent with her searching for the books and also a shared passion to read them.
  4. I was on the pit crew for my husband and his best friend when they used to race our 1949 Willys pickup truck in Mud Bog Races. You should try changing 40″ plus tires caked in thick mud – character building 🙂
  5. My husband often says that he knows when dinner is done (if I’m cooking) by the sound of the smoke detector alarm going off. Sadly, this is true.
  6. My current/former pets include dogs, fish, cats, rats, a tarantula (inherited class pet) and a ball python.
  7. I haven’t been able to engage with non-fiction since completing my Masters Degree in 2011, yet I continue to purchase the latest education must-reads, which then sit on my book shelf looking pretty and unfortunately not interesting to me in the slightest.
  8. I like going camping. Real camping where there is no running water, no numbered campsites and no other humans anywhere near where I’m camped with my family.
  9. I like to spend time looking out windows, but there has to be some space beyond to look at. A window that is close to and faces a wall seems like a terrible waste.
  10. I like to bake. I grew up in a house that always had something home made sitting on the kitchen counter for the kids to enjoy and my kitchen often offers the same. It relaxes me too and I enjoy the creative aspects of taking a bunch of ingredients and transforming them into something completely new.
  11. I have never been on an airplane.

11 Answers for Sarah:

  1.   What is your middle name and why do you have it? My middle name is Leigh. I love it. I also have no idea why I have it, my mom isn’t around to ask the reasoning behind why she named me that, and nobody else seems to know the reason behind it either.
  2.   Who is your favourite female family member and why? That’s easy. My one and only sister is my favourite female family member. She’s actually one of my best friends in life, regardless of the fact that she is much younger than I am, and I love her to pieces.
  3.   What do you do that you wish you didn’t? Get up early to get to work on time. If my job started at 11:00 each day, I’d be a much happier and healthier person.
  4.   What is your secret addiction? or a confession you are willing to make. Hmm…what to share, what to share… I guess I have a simple but serious addiction to tea. My day is not complete with one cup of earl grey tea.
  5.   If you could do any other job what would it be? I fantasize about having a job that I leave behind each day when I go home – a job that isn’t so important that I go through life without the heavy burden of some sort of professional responsibility 24/7. That said, I did go to fashion school after high school and earned a Fashion Merchandising diploma. I still love the world of fashion and would love to work in the industry. I think that I’d like to be a librarian in a big, fancy college/university library. I could see myself being a solitary professor living the life of an academic. I would also like to write – that’s actually one of my plans after I retire – I have all sorts of plans for various novels/books/stories.
  6.  What is your favourite breakfast meal? I’m a cereal person. I have to have cereal in the morning. Something healthy, crunchy and gluten/nut free with a moderate amount of nice, cold milk.
  7.  What sport would you love to be good at? My first thought is  softball because I love the satisfying crack of the bat when it connects with the ball and it’s fun to play with a team.
  8.   Do you watch the Olympics on TV? Why or why not? Yes, or, if I’m working or away from home I ‘watch’ on Twitter. I like the Olympics because I am a proud Canadian and love cheering for Canada’s athletes plus I enjoy watching the amazing athleticism that some humans can achieve.
  9.  What is in your freezer right now? All sorts of food (bread, beef, chicken, frozen bananas, melting chocolate wafers, blueberries, french fries, apricots from my tree last year, tomatoes from my garden, etc.) because I have two always-hungry, growing boys. Bait because my husband loves fishing and there are many great places to fish around here. Ice packs because I have two always-active boys who often need to ice minor injuries from skateboarding, biking, running, trampoline-ing, wrestling, and whatever else they do to hurt themselves in a day.
  10.  What were you afraid of as a child? Being kidnapped, which, in retrospect, was possibly the result of reading Nancy Drew novels and other mystery stories all the time.
  11. What is your favourite colour? Why? I’ve never been able to choose only one colour as my favourite. My favourite colour shifts between greens, purples and blues so I guess I feel most comfortable with cool colours if you want to think along the lines of the colour wheel. More specifically, kelly green, emerald green, and a nice bright clean spring green. I also really like forest, dark and hunter as shown here. For purples I like both purple and violet equally but prefer the medium tones and darker shades over the lighter tints. Blue is my comfort colour – it’s throughout my house and I wear it all the time – and although I never wear it, blue and orange is my favourite colour combination.

11 Answers for Claire:

  1. What lead to you becoming an educator? That’s a long answer! The short version is that because my parents were teachers, I rebelled against what I wanted to do (teach) and went to fashion school. After three years in retail management making money for someone else selling clothes people didn’t need, I was frustrated and disillusioned as to my purpose in life. After a day of soul searching with my husband, I realized I really did want to be a teacher and work with children and I needed to swallow my pride and go back to school to do what I had always wanted to do.
  2. If you hadn’t become an educator, what would you have done instead? Please see #5 above for some thoughts on that!
  3. Are you concerned about student privacy and security with regards to cloud computing?  For example, do you have any reservations about students using Google Apps or other cloud based services?  I don’t trust Google. I admire them and love using many of their online products but I don’t trust them. I have big concerns about privacy and security in regards to cloud computing and everything online. There are too many people out there driven by greed and other selfish urges for me to trust that my data/my students data/my children’s data is safe.
  4. What was the first ‘real’ job that you had? My first real job was as a sales clerk at the Fields Store here in town. That was my Friday night/Saturday morning job for four years through high school.
  5. What is your current favourite book, movie and / or album? I watched Silver Linings Playbook this week and loved it! Wonderful actors, a great story, fantastic composition on the filming – very good movie!
  6. What did you always want to be when you grew up? I had a pretty strong desire to be a teacher, then a doctor, then a writer, and then a fashion designer, in that order.
  7. What is the strangest food that you’ve ever eaten? Cow tongue in Home Ec 11. It was horrid. I didn’t eat for a week afterwards. Blech!
  8. If you could sit down and talk with any person, living or dead, who would it be and why. My mom because I miss her. Simple.
  9. How far away do you live from where you grew up? I grew up in Vancouver until I was nine, so that’s about 400 kilometres away from here. But at the age of nine, my mom moved us here for her teaching career and I grew up about two kilometres from my current home.
  10. What is your favourite way to unplug and unwind? My every-other-day run. No headphones or music for me! Just the birds singing and the quiet of the rural roads in my town!
  11. Salty or sweet? Sweet!!

Now the tagging part (or not so much tagging as sharing the sunshine while I break the chain):

This is the part where I break the rules and break the chain. When I was looking for people to tag last night, most of the people I wanted to tag have already done their homework and completed fantastic sunshine posts! You are all very diligent people. Instead of tagging these people, I’m acknowledging them as very important to my PLN, people I’d love to meet and spend time talking with or people I have met that I’d like to learn more from in the future.

Check out the sunshine homework posts already done by some of these amazing people. Or check out their blog. Or follow them on Twitter. Connect somehow because they’re good people:

  1. Dean Shareski
  2. Michelle Baldwin
  3. Chris Kennedy
  4. Tia Henriksen
  5. Sarah Soltau-Heller
  6. Chris Wejr
  7. David Truss
  8. Claire Thompson
  9. Brooke Haller
  10. Iram Khan
  11. Cori Saas

Now that I’ve broken the chain, I should add that if you do want to continue and post the answers to my questions, I’ve come up with, for the most part, simple choice-type, random questions. Feel free to explain your choices, or not!

  1. If you could choose would you prefer to live in a city or a small town?
  2. If you had the space, would you plant a flower garden or vegetable garden?
  3. Would you rather drive a sleek, fast European sports car (one example – Ferrari) or a sleek, fast classic car (one example – Corvette stingray)?
  4. Do you prefer cats, dogs or neither?
  5. Are you a night owl or an early bird?
  6. What’s easier for you – writing using paper and pen or writing using word processing?
  7. Have you ever climbed a tree or had a tree fort?
  8. What is your favourite season?
  9. What was the first or best concert you’ve ever attended?
  10. Would you prefer to attend a backyard barbeque or go to a fancy restaurant?
  11. When was the last time you drew something?

That’s it! If you do decide to answer my questions and continue to spread the sunshine, here’s a summary of the homework assignment:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. Choose to:
  5.     a) Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you, or,

b) Break the chain like I did and end it however you like.
That’s it! Thanks again to Sarah and Claire for giving me a reason to blog and get my head back into ‘work’ mode as the end of winter break draws near!

Learned Something New About Myself

I came to an interesting realization yesterday. Well, interesting to me at least. I was thinking about how good it felt to write my last blog post. I was thinking about how, when it’s quiet and I have some time, I like to write blog posts.


Then I took a look back at my blog and realized that, while I don’t post as much as many (rare to get more than one blog post a month from me), I have posted about once a month for several years years now. And then I started thinking about all the other writing I do/have done: narratives, my gigantic thesis, proceedings paper for conferences, private journals, various essays. And then I thought about how writing has been a constant in my life since I wrote a winning entry and went to the Young Authors conference way back when I was twelve years old.

And I had this sudden realization that I am a writer.

That was a major shift in my identity. Subtle too though because I think I’ve always been a writer but just didn’t know it. As soon as I had that, I guess I can justify the word here, revelation, it felt right, like a puzzle piece fitting into the empty space where it belongs.

And then so much about what I do and who I am made sense. I LOVE to teach writing. It’s one of my favorite things to teach. Why? Because I’m passionate about it.

When it’s quiet in my home (rare these days…thankfully!), one of the activities I find a deep sense of personal fulfillment within is writing blog posts. Why? Because I’m a writer.

I want to earn my PhD some day. Why? Partly because I want to learn more, of course, but also because I want to write more about what I started writing about in my thesis. Crazy to my husband and many others but now perfectly sensible to me. Why? Because I’m a writer.

So, big deal, right? What does this have to do with anyone but me? Well, not much, except that it does speak to this little phrase “life-long learner” we toss around all the time in the field of education. We want our students to become, or remain, life-long learners. But how do we do that? How do we ensure that throughout their lives our students are going to continue to try new things, and push outside their comfort zone, and reflect on what they are doing and critically think and rethink what they are doing in life and why?

Those answers are huge, complicated, and multi-layered. But I think that one key is to model to our students that we are learning too, and loving all the joy, difficulty, discomfort and accomplishment that comes with learning at any age. Kids aren’t stupid; they know what an adult learner looks like. So you can’t fake it. You have to find a way to work in what your passionate about into your life as a teacher and a parent so kids can see for themselves what it looks like.

Another piece is to help kids find what they are passionate about. Help awaken that. I would hope that finding one’s passion or calling in life would be an important part of what teachers call ‘teaching’ each day.

Finally, make sure that the kids are enjoying themselves enough and feel safe and relaxed enough to allow for self-discovery and a love of learning in the classroom. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times; we force children to go to school, the least we can do is make it a fun place to be. Our students are, after all, children. It’s a good exercise to watch how they act and what they do when left on their own and then compare it with how they act and what they do in a school or classroom.

So a huge realization led to deep thinking about teaching philosophy on a Saturday morning and also, surprise, surprise, a whole bunch of writing…

Photo accessed September 21, 2013 from Flickr: My Most Treasure Gift.

What I Learned this Summer, or the Study Renovation Detour

School starts in two days. I’m ridiculously excited to see the kids and get started on our year together but I do feel the need to transition through and say good-bye to my summer holidays first.

At the beginning of the summer, I had great intentions to blog for two months. As summer rolled along, my plans changed. I had an absolutely wonderful summer, thinking about work very little, which led to my feeling, at this point, as if I did have a real holiday. Personally, I don’t think summer is the time for me to read books about teaching, blog about teaching, tweet about teaching (although I was guilty of that a bit), or stay in a work mindset. It’s a time to relax, spend time with my children and other family, read for fun, swim at the lake, sort out my thoughts, realign my beliefs and rejuvenate my body and soul.

But while I didn’t ‘work’, I did learn. And the major learning experience for me this summer was my study. I never started out saying, “hmm, I think I’ll do a three room swap in my house and renovate the study, all on my own, without any help,” but that’s exactly what happened.

The summer detour this year  (the opposite of my previous summer detour because it was completely unplanned and happened all on it’s own), started when I decided to read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’d heard about this book, and the blog that goes with it, and started reading it at the end of June. I’m only a couple of chapters in (more on why coming up), but I highly recommend it.

Gretchen looked at happiness from a writer/researcher point of view and tried out the different themes she discovered in her research. Each month she tested out a different theme centered around making herself happier and then wrote about her experiences. The first theme is Boost Energy and that chapter includes a section on the benefits of reducing clutter in one’s physical space. I decided that I was not continuing on to chapter two without test-driving all her themes myself. I took one look at my home and realized how draining all the clutter was and decided to do something about it.

I told my husband of my plans. I was going to take EVERYTHING out of my study. Then I was going to clean the room top to bottom and move our teenage son into that room, taking ONLY what he wanted out of his old room. Then I was going to take EVERYTHING out of his old room, clean it top to bottom and move our younger son into that bedroom. Then I would take EVERYTHING out of that son’s room, clean it, and turn it into my study. Then I would move the essentials into my new study, purging all that I (and they) no longer needed. I thought this might take about two weeks and told my husband he didn’t have to worry, that I would do all this myself (with the boys’ help).

I’m sure you can imagine the look he gave me, but, being the nice partner he is, and understanding my stubborn independence, he told me it was a good idea and let me run off to get started.

First off, let me say that is was quite obvious I’ve been teaching for almost twenty years when the pile of stuff I moved out of the study filled up the majority of our living room space. Anyone walking into my home at that time must have suspected I was a hoarder. So much teaching stuff. And sewing stuff. And craft stuff. And art stuff. Ridiculous. But, I didn’t look at the pile too long as I instead shampooed the carpets in the old study, filled a couple of nail holes and moved my ecstatic teen into his new, ‘teenager’ bedroom, taking only the possessions he couldn’t live without from his old bedroom.

I then added to the living room pile by moving everything he didn’t want out of his old bedroom. I love my son, but his room, like many teenagers’ rooms, I’m sure, was disgusting. Once everything was out and cleaned up, I moved my younger son in. Or rather, one day, when his friend was over, I said, in my best enthusiastic-teacher-voice, ‘hey guys, how would you like to set up all the furniture in the new bedroom???!!!’ and they actually went for it. They spent all day happily moving furniture around and, I have to say, did a great job of setting up his new bedroom, taking only what he absolutely needed to keep.

Much to my husband’s growing distress (he hadn’t anticipated the hoarder-style living arrangements), I then removed everything from the younger son’s room. Now, this room was the original nursery all those years ago. Amazingly, there were still things in there from when it was the original nursery all those years ago. Why? I have no idea. I took everything out of that room and let me say that it was a good visual to see all the stuff piled in one place that had NOT been moved back into either bedroom. We are not big consumers, there is no big box store mall here, but we still manage to accumulate a lot of useless stuff. Many lessons for our family in that alone.

Once that last room was empty, I decided that if I was going to finish this properly, I was going to renovate to truly claim 9372974631_a6465de62b_zmy space as my new study. I primed the walls, filled the holes (helpful advice…never put a dart board in a little boy’s room…many, many holes to fill), removed trim and painted. Then, against my husband’s advice, I ripped out the carpet. Laminate flooring can’t be that expensive or difficult to do, right? Yeah, no. I learned all about flooring, subflooring, and how much it costs a square foot – staggering what you can spend on the stuff you walk on everyday. I had no idea. Many lessons for me there.

As you can probably see, I’d learned a great deal by this point, but the most profound learning was still to come. I decided to purchase click together laminate flooring. I installed the subflooring and started piecing together the flooring myself. My husband, ever watchful from afar and helping me from the  9647707185_c8763b45b9_zsidelines, set up his radial arm saw and jigsaw so I could cut the pieces to the right length/shape. The first few rows of flooring went really well. No problems. But somewhere near the middle of the room, I started to run into problems. Pieces weren’t fitting together properly. I’d get a few rows done and notice a gap and have to undo and redo the rows. I made a horrible mistake on a cut and worried I was going to run out of flooring. What was supposed to take me a few days started to take more than a week.

Finally, a month after I’d started my three room swap and a week and a half after I’d started the flooring, I, full of frustration (but still not asking for help), wandered into the den and sat down to watch TV with my husband. He took one look at me and said ‘I’m going to help you, let’s get that floor done,’ and he took my hand and stood me up. Being a patient, but kind, person, he had watched me stubbornly try to do this task all on my  IMG_6167own and when he noticed that I was ready to break, he stepped in. Much learning and many parallels to teaching there.

I instantly became the student and he quietly slid into the role of the master teacher. Now, I should share with you that my husband can build anything and fix anything. He is amazingly talented in this way. So, not surprisingly, with his help the other half of the room was done in two hours. Two hours. And he basically took apart about 1/4 of the flooring I had done before continuing on. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. More lessons, adding in a dose of humility too.

Once the floor was done and the trim back on the walls, I spent several days moving the essentials in. It was a huge task to  photo-1go through the pile in the living room and only move in what I couldn’t live without. But, after all that work, I’m proud to say I have a beautiful study that is an efficient, organized space to work, think and just be me. My ‘life’, including my life as a teacher, feels more organize than ever before. And, as a bonus, I have a lovely view of lilac bushes, an apricot tree andFountain Ridge out the window beside my desk.

In the end, while I didn’t ‘work’ at all this summer, I did end up working very hard and I am so proud, and happy, with the results. I can finally continue on with reading The Happiness Project. I do hope that no other chapter takes me two full months to get through, but if it does, so be it. I was humbled as a learner and will carry that experience as a reminder into my classroom this week, along with all 9616820643_e6f4f65159_zthe other learning that came out of the three room swap. And I’m so thankful to feel settled and organized in my new space. Check out my Flickr set for a few more renovation photos.

While I am a little disappointed that I didn’t blog about all those topics I listed in July, I am really happy with all that I accomplished this summer and I am ready (almost!) to say good-bye to the hot, sunny summer days and say hello to a new group of energetic, curious young minds. I can’t wait to hear about what they learned this summer, too!

All photos taken by me.