New year, new agenda

There’s something wonderful about starting a new year with a fresh agenda.

Around early December, I went out and purchased my usual planner – a Moleskine weekly format planner – and proceeded to begin inputting dates and appointments for 2017. I really like the weekly format, which allows me to see the whole week at-a-glance on the left, with space for notes and lists on the right. December is usually fraught with google imaging different agenda layouts to experiment with before I commit to one for the next year. About a week ago, my sister sent me THIS LINK, which started me down a whole bullet journal Instagram rabbit hole…many of which were beautiful, but necessarily replicable because they would just take way too much time.

Then we went to New York City. And we stopped into Muji.

Let me say first off that I love Muji. I love their pens, their inexpensive notebooks, their clear storage containers…and Kelvin has his eye on their bed frame. I happened to pause at their agenda display, and flipped one open. The layout isn’t dissimilar to Moleskine, but instead of a lined page on the right, they have grids. Plus there’s one month of overlap on either end of the year (December 2016; January 2018). Having quite a number of extra grid pages at the end of the agenda didn’t hurt either.

I’d already made my agenda purchase for the year, but I kept turning this planner over in my head. At roughly half the cost of a Moleskine, this would definitely be a more cost-effective planner moving forward. I hemmed and hawed throughout the trip, and when we stopped into a second Muji in the city, I decided to pull the trigger.

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I’ve had the agenda for a few days now, and I am in love. The week-at-a-glance is split into 3 sections, so I use it for AM appointments, PM appointments, and tasks/notes. The right side I split into Life To-Do, Work To-Do, and Notes (miscellany). At the back of the planner, I have my goals, my chore tracker, and my reading log. I’ll add other things as necessary.

This is the happy medium I’ve been looking for between a traditional planner and a bullet journal.

 

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Summer Plans

It’s summer! 9 weeks may seem like a long time, but between weddings, trips, and prepping for next year, I already know that these two months are going to fly by. In order to make the most of it, here’s what I’m putting into motion:

Setting a weekly focus

I have been following ANGELA WATSON‘s blog for a while and she wrote a post not too long ago called 6 SIMPLE STEPS TO THE BEST SUMMER EVER. I’ve followed her advice to create an end of summer vision and to assign a focus for each week. My three main goals are to (1) have my long range plans completed and an intro postcard/letter sent out to my students; (2) have a morning routine in place to maximize my day and ensure I have time for devos; and (3) have meal plans created for September. This week, my focus is on getting to know my curriculum expectations. I’ve taught all these subjects before, but I’m really hoping to do something a little different this year that allows for more authentic, integrated learning.

Explore something different every day

It’s easy for routine to become monotony when you have a toddler. So, we’ve committed to trying or visiting something different every day. Living in Kingston and in this part of Ontario, there is tons at our fingertips that we haven’t even scratched the surface of. We’re starting local, but we will definitely branch out as the summer goes on and as we venture to other parts of Ontario and North America. So far, we’ve visited a BERRY FARM, taken Andy to his first splash pad, and attended STORIES IN THE PARK. Tomorrow we are heading to the MUSEUM OF HEALTH CARE.

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30 day fitness challenge

This last endeavour is three-fold. One, I have not been going to the gym nearly enough, and my diet has been subpar. Plus, throwing out my shoulder when I wiped out while cycling has been a disincentive to any sort of physical activity. Two, we are heading to Bermuda at the end of August. Three, I am teaching 4 classes of phys. ed. next year. In summary, plenty of reasons to get into shape.

Office essentials

One of the things that Kelvin and I like most about our current house is that it has a study at the front. This is our workspace, our think space…and more often than not, our YouTube/Netflix space. Alas, like many other well-intentioned spaces, it is also often a messy space, full of paper and miscellany that make working at all a difficult thing. 

That changed this weekend.

Thanks to a trip to IKEA, family visiting, and a holiday weekend (time off!), we made this room just a little more functional. I cleared off my desk (finding a professional magazine from two months ago…along with a number of statements that needed to be filed), and assembled this:


Prior, we had had a tall bookshelf in this space. It was white, but it blocked a fair amount of the light, plus it was full of books that we didn’t access often. Our files sat lined up along the bottom shelf, making any sort of filing a pain. 

The solution?

We bought and built a white GALANT file cabinet system (SO great…other than the really tricky lock which we decided to not install after having read a number of horror stories). It also gave us a good surface to house our printer (which had been upstairs in our guest room for the longest time). Third, we mounted an ALGOT to the wall, complete with three shelves. Now everything is clean and accessible. And I’ll know where to find it all!

Minecraft Adventures: Part 1

Gaming and I have an interesting history.

I am known to have quite a penchant for certain iPhone games. And in Grade 9, I played Tony Hawk Pro Skater so much during my exam period that I got blisters on both thumbs. Needless to say, gaming can be a bit of a black hole for me. Knowing this, I am fairly wary of the sorts of games that I introduce myself to.

Earlier this year, I started teaching in Kindergarten. And it just so happens that in my class, there is a small group of boys who absolutely love Minecraft. They talk about it all the time, and much of their writing revolves around Minecraft-related stories. I had very little idea what they were referring to, so I thought I might download a demo of Minecraft just to get a feel for it.

I hadn’t read much in the way of tutorials, and from what I could see, I had been dropped into a random world with nothing but my bare hands. I started chopping away at things aimlessly with no particular goal in mind, and before I knew it, the sun was starting to set.

This is where it got terrifying.

If I had read some of the aforementioned tutorials, I probably would have built myself a shelter really quickly. Instead, I spent a good chunk of time running from zombies, creepers, fire people…I kid you not, it was frightening. I don’t know how some of my students are playing this. Unless they’re on creative mode…which I know they’re not, because they talk about creeper heads all the time. Needless to say, I died and respawned half a dozen times before I smartened up and built myself a very small 2 x 3 abode to stay safe. It was very simple. No roof, no doors, just walls. I had to let myself out the next day by knocking down the walls.

A few hours passed, and I developed a basic Minecraft foundation thanks to the Minecraft Wiki. I made myself my first home, complete with crafting table, furnace, and bed, and I set out to conquer this virtual world. Here are a few shots of my virtual home.

I do have two additional shelters, both of which were created because I ventured too far from my home and I couldn’t find my way back. However, neither are as extensive as my main home. I’m not entirely sure I can locate these homes again, as the map is really big, but I’m hoping I do find them. I died by falling too far into a hole in one of them, and so I have a lot of items sitting at the bottom of a pit. It would be good to reclaim those.

Outdoor time

I really like biking. And I really like being outside. These are things that I hope Andy will come to like as well.

Andy’s too small for his own bike at this point, but I did want to take him with me on rides, so Kelvin and I decided to invest in a bike seat for him. We opted for the WeeRide Kangaroo Ltd. Centre-Mount seat, which I installed this morning. I do have to ride a bit bow-legged because of the angle of the posts on my bike, and it is significantly harder than cycling without the added weight, but we both loved it. On our first trip out, which was really close to Andy’s nap time, we didn’t even make it out of our subdivision before Andy fell asleep. I opted to turn around. After a trip to the library, and lunch at grandma and grandpa’s, we rode home. Again, he fell asleep. This made me feel really good about getting the seat with the padded pedestal/pillow :)

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As for general outdoor time, we visit Lemoine Point regularly, and if we can’t make it down there, we go to our community park. Our backyard is currently nothing but a plot of grass (we don’t even have a deck, so if we opened the sliding doors from the dining room, we would fall straight down about 4 feet). Despite this, Andy and I sometimes spend our afternoon out there on a blanket, watching our neighbours’ dogs play. We also have snacks out there.

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We’ve had some crazy cold spells over the last little while, but here’s hoping this spring-summer weather is here to stay.

Saying Goodbye

It’s a bittersweet time.

Today, Kelvin and I closed the sale on the first house we ever owned. It wasn’t a big home, nor a fancy home, but it was our home. And for that reason, it will always hold a special place in our hearts (okay, maybe a bigger place in my heart than in Kelvin’s…he is super thrilled with our current home).


That little home was where we hung our own artwork, and painted our own walls. It was where we hosted small groups and where we invited friends to stay with us. It saw many iterations of IKEA and Target furniture and linens. It’s where we started our family, and where we set up Andy’s first nursery.


Things I will miss:

  • the foyer (which we REDID)
  • the proximity to everything
  • the white walls (in our MASTER and our DINING ROOM)
  • the front door
  • the ceiling fans (Andy loved them, plus they were so awesome in the summer)

Things I won’t miss:

  • the orange/pink colour in the kitchen
  • the weird cut out in the basement wall between the main room and the storage room
  • hearing our neighbours through the walls
  • that finicky sliding door leading to the deck
  • the struggle of getting the lawn mower to the backyard

I moved into this house in October of 2011, just a few months out of school. I was working 3 different jobs to piece together an income, and I was just discovering what Kingston had to offer to those who were no longer living the student life. THIS is what the house looked like. 4.5 years later, a lot has changed, and though this little home will no longer be part of our everyday, we are grateful for the memories that we made within its walls.

Goodbye, house. It’s been so nice knowing you.

At the heart of it

I recently finished reading George Couros’s THE INNOVATOR’S MINDSET. It challenged me to think more deeply about why and how I do the things that I do, and to consider the small and big actions that I can take to bring about innovation in education.

I’ve always been someone who has loved learning. Conferences, professional reading, twitter, RSS feeds…I soak them all up. I’m keen to implement new ideas and to change things up as I learn. But something that’s been gnawing at me for a while now is this disconnect between my theoretical understanding of education and my day-to-day lived reality. I have these ideas brewing in my head, but I find that I so often lack the skills to bring them to fruition. And when I do begin to implement them, why is it that the results are so often different than what I had envisioned?

Reading through the book, one quote in particular struck me:

If you want to see the effectiveness of an educator, you do not look at what the teacher is doing but at the learners whom they serve.

And behold, the reason for my disconnect. In evaluating my own effectiveness, I have focused so much on what I’ve done, rather than on the children I work with. In my rush to transform myself into what I thought was a great educator, I completely forgot my reason for being. For that, I am deeply saddened.

Thankfully, the story does not end there.

I’ve known for a while that relationship-building is something that I struggle with (which I mentioned not too long ago in THIS POST). Some might say that I’m in the wrong profession if this is the case. However, I’m optimistic that this quality is something I can develop more each day. And I endeavour to do just that. George Couros reminds us in his book:

…we make a connection to the heart before we make a connection to the mind.

Here’s to striving for more of those heart connections.

The Joy of Partial Solutions

I’m someone who has a hard time getting to the gym. It’s a ridiculously short drive away (or a 2.5 km run), but the mental effort required to get me there is unreal. 

Enter: the partial solution. 

Last week when I was really not inclined to go to the gym, I decided to go for a run instead. It was just a short one, but I felt energized. I had done some exercise, and it had only taken up 20 minutes of my time. 

While on that run, I was listening to the Simple show, and it referenced the idea of partial solutions. Serendipitous much?

Anyways, all this to say that sometimes doing just a little bit of something is better than not doing it at all. 

The Trouble with Separation

In early February, as I was starting to think more about my return to work, I wrote THIS POST about my “education blog”. This being my personal blog, I didn’t think it fitting to talk to much about my work life here. My intention was that I would post all about the things that were happening in my classroom and school on my edublog, and that my learning-related reflections would be there.

But this is where I got stuck.

When I came across a new idea or something I learned, I found myself struggling with knowing where to post about it. Is it too personal for my edublog? Is it too “school-y” for my personal blog? Could I just post the same thing on both blogs? So many of the things that I learn in my work are relevant to my personal life. And so many of the things that I read or experience spark interest across a whole gamut of areas and cannot be contained to just my educator “box”. As much as I wanted to post weekly reflections or things I’ve tried in the classroom, I found that what I really wanted to talk about was learning. In and out of the classroom.

And so, in an effort to more accurately reflect the way thinking and learning works in my life, I’m going to start including my “school” posts here on this blog. Here’s hoping they’ll give you a glimpse into what my day job looks like, and that they’ll add a richness to the conversation that I’ve already started here around this thing called learning.

More podcast love

I’ve talked about podcasts on MANY OCCASIONS. Some of the ones I listed previously, I’m no longer listening to. Others are still going strong. Here a few favourites right now:

MILLENNIAL

I love that this podcast is about navigating life in my current age bracket. Megan Tan shares deeply about the big and little things in her life, and I look forward to each new episode. 

THE LONGEST SHORTEST TIME

It’s technically a parenting show, but it’s actually relatable to everyone who exists in a family. They’re currently doing a few reruns before the next season, but since I only started listening a few months ago, I’m so grateful. Following the story of “The Accidental Gay Parents” right now. A story that is melting my heart. 

ART OF CHARM

So I hear this podcast is actually geared towards men, but I really enjoyed their episode with Chris Guillebeau about finding and pursuing work that echoes with your entire being. I continue to get these inklings that teaching in its current iteration is not what resonates most with my life purpose, but I’m still trying to navigate through what that all means. I know public education is where I want to be, but I don’t see my current classroom as being that learning and thinking incubator that I envision for children. Shall continue to work through this. 

INVISIBLE CITY

So this is a fairly new podcast hosted by Jennifer Keesmat, the Chief Planner of the City of Toronto. I love all things related to urban planning and design (thinking that intersecting this with public education would lead me to what I feel is my maximum impact in the classroom) and have been feeling a dearth of input into my life on this front. Alas, I am soaking all of this in. 

And there you have it – that’s what I’m consuming and chewing on as of late. 

Failure

I have never been good at dealing with failure.

Despite my love of learning and my penchant for creativity, I will be the first person to say that I do not fail well. I take things super hard and I dwell on failures and mistakes for quite a while. I let them fester and take root and bring me down. I start questioning my identity, my purpose, my actions. It’s a vicious cycle.

This past week, I had a bit of a rough day in school. Classroom management has never been a forte, and I felt like I was getting walked all over. By 4-6 year olds. Coupled with some concerns that I had had over Andy’s development, it made for a very emotional car ride home.

But I came to a realization today.

In parenting and teaching, I’ve been focusing so much on me. On my accomplishments, my abilities, my goals and dreams and plans. But what if I started with the kids? With their circles of experience? Instead of success being defined as them meeting this arbitrary goal that I set in my mind, what if I measured it according to the lasting improvement I saw in them over time? I bet it would take a whole lot of the pressure off while also freeing my mind up to actually do great work with them. Hmm…

An aside, THIS was a timely post about What Teachers Can Learn from Elon Musk.

Lunch date in Ottawa 

I must confess, Kelvin and I do not always capitalize on the fact that we have lots of help with Andy (at least, not when it comes to evening dates). By the time we put Andy down for bed, rather than get ready to go out for dinner, it’s much more desirable to just kick back, have dinner together at home, and watch Casey Neistat vlogs. However, when the opportunity arises, we do find ourselves out of town for the day without Andy.

Last week, Kelvin and I took a drive up to Ottawa to hit IKEA and T&T. We bought about $150 worth of storage bins (👌) and another dual case of the specific Asian chicken broth that we like to use. For lunch in between, following an amuse bouche of IKEA Swedish meatballs, we headed to Whalesbone Oyster House on Bank Street.

The storefront isn’t huge, and the sign is somewhat dark, so it can be hard to spot. This might also have something to do with the fact that it was hailing as we drove up (what!). Anyways, we were arriving around 1 pm on a Thursday and we found a spot easily.


We got ourselves 12 oysters for $35. We tend to like sweeter, plumper oysters, and though all three varieties were different, we enjoyed them all. We also got an order of fish and chips, but I forgot to take a picture before we ate them. They were delicious and light.

We also got churros, because whenever Kelvin sees churros, he has to get them. This, unfortunately, was a disappointment. At $9 a plate, it definitely wasn’t worth it. The exterior was too crisp and the interior too soft, which makes me think they were from frozen. Which in hindsight probably makes sense, since oysters and churros aren’t often found together. That’s okay, lesson learned.

All in all, a really enjoyable experience. Next time, we’ll come back and try the lobster roll.

Whalesbone Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato