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 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.

A Brief History of Community Building

I was fiddling around on YouTube just now and rediscovered some videos that I made a few years ago during a Culture Days weekend. That got me thinking…

First, a bit of background. Culture Days was actually one of the catalysts that led me to stay in Kingston for good (the main catalyst was Kelvin). It was 2011 and my burgeoning love for community building inspired me to organize a Culture Days event here in town called KINGSTON THROUGH MY LENS. It was essentially a 10-day, city-wide photo project that aimed to visually share community stories. That year, I also sat on the first Kingston Culture Days planning committee. It was great fun.

Fast forward one year, and I decided to participate in Culture Days once again. I was in the midst of planning our wedding at that time, so I wanted to take on something a little more low-key. Enter: THE HAPPY POST PROJECT. My goal was to collect a whole whack of post-its with things that make people happy written on them, and to then display them at my favourite west end park in Kingston. The day before the installation, I did a full-day bike blitz where I biked around the west end and asked people to write down what made them happy. I filmed a series of videos to document the day. I also live tweeted the whole event using #HappyPostYGK. Reading through those tweets gave me great joy.

This past September, after a few years away from organizing community initiatives, I spearheaded the development of EDCAMP KINGSTON, which is/will be an annual unconference around education in our city.

Kelvin mentioned this morning that I have an “entrepreneurial spirit”. And I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my parents both being civil servants, I very well may have picked a more entrepreneurial route in life than teaching (though I did say that even within education, there is plenty of room for exploring uncharted territory). I inherited from my father a love for the city, and this has resulted in a tendency for me to develop random community projects.

Recently, I was listening to Episode 21 of THE SIMPLE SHOW, which featured this amazing community movement called NEIGHBOR’S TABLE. I’ve decided that I’m going to do a rendition of this in my own neighbourhood. I’m fairly inept on the cooking and hospitality front, so it’s going to be a much simpler version, but I’m really looking forward to it nonetheless. I’ve shared the idea with some of my neighbours already, and I can’t wait until the warmer weather to get my dinner organized. I have high hopes for this little initiative!

Thoughts on returning to work

Man, that one year of maternity leave flew by.

Though I was mentally ready to return to work, I think emotionally (leaving my sick child) and physically (jet lagged), I was not. I’ve moved into a new position, so I’m teaching kindergarten in a rural school about 35 min from where we live. Due to inclement weather, I was only at work 3 out of 5 days last week. Plus, the woman whose role I’m taking over is still around until March Break. It’s close to being the most ideal situation possible. 

Teaching kindergarten is quite different from being up with the intermediates. My time is spent doing different things, and my attention is and responses need to be sensitive to different needs.  I’m thinking about sound skills and blends and things I haven’t had to think of too much over the last few years. It’s really very refreshing. 

With Andy’s erratic sleep schedule and a higher than usual number of evening commitments, I haven’t had much time to really rest, but it is amazing to see what a difference this is already when it comes to work/life balance. I’m planning more holistically and tying all the subjects into themes, and I know that I’m going to love what the rest of this year has in store. 

On Reconciliation

For the last two days, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Ontario Library Association Super Conference in Toronto. To say it has been enlightening would be the understatement of the century. I have enjoyed it immensely, and I’ll do a follow up post with some of my sketch notes and thoughts, but I did want to mention one thing that really challenged me.

The keynote speaker yesterday afternoon was Wab Kinew. I will be entirely honest – I had not heard of him before. I have read Boyden’s The Orenda, so I had that connection, but I was otherwise unfamiliar with him. 

Anyone who keeps up with Canadian current events will know about the TRC report and the 94 recommendations that have been outlined in it. It is undeniable that we have a really ugly past when it comes to our nation’s relationship with indigenous peoples. The notion of reconciliation can seem overwhelming and I’m sure there are many who are desperate for examples of what it looks like. Kinew’s late father provided a poignant example, taking the matter into his own hands, by personally extending reconciliation with representatives (e.g. the pope) of the Catholic Church. To see these ultimate acts of forgiveness touched me in such a profound way.

I continue to be reminded of the brokenness that is present in our world, and how we so often make terrible decisions due to ignorance, misunderstanding, or fear of the other. Regrettably, as long as we live, we will continue to see things that are hurtful and unjust. However, I have been challenged in two ways:

  1. To consider more deeply what it means to be an ally to the aboriginal peoples of Canada
  2. To demonstrate forgiveness daily in my own life because He first forgave us

Thank you Wab for your message, and for what you are continuing to do in the name of reconciliation. 

An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

I recently finished reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. If you’ve spent any amount of time with me in the last few weeks, I will have mentioned it. I talked about it incessantly.

In a nutshell, the author – Jen – embarked on a 7-month project to examine and reduce seven areas of excess in her life. She started off with food, consuming only seven types of food the whole month. Then she moved on to clothes, wearing only seven items the whole month. And so this continued. During the very last month, she committed to praying seven times a day – each time with a different focus.

There were definitely moments in the book that challenged me to consider whether I would be willing to part with some of the excess that exists in my life. We live a very fortunate and blessed life, but what good is that if it isn’t shared with others? What does it mean to be the hands and feet of Jesus? How does a modern day Christ follower live out their life according to His purpose with His blessings? I definitely want to do a rendition of this project for myself, but I’m not yet sure what this will look like. For a little while, I thought maybe I could focus on a different global issue to learn about so that I might be able to pray more boldly and take specific action in that arena. However, I think part of what this book draws out is the need to take action against seemingly mundane choices that we make, and to be more conscious of the areas of excess in our own life.

In the mean time, I shall continue pondering the convictions that I have, but if you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest it. And if you’re in the KFPL service area, I’m returning my copy to the library on Monday.

 

Learning about learning.

This past week – and for every week moving forward – Andy has been going to his grandparents’ twice a week for a few hours. It’s given grandpa a chance to get used to having him around, and it’s given me a few hours to get back into the swing of working and studying.

Online courses
I’ve been taking the Ultimate Guide to Design Thinking course on Creative Classroom Academy and am currently developing a unit plan around the Grade 2 Social Studies curriculum of Global Communities. It’s so neat to think about units and lessons through the lens of design thinking, and I’m hoping to have a chance to implement this in the future!

Blogs, Sites and Social Media
I participated in the #tlap discussion this past Monday, and it was such a fruitful time of discussion around the Innovator’s Mindset (which also happens to be a book by George Couros). I’ve been sitting back from twitter chats for a little bit now, but was very glad to be engaged in this one. It also led me down a trail of websites, and now I’ve got some new reading material, including Angela Watson’s The Cornerstone and A.J. Juliani’s site.

Books
In a wonderful coincidence to #tlap, I’ve been reading Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators. It’s really pushed me to think not only about creating an atmosphere that encourages inquiry in the classroom, but also about the way that I will be encouraging a mindset of innovation at home with Andy. Ironically, in an effort to be “more than just a print book”, the text uses the now defunct Microsoft tags to link to videos for a more in-depth look at content. Just goes to show you how quickly technology changes.

Podcasts
And of course, who can resist some good education podcasts. The newest ones I’m following are Cult of Pedagogy and the K-12 Greatest Hits produced by Bam Radio Network. I particularly liked K-12’s recent episode about Uncommon Makerspaces. Such an inspiration to see thinking spilling out into the hallways!

Last but not least, I’ve also really enjoyed engaging in conversation with a friend about the psychology of teaching and learning and what ed reform can and should look like. She’s challenged me to really work on articulating my teaching philosophy, so that’s something that I will also be fleshing out over the next little while.

New year, new resolutions

Happy New Year!

I’ve always been one for goals and planning, so you can only imagine how invigorating the end of the year is for me. I get to step back and reflect on the year. But even better, I get to set out new challenges and plans for the year ahead. I’ve been thinking about one phrase to encapsulate my focus for the year, and to take a page from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (which I am currently reading and enjoying quite a bit), been creating a list of actionable resolutions. Recently, I came across this simple idea for creating resolutions as a family, which was too awesome to pass up. I don’t know if Kelvin will indulge me by participating, and Andy is not yet able to express coherent words, but nonetheless, here are my resolutions!

THIS YEAR I WILL…

Start a new habit: drink at least a litre of water every day

Read a good book: Foster’s Celebration of Discipline (which I have been trying to get to forever) and The Third Teacher

Learn a new skill: Investing (and just general personal finance)

Go on a visit to: Upper Canada Village

Break a bad habit: sleeping late

Look forward to: attending this conference and this conference

Try something new: incorporate urban studies and design thinking into my teaching

40.

I write to you from our cozy bed – so late in the week that it’s actually the next week – where I am joined by not one, but two sick boys! Andy has a fever, which may or may not be a side effect of his teething (it’s been bothering him on and off this week) and Kelvin is fighting a stomach bug. Both of them are currently asleep. Needless to say, the canker sore that has been pestering me the last few days is the small fry in this bigger picture. 

  
We are getting really close to the tipping point at which Andy has spent more time out of the womb than in it. It’s been a pretty eventful week for us, full of ups and downs and some big decisions (like deciding not to put Andy into full time daycare until after the summer), but we are really looking forward to the next two weeks where we will be able to just hang out as a family more. 

Andy has been spending more time with his paternal grandparents, so that has freed me up to tackle some of the household chores and projects that have been pushed to the back burner. Like sending out our annual Christmas update. And cleaning those pesky bathrooms. 

  
Our little monkey continues to discover new things about the world. He really likes to stand on his tip toes now and we often find him crawling under and around things…and hanging out on the carpet under the dining room table. 

With only two months left in my maternity leave, it’s time to start prepping for my return to work. Unlike at the start of my leave, I’ve taken a pretty big step back from professional reading (except for blogs) and Twitter chats over the last few months, but it’s time to get back into the groove. I have followed educator and design thinking advocate John Spencer for quite some time now, and he recently launched the Creative Classroom Academy, so I’m looking forward to completing some courses on there (starting with the Genius Hour course). I’m excited but also a little apprehensive for what school/home integration will look like now that Andy is here, but here’s hoping this new perspective will make me both a better teacher and a better mother. 

We head to Toronto again tomorrow for some family adventures. Hoping our sick little clan is feeling more up to it tomorrow!

38.

This post is coming a little later than usual, but it’s been busy! And can you believe it is already December? Where has this year gone? 

Last Sunday, we went to one of our favourite local restaurants for some lunch with friends, and we ordered from the kids’ menu for the first time for Andy! He had a cheese omelette and he loved it. 1/4 of it ended up in his mouth, another 1/4 ended up on the floor, and the remaining half was boxed up for consumption at home. The photo below of Andy was taken by one of or friends visiting from out of town!

  

We have been trying some new things with Andy sleepwise. We had a few brutal nights this week and eventually I cracked and asked one of my mom friends for some advice. She lent me The Sleepeasy Solution, which I’ve been reading through and we’ve been trying to be a little bit more consistent with Andy’s bedtime routine. It has helped! And today for the first time, Kelvin was the one to put him to bed, with a bottle. It is a little crazy to think that for the last (close to) 9 months, I have been nursing Andy and to sleep every single night. I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything as consistently as that…He didn’t drink as much as expected so I’m not surprised that he needed a top up just now, but we will see whether this lasts him through the rest of the night!

Thursday was a particularly social day for him, with a walk and two play dates. It’s been so nice to have other families in the neighbourhood that we can visit just by walking. This bodes well for sending Andy to play with the neighbourhood children in the future! 

  
As for us, we spent a fairly sizeable portion of our evening tonight trying new configurations in our living room, just to realize that the one we had originally was the only one that made sense. Maybe that’s why we did it…

We also put up some more art and have plans to put our Canadianist posts (printed by our friend Vince over at Everlovin’ Press) along our stairwell. Here they are hanging out on the landing waiting to be hung. 

  
Reading update – I have around 6 books on the go right now. Terrible idea. I wish there was a way to keep my name in the reservation queue at the library but to let a few people go ahead of me. 

Podcast update – been trying some more shows, including radiolab, invisibilia, cbc radio (both spark and the current), slate’s working, and bbc world service documentaries

Other life update – I am officially caught up with our Project Life binder. It is glorious to have that up to date. Scrapbooking for the lazy person. Highly recommended :)