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.

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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.

The Best of 2015

After having read this post by a blogger I follow, I thought it fitting to follow suit and reflect on the top 15 things/moments/experiences of 2015. Some of these were huge things, others more mundane, but altogether these made my year.

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Our first visit to the Tett and the Isabel. These were actually two separate occasions, but they’re in the same complex and together make up Kingston’s newest creativity hub. We went to watch the KSO play at the Isabel in February, then attended the Tett grand opening this May. I still can’t believe we have such amazing spaces in our city.

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Andy’s birth this March. Hands down the biggest event of the year. This little guy has changed our life forever, and we could not be more thankful for him.

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Having my poem featured on GOODJust for fun, I participated in a little poetry challenge online. I wrote an acrostic poem on parenthood.

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Winning a ticket to the 21CLI conference in Hong Kong via #whatisschool. For the last year or so I’ve been really into twitter chats as part of my own professional development. I’m really excited to attend this conference in February 2016.

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Watching the Jays vs. the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Kelvin had a work meeting down in Houston this May, so we made it a family affair. How we came to actually attend this game was pretty random, but it was definitely one of the most memorable, electric experiences of the year.

The Live Sent sermon series. We are blessed with an amazing pastoral team at our church, and this sermon series really challenged us to think about the vision of our church and how we are to go about our daily lives missionally as people of faith.

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Witnessing the marriages of some of our good friends. It is a joy to share life with those around us, and it was an absolute honour for us to have had the opportunity this year to see so many of our friends commit to serving and loving each other for the rest of their lives. These weddings took us far and wide, from within Canada, to the States, and even to Spain.

Joining the KFPL board. I talk about our local library system a lot. I absolutely love what they’re doing. I’ve always enjoyed taking on new roles, and this is one that I’ve wanted to do for a while. It’s only been a few months and already I’m learning so much about governance and about the shifting role of libraries today.

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Moving into our new house. This August, we ventured to the edge of suburbia for a little more breathing room. It’s been an adjustment, but we are settling in nicely and really loving making the space our own.

Planning my very first Edcamp here in Kingston. Ever since attending my first edcamp in 2011, I’ve been wanting to host one here in town. With the time off from work, I was finally able to get it done! Hoping this will become a yearly event.

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Our trip to Europe. I could probably fill a top 15 list from this trip alone, but hands down this was one of our favourite vacations yet. There’s something other-worldly about Europe that is so hard to replicate here in North America. We spent time in Spain and in England, and though they couldn’t have been more different, we enjoyed them both.

Discovering podcasts. I know podcasts have been around for a long time, but I just started listening to them this fall. Now I can’t stop. I listen to them all the time. Here are some faves.

Reading Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavour. This book has really broadened my understanding of what it means to integrate faith and work. I’ve loved the discussions that have come out of this, and I cannot wait to finish it with our small group.

Finally subscribing to Darling. This was one of my treats to myself on Black Friday. I fully support the mandate of Darling and I am so happy that  it now comes to my mailbox every 3 months. Pages and pages of goodness that truly feed my soul.

Netflix with Kelvin after Andy goes to sleep. One of my favourite times of day (other then going to sleep) is when Kelvin and I get to hang out, cook dinner, eat, and watch a show together. We’ve worked our way through lots, including Selling New York and Worst Cooks of America.

And there you have it – the Top 15 of 2015. Here’s to reflecting on an amazing year, and looking forward to the next one!

Manhattan Unfurled

Quite a number of years ago, I discovered Manhattan Unfurled in our local independent book store. Created by Matteo Pericoli, it is an accordion book with a pen and ink drawn skyline of both the east side and west side of Manhattan. At the time, I couldn’t justify paying $45 for the book. As luck would have it, I found it available for a deep discount when I was perusing at Chapters the other day. 

 
Kelvin and I love New York, and I’ve always loved architecture and illustration. This book captures all of that. Paul Goldberger writes a wonderful essay that is included with the book, which really encapsulates the essence of the drawing and what it communicates. Above the product itself, what I am most amazed at is the painstaking effort it took Percoli to travel the length of that island, sketching the big and small details he saw along the shores. He has since undertaken other similar endeavours, and I’m definitely going to look into some of his other works!

  

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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 :)

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New fascinations this week: the cloth laundry hamper, and the spring doorstop behind all the doors (and I mean all the doors). 

  

The week started off pretty exhausting, but it has ended on a high note. We had some rough nights, and finally decided last night that it’s okay for us to just turn off the monitor (on our end) when we go to sleep. The development milestones continue to pile on, the pinnacle of which was when Andy stood unassisted for the first time yesterday! On the food front, he had mangos and yogurt for the first time this week. 

With colder weather imminent, I am on the lookout for options of things to do with Andy to replace some of our outdoor walks. We have every intention of bundling him up on some days, but on other days, we just need somewhere else to go. This will likely include going to various library branches (different board book selection!). Also, we took Andy to try out baby gymnastics this morning and it was a lot of fun! He was the smallest kid by far, and he wasn’t able to do a lot of the jumping/running activities, but he had fun nonetheless. Considering getting a multi-visit pass for him. 

  

Last night, I started reading how not to calm  a child on a plane by Johanna Stein, and I must say that I am really liking it. It’s a bit on the crass side, but I guess that can sometimes come with being candid and relatable. I literally laughed out loud during a number of chapters, and I am hoping that if I hunker down for another reading session tonight, that I’ll be able to finish it. 

Believe it or not, Christmas is just over a month away, so preparations are beginning for that time of year. I should peruse minted in search of desirable layouts for our annual virtual Christmas update. I should start planning the itinerary for our trip to Toronto. And then there is the whole thing about presents. We really want to get Andy a teepee for Christmas. I’ve been looking all over online and though we found some good options, I’m also entertaining the idea of making my own? We shall see…

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It’s been a weird week. Andy has been really inconsistent with his eating and sleeping tendencies, which makes for lots of unpredictability and more nighttime wake ups than I would expect. That leads to grumpiness on my part and just a general lack of unattentiveness. I had a mini meltdown yesterday where I started to silent cry while feeding him his lunch, most of which ended up on the floor. He was crying too. It wasn’t pretty. 

Despite these moments of weakness, Andy  continues to bring joy and smiles. And he continues to pull himself up on anything. 

   
Yesterday, we decided to go on a family walk around our neighbourhood. Andy fell asleep in the carrier before we even left the house. (Tangent – I wore him on my back yesterday in the carrier and it made vacuuming SO much easier)

 One of the interesting things about living in a still-expanding subdivision is that there are model homes to visit. Both homes were new to us and one in particular really amazed us! There is something to be said about smart layouts. Having a big home with lots of wasted space definitely is not better than a smaller home where everything is well-used. Speaking of homes, Kelvin introduced me to House Tweaking earlier this week. Their home is probably my dream home. 

Another thing he showed me – all the beautiful swaddles at modern burlap, which we would more likely use as a wall hanging because we don’t swaddle Andy anymore. Such truth in these quotes! 

On the reading front, I’ve got a few books on the go. Just finished Shani Mootoo’s Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab and will be starting Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. A friend ordered Teach Us to Want by Jen Michel Pollock for me and I am enjoying the author’s candidness so far in this. Also reading Rick Richardson’s Reimagining Evangelism, which is giving me a fresh perspective on what it means to share my faith with those around me. Highly recommended! 

Good Reads

I recently started reading Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. It is absolutely hilarious. And it is (mostly) true to his voice too. You can hear him say “Duuuude” and “Oh (expletive).” in that way that he would say it. Plus it’s a really interesting perspective on the way we go about finding and maintaining relationships in today’s day and age. I’m only 50 pages in, but already I would recommend it. 

I also recently read Sarah Jio’s Goodnight June, a fictional backstory on the inspiration for the famous children’s book Goodnight Moon. I discovered Jio when I visited the library a few months ago and stumbled upon her book The Look of Love. It was a weirdly cheesy book, but I couldn’t stop reading it. Then I wanted more. I will be back to the library soon to get more of her books. She is currently my favourite. 

On the boards: Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma. 

Reading and Writing

I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. And once I reached university, I became acutely aware not only of my lack of writing prowess, but also of how unread I was. At 16, I had not read The Outsiders, To Kill a Mockingbird, or anything by Maya Angelou. Not to say that those are symbols of a well-read adolescent, but rather, that they often came up in “literary” conversations, to which I had nothing of value to contribute.

Growing up, I read a lot. But in my formative preteen years, no one told me I should seek out more than the few YA fiction series that I gravitated towards. My interest in fiction waned and I turned to non-fiction. Left alone to my own devices, I sought out books on architecture and home design, because those were what interested me. I brought home books with titles like Prefab Today and Japanese Small Homes that were full of floor plans. I would sketch them in my little notebook and then draw out what I imagined they would look like in 3-D. I owe much of my visual/spatial abilities to this exercise. 

Now, almost a decade later, maternity leave has given me the gift of being able to read more. And to write more. I am enriched by what others have learned and have captured in words. I, in turn, also have the time and space to attempt to do the same. Or at least attempt to. I may never be as eloquent or complex as some of my friends who have already honed their craft for years and years, but what I have learned thus far from reading Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is that writing, like any art form, is a craft that requires practice. I’m sure that I will pen a significant amount of truly atrocious writing (the majority of it unfinished), and only rarely will I write something I feel moderately comfortable sharing, but alas, this is a necessary part of the process.

And so I return to where I started. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, but perhaps with some trial and error, and through studying and writing with others, I’ll begin to see myself in a new light.

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It’s so nice to see our little guy sleeping soundly again after a few nights of irregularity. Every morning, Andy will holler around 7 something to come into our bed (sometimes this is accompanied by a feed, sometimes it isn’t), then he will proceed to continue sleeping for as long as we will allow him to (usually an hour or so). We squeeze him into the space between our pillows for his post-feed nap, and have developed this habit of having a burp cloth under his head when he sleeps in our bed, because we never know when a stream (or fountain) of spit up will start flowing.

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At the beginning of the week (and again today) I attempted to commence a routine of sorts for when Andy’s taking the aforementioned nap. Normally, this is merely an opportunity for me to just continue sleeping, but now I’m trying to use that time to have breakfast, catch up on my feedly, and just spend time alone. On the days that I’ve had enough sleep to actually enjoy it, it has been glorious.

On a personal note, this was a weird week in that my courses are all finished and Andy’s increased alertness means I have less downtime without him. I found myself playing with him for hours at a time, and subsequently pondering the things I should be doing to stimulate his development and sense. We go on walks frequently, and he has a handful of toys (most of which he ignores), but like all parents, I wonder constantly whether I’m providing the best environment possible for my little guy to grow up in.

Despite all this, I somehow ended up reading three books (one on inquiry, one on questioning, and one just for my own enjoyment). I also spent a lot of time this week perusing the internet, and stumbled upon this blog on parenting, this blog by a woman whose goal-orientedness I really appreciate, and this article, which made me feel better that some of my days are just lazy, spent hanging out and exploring the world with Andy.

It’s family Friday, so I’m looking forward to eating out for lunch. Not sure yet where we will go. Perhaps I can convince Kelvin to go to Gananoque. Oh, and this afternoon is the annual midwife picnic, so we get to see some of Andy’s baby friends, plus his wonderful midwives again!

Last but not least, here’s something I’m really looking forward to going to next week.

For the love of books

I have very fond memories of going to the library. When we were little, we would head to our local community centre for our weekly swimming lessons, then head straight to the library, our hair still wet and reeking of chlorine. The library is where I discovered the Sweet Valley High series, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Dan Gibson’s Solitudes CDs. It was also always my first stop for research projects. Well, that and our Encarta encyclopedia CD-ROM. 

Going to the library is something that we hope will be part of Andy’s weekly routine as he gets bigger. I grew up in a house full of books, thanks in part to my mom’s bonus bucks from Scholastic book orders, but many of those books we could have just borrowed instead of buying. There are definitely books that we want Andy to have his own copy of – classic books like The Giver and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – but there are also many others that will play but a small role in his life. 

Here in Kingston we are blessed with an amazing library system. I remember being in awe of how current its holdings were when I first got a card. Literally anything I was looking for, I could find. They are also charting new paths with a number of online resources like Lynda.com and zinio (for online magazines). It is truly one of the best services Kingston has to offer. I aspire to one day be on its board. 

Anyways, Andy and I walked to the library today. He picked up four board books and I stumbled upon a new requisition entitled Hector and the Search for Happiness. I’m really liking its simple, yet profound voice. Plus I am gleaning some good life advice – “Lesson no. 1: Making comparisons can spoil your happiness.” 

Here’s to many more visits and the continued development of my intellect.