Saturday, 20 January 2018

Oh, those pesky bugs!

Oh, those pesky bugs!

It's mid January and we are now fully invested...or should I say infested in Cold and Flu season.  The past two weeks my classroom has been pretty much decimated by the most recent bug.  One day this week 60% of my class was absent due to illness, not to mention one of my E.A.'s as well.  As my teacher readers well know, our students share a great deal with us, including way too much information on bodily fluids and how they emanate from us when we are sick.  I enjoy bathroom humor as much as my students do, but I have heard way too much about poop and vomit this week.

They also generally share whatever virus they get with us.  I remember early in my career being told by colleagues that teachers build up immunity to most viruses after a few years, but this has not been the case for me.  About 95% of the time, I tend to get whatever virus enters my classroom, despite washing my hands obsessively until they are raw, disinfecting surfaces, regular flu shots and other home remedies.

However, this time, I was the Typhoid Mary of the classroom.  Everyone came back from Christmas break healthy, except me.  I came back with a bug, likely picked up at the hockey arena or at a holiday function the last weekend of the break.  It seems to have been an incredibly virulent virus, because no one has emerged unscathed.  I have simply infected them all.  After more than 20 plus years of teaching and getting all the cold and flu bugs my students have shared with me,  I'm feeling a bit, "Sorry, Not Sorry."

Driving home on Friday, after having to send two more students home midway through the day with flu symptoms, I got to thinking, it's too bad I couldn't viralize other things to infect them with.  I mean, wouldn't it be great if I could infect them with a love of reading or learning in general?  I'd love to give them a bug that would get them to believe in themselves and their abilities, instead of listening to the negative comments of others, or their own negative self talk.  What if I could infect them with resilience, so that they could take the lemons life hands them and make the most refreshing lemonade out of them every time?  How about a virus that reminds them to be kind to each other, at every opportunity, in every exchange?  Or a bug that gives them the courage to take risks, to try new things, to be open to new experiences?  I really should have paid more attention in Chemistry and Biology class - I might have gained the ability to create these "super-bugs."

Alas, I've got to work with what I've got.  Every day, Teachers are going into their classrooms and trying to give our students some sort of vaccine to inoculate them against whatever life throws at them.  Through our training, professional reading and ongoing learning we improve our practice and pedagogy and hope to eradicate the bugs that ail us.  Things like Tribes, Community building, Digital Citizenship, Reading programs, Growth Mindset, (this list could go on and on) are all things we are doing and trying and honing to make our classrooms healthy.

I fear I may have extended this metaphor much too far.  It could be the cold medication.  Maybe I've had one cough candy too many.  Perhaps this is all just a fever inspired rant.  However, I would love to hear what kinds of things you would like to infect your students with - and what you are currently using in place of my viralization theory.  In the meantime, pass the Kleenex and stock up on Vicks's only January, and Cold and Flu season won't end for months.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

I got a card in the mail this week...

I got a lovely birthday card in the mail this week.
The card I got this week.

You are saying to yourself, "Big Deal.  We all have a birthday every year.  We all get birthday cards.  What, is she fishing for birthday wishes?"  Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself, because this story goes back a long way.  Stick with me.  I have a point, I promise.

On my 15th Birthday, I was in Grade ten and sitting in my homeroom class.  I'm not sure if many schools still have homeroom classes.  Everyone had a homeroom where you would start your day.  It was about 15 minutes long and your attendance would be taken, opening routines like O Canada and announcements would occur. On this day, my homeroom teacher handed me an envelope that had been placed in his mailbox.  I opened it and found a birthday card, addressed to me and simply signed: "A fellow Capricorn."

Who had sent it?  After years of reading the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and Trixie Beldon books, I sensed a mystery.  The game was afoot!  It was not from my family.  They had given me their cards that morning at breakfast.  My friends had already decorated my locker and given me their cards that morning.  And the way it was signed?  That had to be a clue.  How many other Capricorns did I know who would have access to the school mailboxes?  All morning, while going through the motions of my classes, I was employing my powers of deduction, trying to figure out this enigma.   I mentioned it to my friends.  They looked as surprised as I was and had no answers for me.  Lunch came and went and I was still stumped.

That afternoon, as I was walking into my Grade Ten Science class, my teacher, Mr. Tony Stacpoole, wished me a Happy Birthday.  I wished him a Happy Birthday too.


I instantly flashed back to the exact day one year ago, when I was in Mr. Stacpoole's Grade Nine Science class and my friends and I were discussing my Birthday (I was blessed to have him for Science two years in a row). Mr. Stacpoole overheard us and asked if it was my birthday. When I told him it was, he said, "Me too!"

"A fellow Capricorn."  Aha!

I took the card out of my binder, showed it to him and asked if he had sent it.  He smiled and said he had, "because us January the 10thers need to stick together."  I thanked him and thought how nice it was that he had remembered our joint birthday and taken the time to send me a card.  It really made my day.

The next year, Grade 11, I did not have Mr. Stacpoole for any classes, but I remembered how good it felt to get that card from him and thought I would drop a birthday card in his mailbox, hopefully making his day.  So, that morning, I went to the mailboxes first thing, dropped off that card and got myself to homeroom.  As you are reading this, you can probably guess what happened next, but at the time, I had no expectations.  I sat down in homeroom and was handed another birthday card from, you guessed it, "A fellow Capricorn."  I was thrilled, and a little surprised.  I was no longer in his class and I would not be lucky enough to be in one of his classes the rest of my High School career.  That he remembered our birthday and sent me a card, when I was not even his student anymore was really very touching.

We exchanged cards again when I was in Grade 12 and Grade 13 (that was the last year we actually called it Grade 13 - it became OAC after that).  With Graduation, I figured that was probably the end of the story, but sure enough, a card from Mr. Stacpoole arrived in my parent's mailbox for me my first year of University.  And we continued to exchange birthday cards the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that....  As Paul Harvey would say, "and now you know, the rest of the story."

I just did the math.  That beautiful birthday card that I got from Mr. Stacpoole this week is the 33rd birthday card he has sent me since Grade Ten.

So here's where I get to the point, as promised.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my #OneWordOnt 2018 choice of "Relationships".  When I opened my birthday card from my fellow January 10ther this week, I started thinking about what a great example of relationship building this card represents.  I was in Mr. Stacpoole's class for two years.  I cannot say I remember a single amazing lesson plan - although I'm sure there were many because he was an outstanding teacher.  I do remember frog disection day - although more for the smell of formaldehyde and the feeling of cutting through the frog's skin (it was like a rubbery leather).  I also remember he had a funny joke to help us remember what mitosis was.  I don't remember the joke, but the punch line was "and he says, that's why my toes is cold!"  To this day, I can't see a picture of cells dividing without suddenly hearing him say that in my head.

What I do remember about Mr. Stacpoole's Science class is his soft voice, his towering height, his infectious laugh and the way he treated everyone of his students.  He valued our opinions and our thoughts.  He made us laugh and laughed with us.  He built relationships and community in that class and that is part of the reason we all learned so much from him.

How lucky was I to have had a role model like this?  As the year progresses, and I continue to reflect on my #OneWord focus on Relationships, I will keep his example in mind.

33 Years and counting of Birthday cards...that's a tough (but worthwhile) act to follow.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Reflections on The Global Read Along 2017

Reflections on Making Connections through the Global Read Aloud 2017

This was our first year participating in the Global Read Aloud Project (GRA) and it was a spectacular experience for our classroom.  The GRA started in 2010 and is the creation of Pernille Ripp, a 7th Grade Teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin.  It officially runs for six weeks starting in October each year, but can be shifted if needed based on school schedules. The idea is that classrooms around the world at a similar grade level, read the same book, at the same time, and share their learning and questions with each other through various platforms, such as Twitter, blogs, vlogs, Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts, or any technology you want to use.  The goal is for students to make global connections and develop an enjoyment of reading. I do a poor job of explaining it.  Let's hear from Pernille about what the GRA is:

Our Experience with GRA'17
From the list of books on the GRA website, I chose A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness as our book.  It's about a young man who is dealing with his Mother's Cancer diagnosis and trying to come to grips with "his truth."  Pernille referred to it as a "heart" book.  It really was a book that everyone in the class could relate to and brought about so many great discussions on the themes within.  In fact, I blogged about a really powerful discussion our class had in an earlier post.

But, you can probably do that with any great piece of literature in the classroom, can't you?

Sure you can.  However, the beauty of the GRA is the Global Connections you make with other classrooms.  Beyond all the great pedagogy and literature activities you do in your classroom (and you are encouraged to do whatever you like, teach the book however you like) the idea is to use technology to connect with others.  You can make as many or as few connections as you like and make them in whatever way you like.  

How do you make these connections?  Through the GRA communities on Facebook, Google+ and Edmodo (among others), there are lists you can join where you share your contact info, or leave posts asking for a connection in certain countries, grades, etc.  All these connections start by joining the GRA through the website and becoming a member of the community in the platform of your choice.

Here's how we connected:

1.  Snail mail postcards.  We sent out postcards (a picture of the school was on this year's card, but next year I think we will try to send out St. Thomas landmark postcards) with a letter about our community, our school and our classroom, to 40 schools.  We included links to our classroom website and blogs/vlogs.  We did not receive as many as we sent, but that's OK.  We were still excited each time one arrived.  We took a picture of each card and shared it on our classroom Twitter account (@MehargsVikings) and our class website.  The students created a Google My Map and placed pins for each school we received a postcard from.  They tried to get a picture of the school to attach to each pin as well.  We received postcards from all over Canada and the United States.  Some were student made, some were commercially made with pictures from the areas they came from.  We proudly displayed all of these on our GRA bulletin board.

One of the postcards we received.

2.  Digital & Video Postcards.  The students each created a personal postcard using a Google Slide.  We combined them to make a Slide Show of everyone's card and shared it via the teacher email addresses we had, posting it on our class website and sharing it in our Twitter feed using the #GRA17AMC.  The class loves making videos, so they went out and got video of the school and local landmarks and tourist stops.  They then used Google Slides and iMovie to make a video Postcard which we shared the same way as the Slide Show.  If you would like to see the video, check it out on our class YouTube channel (if you are reading this blog after June 30, 2018 - those videos will have gone down due to limits on Image and Video Permissions).  They loved getting videos from other schools in North America - we even had a chain of back and forth videos with a school in Connecticut.  They'd answer our questions about them, where they lived, what they liked to do, or about the book with a video and then we would reciprocate.  It was a great way for schools without access to Skype or Google Hangouts to make connections.

An example of a Student's personal postcard made using Google Slides.

3.  Twitter #GRA17AMC.  By following each book's hashtag, you could participate in a slow chat about the book your class was reading, post questions or answer questions other classes posted.  This was not a huge hit in my classroom, mostly due to the time lag.  My students tended to want their questions answered immediately and didn't have a lot of patience to wait for pesky things like International Time Zones, i.e. for other schools around the world to be in class and see their question.  However, due to the spinning of the earth - this was often the best way to hear from classrooms that were much farther away and not in class at the same time we were, like the folks we Tweeted with in England and Australia.  We also made sure we added the hashtag to any photos or videos of activities relating to the book that we posted and enjoyed following what other classes around the world posted too.

4.  Blogs and Vlogs - WriteAboutFlipgrid.  As WriteAbout is a Blogging platform that was free for a year through the GRA, we used this to write about what we were reading and invited others to respond.  As a sponsor of the GRA, WriteAbout had many areas where students could exchange ideas and thoughts on the book.  Flipgrid allowed students who were not strong writers, or prefered a video medium to Vlog about the book.  We posted video questions and comments in our own grids and responded to those posted by other classes.  Often invitations to participate in a Flipgrid were shared through the #GRA17 on Twitter.  Because you can set up your grid so the Teacher moderates each video before it gets posted it is a great way to keep the videos on task and weed out any that are inappropriate or just plain silly.  It's also a good opportunity to talk to your class about good Digital Citizenship, their Digital Footprint and how your posts can affect others.

5.  Live Connections Through Google Hangouts.  Our Board does not support Skype in the classroom, but as a GAFE Board, does support Google Hangouts.  These were truly magical connections.  We started with a few Mystery Hangouts with a classroom in our Board (Thanks to Heidi Soloway and her class in London for participating in our first ever Mystery Hangout!), one with  another Ontario classroom and one in Indiana.  The class quickly adapted to using yes or no Questioning techniques to narrow down where each class was and used Google Maps to help us find them.  With these three classrooms, we were able to hold at least one Google Hangout a week (and often more than one) where the students talked about their interests, their school, their daily lives, and about questions and thoughts they had about the book.  Some students were more comfortable sharing live than others, but all were able to participate in their own way, at their own level.   Each Monday they would eagerly ask when we would be "Hanging out" that week and would log questions they wanted to ask once we connected live.  They loved discussing the different school calendar and school day with the students in Indiana.  As we got closer to American Thanksgiving, there was a lot of back and forth discussion about the differences between their holiday and ours.  The Christmas season and end of the official six week GRA program put these connections on hold, but we will be continuing to connect with the class in Indiana and another local Ontario school (different Board) in the new year.  We won't be talking about the book anymore, but we will continue to learn about each other - what makes us the same and what makes us different.

Were there some problems with these connections?  Sure there were.  One day the wifi went down and we had to reschedule the hangout.  Another day, the school in Indiana had a power outage - another reschedule.  I had a couple days where the computer I was using would not let me connect - so I called in our Tech Co-ordinator, David Carruthers (if you are reading this, David, once again...many thanks for your help with this!), and he had us up and running in no time.  I think these problems were great models of persistence and tenacity.  We never let a technical issue stop us from making connections.  Due to different time zones, live connections outside the Eastern and neighboring Time Zones were not really possible within the school day.  But, that's where the postcards, videos, blogs, vlogs  and Twitter Slow Chats filled in.  

The positives?  We made great connections with other students in other locations around the world.  We learned that while the world is a very big place, we have a lot in common and we have so much to share with each other.  We also read a pretty fantastic book.  It was a great experience for every student in the room and I have already signed us up to participate in GRA'18. 

Blogger's Note: As an added bonus for Teachers, The GRA communities for Teachers on the website, through Edmodo, Facebook, etc are also great and Teachers around the world openly share resources, lessons, activities as well as host discussions and forums about the program.  If you would like to learn more about the Global Read Aloud or join us for GRA'18 in October (the sign up is now open) please check out GRA website, follow the GRA on Twitter, or look for them on Edmodo, or Facebook.  

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Crowd Sourcing Math Problems through the 12 Days of Tweetmas

The 12 Days of Tweetmas: 

Connecting through Math on Twitter

This year our class joined the #TVDSBmath initiative to complete 12 math tasks in the12 Days before Christmas Holidays by Tweeting our results and questions daily with other classrooms in our Board who were participating.  I wish I knew who created the initiative so I could give credit where it is due, but I can only tell you that it came from our Math Co-ordinators and I became aware of it through my Twitter/TVDSB PLN.

Here are the Daily tasks with some of the solutions the class came up with that I put into a video so you can see what we were working on (sorry - I tried a slide show, but I could not get Blogger to embed it.  If you prefer, here is a link to a copy of the document that was originally shared with us: 12 Days of Tweetmas )

As you can see from the video, the tasks were varied in their type, level of difficulty and math thinking required to solve them.

A few things I should tell you.  I have a Secondary Special Education Classroom.  The ten students in our classroom are all of High School age, but all have a Developmental Disability, so their math, language and reading levels range from non verbal with no number awareness to about the Junior level.  I have many gifts, but being a skilled mathematician or math teacher, are not among them...(Growth Mindset here...) at least not yet.  But I am working on improving my limited skills through courses, PD opportunities, my PLN and activities like these.

I was a little worried about some of these problems - they were going to require a lot of Grit and would push most of my students beyond the type of math thinking they do regularly.  Some of them were going to be challenging for me to find a solution as well.  However, as Churchill said, "the only thing to fear, is fear itself."  As I debated with myself and fought my own doubts about my abilities to teach math, I remembered that quote and decided to forget my fears and join in the activity.  After all, I want them to push themselves and to work beyond their comfort level.   That goes for me too... I want to work beyond my comfort level - and push myself and my math instructional skills.

Some of the problems were easier and called on them to do some code-breaking or geometric design.  Probably their favorite activity was Day 11 where they had to measure and estimate objects using candy canes as their tool.  It may have had something to do with giving them a full sized candy cane to measure with and that they got to eat when the activity was completed.

Some hilarity ensued as well.  On Day 3, we were required to decide which object didn't belong and they came up with some great answers to do with colors, shapes, patterns, themes etc.  Then when we checked in with other classes using the hashtag, one class stated that the top right square didn't belong because it was of someone throwing an object in the toilet.  When we looked back at the graphic...yes...we could see that it looked like something was being thrown in the toilet.  Hilarious!  There is no laughter like the laughs that come from bathroom humor.  Except maybe farts.  Those seem to result in the loudest, most infectious and delightful laughter.

Some of the problems were tough.  Day 6 really pushed them. They were tasked to find 12 keys with 5 colored squares.  They worked independently, with a partner and then as a class and the best we could come up with was 10.  That's the day the crowd sourcing element really came alive for us.  We had been following what other classes were doing through the hashtag...but now we NEEDED them to help us come up with a solution.  The kids were pleased to see that other classes were struggling as much as we were to find 12 possible keys - and that the keys they had found were shared by others.  When we found a class that had found the solution - they still got their Aha! Moment.  We'd been thinking about the keys as a line...and they didn't have to be.  One of them, when they saw the pictures the other class had posted to help with the solution, actually said, "Oh, of course.  Why didn't I think of it that way."  They then worked feverishly to come up with more than 12 ways to arrange the tiles into different keys.

After a week to reflect on the 12 Days of Tweetmas I would have to say it was really successful in our classroom.  We were all pushed to think outside the box to come up with solutions.  We also had a lot of fun doing math in a less traditional way.  Would I do this again next year?  Absolutely!  It would be neat to maybe try connecting with other classes through Google Hangouts to talk about how to solve the problems, or work in real time together on the answers.  I'd like to take it beyond just a pre-holiday activity too.  If you are reading this blog and you have a source for problems like these that I could do on a weekly or daily basis...please share them in the comments section below!  As always, I welcome your comments!

Friday, 29 December 2017

#OneWord 2018

Just #OneWord?

It's an inspiring challenging.  I've been following the #OneWord Challenge on Twitter the last couple weeks... especially the #OneWordOnt posts - reading blogs, listening to the OnEdMentors show on voicEdRadio, following @jacbalen's posts, listening and reading Doug Peterson's This Week in Ontario Edublogs and trying to decide what my one word for 2018 will be.  (Check out the links to some of the blogs already posted if you can - they are truly thoughtful, reflective works that will get you looking for your own inspirational One Word for 2018).

I will admit to some shameful lurking here.  It's a tough challenge.  How's a girl to pick?  It reminds me of one of my guilty pleasures...watching the TLC Network Program "Say Yes to the Dress."  If you've never seen the show, it's about prospective Brides who go to the absolute Mecca of Bridal Wear - Kleinfeld Bridal in New York, NY, to pick out their wedding dress.  They try on these absolutely fabulous dresses and have to decide which one they will wear on their wedding day.  The tulle, chiffon and satin are flowing and the sparkly sequins are everywhere and they have to pick one.  Just one.
Image by: Nathan O'Nions, 2013

As hard as that is for the Brides on the show...this is even harder.  Picking that One Word to guide me for 2018 has been nagging at me.  I have tried out so many since this challenge began.  Tried them on, worn them around a bit...and then discarded them as just not quite right.  But 2018 is only a few days away.  I need to make a choice.  A Word I can live with and growth with for the entire year.

One word keeps coming back to me, though.  On the show, it's that dress that you try on and just can't forget.  That the other dresses are never quite able to top.  The one that makes you feel beautiful inside and out and that you can actually visualize yourself wearing down the isle.  If that word keeps coming back to me, it must be The One.  To paraphrase from Lord of the Rings, "One Word to Rule them All."

Decision Made.  My #OneWord for 2018 is: Relationships.

Relationships guide everything I do.  Relationships make the seemingly impossible in the classroom...possible.  

Relationships with my students
When we have built strong relationships in the classroom, students trust that even if something we are trying may sound a little bit crazy, there is a good reason for doing it.  They will try new things and take risks in a supportive environment.  They feel safe to share their ideas and feelings with each other and with me.  They will ask questions and look for answers even when the going gets tough.  The time I spend each day building relationships with my students pays off in huge dividends and is always worth the effort and the time.

Relationships with parents
Keeping parents informed of what is going on in the classroom and in the learning of their child is crucial to their success.  I only have those Students for 194 days (less PD days), their parents have them the rest of the time.  How can parents support what we are doing at school, if I haven't built a relationship with them as well?   That means sharing way more of the good than the bad.  If they know how much I believe in their child and all the great things they have and will accomplish, then when things get a bit off track, that relationship will help us all get the train going again.

Relationships with colleagues
In my building, my board, my online PLN - wherever I can find them...I build relationships with folks who will help me grow personally and professionally.  Sometimes I need a like minded colleague to help me work out a lesson or an issue, and sometimes I need a colleague to challenge me to look deeper at why I am doing something, or to challenge my assumptions.  Sometimes I need a colleague to just loan me a book, or who will listen after a tough day...sometimes I am that person for them.  Joy Kirr writes in her book, Shift This: "Teaching is the toughest thing I've ever done."  It's true and I'm sure glad I don't have to do it alone.

Relationships at home
We all need a safe place to fall, a shelter in the storm, a refuge from the daily battles and stresses.  Wether it's a spouse, a partner, a parent, children, extended family or a good friend, I need these people to keep me sane.  They remind me that there is a life outside of school and help me keep myself in balance.  

"Relationships" is my #OneWordOnt for 2018.  Take up the challenge.  What's yours?

Image courtesy of Flickr 2012

Saturday, 11 November 2017

How a tough read became a powerful 75 minutes in my classroom

Friday.  Period 3.  I was dreading it.  It was going to be a tough read.  But, it became a powerful 75 minutes in my classroom.  It was an experience unlike any in my 23 years of teaching and I can't stop thinking about it, which means I should write about it...

This is my first time participating in the Global Read Aloud (GRA).  And it has been awesome in so many ways for my students and for myself.  I promise in a future post to talk about all the ways it is awesome and how to get involved and why you want to be a part of it.  But this post is about that 75 minutes we shared in my classroom on Friday.

We have been reading A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd.  It's a rich novel (Spoiler Alert!) about a young man named Conor who is dealing with his mother's battle with cancer.  When I signed up for the GRA this summer, I read the the assortment of books we had to choose from and was beyond moved by this story of dealing with illness, self isolation, survivor guilt and dealing with losing someone you love.  All the books were inspiring, but this one really touched me.  I didn't choose this particular novel lightly.  There is a lot of darkness, some violence and some really gut wrenching emotions in it.  I knew it would be tough.  I thought about it for a few days, and decided that this was the book I needed to share with my students.

I knew it would be particularly tough for me because my Mom has been fighting an eight year battle with cancer.  The type of cancer she has is called Multiple Myeloma and while treatable, currently there is no cure.  It is a long journey of unimaginable pain and suffering, with treatments that have given her more time with us, but have often been as horrifying and debilitating as the disease itself.  While we don't know just when or how her battle will end, we do know that it will.   It isn't a secret that my Mom is ill.  But, it isn't something I talk a lot about.  I wear a sticker that says "I'm walking for my Mom" in the Terry Fox Run at school, and the fact that my Mom has cancer has come up in class, but mostly in passing.  It has been a fact of my life, but not something I discuss often or openly with many.  I never imagined I would be blogging about it.  Sharing something so personally painful, is no easy task.  So, when I chose this book, I knew it would be emotionally tough on me.

Fast Forward to Friday.  10 chapters from the end of the Novel.

On Friday, we got to the chapter called "100 Years." I don't want to give too much away if you haven't read the book, but it is a heart breaking moment in the story.  I'm tearing up right now, just thinking about it.  I was dreading reading it with my students because I knew I would not be able to hold it together and that my own emotions would wash over me like a tidal wave.  Thank goodness I had purchased the audio book, and was letting it read to the class, because I was right.  I did lose myself in the moment and would have been unable to continue reading to them.  I let it play on into the next chapter where Conor reveals the feelings that have been eating him alive.  I regained some composure and when that chapter ended, wiped my eyes, stoped the audio and looked up at my beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful class.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Some were trying to hide their tears, some were letting them drop like rain.  My Educational Assistant suddenly remembered he had urgent business in the office and rushed out, Kleenex in hand.  But we all felt Conor's loss deeply and on a personal level.

It was a tough read for all of us.  No matter who we are, where we come from, or what our history is, we all experience loss.  The discussion that followed went deep into not just Conor's story, but into our own stories.  The way they were able to apply Conor's experience to their own lives and emotions  was inspiring to me.  There was no judgement, no put downs...just open, empathetic and honest sharing.  It was a pretty powerful and emotional 75 minutes.

It was 75 minutes of literacy instruction that went well beyond my expectations. It expanded their understanding of the novel, opened up discussion on how we deal with grief in many different ways and strengthened the relationships in our classroom community.  They were realizing through sharing that everyone in the room was fighting their own battle that we knew nothing about.  And I almost missed it all, because it would be tough for me, personally.

You know that quote, "I didn't say it would be easy.  I said it would be worth it."  That was Friday.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Always put Passion in the Driver's Seat

Always put Passion in the Driver's Seat
Some final thoughts on The Innovator's Mindset and the IMMOOC experience as it comes to a close. 

I've been thinking a lot about this quote: 

"If we reduce what we do to numbers and letters to measure our achievements, then we forget that it is (or should be) passion that drives us."  (p 224 George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset)

Such an important statement, because regardless of whatever else is going on in my classroom, school, district, or the education world around me, it's my passion for learning and teaching that gets me in the car and starting the ignition.

There are plenty of others in the car.

Fear is always trying to be the backseat driver.  Fear tries to push me onto the road more travelled.  It's back there nagging at me, reminding me that this could all go terribly wrong.  What if the wifi goes down during an exciting collaborative but tech dependent lesson?  What if no one else is doing the same thing and I look like an idiot?  What if my Students aren't engaged or even remotely interested?  I have to remind myself, that it's okay to listen to those fears and keep them in mind as I travel, but I can't let them take over or I will never get anywhere.  Fear wants to my excuse for staying home, binging on Netflix...playing it safe, and where is the adventure in that?

My learning and training are the navigation system and road maps.  They show me possible bumps in the road ahead and warn me about accidents and dangers to avoid.  They help me apply the curriculum to new ways of teaching and learning.  They remind me to scaffold and differentiate and help me prepare my students for their own journeys, as they guide me on my own.

Past experience is the seasoned traveller.  It reminds me that taking a certain route didn't work well in the past, and probably won't help me on this trip either.  It tells me to start early and do my research so I don't get bogged down in rush hour traffic and works well with the navigation system to help me find a detour when I hit construction.

My Professional Learning Network peeps are always up for a road trip.  They are in the car talking about all kinds of different routes to take, interesting side trips, places they've been and would like to go.  What I like best about having them along for the ride, is they are always encouraging, no matter what route I choose.  If I make a wrong turn, they help me get back on track.  If the car breaks down, or I get a flat, they help fix the problem so the car gets back on the road quickly.  If I am tired or discouraged, they listen.  They know the best places to stop along the road to refuel or take a break and recharge.  They will be cheering me on to my destination, where ever that is, hanging out the window with their arms in the air screaming "Yee Haw!"

But passion is the driver. 

It's that same passion that was ignited for me on my first day of Kindergarten when I came home and told my Mom that I was going to be a Teacher when I grew up.  It was passion that gave me resilience when I was supply teaching all those years and wondering if I would ever get a permanent teaching job.  It was passion that gave me the grit to get through days when things were not going well, and the strength to deal with the death of a student.  My passion has pushed me to try new things in the classroom, to take courses, to share my learning, learn from others, to push myself to be a creator and not just a consumer.  It is passion that builds relationships with my students and colleagues and propels learning.  It is passion that leads me to new adventures and encourages new experiences.

On this wild and winding road trip of life, wether it is a professional or a personal journey, it's my passion that will never steer me wrong and will get me to my destination safely.  No matter who else is in the car with me, I'm going to let her drive.