Do You Believe in Magic?

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This summer has been a whirlwind for me and I can't help but want to slow down these last few days before it officially comes to a close. Soon enough we will back into another wonderful year of learning and I am trying to savour these lazy days that the time off brings.

I have enjoyed this time immensely, probably more so that another other of the summers past, for this 1 simple yet important fact, these 8 weeks have been completely my own. Over these last few years, I have been devoted passionately to working on my own learning, graduate studies and everything that goes hand in hand- reading, researching, analyzing, synthesizing, and writing. Thrilling, challenging, overwhelming, and above all, a gift that I have come to cherish. In those moments, I experienced so many different emotions, questioned my abilities and strengths, and truly had a front row seat on a very difficult journey I cherish and am beyond proud of.

In looking back though, there was a certain amount of this success that I tribute to something that I can't quite put into words. In so many ways, I am not sure how I was ever able to complete the day to day of research and writing. Grit and determination more than anything else, and a desire to see this intellectual and academic journey right through to the end. It was more than difficult to set aside the small things in order to reach the end goal. Without intending too, many experiences, individuals, and opportunities that presented themselves during those summer days, weeks, and months had to be passed on so that I could finish the marathon I set out to complete. It was a relentless pace that I often struggled with, but 1 in which I was determined to see to the end.

So this summer began as a different adventure for me, 1 in which I wanted more than anything, for time and space to reconnect with the people that matter most. I made a checklist in my mind, of things that in the last 4 years I have had to shelve or postpone in order to complete and reach my learning goal. And may I just say? It has been amazing

Time with family and friends has been exactly what I needed. I feel such energy and pride in the relationship I have strengthened with my daughters. The 3 of us inseparable these days and weeks, adventuring & journeying together. In some respects a 2nd chance really, to allow these lovelies to take front and center stage as we celebrate milestones in their lives. With 1 off to high school this fall, the other officially turning double digits in a week's time, these are the moments that I want to capture and keep with me forever.  My husband has been on an amazing journey himself this summer, taking time to do things that he has always dreamed & imagined for himself. It has been truly a gift in being able to support him as he has taken on these new adventures, and that is what life is all about. A balance of yin and yang that we work hard to cultivate and maintain, but so important that we work hard to cherish.

How then will I remember this summer you may ask? 

With fierce love and devotion I do believe. We have made this a summer of magical proportions...exploring, talking, sharing, confiding, and savouring the time we have together. The list has been endless, time standing still 1 minute, moving at the speed of light the next. Much of what we have done, never even really cost us a penny, but together  it was priceless. I am already feeling such angst in thinking about how our lives will change in only a few short days, not because I am sad to see summer tick away, but this gift of time together is what I will miss the most.  That being said? My heart is so joyful in knowing that I have had this time with them, and selfishly I never want it to end.

But isn't that, for all intents and purpose, what makes it work?

If you were to have asked me years ago if believed in magic, I might have given you a very analytical response as to why it isn't possible. Magic doesn't exist if you have a strong foundation in the sciences and rational thought. It isn't possible you say a plethora of factors and variables are at play.

 Ask me today?  

I unequivocally, most certainly do. 

August is dead to me

June and July are summer here in Saskatchewan as far as I’m concerned. I celebrate June’s pleasures during recess, long evenings, and brief weekends, while wistfully wishing someone authoritative would agree Saskatchewan schools should be on holidays. July in Saskatchewan is a delight after a few days of decompression. August is dead to me. There are hints that summer is going to fade and because it really hasn’t, the mosquitos make an appearance on the southern prairie. It is still good, but summer holidays have reached their expiration date. August is somewhat spoiled by the clock beginning to count down. My mind begins its annual preparation.

The first genuine sign I am preparing to go back to work is the commencement of my neurotic dreams of pedagogical inadequacy. I imagine most teachers have experienced this dream. Class has started and I am floundering for ideas, facility, or resources, anxious that both students and colleagues will notice. It must be a variation of the teaching naked dream. The next sign I’m preparing to return is anxiety about the physical arrangement of my room. When can I get in? How might I reshuffle things to make the most of it all? This is where I’m at now, but anxiety is just for dreams. The old guy has preparation down to a comfortable routine now.

Preparation for August 26th began in June when my home room  and tentative time table was handed to me. We all met as a group, and I began ordering my work flow for the coming year. Preparation continued into the first week in July. Part of decompressing involves finishing the tasks I started at the end of June. By the time I set school aside, my year plan was formulated, unit plans structured around textbook resources, weekly planner built, and physical resources arranged. I could set my mind at rest for a month.

Come August I poke my head into the school for a quick recon. Yesterday I confirmed that Room 7 has been cleaned (and thourouly tossed, all disordered), and I have a freshly waxed path from the front door to my room. Materializing in the school will no longer disrupt the busy staff. I have to reorganize the furniture and reconnect the electronics this week. I might make a token effort to decorate learning Centers. This will not take long. When it is finished, I will know I can walk into the room on August 26th and deal with last minute changes. August registrations will cause changes. On year that meant adjusting everything to an unexpected split over the weekend. Class lists are tentative, so I leave fussy tasks like name plates till the day before we have students.

Preparation is having your tools organized. 

Preparation and the Procrastinator

I am a master procrastinator.  If you want to know what this means watch this TED Talk by Tim Urban.

I know I need to spend part of my summer getting ready for the following school year. More often than not, that knowledge casts a pall over my free time in the summer. Rather than biting the bullet and doing a little school work every day I am home or even setting aside a few set days to work, I put it off continually all the while feeling a low grade hum of anxiety niggling at the back of my mind.

This year, I am going to combat my procrastination.  I bought the Get To Work Book.IMG_8110_copy

It is a project based day planner. I’m hoping by focusing on the big picture of what I want to accomplish and then breaking that down into daily tasks, I will have a more successful year. So far this summer, I have accomplished some of my goals for the summer: purging my wardrobe, getting back on track with housework, reading and blogging for professional development. Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on the new curriculum for my 30 level sciences. I’ve decided that I’m on the right track. I have accomplished things, and I’m worrying less. I just need to prioritize certain goals heading into fall.

I also just downloaded the iPad app Unstuck. It helps you figure out what kind of procrastinator you are and what the root of your procrastination is. I am an Idle Achiever. This means I take on a lot (too much?), feel overwhelmed and stuck, and do nothing. Basically, I realized that the reason I procrastinate with my marking is that the marking never seems to end, but I haven’t taken time to redesign my courses to be more teacher friendly because I spend all my time on the marking in order to give my students the feedback they need. This year I am going to take some time to figure out ways to incorporate more student self evaluation and maybe even peer evaluation.

I’m going to give myself a break regarding my lack of preparation so far. At least I’m thinking about school. Plus, I’ve still got lots of time. Right? People? Help me out?


Savour

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It's August.

A time of year that for both students & teachers, it is exciting and terrifying at the same time. A new school year is not far off in the horizon and we are all thinking and wondering what this new year will bring. Challenges, celebrations, struggles, and successes aren't too far off in the distance of our every day thinking thoughts.

In the past, this has been a time when I make a succession of 'to do' lists that I would need to check off 1 by 1. As the minutes and hours would seemingly tick by, the anxiety of not gettting each and every task done who rise higher and higher. It took so much joy from the summer that was left, not to mention the anticipation of going back and seeing so many new and familiar faces. 

This mindset was a huge catalyst for change.

It's time to savour these days and weeks as we lead up to the upcoming school year. With out intending to, we sacrifice these last few weeks for a sake of preparedness that we feel is necessary in our profession. That is the beauty that I see in so many of my colleagues. As the countdown begins, we all are more than excited and energized by our new beginnings. We are anxiously awaiting and ready to celebrate the start of school. Comparably? The school year requires a marathon mindset rather than a sprint, and I am working hard to make that shift in my career. It's hard admittedly. There is something about this new year that makes you want to go full speed ahead!

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

There is nothing more powerful than seeing those faces when we are back in our schools, desks and floors freshly scrubbed and shines, but truly our time to recharge and relax is fleeting. I am working hard to balance this time with my girls, my husband, amazing friends alongside that feeling that I know is building inside of me. The pressure that we feel to rush for the sake of a feeling of preparedness I will towards quelling. More and more, I am trying to adopt a mentality of riding the waves. But that conversation is for another time, and perhaps even another season.


The Road to Victory

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"Most other competitions are individual achievements, but the Olympic Games is something that belongs to everybody." ~ Scott Hamilton
This past Friday marks a milestone for many, the opening ceremonies of the most recent Olympics, which are taking place in Rio. The entire world is watching these events unfold, bringing together tens of thousands in person, and continuing to draw in millions more online. It is a time when much of the globe passionately come together to encourage, cheer, and celebrate and I am 100% captivated & riding the wave alongside them.

It makes you wonder and imagine how much time, commitment, and drive has been poured into the last few months, years, possibly even decades? It is truly leaves a person in awe really, watching, captivated, as athletes from near and far take the center stage and give it there all. Not every athlete will leave with hardware, but they all hold the honour that the 2016 Olympics was their opportunity to leave their mark on both their sport and the world around them.

It also has me thinking a little less globally, but profoundly all the same, about what it means to set goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. They don't need to be grandiose, life altering decisions that will change the course of life as we know it. But we do need to look at where we are, and the tasks and learning that are critical to get us from that starting point to achieving what our hearts and minds dream of. 

Do we ask this of both of ourselves and of our students?

The beauty part is that there is no expiration date on setting off on the road to achieving the things that we want in this life. It might be something as small and as miniscule as finishing a book we are currently reading, or something as large and task driven as completing a Masters or Doctoral program professionally. Goals are meant to be acheived, and new learning is what we undertake each and every day. 

As I continue to watch these next few weeks unfold alongside countless, athletes, coaches, judges, and spectators, I will remind myself that the road to victory is lined with many obstacles, celebrations, and each and every step in the journey is mine to take. I will have many people walking alongside me, cheering me on, and given the right supports and learning, I will achieve and be exactly where I want to be.

Another milestone for your very own record books.




The Art of Questions

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"Questions are invitations to others to engage in conversation." ~Walsh and Sattes 

It's that time of year again when my brain starts to shift from relax & recharge mode to a completely opposite gear. As August starts to settle in, so does my excitement for another school year. Planning, preparing, reading, learning, imagining what the year will hold and who I will have the pleasure of connecting and learning with. 

A big part of the planning & preparation comes in the form of professional reading. It seems that over these summer months, the brain is beyond re-energized & ready to absorb as much information & new learning possible. The wonders that come from this learning are 1 of a kind, as they become markers on a new journey I will undertake in the school year. Sometimes the reading and learning is something I already knew, a reminder of things that I had done before, but set aside depending on the group of learners or the tasks and challenges that I was experiencing in the moment. Other times? It is completely new & it changes they way you look at both your epistemology & practice. 

So this summer is dedicated to some amazing professional resources that focus on engaging mindsets, delving deeper into metacognition, and making thinking and learning visible. So many things to consider as I go back & support learning from both an educator and learner perspective. As a learning community we continue to investigate both cultivating a growth mindset in our classrooms as well as the deliberate and active metacognition we want to support and encourage in our learners. Thinking about our thinking and being deliberate, thoughtful learners not only compliments but nutures a mindset of self-efficacy and awareness as an learner. We want students to see learning "as a process, not an event." But more importantly, that all students can achieve the goals they set for themseves.

From here? It is all about the art of asking questions.  I have much to ponder and think about, but for me it always comes back to what and how you use the newly acquired information. The beauty is that the learning is never ending. Asking questions provides that all important opportunity to grow dendrites, no matter the time or space. 

Here are just some from an ever growing list of some of the professional resources I am soaking up this fine summer as I recharge for the fall:


               





Read. Learn. Grow. Repeat.




Prepare – #SaskEdChat – Week 5 Summer Blogging Challenge

Prepare

Feeling prepared and literally being prepared are two scenarios that never seem to align as well as they should. There is always the unexpected, the worry, and the unknown. As we grow as professionals, our understanding of preparation differs immensely year to year, mostly because we understand that preparations can, for the individual, vary greatly or can be very similar to a set process.

Consider the kinds of preparations below, how do they differ or are the same for you?

  • Getting ready first thing in the morning
  • Planning a class layout/class atmosphere
  • Planning a unit or lesson
  • Prepping for the first day of class
  • Prepping for the last day of class
  • Getting your kids ready to go on a field trip
  • Getting ready for a first date
  • Planning lunch
  • Going for an interview
  • Making a phone call
  • Eat a frog

Ask anyone about the value of preparation and they would most definitely without any degree of difficulty agree it is essential. Ask anyone about their process for preparation and watch them struggle to come up with a coherent answer that isn’t recited or inherently copied from another source. We are often not aware of our own thinking when it comes to being prepared and we can afford to become a little more metacognitive in this area.

So the challenge for this week is simple yet… challenging: How do you prepare?

Do you have a process, known or unknown, that you go through? How did you prepare to write this upcoming blog post? Are there times where preparation is more difficult and easier at other times? How do you break these times of difficulty?

“Thorough preparation makes its own luck.”

Joe Poyer

Getting ready for internship

In the fall I get to start my internship, which I am beyond excited about…I am also beyond nervous and stressed. I love the idea of a new challenge, but I feel like I am going into this challenge blind. My co-op teaches K-12 physical education, and middle years science, PAA, and social studies. All of which is fantastic, and none of which I have actually taught at length, if ever before. One of the other teachers may be willing to let me teach some of her English, health and art classes, out of all of these I have taught English. Some how during my entire three weeks teaching all that was really taught was English and French. Three weeks is not a lot of time, especially when the first five days I only taught English, and the next two weeks I taught English and French. The students were working on Science fair and health projects so I was unable to teach either of those subjects. My amazing teaching partner did the math classes. I was able to teach a physical education class and a social class, which gave me a really really small glance into the subjects. Three weeks is not enough time to become comfortable with teaching, or even become close to becoming ready to teach. I know that the U of R has a great education program, and I am sure that in the future I will be thankful for it but right now I feel under prepared, and having no control as to how  my next month will work. I hate this feeling.

I also get the feeling that I get a chance to try new things and implement all the ideas that I have. I hear about teachers coming up with great new ideas and being able to see them through gives them an understanding of what works and does not work. I have ideas, literally a book of them, that I have never had a chance to try… and now I get to try at least some of them.

But what if my plans do not work, what if they are not right for the school that I am in, or what if they are only good in theory. These thoughts seem like I am over reacting, which I probably am but getting them out is part of me preparing for internship…or part of me second guessing my decision.

Keep calm and teach on (I seen this on a beach towel, except it said beach on, I am now claiming it as my motto). It is probably good that I have a few more weeks to get ready, seeing as how I have no idea what classes I am actually teaching, or what grades, or anything about the outcomes/themes/units that I am starting with. The best I can do is read the curriculum, know where treaty ed outcomes fit within the curriculum, have ideas for every possible unit, and just go with it as I need to. I also have a few resources for every subject/grade and a starting place for many units. I am really hoping that this works out.

*Reminder–Find time to balance teaching/prep with life!