My Motto Moving Forward

Coming back from our École Sage Creek School Staff Retreat yesterday, I had a lot running through my mind. Just like our two feeder schools are currently packed, so was our two day agenda. We had a lot to uncover (thank you Brian Aspinall for putting a whole new meaning to this word). Everything from updates, questions that lead to more questions, decisions, data and do’s and don’ts were discussed. Although we couldn’t finalize everything, there were meaningful connections made within the entire staff and we could truly feel our school’s vision come to life.

At one point in day two, magic happened. Everyone was sitting in a circle as we shared our expertise and passions with our crew. It was so incredible and empowering to be in a room, surrounded by passionate people who have such a broad range of talents, experience and expertise to share. I immediately imagined ourselves in the school and thought to myself – wow, not only are our students in great hands, but so are we as a team when it comes to onsite professional development. Each of our strengths are valued and all of our passions are welcome. This immediately made me think of a passage  from George CourosThe Innovator’s Mindset as to what we want for our students.

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Thank you Tara Martin, for starting BookSnaps. Here’s to my first one!

When we have voice and choice as to what and how we learn, we are resilient, risk-takers and invested. Everything becomes authentic and has a purpose. What more could we want for our students? Just like Brian Aspinall said at the Connect 2017 conference, “All children can achieve if given a fair chance in learning.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

Although there are still many unknowns and that we still have many more discussions to have and decisions to make until we open this fall, one thing I am convinced of is that we all agree that we are here to do what is best for our students. In regards to my motto, what is best for our students is what is right. Will it be perfect, no, that’s an unattainable ideal. Will it be messy, absolutely. Will it be easy, not a chance.

The students who will be walking in their building next year are the reason why we’re here. As George Couros told us at our April 7th PD, “Don’t forget who you serve”. Their thoughts, interests and passions matter. They will leave at the end of grade 8 knowing that they have learned and put into practice all the skills they will ever need to be successful – whatever their definition of that word may be. They will feel confident, creative and connected. They will leave knowing they’ve left a mark on the school and have made an impact on their school community. They will leave with a sense of pride and most importantly, purpose. They matter. People matter. As Marc Poirier and Harry Bell mentioned, “It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” So worth it! Change definitely is an opportunity to do something amazing!

As I close this post, I noticed I was mentioning some of my mentors who have influenced me and who have shaped me into who I am today as an educator and learner. People from all walks of life, who have different approaches and different passions. Each one of them has contributed to my growth and has pushed me to take risks. As we move forward as a team, I look forward to having at least 36 more mentors (and 600 or so students) to look up to and who will continuously push me to become a better version of myself. At École Sage Creek School, I believe our students will feel much of the same. Being inspired by many, while being allowed to stay true to themselves. ♥

Connect, Coding and Karaoke 

Last week’s experience of attending the Connect 2017 conference, was a powerful one. Meeting Brian Aspinall and going to Fair Chance Learning‘s Ignite Niagara Event was so inspiring. The passion and energy filled the room. I was already following Brian Aspinall on Twitter so seeing him and meeting him in person made me dig deeper into what he’s been doing especially in regards to computational thinking. This brought me to his Carpool Karaoke EDU Edition which encouraged me to make my own, because I too like to be silly and I personally feel that as a teacher, I sometimes take myself way too seriously. It’s far from perfect, unedited and definitely mediocre in comparison to Brian’s karaoke, but hey- I had fun with it. For the record –  Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody could not have come at a better time! It was NOT planned (obviously) because I had NO idea what the second song was, but lucky for me, most things I wing turn out alright! I couldn’t have planned that better myself if I could- and those who know me know that (most times) I’m a planner.

Here’s to my first official vlog post! Thanks Brian, for making me laugh, learn and live a little.  What other risks will I be taking this year?!

Our #CanConnectEd Treasure Chest

This blog post is co-written by best friends, Nycol Didcote and Annick Rauch after attending Connect 2017 in Niagara Falls.

At the beginning of the school year, we were searching for a conference to attend which would be worthwhile… so, we decided to ask for advice from someone who knows his way around conferences: George Couros. We had certain restrictions, and with those in mind, he suggested Connect 2017. After we both got approved to attend the conference, we started planning! Last Tuesday morning, we boarded our plane and off we went! Although the falls and attractions were truly breathtaking, and spending 6 days together was so recharging, what we appreciated more than most people will ever understand was being together, exploring and expanding our passions with so many other amazing educators. Here are the treasures that we found at Connect 2017:

  • Meeting educators who we’ve been following on Twitter and hearing them speak was powerful. We were actually quite giddy to connect face to face with Jennifer Casa-Todd, Tiffany Poirier, and Brian Aspinall. Although meeting these inspiring educators was nothing short of amazing, what was even more remarkable was how extremely, kind, welcoming, and down to earth they all were. What a touching experience.
    • Jennifer’s message regarding why, how, and when we should address digital citizenship in context really resonated with us. It is so important for students to become digital leaders from a young age so that their digital footprint is a positive one.

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    • Tiffany’s inspiring keynote focused on the importance of big questions as well as all types of questions asked within the classroom. We cannot find the answers to our questions without first knowing them. Allow questions to lead you and your students’ growth!
    • Brian’s passion exuded while he spoke of the importance of computational thinking. His numerous examples showcased how simple and effective integrating coding in all subject areas can be. Computer programming is a new way of communicating with an audience and is a new language that is essential and relevant in today’s world.
  • Attending Ignite Niagara allowed us to listen in on what other innovative educators are doing in their classrooms in a super casual and laid back setting. It was so energizing to be in the same room as so many passionate educators which proved to ignite many deep and worthwhile conversations. What a fantastic night: educators leading, learning, and laughing! In the words of Jonathan So, “Be with people who make you better”. It’s safe to say that we were definitely in good company!Ignite

Although we were attending a technology conference, we noticed that our greatest takeaways were all based on passion, people and relationships. After all, as Brian said, “Education is a Human System” and we believe that human connection is at the forefront of learning. Witnessing the passion that drives these speakers forward is contagious and directly impacts educators, which in turn impacts their students, and their colleagues.

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We’ll never know to which degree we’ve influenced and inspired our students. Our hope is that they will become leaders for positive change because we’ve connected with their hearts and allowed their minds to work on problems that are important to them. As Shiza Shahid said, “The power of education is the world’s greatest equalizer”. We must first understand inequalities and see room for improvement, as well as the potential in others by connecting with each other, in order to achieve this ideal.

Live A Little

Having the opportunity to spend close to a week in Niagara Falls with my best friend @AnnickRauch has been invigorating for me on many levels. First, we are attending a four day conference together (#CanConnectEd) on technology. Our numerous workshops, keynotes and networking with colleagues has been a great way for us to add a notch to our teacher tool belts. Also, it’s always uplifting to learn from others and incorporate new ideas and tools to our teaching, as learning is one of our passions. Annick’s quote from George Couros in her recent blog post titled You Are Not Alone was on point and hit the mark for me,”Isolation is now a choice educators make.” This conference and its name alone says it all. We should be connecting with people around the globe and sharing our learning with others, in any and all forms. This is true both inside and outside of our buildings. Having said that, our districts couldn’t agree more. There is a reason there are funds allotted to PD. I, for one, fully take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow. What an exhilarating experience to be able to do so in Niagara alongside my best friend.

It’s also exciting to bring new ideas and possibilities to our current schools and furthermore, bring them to the school we’ll both be teaching in this coming September. Having someone to bounce ideas off of is always ideal.

I am also incredibly grateful to my division who has allowed me to grow and bring back tangible and practical ideas and resources to our school. This conference has also allowed me take time for me and spend quality time reconnecting and reflecting with friends. It’s also amazing to step out without children and live a little, which in turn will make me a better mom and a better teacher. It’s a win-win in my books! As a mom, most times my kids end up having my first and last bites of dessert. Here, I can sit back, breathe, eat a warm meal, not clean any dishes and eat my cake too, down to the very last crumb (rather than sweeping up the million crumbs on the floor after a family meal!). It’s so awesome to spend a few days exploring a new city, learning and laughing. We should all embrace opportunities and allow this for ourselves, without guilt or worry of what others may think.

Thank you to all the teachers and speakers who have shared their thinking and purpose with us. I can only imagine how difficult it is to be away from your own families time and time again. I always find it ironic how my me-time takes away from your own. I hope you get to enjoy all of what Niagara has to offer, both in attractions and in beauty.

As Annick mentioned in her latest post, you’re not alone or at least you don’t have to be (if you don’t want to be). We are all connected or at least can be in some way, shape or form. One thing I do know for sure is we can all learn a lot from living a little. 🙂

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Who Says You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Every year in Manitoba, all schools are required by law to have 10 fire drills and two Lockdown drills. These allow staff and students to be prepared for any emergency situation. Twice a year, we also practice bus evacuations in case our students are involved in an accident or if ever there is a fire or other emergency that would require all riders to be evacuated from the bus. Our last drill happened to be this past week.

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As usual, my First Graders found a seat and tried to listen carefully to what the bus driver was saying, but there was a continuous high pitched sound ringing in the bus – one even I could not ignore. Before the driver started, I asked him if it was possible to turn this alarm off (as it was a clear distraction for everyone on board including students who have sensory sensitivities). He told me that unfortunately, it wasn’t possible. If he took out the key, another alarm would sound which would be worse than the one we were currently experiencing. I found this to be confusing, because it was the first of many bus drills I have experienced where we have had to endure such an excruciating sound. So he continued explaining the safety procedures and asking students questions while this awful noise resonated within the confinement of our bus. All I could think of was how much my students would retain with this unwelcome distraction (and how we could make these drills better – We’ve all been through them – the same drill, twice a year for more than a decade…but that’s a conversation for another time!).

Anyways, after 10 minutes, the driver who was in charge of the bus behind us came to ours and informed our driver that her last group had finished and she was leaving for lunch. While she came in to deliver the message, she immediately heard the piercing sound and instantly turned the key a notch which finally silenced this dreadful tone. the best teachers are the best learners An instant sigh of relief came over the entire bus. I immediately thanked her and when our bus driver realized what she had done, his eyes lit up in wonderment. He quickly asked her how she did it and for her to show him how! He then turned to us and said “22 years I’ve been a bus driver and she’s been driving for just one year.” I smiled and nodded my head. This example just confirmed my belief that you are never done learning. You can learn new things daily, no matter how much experience you have, no matter how much of an expert you are, and no matter who you’re with. There is only one requirement – you have to want to continue to learn.

This driver’s feelings were much of the same as he embraced this learning opportunity from someone in his field, regardless of how many more years experience he had over her. No one likes a “know-it-all”. What made my day was how he was genuinely grateful for his colleague to have shown him this new trick and surely his daily riders will appreciate it as well!

Many thoughts and questions came about as I reflected on what I had just witnessed.

  • If the sound did bother him, why didn’t he ask someone to see if they were experiencing the same thing or ask someone for help? As George Couros (@gcouros) puts it, “Try, fail, and try something else until you find or create a solution that works.”  What I want for my students is for them to have the drive to seek solutions and find the answers they’re looking for, but know that I am always there to help and guide. I want them to be assertive and take charge. Don’t wait for someone to show you – be willing to try and find a solution yourself. Stretch yourself. Innova
  • Just because it’s always “been that way”, why wouldn’t he question “why”?
  • How do we treat our new teachers in our schools? Are they seen as having less experience or are they given time to share their strong points?
  • If you are a new teacher – don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with others. Do not discredit yourself for having little experience on the playing field. Others can learn from you. The same is true for seasoned  teachers who continue to learn as they teach. As Derek Sivers (@sivers) states in his motivational video Obvious to You. Amazing to Others, “Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them”. Clearly something so simple as turning a key made such a difference in the lives of many!

This just goes to show you that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks (especially when continuous learning is welcome) and that you should never underestimate people who have less experience than you. Other teachers may have judged this bus driver for his lengthy bus drills or his difficulty hearing, but what I took away from my short time with him was how he embraced this opportunity to learn. Regardless of where you are, take the time to get to know the individuals you work with. Learn from them, learn with them and expect them to treat you no different. You’ll never know what you may learn from one another, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve been there!

Cheers to all teachers who continue to be learners – for themselves and most importantly, for the learners in their classrooms! What’s your next stop and what will you learn?

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