Consuming With The Intention to Create

I recently took a short (but still way longer than I wanted) break from blogging and here I am now, writing away because I just watched Tara Martin in action for the #IMMOOC episode and she made me want to get back into it. To be honest, I like blogging- it makes me reflect on what I am doing, what I am learning, and it allows me to connect the scattered dots inside my head. It gives me something to show for the never ending ideas and thoughts that run marathons inside my head. I do it for myself as it makes me feel as thought I’ve accomplished something that is meaningful to me.

Blogging is one of those things that, for me, take time. It’s no secret to my friends, family and new colleagues that I am Type A ( side note – my admin calls me 4A – you can imagine why!) and so for me, writing a post takes more time than it should (just ask Annick, co-writing blog posts with me is painful!). When I write, I over analyse and question, then edit and again and again until it’s early in the morning and I finally realize I’m doing this for myself – so I  hit publish. In light of Tara Martin being R.E.A.L. tonight and always, I’m allowing myself to be R.E.A.L. with this post because in the past few months, I’ve been feeling extreme guilt for several reasons:

  • #1– Signing up for #IMMOOC knowing far too well that I wouldn’t be able to participate as much as I would like. I keep reminding myself that something is better than nothing. One tweet is better than none.
  • #2 – Putting work first, family second and myself last. This is nothing new, but my work/life balance has hit an all-time low. Being hired in a a new school that opened this September, I want things to be just right (remember my 4A moniker). And it’s not even like I’m the sole leader in my classroom. I wholeheartedly believe that students should be doing the bulk of their learning so they have a sense of pride, ownership and feel they are contributing to their person, their school and their community. But since only three of my students knew each other from their previous schools, my priority is pouring a solid foundation for the learning that will take place and building relationships as a group so my students feel they can lead successfully in an environment where they feel safe and encouraged to take risks. I also feel the need to prove to others that I deserve the golden ticket that was handed to me when I was hired. That in itself is stressful because I am not even close to where I would usually be and nowhere near where I  thought we would currently be. That being said, I constantly remind myself that things that matter take time.
  • #3 – For the very first time in my life, I have not met one of my own deadlines which was finishing my Master’s degree in Inclusive Education before the start of this new school year. I know it sounds ridiculous. How lucky am I to have everything I’ve ever wanted and for this to be what’s eating me inside? But if you knew me, you would know how excruciating it is for me to have failed myself even though I still have plenty of time left in my program. I completed my  10 course load in two years, working full time, while having baby number 3, surviving appendicitis, a first born’s broken foot, a second born’s ENT surgery, and applying for my dream job (which I got!).  But I had planned on finishing  my final paper in the twelve months that followed. Needless to say,  I’ve recently had to push my deadline one last time which is disappointing to me because had I finished in my given timeline, this would have relieved so much pressure and stress from my body especially as I started this new teaching position. Wherever I go and whatever I do, this final project is an incredible weight I carry with me at all times similar to those commercials you see on tv about debt – watch here. On top of that, in order to finish, I need to hand some of my responsibilities over to my amazing husband and give up some playing time with my kids to get it done. My entire family is sacrificing themselves while I pursue this goal. I feel selfish for compromising so much of their time. I long for the freedom I thought I would have had at this point and time of the year to reinvest in myself, my family and my classroom.

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But this post isn’t really about guilt, is it. It’s about what I am going to do now that plan A wasn’t realistic for me in the past year. It’s about unexpected twists and turns in life and how we deal with change. It’s about how I accept my new timelines and see my perceived failure as a way to showcase my resilience and grit. It’s about proving to myself that I am not less of a learner because I didn’t reach my set goal in the time frame I gave myself. It’s about making a plan B to make it work. I bring this example up because in my mind, it relates exactly to the message that was said tonight between Tara and Katie Martin. It’s ok to consume content, but if your talents are never unleashed, and your ideas never shared or tested, what good are they?  In regards to my final M.Ed. paper, my Type A-ness feels that I need to read all to understand all because I’ll never be able to sum up the subject in its entirety without reading everything I can get my hands on. I could read and read and read scientific articles until I die. There will always be new content coming out. Reality is, my paper will never “feel” complete and I have to be ok with that. My M.Ed. adviser told me just this when we met for our goal setting meeting this past Thursday, “Nycol, there is no end. At some point, you have to stop researching and write.”  You can imagine how meaningful tonight’s message was for me. At some point, you have to allow yourself some time to stop consuming to create. What you contribute will have a greater impact.img_5027

Special thanks to :
– My neighborhood colleagues who remind me we are in this together.
– My PLF (as Tara would say), who I believe are the Duracell batteries to my bunny.
– My M.Ed. adviser, Sylvie, who sees me as I should see myself. Thanks for sending me motivational quotes when I need them most.
– Nicole, my text reminder who’s been through it herself!
– My husband and kids who are my constant cheerleaders and heart fillers. They remind me what is REAL.

 

 

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Build Their Character – Don’t Make Them Become One

It’s late and as usual, I give my social media accounts a glance before bed. This summer, while being at home with my kids who are 5, 3 and 1, (I won’t go by months, because I know how annoying that is for some people :P), I’ve been conscious about not being on my phone so much and to be present and engaged so that I catch those moments that slip by so easily when we are hiding behind screens. (Note that I am all for Social Media and that when the time comes, I will be teaching my kids how and when to use it appropriately so they understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint- Social LEADia  IS my next read, after all!! :).

Forgive me for rambling-I’m known to do so on occasion as my mind wonders and wanders!! As I was saying – as I was sitting in bed checking our school #SageCreekLRSD, I came across a Tweet from my principal wanting to know our thoughts on this picture. I had to get out of bed and blog about it, because 140 characters didn’t allow me to express my thoughts thoroughly. I’m also known to be a night owl so here I go….why not?!

Immediately- I agreed with Tom Loud‘s tweet. Since I joined the world of Twitter for the purpose of growing my PLN and learning from people who are passionate and driven, I find myself liking and retweeting many of his thoughts. When I read something that resonates with me, I like it and retweet it so I can reference it later. But then, my principal pushed my thinking by asking us to reflect on this statement. If it was an either or, I would definitely chose the later statement because as we know it, success can be defined in more ways than one and if I were to teach my students how to be successful based on my definition of the word, I would be unsuccessful in doing so. But in this case, I don’t believe it’s a one or none option. That, is the beauty of teaching, leading and learning.

I believe resiliency needs to be taught and modeled in classrooms and in homes- but being successful and what it means to be successful is a topic that deserves to be discussed with our students. I do agree it is crucial to teach them how to respond when they are not successful, but would also add that it is as important, if not more important to discuss how to respond when others aren’t succeeding. Do we stare, let them be, give them space? Do we offer help, ask them a question, notice their struggle? That whole collaboration piece can be and usually is the solution. Brian Aspinall said it himself – when we’re stuck and need ideas, we go to google. Responding to others’ needs and offering help (and asking for help) is empathy at its finest – which is a point I think we can all agree on –  that empathy is an ability we want our students and children to develop.

Earlier this week, I was watching one of Brian Aspinall‘s TEdx Talks on Education Reform. At one point, he explains the impact his Papa had on him growing up and how his teachings changed once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brian then shares with us how he still continued to learn from his Papa, even though he had Alzheimer’s, by watching him work. This man never gave up and was determined to find a solution to a given problem. He remained persistent even when the task became challenging. In a classroom setting, having explicit discussions are important, but we can’t forget that our students also learn from observation. They are always watching, feeling, and tuned-in, which is why it is so important we respond appropriately when we, as teachers, are not successful. What we choose to say and what we don’t say both give students a message. I believe the statement in this picture can and should be a message intended not only for kids themselves, but adults as well. This tweet also ties in well to Brian Aspinall‘s latest Golf Cart Vlog Reflection – How Do We Evaluate Failure?In his vlog, Brian mentions the importance of defining failure, the concept of embracing it, providing good feedback, and reevaluating evaluation.

In the picture shown at the top of the post, we talk about not being successful. My interpretation of these few words is synonymous to failure. Keep in mind though that I am one of those who believe failure is proof that we are trying. That failure gives us feedback into trying again but while changing a variable, tweaking, tinkering and reflecting to ultimately find a solution or to better ourselves. Failing is a way to move forward. To me failing is a reason to not give up and to persist in order to reach the objective we’ve set for our self. I am one of those fail-forward-type-thinking people. Failing is not black and white as long as we are learning from the moments when we are “not successful”. Attitude has so much to do with how we see failure and/or success for that matter.

To wrap it up, because I don’t like reading long blog posts myself – I think the best thing we can do for kids as teachers is to reflect on such statements and push our own thinking, especially in times where we are unsuccessful, which subsequently will have an impact on our students mindset and mindsight. As Brian puts it, and the saying on the picture suggests – “We need to shift our(their) thinking from failure is bad, to failure is good.”

I also want my students to create content and not just consume it. Consumption is playing the game of school. George Couros has mentioned this many times before including when he spoke to our staff in April. I don’t want my students playing the game of school because I played that game and like many of my PLN friends, even though I won each and every year, in the end I came out losing. I lost opportunities to think critically, to speak my own mind, to fail and take risks and embrace the process of learning. It’s only since becoming a teacher that I am catching up alongside my students. They say that as a parent, you want your child to have a better upbringing than you had yourself. The same is true for what I want for my students.

I want my students to be makers not fakers. Read John Spencer‘s post “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset” here , to understand why making and creating is so important when developing students’ character. I want these qualities to last their lifetime – not just the duration of the school year. As my title suggests, I want my students to build their character while staying true to who they are….not become a character in an everyday play for ten months to “succeed”. This isn’t a play or a game. School is a big part of their everyday life. Make it matter.