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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When Doors Open – #IMMOOC Week 1

As I reread the introduction and chapter one for my first #IMMOOC blog post, I came across a section I had highlighted last October when I first read The Innovator’s Mindset, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing” (p.2).  Not only did this simple sentence with a complex meaning speak to me then, but even more so now, for many reasons.

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Three years ago, I decided to leave my amazing school division (which was my second home) to teach closer to my physical address and my soon to be children’s school, for the sole reason of having more time with my kids. I wasn’t looking for change, but an opportunity came up that would allow me to have more time with them (or so I thought), so I took it. As it was, I was travelling one hour each way to go to work so I was really spending the equivalent of 10 full time work weeks on the road per school year. I was so eager to get that time back and spend it with my kids.

I knew the division I was walking into had a lot of catching up to do, but it wasn’t until I started working there that I realized how much. Knowing I had been doing a lot of good things in my classroom in terms of pedagogy and relationship building, I was shocked at how very traditional this new school and division was to me. I felt I was running against the current and getting nowhere. I felt inefficient and lost some of my drive. I struggled my first year in that environment, but I survived (and yes I mean survived) because I was in it for these 18 kids who challenged my thinking and gave me purpose. Regretting my move and feeling deflated, I was so happy to become pregnant with my third child, because I would have a break from this isolated working environment. I suppose when you work in an environment for so long, you don’t question the way of doing, because that’s how it’s always been. We need time to learn with and from our colleagues, reflect on our own practices and get students involved to make learning relevant and meaningful, for both students and staff. As George Couros states, “There is no end to growth and learning. Schools, more than any other organization, need to embrace a commitment to continuous learning.” (p.9). When we know better, we do better. Some staff members at my school hadn’t had the opportunity to see how things could be different, could be better, could be amazing, because some just do and redo what has always been done.  We need time to discuss, share, reflect and adjust to connect with our students and make deeper learning the new standard.

As I returned to work this past September, I had a better attitude towards my school because I was thrilled to see my oldest child start Kindergarten. I saw her in the halls and at recess. Knowing far too well that I wanted her learning experience to be rich, meaningful and significant, it encouraged me to be more vocal and share what I knew to people who asked about Hangouts, flex-seating, Seesaw, or other projects I had going on. There is so much potential for what learning can be! And what’s most exciting for me as a parent of a child who attends this school is that many teachers are embracing change. They are experimenting with flexible seating, adjusting their table heights, allowing kids to have a voice and choice. This year, a book club among a handful of keen staff members facilitate discussions and reflections on how we are building relationships within our school and developing secure attachments with our students. That connection piece is coming along well!

A few months ago, I prepared my CV, not because I was unhappy where I was, but because I came across a teaching opportunity that I wanted to be a part of, which just so happened to be in my first school division (my first home). I wasn’t looking for change but this dream job presented itself to me as a locked door and I wanted to be able to walk through it. To do so, I knew I had to knock, introduce myself, prove myself and the key would be then handed to me, if I was the right fit. Seeing as this new school, opening in September, represents everything that this book is, I needed to ensure that my teaching practices where still in check, along with my mindset, which has always been do what’s best for your students. When I got the phone call offering me my dream job I was over the moon. I was beyond excited to be part of a team who believed learning is creating not consumption and who collaborated, communicated and allowed students to have their voice be heard.

When I first mention my new move this coming September, usually people respond  by saying “You’re willing to commute to the city again? or “Won’t you miss seeing your kids in the hallways?”. My answer simply put is yes. Actually, since working in my children’s school, I’ve actually missed my commute. It was my me time to reflect on what was happening both personally and professionally. As it stands now, I take my teacher hat off, walk forty steps to daycare and put my mom cap on. I have next to no down time.

I feel this tremendous amount of guilt because I’m leaving my kids behind to pursue my dreams and my professional goals, to seek learning opportunities that will make me grow. After reading George Couros’ recent post Working on “Meaning”, followed by @AnnickRauch’s post, Balance vs. Meaning, I was relieved I wasn’t the only one who had this sense of guilt. Mom’s should be selfless not selfish. Ironically, I believe this move will make me a better mom because of the embedded self-reflection time into my day. Another response I get often is “Oh, it’ll be nice to work in a brand new building”. Yes, but the large windows and fresh paint aren’t the reasons I want to be there. It has everything to do with the learning that will take place there.

Even though my time at this current school was short, I learned a great deal and if I happened to inspire only one teacher to make changes in their pedagogy, that will have an impact on students, their families and the school community. George Couros reminded us all at the very end of the first live episode with A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, it doesn’t matter if you have a million followers or a few. Even if your post has an impact on one person who read it, subsequently you’ll have an impact of 20 something students. We can’t forget the image that one stone will create a ripple effect once it is thrown in water. But to make a ripple effect, the rock has to immerse itself in its new environment. Only then can it make waves.

The choice is in your hands. You decide whether the change will be amazing or not. Ultimately, when it comes to change, we decide whether we knock on the door, open the door, walk through the door, or build the door. No matter what is found on the other side, you’ll learn something new, or at the very least something new about yourself.