2018: The Year of Self Love for Life – Advice From a Sweet Grandma

New year, new me. Or should I say new year, better me? I don’t feel I need to change anything in particular, because I’m quite accepting of who I am and constantly strive to become a better version of myself, but my personal goal is to love myself as the ones who surround me and care about me do. There is one person in particular who always made me feel confident, and that is my Grandma.

I’ve been thinking a lot during the past few days. The new year is a time to reflect on our goals, center ourselves and find truth, seek greatness and be grateful of the past. To start the year off right, my husband and I took a vacation to Florida this passed week to spend some quality time unplugged with our three kiddos and get away from the everyday stressors and struggle to find a happy work/life balance. It was not the time away we had planned considering we were looking for heat and found cold. Luckily we had our tuques tucked away in our luggage! I’m not even kidding. Don’t even get me started on the two and a half hour process to get into Disney, and let’s not forget the phone call that changed my trip. My grandma passed away on Day 3 of our travel plans. As I’m sitting here in an airport, by myself, leaving my husband and kids with dad of the year in Florida (I recognize it’s only January 5th but this guy earned it and will take the trophy home on December 31st), I think of her. Like I do regularly, daily.

She was wonder woman. A kind hearted, open minded, selfless ray of sunshine. She was the only grandparent I ever got to know and the one I could share my secrets with. She was accepting and found joy in other people’s happiness. I spent my summers with her on the farm, watching her bake bread, tending to her garden that could feed the entire community. She helped others at all times of the day. I remember calling her the night before a gala to alter a dress I purchased the same evening (I’m a last minute shopper, what can I say?!). Needless to say, it was ready at 6 am the next morning and fit like a glove. I could ask her to come help me paint my house when I was redecorating and there she was with her step ladder and paint clothes on (they didn’t have a speck of paint on them- cause she was that good).

When I spent time with my Mémère I would always seek her life lessons and words to live by. When I asked her what her secret to living a full life was (Mémère, c’est quoi le secret de la vie?) she said this : It’s loving and being loved (C’est d’aimer et être aimé). Being loved implies you need to love yourself first to accept the love of others. As I’ll think of her daily, she will forever remind me to love myself, accept love and love others. Even though my grandma only had the chance to get to grade 9 before she had to stop her education to help raise her younger siblings, she is by far my favourite teacher.

I always find it funny how life sends you signals and secret messages. The day we found out she was gone to a better place than when she exited this lifetime, we were on our way to Kennedy Space Center. What did I walk up to but this quote. I’m sure it’s a sign from her. It was her time.

My advice to myself and to others is to love yourself and tell the ones you love that you do. You can’t hear those words enough. Even those who don’t believe it themselves will start to.

Tu me manques, Mémère. Je t’aime jusqu’au ciel.

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I SEE YOU

I see you blog post

This post in dedicated to all teachers who are good enough, even more than enough, but often feel like they don’t measure up to the standards they set for themselves. 

I see you, pulling long hours, spending so much of your you time away from your own family, trying to give the best possible learning experiences to your students.

I see you skipping your lunch, so you can attend to your students’ needs and cater to their family’s needs.

I hear you, speaking to others to find solutions for those hard to reach and hard to teach students.

I see you get to your students’ level to let them know you are both equal parts that make a whole.

I see you, being so hard on yourself, because in ordinary circumstances your students would have mastered routines and your centers would be in full swing by this time of the year.

I see you asking your spouse to stay late to catch up on emails or make plans to have your students connect with a global audience.

I see you, greeting your students at the door by name because they are what matter most.

I see your lesson plans and your big ideas. How they are carefully thought out and everything is aligned, but with given circumstances, they are sometimes put off to a later date and time; because learning to live together and celebrating differences is your priority.

I feel your passion. It exudes from you heart and your soul.

I see your tears, for this is one of the hardest and most validating jobs in the world.

I see you there, staring back at me in the mirror.

Do you see yourself in the same one?
If so, let me remind you that you are more than enough. Be kind to yourself, for I see you there too, doing the best you possibly can.

 

I’m In Love With Your Knowledge

This blog post was co-written by Nycol Didcote and Annick Rauch, best friends who always support, push and encourage one another. We are so lucky to be working together again this September at École Sage Creek School, a new school opening up in the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Last April, Annick and I headed to Connect 2017, Canada’s Learning & Technology Conference, in beautiful Niagara Falls. There, we met and connected with many amazing educators who were not only incredible leaders in education, but fundamentally incredible people, too. They all seemed to have an amazing work/life balance and also took time to have fun. One of these educators was Brian Aspinall. Shortly after leaving Niagara, I noticed he took vlogging to a new level with his “EDU Carpool Karaoke” which made my day. Remembering all the amazing and fun educators who took risks at the Niagara Ignite event, hosted by Fair Chance Learning, I decided to take a risk and give the EDU Karaoke a go myself. Shortly after, Annick was challenged and a few others jumped on the bandwagon. Brian later stepped up his game by introducing a golf-cart edition of edu karaoke-genius!

Then, one morning in May, I (Annick) was driving to work and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You came on the radio, as it often does, but this time, with EDU Carpool Karaoke fresh in my mind, inspiration hit me. I couldn’t help but think how this amazingly catchy song would make a great EDU style song. Ideas were flowing, but I couldn’t pull off such a thing alone. A few quick texts later, Nycol was on board with yet another one of my crazy ideas, and we hit the ground running! Yes, it is now the end of August and we just finally finished up this project, but after we started in May, report card time hit, then we wrapped up the school year, packed our boxes, and we’ve both had busy summers. Although it took longer than we had hoped, we are here now, and hope you enjoy our creation!

A few notes before you watch:

  • We both love singing and know that we are not great singers (but we don’t care, it’s all about our message and having fun!!) You may want to turn your volume down juuusssst a tad! 😉
  • We are always talking about risk taking and modelling in education – this is what this video is all about. We put ourselves out there and this is something that we will be able to show our students as an example of a risk we took.
  • We know the importance of being a lifelong learner and the power that being a connected educator can have on our learning. This is how our song was born, placing the emphasis on thanking our amazing PLC and encouraging others to join and get connected.

So thank you to all those (past, present, and future) who shape us into who we are as teachers everyday. From our in person PLC to our online PLC, you are all amazing and we appreciate each and every one of you!

So, here it is, Brian! With this, we are one upping your Carpool Karaoke AND your golf-cart edition of edu karaoke!

Deep breath, here goes nothing…. 🙂

 

Drive Through the Fog

img_3981I love the month of August. It’s a time where I reflect deeply on my teaching and learning goals for the upcoming year. It’s a time where my family gets back on track with our oh so needed routines so we are refreshed and relaxed come the September chaos. It’s also the time where I, like all other teachers, prep my mind and my classroom for the next ten months of learning that are ahead and just around the bend.

Before summer arrived, I had applied for and accepted a teaching position in a brand new school, which I truly believe was made to be my dream job.  I say this because everything this school is known to represent, I believe in: innovation, collaboration, progress, global learning and the list goes on. Last week, as I was leaving the house to get started on prepping my new learning and working space, I got up early because I too need to start getting into my new routine. I woke up and left the house at the time when I will be leaving every morning from Monday to Friday this September and trust me – it’s much earlier than when I left for school last year.

It was so early the air was still crisp and the dew seeped into the light grey fabric of my shoes, making them three shades darker. There wasn’t the usual hustle and bustle of families getting out the door, kids riding their bikes or dogs being walked by their owners. There were few cars on their way to where they were headed. It reminded me of the commute I had three years ago- because soon came the fog.

As I started driving, part of me contemplated whether I should continue or wait for the fog to settle. I decided to carry on because I had driven through thick fog before – this wasn’t a first. I knew that it was just a matter of time until the sun warmed up and cleared the horizon. Although the thick white blanket appeared menacing, once I approached it, my surroundings became less hazy. I could make out shapes and familiar farmhouses. I could always see from a short distance what was immediately ahead of me. Not once did I feel threatened or in danger. I was relieved that I didn’t wait for the fog to settle because I could maximize the time to start working in my classroom. I’m so excited to be in my classroom!

Immediately, it made me think of the year I have ahead in this new environment. The building and the school yard has amazing learning spaces. And better yet, the people I am surrounded by are all team players. As I join this group of incredible people, striving individually and collectively for something greater than what we have ever experienced, my mind sometimes gets foggy. Foggy because there are still many unknowns. Foggy from all the strategies and tools I could use next year to make our school culture thrive. Foggy from all of the quotes that resonated with me from my professional development books I was reading over the summer. Foggy from not knowing exactly how the year will unfold, because in my classroom there’s only so much I can do until my students arrive. Foggy from the potential and all of the possibilities. But as I literally drove through the fog, all of a sudden my surroundings became clear. And I know that the fog inside my brain will soon dissipate as well because I realized that the missing piece that will make my fog dissipate isn’t waiting on the shelves that have yet to arrive- it’s meeting my students and their families. I’ve always known who the kids I was going to teach were. I always spent my time getting to know the students who would be moving in with me the following year. I start building those relationships early, before they even know they may be in my classroom, before I even know if they will be in my class. Last year, I didn’t get the chance to see my students, meet them, converse with them, and compliment them. That’s why even though I have been teaching for 8 years now, I feel as though I’m a first year: new building, new classroom, new students, new colleagues. But even though for now, I feel a bit out of my comfort zone, I have all of the optimism and energy a new teacher has.

The saying “A comfort zone is a beautiful thing but nothing ever grows there” rings true. Some days, as a teacher, the fog will be so thick you’ll think of staying where you are and continuing what you’ve always been doing. You won’t take the risk of leaving your comfort zone because you feel as though the unknowns will paralyze you. You stay safe – not risking the negative “what ifs” that could arise. I ask you the same question: What if your ideas turn out amazing? What if the ideas inside your head become those moments your students hold onto forever? What if students build resiliency failing forward, when things don’t go as planned? What if your classroom became “real life” rather than “by the book”?

Once you take the road less traveled a few times, it will become familiar to you, kind of like me driving through the fog. So next time you hesitate on applying for that new job, or on letting your students take the lead because you are caught up in those negative what ifs and worried you won’t know the final outcome – just drive and let them drive. Take the risk you’ve been contemplating. Move forward. Push yourself through uncertainty and get through it one step at a time. Because once you approach what looks like a barrier to your destination, you’ll notice pieces get clearer as you move through the motions. In a classroom setting, let your students take the wheel to learn what driving (critical thinking) through the fog is. Your amazing ideas will always be foggy until you live them. Once you have, you’ll see that learning is living. Learning needs to move and wonder and wander. It needs to travel; it can’t stay at a standstill. You won’t get anywhere interesting if you stay in the same spot. Drive through the fog – even if it’s not at the speed limit. Just keep moving. You and your students will thank you for it once you come out the other side and see the sun shining bright.

Note: No filters needed for these pictures taken on my drive to work. I look forward to my commute to reflect and listen to podcasts and audio books (Innovator’s Mindset audio book, and hopefully other DBC an IMpress audio books can’t come fast enough!) to clear my mind.

At the heart of it all

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Although I express gratitude daily, this past holiday season has me thinking about how grateful I am for every opportunity I have, every ounce of love in my heart and all the “stuff” (what I call “fluff”) we own. With three kids at home and generous grandparents, you can imagine the amount of gifts my children received at Christmas. It makes me sick. Every year, my husband and I ask our parents to cut back because we want our kids to realize what is truly important in this world. How we can help others and the importance of being kind.

As I look around me and realize how lucky I am to have everything I need, I think of those students who don’t have their basic needs met. Whether it be a lunchbox full of sugar (or no lunch at all), not having the proper clothing for our harsh winter weather, or the lack of meaningful relationships at home, I think of my students all the time and how they are spending their break, knowing far too well, that a few would rather be at school learning and exploring with their peers.

I know some students who have built significant relationships at school  who are living difficult situations at home find being on “break” tough. This is true during Winter Break, Spring Break and especially before school breaks for the summer. Sometimes the lack of routine and the unknown causes them to be anxious, because not all students’ breaks are filled with family, friends and “fluff”.

This year, I am lucky to have all of my students’ parents connected to Seesaw. This app is one of my favourite tools to use in class, and my first grade students love adding to their digital portfolios. With the tap of a few green check marks, messages are added, photos delivered, videos uploaded and learning is proven. I’ve always known and believed that building significant relationships and developing secure attachments with our students is critical. Without having their heart, you cannot possibly get to their minds. I believe we are all familiar with Dr. James Comer’s quote “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship”. A person who has influenced me greatly always said, “students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. These similar messages are also conveyed in all of my recent readings. From Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie, or any of the books from Dave Burgess Consulting Inc., it’s safe to say we (should) all agree with this message. Building positive relationships with students is the root of their success.

I encourage the teachers who read this to connect with their students over break. I have. For the students who are fortunate to have it all at home, send them a message with a hook (I love #tlap)  to have them look forward to what awaits them in class when they return. My hook is a special guest who will be spending a week with us in our classroom (my ball python they’ve been waiting for EVER to meet… but they’ll only know who once they walk through the door)! Whether it be by email, by Seesaw or any other tool you use, reach out and communicate with them. Who knows, for some of your students, you may be one of the few who took the time to truly connect with them in a meaningful way.