Ode To Things That Bring Us Joy

It’s so important that at any age, each and everyone of us have interests and hobbies that spark joy in our lives. One of my go-to’s has always been music. Singing in the shower or in places where the acoustics make you sound amazing even though you’re subpar. Playing the flute in the high school band or the sax in jazz. Belting out my favourite hits on the radio. Music has always been such an immense part of my life.

My love for music comes from my family, mostly my mom’s side although my dad is a phenomenal drummer too. Growing up, there was always music on, especially when we were washing dishes by hand. Back in the early days, records, then later, cassettes and CDs. Neil Young, Eric Clapton, America, Jann Arden, James Taylor you name it, we played it!

The Mireault’s (my mom’s side) have always been such a close knit family and whenever we got together for a special occasion or weekend pool parties on the farm, guitars were sure to make an appearance around the fire late at night and three part harmonies followed suit. It’s a running joke in town- “You’re a Mireault-music is in your blood” they say. Whenever there’s someone added to our family, they can’t believe our rendition of Happy Birthday! It’s one for the books! In fact, we even have our own songs book! It’s coil bound and 288 pages long! That’s my Mémère and Pépère on the cover!

Needless to say, growing up in a small town, my mom and her siblings all learned how to play guitar, mostly by ear. When someone’s fingers are on fire, there’s usually someone who can take over. I’ve always wanted to learn this instrument-it’s been on my bucket list since I can remember. I love how you can bring a guitar anywhere. It can instantly change the mood of a party and I love how you can sing while playing at the same time. Try doing that with a sax or a flute!

My parents always wanted to teach my brother and I to play so when we were in our late teens, they each bought us a Yamaha guitar for Christmas. We had all the intentions in the world to learn from them during our Thursday night dinners at their place, but those guitars never came out. Instead, we’d play a board game or talk until the wee hours of the morning.

My desire to learn how to play the guitar increased when I had my kids. I wanted to play them lullabies and kids’ songs for them to sing along to- but I never took the time to take lessons. There was always a reason not to: no time, too expensive, assignments to hand in for my M. Ed., mom guilt, and the list goes on.

Since I’ve decided in the past few months to do more of what brings me joy, I’m so excited to share that I’ve taken my first guitar lesson tonight! Do you know who gave me the push to make it happen? Three grade 7 and 8 girls who were practicing their guitar in our school’s main learning commons!

It’s so much harder than it looks and it’s really stretching my brain, but I’m so incredibly proud of myself. It’s nothing like playing the flute or the sax or the piano! So tonight I dusted the same guitar that was gifted to me over a decade ago and learned six notes! Check it out! (You can laugh at me, cause I’m laughing with you!).

I feel like I should have done this years ago, but it’s never too late. It’s kind of hilarious because all of the students in the time slots before me are on average 8 years old. But I don’t care. I believe you are never too old to learn something new, especially something you’ve dreamed about, that speaks to you, that sparks joy. It’s not foolish to try something new, it’s foolish to never try at all. So I keep trying…

Allow me to change the tone a bit. As a teacher, it was really interesting for me to be in the passenger seat and learning at my own pace. I was instantly immersed in the environment that my students live day in and day out. I felt so many emotions. Ok, it was my first lessons, but even with a music background and already knowing how to read music, I struggled, but I didn’t and won’t give up. I immediately empathized with students when they are learning new concepts and skills in my class. Some have previous knowledge but all learn at their own rhythm. They need to be praised and encouraged through the learning process and need time to practice, practice and practice. Practice makes permanent.

As I was looking our Mireault songbook, I came across a tune from Doris Day- Enjoy yourself. I feel it applies well to the message in my post.

So do it. Find time for things that make you happy. Put time aside for yourself and start crossing those items off your bucket list. You’re never too old to learn something new or try the things you’ve always dreamed of. Life’s too short! You won’t regret it! Ode to things that make you happy! Ode to joy!

My first ever song played on my guitar after my first ever lesson (learning notes B, C , D, E, F, G) and about twenty minutes of practice! You gotta start somewhere! Note my husband wasn’t there to film me (who can blame him) 🙂

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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.

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?!