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A Story of Collaboration

It all started with a tweet. Seriously.

A wonderful educator (@MrsBains) who happens to live in Alberta, just like me, shared some learning her class was doing with loose parts and the SEEI structure, and tagged Julie Stern (@JulieHStern). Trevor Aleo (@MrAleoSays) replied to this tweet and tagged Angela Stockman (@AngelaStockman) in his response. Julie also replied to the original message and tagged both Angela and Misty Paterson (@PatersonMisty), hinting at a possible summer collaboration. At this point in the thread, I did what I do best — cheer them on! And in a strange turn of events, Misty asked if I could help make this happen. While I may not be a published author of educational wisdom, like all mentioned in the twitter thread, I can organize a meeting, and that’s just what I did.

Throughout the spring and into summer, I was fortunate to share a space of collaboration with these brilliant educators. We talked theory. And relevance. And connections. We talked about other educators that we would like to join us to strengthen our team and add depth of experience. This team thinks SO BIG and it was often difficult to settle on the details. And that’s okay. It is all part of the thinking and learning and supporting experience of collaboration. And friends, it was so beautiful to be a part of — and it’s not even done yet!

I am very excited to see our ideas come to life throughout the series. Beyond Print: Expanding ways to think, learn, and express ourselves at school starts on Saturday (September 18) and continues into March 2021. Monthly sessions that build on the ideas of the session(s) before, will be followed up by virtual coffee hours where we can connect and share. Additionally we will have an asynchronous space where we can support one another as part of a collaborative community, coming together to answer the age-old question, ‘But what does this really look like in the classroom?‘.

It can be difficult for teachers who want to try something new in their practice, particularly when they have no one around them doing similar work. The lack of a cheerleader or similar thinking colleague can be a roadblock to experimenting. I truly hope that teachers wanting to ‘give it a whirl’ in looking for alternatives to pen/paper tasks, can find their people amongst the participants and facilitators in this series. I also hope that leaders wanting to support and nudge teachers within this approach to teaching will gain some ideas as well. Maybe I will see you there…

While I am at the end of this post, this story of collaboration is really just beginning. When we can harness the connections we make with others, both face to face and online, beautiful things are possible. This work is an example of that.

Thank you for reading. And considering. And leading.

Header image via Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/problem-solution-help-support-3303396/

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Reconciliation Reads

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You are likely familiar with Alberta’s Leadership Quality Standard. For those of you reading from outside of Alberta, standard five reads as follows:

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What began as goal within my professional growth plan to develop my foundational knowledge, has grown into my intentional addition of books related to the histories and stories about and by Indigenous peoples to my TBR pile. While this is no means an exhaustive list, it may prove to be useful if you don’t know where to start or want to add to your personal reading pile. Each cover image is linked to its goodreads description and reviews.

truthstoriesthebreakstarlightsonofsevenfallenour storymoonofthemedicine walkindianhorsemarrowthievesinconvenientfrom-the-ashes-9781982101213_hrempireeducationbraiding-sweetgrass-3unsettlingclearingclayknockspeakingourtruthstorywork

mindongroundcrowwinterjonnyappleseedtherethere

UPDATE

Thanks to my wonderful colleagues, these books have been suggested as excellent selections for y/our reconciliation reads pile:

Do you have one to add to the list? Did you love one of these books? Add a comment or tweet me your thoughts. I’m always looking to add my TBR list!

Thank you for reading. And considering. And leading.

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Power of Connection #IWD2020

 

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Can you find Lloydminster on this map? Fun Fact: It’s the only border town in Canada.

My pre-event warm up was a 545 km drive from Lloydminster to Calgary. Not only was the sun shining, and I was traveling without my tiny humans, I was able to listen to the CBC Massey Lectures 2019 with Sally Armstrong entitled Power Shift: The Longest Revolution It was wonderful! My feminist heart was singing as Armstrong unpacked many topics including the costs of gender inequality, the domination of women’s bodies by men, women in history who have pushed back against societal norms and religious claims, the power of social media, the beginning of the patriarchy, and the importance of intersectionality within feminism, ensuring ALL voices are considered, particularly those in marginalized groups who are often overlooked and silenced without consequence. Listening to this lecture series reinforced the importance of our evening event; just because I am not personally or overtly experiencing a lack of equality in my white, hetero, cis-gendered, young(ish), able bodied, middle class, Canadian life, doesn’t excuse me from participation. In fact, it requires me acknowledge my privilege and make space for, and amplify the voices of WOC, Indigenous women, disabled women, LGBTQ+ women, poor women, and other marginalized populations of women.

My podcast playlist was then followed by The History Chicks who profile women throughout history. At this point, due in part to the vast kilometers I find myself driving for work, the two hosts are like old road tripping friends whose company and humour I enjoy. This particular episode featured Mary Church Terrell, a civil rights activist and suffragist who worked to improve the lives of African Americans. Again, this was a glimpse into how far we have come as a society and yet, just how far we need to still go.

Our theme for @WomenEdAlberta #leadmeet 2020 in honour of International Women’s Day 2020 was Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Successes and Struggles. I was honoured to be included on the panel, along side Joanne Pitman (@JoannePitman5, Superintendent CBE), Sunita Chafekar (@ChafekarSunita, therapeutic setting teacher CBE), and Krystal Abrahamowicz (@kabrahamowicz, acting executive director CRC). Our host, Lisa Hannay (@lhannay1, AP Centennial High School CRC, regional representative @WomenEdAlberta), crafted a series of questions that we could choose from to answer and then after a short break (during which we consumed the most delicious petit-fours made by the students in the commercial kitchen class at Centennial High School) we sat in table groups to talk about two additional questions.

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We had the most delicious treats with our tea and coffee. Yes, I sampled them all!

During our panel time, Sunita shared about her journey as a teacher and the advice she wishes she could have given herself as a beginning teacher (although unsure if her early-teaching self would listen). Krystal explored the elusive work-life balance and the emotional workload that she feels obligated to carry despite having a husband who has done much of the “mothering” in their home. I talked about being vulnerable (which I equated to being real and authentic) and the power that can have in communicating your vision with those that you lead. I also confessed my condition where emotions leak out of my eyeballs and how that is something that I have worked on becoming unapologetic for. Joanne talked about her experiences with gender pay gap, glass ceilings, and the interesting experiences she has had with hierarchical structures and how it can impede the work that we are all trying to do. In her words, “we are all doing the same work” it just looks different at each level of the system. Her wisdom included a point of reflection — if you love the work that you are doing and the place that you are at in your career, then you are where you are meant to be…BUT if you see yourself somewhere else or are unhappy, then it’s on you to drive forward until you get to where you want to be. For her, it is not about the position; rather, it is about the kind of work that she is passionate about doing. The wonderful thing about the panel was that our leadership roles looked very different from the job titles, but there were many layers and connections between our experiences.

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At my table group conversation we explored how despite holding “leadership” positions, some of us still don’t consider themselves leaders. We talked about the importance of inviting others, who we see leadership qualities in, into leadership opportunities and how several of us at the table never considered school leadership until someone invited us in. Interestingly we shared that each of us had a male colleague with early career goals of becoming principals and because of that never waited for the invitation to join, they were already there saying “pick me”.

Our guests were invited to select a magnet to take home for themselves and another to gift to someone who wasn’t in attendance. They were encouraged to share with them a little about their experiences from the evening when giving the magnet in hopes of spreading the word about our wonderful #WomenEd community.

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Our time together was relatively short but I woke up this morning still smiling and revelling in the experience of last night. When we come together as women, as leaders, as people determined to make our world a better place for everyone, there is power in that. I am so blessed to be part of this group.

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 A fantastic group of women to engage with for the evening. #eachforequal #IWD2020 

 

Thank you for reading. And considering. And leading.

 

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A New Identity #WomenEd

How to write a blog post for #WomenEd:

  1. Sign up for the online event via eventbrite.
  2. Add the event to your calendar.
  3. Lose track of days while visiting family. Never check your calendar.
  4. Realize while traveling home that the reason your timeline is exploding with inspirational #WomenEd #Pledgeforchange20 posts was because of the event you signed up for (and should be participating in).
  5. Convince yourself that because it is still technically December 29 in your part of the world for the next few hours, you aren’t late to the party!

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My involvement in the world of education looks incredibly different than I would have ever imagined. Right now, my full time job is parenting our boys (4 and 2) and I am able to design professional learning for teachers as a contract consultant on a part-time basis, typically scheduled on my husband’s days off. There was a time (not too long ago) where I did not feel comfortable in this arrangement. I missed the buzz of a school — connecting with students, supporting and cheering on my colleagues, and the “real” leadership that I feel is my calling and passion. Without my job, I struggled to find an identity.

If I wasn’t a teacher, then who was I?

To say that this identity search was outside of my comfort zone may be an understatement. I felt adrift. There were so many things I missed about school leadership; however, that longing did not outweigh the stresses of finding suitable childcare, commuting, managing our home, etc. that were/are inevitable when I return to full-time *paid* work. I realized I needed to fill my time (and heart) with something else. When we relocated to our current town, I joined our local Potters’ Guild. This was primarily an opportunity to make friends (because seriously, how do adults do this when they don’t work?!?) but also to continue playing with mud.

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Pottery has been a form of therapy for me for years. You have to be present. Start thinking about something else and the clay stops cooperating. You have to let go of perfection. Sometimes “good enough” is a win — trust me. You have to be patient and be cautiously optimistic that the piece will survive all stages of the process. You learn that your journey as a potter is personal. Comparing yourself to others can lead to feeling inadequate when you are anything but. Lastly, you quickly learn that people can find beauty in pieces that you want to toss. Spending time on this hobby not only has stretched my skills as a potter, but also pushed me into unfamiliar places like selling items at our annual sales and building an online sales platform.

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Christmas tree ornaments by cvk ceramics

 

So what does all of this have to do with #WomenEd and our #Pledgeforchange20?

  • Sometimes stepping out of the comfort zone takes us away from education and schools and that’s okay because our identities are richer than our occupations.
  • Teaching and leadership is primarily about learning and what better way to learn than to expand one’s skills in within a hobby or area of interest. It’s humbling to be the beginner. Despite playing with mud for over a decade, I still feel like a beginner.
  • Sharing our stories connect us in important ways and someone in the #WomenEd community may be in a similar space right now.

I am truly grateful for the #WomenEd network and I look forward to working with Lisa Hannay and @WomenEdAlberta to host a #LeadMeet this spring. We are better and stronger together.

Thanks for reading. And considering. And leading.

 

 

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One Kind Word

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I know that we know this but sometimes it’s about reminding ourselves — relationships are integral to our work, to our lives — students, colleagues, parents, families.

Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of how important this all is because the rest of the stuff gets in the way. I have a drawer of cards, notes, and Warm Fuzzies that I have collected over the years that I take a moment to read through from time to time, to remind myself about these connections and relationships — and it makes my heart so happy when I do…that’s the power of kind words.

I recently reached out to a former student to let him know that I was thinking about him and that I hoped he was doing well. I have always had a space in my heart for kids who bring a challenge to the classroom and this student would certainly fit this profile. His response — “I didn’t think any of my old teachers would remember who I am.” I hope he now thinks differently.

So if you have some time on your hands, or if you want to do some marvellous procrastinating, maybe you should find someone who you think is awesome, who you maybe haven’t told in a while, and tell them just that.

Thanks for reading. And considering, And leading.

 

 

Instructional Leadership, WomenEd

Loving My Work

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My list of tasks is growing so what better way to procrastinate than write a blog post (not on the list)!

@WomenEdAlberta issued a challenge for the month of February asking us to think about what we love about our job. When I am living with gratitude in my heart, life is just better. The work I am doing these days is just one of the many things I am very thankful for…

I will try to be brief. (Cue the laughter from those who know me well…)

  • I get to learn. All. The. Time.
  • I am making new connections in a new context.
  • I am working with amazing people who have vision and passion for creating a bold future for education in our province.
  • The schedule is flexible, allowing me to spend time at home with my little monsters.
  • I get to do what I love — helping teachers grow their teaching practice to improve/inspire student learning.

So in summary — my job is awesome; what’s not to love?

Thanks for reading. And considering. And leading.

 

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FOCUS #oneword2019

focusI’ve been thinking about this for several days now.  I chose a word for the first time last year and the power of finding a word to direct me for a year was quite incredible, in part because traditional resolutions always seemed stupid to me and doomed to fail.

It isn’t enough though to simply choose a word this year; I want to layer it with some additional learning. (Keener, I know.)

Here’s a little backstory:
I was fortunate to be part of a staff willing to take the leap and try something new related to how we/they approached their learning during PLC time several years ago. Rather than developing the same old, tired SMART goals connected to literacy, numeracy, etc., we created inquiry questions related to our teaching practice to help drive us to want to learn more.  Because, let’s be honest, there’s very little that is exciting and inspiring about a SMART goal. But a question can spark curiosity and conversation — two important ingredients for deep understanding and enduring change.

And a little more backstory…
I suck at self-care. I know all of the things I am supposed to do and even without the usual demands on my time, I am managing to drop the ball. All of the balls related to this most days. This adds up to some really shitty mental health and some very squishy body parts.

So what does this have to do with my #oneword for this year? I want my word to be FOCUS. It’s a little too easy for me to get sucked into distractions of current events, daily life, and really anything that isn’t self-care (specifically exercise). I mean, I’ve been practicing avoiding these good habits for decades!

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I want to FOCUS on my own little inquiry question this year and see where it takes me:

What impact does
daily intentional acts of self care
have on my life?

Seems simple enough, right? I mean I could skip the inquiry and just read the articles that already know the answer. But unless I ACTUALLY DO IT, nothing is going to change and quite frankly, that’s not good enough for me.

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This could take many forms  — yoga, pilates, walking, cross-country skiing, blogging, practicing French (for my upcoming vacation), meditating, pottery, painting, or going for a bike ride.

So that’s it. My year will be about FOCUS. Focus on self-care — my divine responsibility.

This might be my greatest challenge yet.

 

 

Thanks for reading. And considering. And leading.

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PATIENCE #oneword2018 Reflection

snail reflectionPhoto Credit: Abidin M Faiz Nur

In January of this year I decided that my one word that would guide me through the upcoming year would be PATIENCE.

It was not easy. In fact, more than once I had to return to my post and reread my intention. Patience as an active mindset continues to be a challenge. Days with a toddler and preschooler helps keep the challenge alive 🙂

Here’s what I know — patience helped me wait for a job that fits my life better than I could have orchestrated on my own. Patience (and some medication) allows me to enjoy my days (for the most part) with my boys. Patience was a perfect choice for my word this past year. Despite the year, I am no expert on patience. Luckily, perfection is not the goal here; just a little intentional mindfulness when I feel like life isn’t moving quite fast enough for me.

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Mental Health and Teaching

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Hats on For Mental Health is coming up this week and it seemed like a good reminder that I have wanted to write this blog post for some time. I am by no means an expert but I do have my own experience with the topic and want to share my story with the hopes that someone else may find it helpful.

I was first diagnosed with depression in 2007. Just existing was hard. I was able to make it through my days at work but once I was at home it was all I could do to function. After one particularly rough weekend where I slept for 21/24 hours on the Saturday and cried over the most ridiculous things, I finally made an appointment to talk to a therapist. Then I went to my doctor for medication. And finally my principal to talk about adjusting my work schedule for the next few weeks so that I could get this under control. It took me YEARS to sort through my baggage (particularly after some significant life events) and build a life schedule that allowed for all the things I needed to keep settled (boundaries on how much I was working, journalling, eating well, normal amounts of sleep, talk-doctor visits, yoga, time outdoors, time with friends, etc). And to be clear, this journey is never over — my depression merely swings between managed and not-so-managed, depending on how well I put into practice what I know.

What I found most interesting when I was first going through this was when I shared my story with my colleagues, I learned that many of them were also on medication and struggled with their own mental health but NO ONE was talking about it. What is it about our profession that makes us feel like we have to conquer everything on our own without sharing that we may be struggling with this or that?

I have said more than once that depression is one of the best things that ever happened to me simply because it forced me to realize that self-care wasn’t selfish. In fact, it was the one thing that I should be doing ALL THE TIME if I wanted to be and do all that stuff I dreamed of.

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I have also said that self-care is something I still struggle with. Somehow things like reading a book, going to a yoga class, mediating, or taking a walk to appreciate the world around me, are all items that get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list quicker than other tasks. Thankfully, my body is more than willing to remind me (sometimes more subtly than others) that I need to regroup and put myself back on my priority list.

The willingness of leaders to share their stories with others, opens pathways for conversations that may not otherwise happen. Perhaps this story is the invitation someone needs to pull their best talking partner aside and say “I’m not okay.” or “I need help.” Please take care of each other — the world needs you.

Thanks for reading. And considering. And leading.

 

Maternity Leave

PATIENCE #oneword2018

You may or may not be familiar with the notion of #oneword. The idea is simple: rather than a long convoluted resolution to start the new year (which often proves to be unsuccessful), instead choose one word to help you focus your intentions and vision for the year ahead. While not consciously set, my #oneword2017 turned out to be BEGINNINGS (in part due to my involvement of the launch of @WomenEdCanada at #ulead17 and the arrival of our second child which meant me taking on stay-at-home parenting).

This year I needed to be intentional; I needed a word to hang on to.

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Rest assured, I did some significant brainstorming before arriving on this word. But as soon as I did, it just felt right. I knew it was right because it was uncomfortable and empowering at the same time.

Those who know me, know I am a do-er. I like a completed task list. I rarely wait for someone else to do it for me because seriously, why would I? In other words patience is not my forte. Some may even say that I am a wee-bit of a controller. Layer this with uncertainty of when I may be returning to work from my maternity leave, if we may be relocating for my partner’s future employment, and daily interactions with an almost three year old and you have the recipe to practice patience during most minutes of most days.

So here’s the thing that I have realized — patience is not passive. It IS doing. And for me it is some of the hardest doing of all because there is nothing tangible to show for it (other than a twitch in my eye from time to time. lol)

patience is action

We are 20 days into January. Three weeks of PATIENCE. Without a doubt my #oneword2018 is going to be a challenge. If I can maintain the action of patience for 336 more days, I am excited to see where it will take me both at home, at work, and inside my own head.

Stay tuned for periodic reflection on my #oneword2018 and progress updates.

Thanks for reading. And considering. And leading.