Now What

There is nothing I like more than pulling from my stock photos from the past. This is a good one and I have no idea who took it. It must have been a former student of mine from the golden days of teaching secondary mathematics. As you can see, this photo depicts deep thoughts. So, now what?

I am driven to answer this question. When you step away from something you love to complete a HUGE task (i.e. my dissertation), you have to answer what’s next. In the short term, my goal is complete my dissertation and defend successfully. Right now I’m still in the middle of the editing process, but hope that ends soon so that I can get my paper to my external examiner and get the ball moving towards the oral defence.

I am also watching. What do I mean by that? I am looking around and listening to see where my next step lies. I know that I am in the field of education… possibly teaching… learning and leading, for sure. I love being in the classroom but I also love presenting too. I am drawn to working with people and provoking people to think. I am also curious about other people and how we are all interconnected.

I am reminded by one of my professor’s THREE AXIOMS in education: (1) the money is the money, (2) be careful for what you wish for, and (3) do not underestimate the power of self-interest. Over time, these axioms make a lot of sense to me. I am sometimes bewildered by what I see and I have to always keep my ego in check. This can be challenging when you perceive yourself to be in a position of power or influence. These axioms also inform my next steps. My THREE AXIOMS are (a) you only know what you know, (2) you can’t go back in time, and (3) you don’t really know someone’s story. I am motivated to learn more about what I don’t know.

In the long term, who knows. I have started a 10-year goal setting process. I tried to start doing one several times in the past and could not do it. I could never see past my nose. I definitely don’t want to define every step along the way because there was no time in my early days that I had a desire for school trusteeship. However, I had always wanted my hands on the big picture and looking at system change. I know that I am a change agent in many ways with my many hats in education, but I have always wanted to steer the big wheel. My dad says you can’t… or at least do it alone. I totally agree with that. However, I do believe we can make system change.

I think about my colleague and friend Dr. Peter Liljedahl from SFU who just won the $100,000 Cmolik prize for Big Thinking Classrooms. I remember chatting with him a few years ago. He spoke about how he taught secondary mathematics and he had no tables or chairs. His students learned mathematics with non-permanent vertical surfaces (aka. white wash boards). The learning was collaborative, dialogical, and problem solving oriented. When he became a professor, his Master of Education students would also do projects related to this practice. The current BCAMT President just finished his MSc in mathematics education studying student movement using non-permanent vertical surfaces. Sooooo crazy!!! Peter travels around the world with this concept. Slowly but surely Peter is putting his PASSION into PRACTICE.

This is what I want to do. I am passionate about student voice, professional learning, and leadership. How do these fit together? This is for me to find out. I feel that I am on my way. I am so grateful for being a mathematics educator. Teaching mathematics helped me to understand more about teaching and learning but also lend itself as a vehicle to my research and dissertation. I look forward to what’s next. Every step has been exciting so far and I am open to the opportunities that are set before me.

Spoiled Ballot

The 2017/18 BCSTA Board of Directors taking their oath at the 113th AGM.

It’s the day after the BC School Trustees (BCSTA) Annual General Meeting (AGM). I must admit, it was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had. This year, I did not put my name forward for the 2017/18 Board of Directors. I’ve served for 3 years on the board and I am very happy of the work that we accomplished. I was surprised how many people asked me “why I was not running” throughout the entire AGM. Let me rephrase this. Some members did not realize that I was not running during the AGM. It was more like “you’re not running?” That was shocking. Pre-conference materials, nominations from the floor (with names of candidates posted on the screen), candidate forum, and speeches… and still some members did not know I was running. I’m not sure if I was suppose to campaign to my colleagues that I was not running, but I was humbled by the kind words that many people had to say.

The other weird experience that I had during the AGM was being outside of the campaign. This was the first time in many years that the BCSTA had an election for the position of President. I’ve seen one other election for the position of Vice-President. Most times it’s an election for the position of Director. Strangely again, there were very few candidates for the position of Director. Not going to lie, I felt great not having to campaign throughout the weekend, think about what strategies to take to woo the voting membership, and stand on stage to the judging eyes of my colleagues. This was exactly what I was trying to avoid for the last month because I wanted to spend more cognitive time with my dissertation… and I did. The election campaign for President was even more interesting. Personally, I was conflicted. I did not have neutral feelings, but I did not have a clear “winner” in mind either. For me, it was a neck-and-neck race. Members would come up to me to ask if I had any information to impart to sway their vote because I knew the candidates relatively well from being on the Board of Directors with them for the last two years. Long story made short, I had nothing to offer to bring solace to sway their vote.

Before the AGM, I anticipated that there would be 3 clear tribes within our membership… those who supported one candidate, those who supported the other candidate, and those who were undecided (like me). The AGM was a struggle for me. On the one hand, I was wrestling with the whole notion of not running and fielding questions of why I was not running (e.g. complete my dissertation and defend). On the other hand, a president and the other positions of vice-president and directors had to be decided. I must admit… it got ugly. When people started engaging in the politics, it just wasn’t the same. What do I mean by that? Aside from people looking for some information on one candidate versus another, others would approach me to tell me which candidate they were supporting and/or endorsing. This was fascinating to me. I was confident that they were clear with their why and their vote, but I was undecided. Sounds strange, I know. I should know, right? Not the case. As a result, I felt like I was perceived to be supporting “the other candidate” if I did not agree. That was telling to me, in the big picture… about politics, self-interest, and integrity.

My local school board knew how I felt. They could see my internal conflict. What I love about my board is that we can have a team huddle where some members of my board had a candidate that they were fully supporting and some were undecided like me. We discussed the candidates and the election the day before the vote. I love how we could be candid with each other, but no personal crap (aka. drama) got in the way. It’s a level of mutual respect that I truly love and not take for granted. By election day, I was still undecided. In my mind, it was still 50/50. Because of this, my board offered me one of our four votes. There were five of us at the AGM. This was the kindest gesture I could of imagined. They mutually decided the three votes and I was given one for myself to decide. I was overwhelmed with the decision but wanted to make one. That said, I was not big and bold enough that I could completely step away from the vote even though I imagined I would have.

The dilemma persisted up until the ballots were collected and I did not vote in the end. I get it… that’s not a spoiled ballot and the title of the blog is somewhat misleading. That said, it’s very much like a spoiled ballot because the ballot would not count. Either way, it felt good not to vote. I could not decide and unintentionally, I didn’t. My conscience is free from making that decision and luckily the outcome was not within a one-vote difference. I would have felt horrible if that was the case. I am a firm believer in the democratic process and believe that every vote counts. I was happy that the assembly decided which candidate they wanted as their president and vice-president. Looking at the numbers, both rounds of voting were relatively close. The decision was not easy to make and I empathize. I truly do. Overall, I am very pleased the 2017/18 BCSTA Board of Directors as a whole. I look forward to all of the work that is set upon them by the membership at AGM. I wish them all of the best and hope that they will do their best to represent membership boards in the province as well as advocate for quality public education in BC.

I loved my work on the BCSTA Board of Directors. I loved being the liaison of the BCSTA Legislative Committee this year and BCSTA Education Committee (now renamed the Professional Learning Committee) for two-years previous. I am grateful for the people I have met as the VISTA Branch and previously the Metro Branch Liaison… and I am honoured to be part of the BCSTA Learning Guide (a curriculum for school trustees and boards of education) Working Group Committee. I would absolutely agree with Past President Teresa Rezansoff who said to the 2016/17 Board of Directors that we have left many fingerprints behind. We did. Thank you to all of the BCSTA Staff and kudos to our CEO Mike Roberts for all the work he has done with the Board of Directors to steer our organization along.

This was an excellent BCSTA AGM. I loved connecting with trustees from around the province as we move forward together to improve public education for all students in our communities via governance, policy, and decision-making. Being on the Board of Directors was an awesome experience and I am honoured to have represented boards of education over the past few years. Now that it’s the day after AGM, there is no question in my mind that I made the best decision for me.

An Exercise of…

As a friend had kindly reminded me… “this will be an exercise of letting go.” Let me tell you… it sure was. This year my name tag at the BCSTA AGM does not bear the “candidate” ribbon. I said in a previous blog titled “Trajectory” that I was not running for the 2017/18 Board of Directors. At the time, I was not willing to run for director. I had been the director for three years and I was ready to learn more. However, I was not sure if I was prepared to take on the roles of Vice-President or President for various reasons.

One of the reasons is my family. I could not bear being more away from my daughter any more than I am. You’d think that she would need me less now that she’s 13-years old, but really… she needs more. I want to be there for her as she transitions into teenager-dom. Another reason is my dissertation. I think that if I was finished my dissertation a month ago that my decision would have been different. I am in the middle of editing my dissertation and preparing to defend in the summer. That’s about 2-3 months away. I want to focus my attention on completing my dissertation and not campaigning. Third reason… it’s nice to leave on a high. I loved my three years on the Board of Directors. I had the opportunity to get to know boards of education from around the province, meet with various education partner groups, and connect up with staff from the Ministry of Education. Not only did I have a voice at the table, but I also had the opportunity to grasp a broader point of view of BC public education.

I am proud to have served on the Board of Directors for 3-years. We were a diverse team and we had much to contribute. Admittedly, not all times were easy. It was a labour of love for quite some time. But our board made many changes and I am proud that I was somehow a part of that. Furthermore, I loved my time serving on the Education Committee and Legislative Committee as a Board Liaison, but also loved being the Branch Liaison to VISTA, Metro, and Northwest Branch. And, I really enjoyed working with the staff of BCSTA. What a hard working crew… and THANK YOU for all that you do. It’s AGM and today I had my last board of directors meeting and tomorrow will be my last VISTA Branch meeting and Legislative Committee meeting. Although I’m experiencing a lot of “lasts” this weekend, I am very grateful for the kind words people have shared with me and their support of my work on the Board.

Saturday will be election day and a new BCSTA Board of Directors will be decided. This will be up to the membership to decide who they want to represent them at the provincial level. As we approached the nomination period tonight, I was tempted to put my name forward. Luckily with the support of my friends (via text), I followed though on my initial decision. Now is not the right time for me. I feel that. I know that. And as tough as it is letting go, I am overwhelmed by a sense of relief that I made the best decision for me and my family. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. I never say never but I will take the opportunity to enjoy my time at AGM without the worry of campaigning, speech writing, and Q&A. The membership will be faced with tough decisions. I hope they make the best decision that is best for BCSTA and students.

The Closer

Photo creds to @RosePillay1

“Professional learning is BETTER THAN PHO.”

Thank you @GabrielPillay1 (and side-kick sister @RosePillay1) for asking me to speak at #Edvent2017 #getfED. I was honoured and delighted to learn that we were to talk about “food and professional learning.” Hello? I thought this was a serendipitous moment. FOOD + PROFESSIONAL LEARNING = WINNING COMBINATION. I felt validated. My food pics took front stage as I talked about professional learning.

Of course I wanted to take a play on words with my 5-minute pecha kucha presentation. For those who don’t know what that is… it’s 20 slides, 15 seconds each and the slides are automated. You have to make your case in 5 minutes. There is no time to meander or be indecisive. You have to have a point and getter’ done in 5 minutes. Not only did I get the opportunity to highlight my favourite food pics, I was going to title my presentation after my ultimate favourite food from Kien Giang Vietnamese Restaurant in Sechelt, BC… medium #5 soup… beef and meatball Pho.

Why wouldn’t I compare professional learning to my favourite food? They go hand in hand. I look forward to a warm bowl of Pho. It’s warm and inviting. Pho tastes super good like someone spent a lot of time and LOVE preparing it. You can enjoy a bowl by yourself or in the company of others. It’s something I look forward to and can eat everyday. I am never disappointed. This is how I feel about professional learning.

Even preparing for #Edvent2017 (and this blog entry) brought me much joy. I take a lot of food pics. I don’t know why but I do. I try not to post every pic on social media, but I am compelled to take a picture of my meal. When I look at the picture I am immediately brought back to that restaurant and the good memories that were attached to it… like this one. This is my favourite cheese burger from The Village Restaurant in Sechelt, BC. It reminds me of my mom’s cheeseburgers when she owned a coffee shop in Prince Rupert, BC when I was a young child. Now, I bring my daughter to The Village Restaurant to spend time with her and enjoy a cheeseburger and vanilla milkshake. It brings me back. BTW: this pic did not make my #getfED Powerpoint. It’s was tough choosing my best 19 food pics for #Edvent2017.

What a great way to start #Edvent2017. I love this quote… “Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” All of Julia Child quotes during #Edvent 2017 were awesome and so appropriate to #getfED. That was my personal challenge. How was I going to connect my love for Pho to professional learning? I’m a math teacher for goodness sakes. Could I pull off a 5-minute metaphor? I was about to find out. It was an interesting process as we approached the event. Speakers were asked months in advance to participate. Look at who I presented with?  What a phenomenal group of educators presenting at #Edvent2017. I was truly honoured.

What blew my mind… like this delicious shrimp salad roll and deep fried roll with peanut sauce from Kien Giang… was that I was THE CLOSER. What was Gabe & Rose thinking??? I was expecting to speak, but the Closer? You know what people remember the most, right? UGH. No pressure, of course. I was the last to speak at #Edvent2017. I did not know about this until a week or so before the event. By then, my PowerPoint was submitted and there was no looking back. I’m the closer.

Seize the day. Carp diem. Hello CANDY BAG… “Life itself is the proper binge.” Just live life to the fullest and JUMP IN. Of course, as the day approached… I was at a meeting in Vancouver all day… and more meetings before this event… and little time to prep for this event. Classic. It just seems to work like that sometimes. And of course, like any good educator, you just make it happen. So, when I arrived to the WINGS Pub & Restaurant in Burnaby, I cracked open my computer and started “practicing.” There comes a point where I had nothing to read from and memorizing was not an option. My secret… just remember what your BIG IDEAS are and proceed from there.

Like this bowl of curry chicken from Saffron Restaurant in Sechelt, BC… the speakers at #Edvent were HOT. Oh my goodness… when you want to see educators with passion speak… Go to an event like #Edvent2017. The topics were diverse but the drive for our love of education was definitely the same. Topics ranged from teach with passion to making kids hungry to Aboriginal Education to inquiry based learning to Buns & Roses. One speaker even talked about not being able to eat anymore and that life is a CHOICE. Soooo powerful and I loved her message. So True!!! Life is a choice.


Going to events like #Edvent2017 is a wonderful way to meet people within your PLN face-to-face. Here is a picture of me and @MsOlwenCowen. Below… is a picture with me and @dspyksma (Darren Spyksma) and @perfinker (Gillian Judson).

@dspyksma and @perfinker

Below is a picture with me and @CraigMah and @RosePillay1. It was at the inaugural #Edvent2016 where I met my #bcedchat co-mod @CraigMah face-to-face for the first time. Craig was one of the speakers that year… and the topic was “What did I learn from Kindergarten?” That was a doozy. My answer would have been don’t jump at the mobiles during break time or else you don’t get to go to gym class. True story. Craig is a super nice guy and an awesome #bcedchat co-moderator. I was so glad to see him again at #Edvent2017. (Rose is a pretty awesome person and super educator too).

@craigmah and @rosepillay1

Tough to capture the night… There was appetizers, candy, and lots of people enjoying the learning experience. #Edvent2017 is organized and facilitated by a bunch of very passionate educators who will attract a very passionate crowd. The event was so well thought out. We had speakers Skyping in and other speakers with a HUGE fan-base. Love that. Speakers even walked away with some pretty awesome SWAG.

Not going to lie… the speakers were outstanding. I was so inspired by their love for education and their creativity. Wowza. Tough acts to follow. I had to remind myself to BE MYSELF and that my strength is to just go with the flow and ad lib if I need to. No one knows your script. Keep to your message and everyone will understand your BIG IDEAS… that professional learning is BETTER THAN PHO… go out and try new foods… find new favourites… and not everyone likes the same food as you.

Thank you @GabrielPillay1 for your vision and passion… and thank you @RosePillay1 and @kvkerrigan for SOUS CHEFFING… and thank you to all those who volunteered and supported Gabe’s vision. The evening was incredible, thoughtful, and inspiring. Once again, SUSHI did not make my #Edvent2017 PowerPoint or my edu-blog entry on #getfED. (photos were just deleted prior to publishing this blog… #bummer).

Keep Calm and EDvent ON.

Looking forward to next year’s #Edvent2018… on sitcoms or sitcom songs and professional practice… Stay #tunEDin.

Everything on Hold

It’s been awhile since I have blogged. I am back logged with blogs so don’t be surprised if there’s flurry of blogs from my site in the next while. I put everything on hold. Aside from the essential basics like bare brushing my teeth, driving my kid to school, and attending meetings, my life has been focused on getting this dissertation completed. Yesterday, I submitted my “new final draft” to the editor. I need help with my grammar and APA. I’ve got two editors. It’s nice to get another set of eyes on my paper to ensure that I am getting my ideas across and in the right format.

As I wait for formative feedback on my dissertation and wait between loads of laundry, I blog. Trust me. I have a tonne more things to do… but this seems like the right thing to do at this point in time. You’ve got to go with your gut instinct sometimes and ignore the “shoulds” that could take over your life. I like this. Writing without much worry of grammar and correct formatting… it’s quite liberating from what I was doing over the last few months. Take a look at this photo. What is it? Data. More extraneous data analysis because I found something else to think about.

The dissertation process has taught me that learning still has structure, rules, and expectations… but learning is also about curiosity, inquiry, and experimentation. Oh my goodness, I thought that I would experience “academic freedom” as a doctoral student but there are a lot of rules to follow. Don’t kid yourself. On the other hand, the inquiry is yours and no one else’s. It’s up to me to decide what references I choose to use. It’s up to me what methodology would fit best. It’s up to me how I want to answer my research question. That’s so crazy. Is there a right answer?

What I do know is… the dissertation process is all about the process with hopes of finding an answer. This is why it’s so important to have a question that you could answer and want to answer. At first, I wanted to “change the world” with my dissertation. Who’s kidding who??? Will I add to research? Probably. Did I answer my research question? Most definitely. Did I find anything ‘mind blowing’? Nope. What I did find is, myself and my happiness. I have gathered data that the field has already known and I found some possible ‘real-life’ solutions to the problem. Nice!!!

Furthermore, I have a greater appreciation for the learning process as a doctoral student. You don’t have to pursue a doctorate degree to appreciate the learning process, but it did take me this long to realize how precious the learning process is and how much I value the teaching profession. Did I want to finish my dissertation sooner rather than later? Absolutely. But I truly believe that you have to be ready to finish. I am ready. Now, I receive emails that read… “when you think it will be done?” and “what is your timeline?” ARGH… I keep underestimating my timeline.

Understanding how much time it would take to complete a task is still a challenge… but I’m a lot more forgiving of myself when I take more time than anticipated. For example, it took me six days to complete a task I thought would take one. I’ve been working on revisions since the new year. I had to redo all of my calculations from Chapter 4 because I changed the sample size and realized I had data that should not have been there and mistaken one calculation for another. My 2-week spring break was spent recalculating, which resulted in new results and a new Chapter 5.

Another time gobbler was realizing that I had the wrong format on all of my tables and figures. I started investigating APA and redoing all of the tables with my new calculations. And even still, I felt like I was guessing. I thought I was done when I submitted a final draft in December, but luckily I’ve been receiving feedback for each chapter since the new year and not only need to redo Chapter 5 because of Chapter 4 and feedback, I was advised to write a Chapter 6. Yes, the dissertation got longer. It took a month to get Chapter 5 and 6 completed and submitted to the editor.

Why am I even blogging about this? There are plenty of books out there about “how to complete your dissertation” and other blogs that try to be helpful as you work towards completion. I just need the opportunity to share my learning experience and reflect on what I’ve learned in a blog. The process is somewhat isolating, but I’ve appreciated all of the support and help I’ve received. I learned more about student advocacy and student agency. I learned more about perseverance, determination, and grit. I learned more about my learning. I could not be more grateful.

The dissertation process has been a META experience for me… as a doctoral student and what I am writing about. You cannot learn in isolation. You have to reach out for help. Ask questions. Be vulnerable. Take the lead of your own learning because no one else will. Do what’s important to you. I’ve made my dissertation a priority (many times), but this time it feels different. I have fallen in love with my research all over again. I am so glad I’m following through. I am scheduled to defend in the Summer 2017 and in order to do so, my “real” final draft has to be done very soon.

I’ve heard from my supervisor, my editor, and my mom… “Take the time to get it right.” When you hear something three times or experience something in three’s… it’s your opportunity to pay attention. All of a sudden… this makes sense to me. It does not have to be perfect. It has to be better than just done. It has to be something that I am passionate about and believe in. I put EVERYTHING aside to get this dissertation done to answer my question. I never knew that my frustration was embedded in my research question, but now I feel peace, happiness, and joy. I am hopeful.

BC School Trustees Association

Published in the Local Weekly at 

The School District No.46 (Sunshine Coast) Board of Education are members of the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA). BCSTA is a non-profit provincial organization that serves and supports member boards with professional learning, communication, and legal counsel. The BCSTA is also responsible for advocating to government and other education partners on behalf of member boards as well as enhancing the work of local boards to improve student achievement.

Members of the SD46 Board of Education have active roles in the BCSTA and contribute to the work of the BCSTA. Trustee Pammila Ruth is our locally elected Provincial Councillor, a position formally held by Trustee Dave Mewhort. The Provincial Councillor represents the Board of Education at Provincial Council meetings in October, February, and April. The Provincial Council is deals with emergent issues in BC education and provides direction to the BCSTA Board of Directors.

Trustee Lori Pratt is the South Coast Branch President and member of the BCSTA Elections Engagement Committee. The South Coast Branch is composed of boards of education from Powell River, Sea-to-Sky, and the Sunshine Coast. Trustee Pratt leads our regional work but also represents our Branch on the BCSTA Elections Engagement Committee. With the upcoming provincial election, this committee developed a provincial campaign to bring BC public education to voter awareness. The campaign is called “Public Education is the KEY.” Follow the hashtag #bcedkey on social media.

Chair Betty Baxter participates in the BCSTA with conference calls on provincial announcements and Board Chair Listserve to connect, share ideas, and ask questions with other member board chairs. Chair Baxter also attends a provincial conference with superintendents, secretary-treasurers, and Ministry of Education in October, which is followed up by a BCSTA facilitated event designed for board chairs to support them in their work and professional learning.

Trustee Christine Younghusband has served on the BCSTA Board of Directors for the three years as Director, where she was the Board Liaison on the BCSTA Education Committee for two years and BCSTA Legislative Committee for one. She is also a member of the BCSTA Learning Guide Committee, which oversees the development of a new trustee curriculum to support boards of education and individual trustees with their professional growth and development.

In April, several SD46 trustees will attend the BCSTA Annual General Meeting in Vancouver to deliberate, debate, and provide direction to the incoming BCSTA Board of Directors.

The Entrepreneurial Teacher

Wowza. Let’s pull out a picture from the archives. Damn. I looked pretty good back then. This is at least 10-years old because I can see the textbooks on the shelves: Mathpower 10, 11, or 12. It was good times back in the secondary math classroom. Now, I am looking through a lens from the outside in to the inside. I find myself curious.

I’ve seen Yong Zhao speak a few times about globalization, the entrepreneurial mindset, and paradigm shifts in the context of education and the 21st Century. I have also worked on BC’s New Curriculum as one of the Math K-9 Curriculum Developers to transform the Integrated Resource Packages (IRPs) into a document that would embrace the 21st Century Learner and Educated Citizen.

As we moved forward with a potential system shift in BC education, I remember the active “witch hunt” to find innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial teachers to make their teaching practice visible. Why the witch hunt? According to old policies, curriculum, and expectations, these teachers were “breaking the rules.” They were hiding. The doors were closed. Innovation was not widely accepted. The system thrived on compliance and sameness. We needed to see what these teachers were doing to visibly demonstrate to others in the system what was possible.

I was absolutely stoked about BC’s New Curriculum. It had Assessment for Learning (AFL) as an underpinning to the curriculum, Indigenous Worldviews embedded throughout the curriculum, and the flexibility to implement project-based/place-based/problem-based/ inquiry-based learning. Anything was possible, if you wanted it to be. When the K-9 Curriculum was officially launched in 2016/17, I was somewhat saddened that I was no longer in the classroom to try out some of these ideas as a secondary mathematics teacher. So, I did take the opportunity to try out some of the ideas like personalized learning, self-assessing core competencies, and student-led learning with my EDUC 471 course at Simon Fraser University. It was awesome!!!

What’s my point? I left teaching for lots of reasons. One of them was because I felt like I was “oozing out of my chair.” I was on the Assessment for Learning train in my Math 8-12 classes and loved it… but I wanted to do more. I hit a ceiling. There was no where to go. I wanted to explore and innovate more. I wanted to learn more… but how? Opportunities became limited when you felt like you’ve done it, mastered it, and wanted to move forward. With lots of other factors contributing to my decision, I left teaching. At the time, I felt like I had no options. I was “oozing out of my chair.” There was no person or thing that could get my oozing butt back into the chair. I was out.

I thought that my story was only my own. I believed I was alone on this journey. I felt isolated and devastated for years after I left my teaching practice. I love to teach, but my spirit was eroding. It got to the point where I was so unwilling to concede, lay-low, and comply so that I could just “fit in” and “do what I’m told.” I had to leave.

Why is quitting an option? It has come to my attention in recent weeks that there are others in the system who feel the same way. Pardon me??? I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was happy to learn that I was not alone. It wasn’t some freakish phenomena that I was only experiencing. On the other hand, I am deeply saddened that great teachers, passionate teachers… shall I say ENTREPRENEURIAL TEACHERS feel limited, restricted, or belittled such that quitting is a viable option.

How can this be? We are suppose to be moving towards INNOVATION, embracing CREATIVITY, and nourishing the ENTREPRENEURIAL spirit. How can we achieve this? We need to take risks, make mistakes, and try something so new that it may not have been done before. THIS IS EXCITING. What’s happening? The system (aka. people) are stuck. It’s scary. It’s foreign. It’s not permissible. I am absolutely angered and discouraged to hear this. Damn the system is resilient… for the wrong reasons. This strikes a cord with one of my core beliefs. WE cannot do what WE want for students if WE are unable or unwilling to do it for ourselves (at all levels). I am disappointed.

If we cannot recognize this flaw or oversight within our system, say goodbye to the good intentions of BC’s New Curriculum. This is a wonderful time to be an ENTREPRENEURIAL TEACHER in BC Education, yet this mindset is quickly being sabotaged with fear. That’s it. Fear is an ugly thing when it goes face-to-face with EGO. In the end, innovation gets questioned, extinguished, or misguided. Meh. I can feel the frustration. Yes, it is easy to keep doing what we are doing. Kids aren’t dying, right? Oh wait a minute… yes they are. You just can’t see it. We mistake it for misbehaviour or failure. And guess what, some teachers are dying too. Can we afford to lose these teachers? Can we afford to not innovate? I’m hoping your answers are NO.

Blog Request

Photo of SFU Woodwards Building from my hotel room in Vancouver.

First of all, I am so happy that people actually read my blog. It heartens me. Second, I never had a blog request before. I guess there is always a time for a first. So here it goes… a Facebook friend of mine (and colleague) responded to one of my blog entries. I wrote the Next Step, which was about saying goodbye, letting go, and decluttering. My friend asked if I took blog topic requests. Normally, I like to blog when I get inspired. Right now, I’m inspired to write, so why not write about travelling great distances and the “two-body problem.” So, what is the “two-body problem?”

According to Wikipedia: “The two-body problem is a dilemma for life partners (for e.g. spouses or any other couple) in academia, relating to the difficulty of both spouses obtaining jobs at the same university or within a reasonable commuting distance from each other.” Interesting. I never heard of the “two-body problem.” At first I thought it was referring to me having two bodies because I have to be in two places at once. Or, the “two-body problem” meant that I was leading two lives. Nope. In the blog Tenure, She Wrote, “the two-body problem involves two partners, both with professional aspirations, trying to end up in close geographical proximity…so that they can live together, support each other, and maybe even raise a family.”

Am I experiencing the “two-body problem”? No, I am not. It’s more like the ONE-BODY PROBLEM. The dilemma is mine. Thank goodness for social media and our ability to create our online persona. It’s a beautiful thing. We can post anything we’d like to project a theme of how we live, think, and breathe. This is not to say I am not authentic or real online, but what I am saying is that you are not getting the moment-by-moment thoughts or actions in the life of CYH, even though it may feel that way with my multiple daily Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts. My deepest apologies.

The one-body problem is… what the hell am I going to do with my life? No pressure, but I’m putting it bluntly. I can only imagine what it would be like to be in a “two-body problem” where there are two of me. That would be absolutely crazy. My dissertation is almost complete (fingers crossed) and I am starting my journey in academia as a sessional instructor. I’m still deliberating if this is the direction I would like to go. Why? It requires a lot of commuting if I wish to continue living on the Sunshine Coast. This is what I would call the Sunshine Coast Phenomena. To commute or not commute?

The Sunshine Coast is a beautiful place to live. We have to take a 45 minute ferry to the mainland. A 25 minute drive to the ferry and whatever time it takes to go where every you need to go on the other side. It would take me a whole day of travelling to have a one-hour meeting with my supervisor on campus. That said, I love where we live. We have a home here. My husband has a stable job. My daughter transitioned beautifully into high school. I love the ocean, the forests, and the small town feel. The downfall is my career aspirations. The other option is to move somewhere else.

The dilemma I face is my career. As a sessional instructor, I’m only travelling to Vancouver once a week in a 4 month period and being a school trustee takes me out of town at least once or twice a month. My little family also take trips to the mainland to visit family or attend sporting events. My daughter is involved with swimming, volleyball, basketball, softball, and rugby which takes us off the Coast so she can compete. Going back and forth on the ferries is what we do on the Sunshine Coast.

What I do know is this… I love my kid and would do anything for her. She is an awesome kid who loves her mom but also loves her independence. Her autonomy makes it viable for me to travel, pursue my doctorate degree, and whatever possible career in academia. My husband is also supportive of my career direction (or indirection). He has been very patient and understands that I am in a state of transition. He supported me when I left my teaching career in public schools, when I became a school trustee, and during my dissertation journey. I feel very lucky to have an easy going family. The truth is, I could not do what I do without them.

So, there it is. My family make it easy for me to travel back and forth, pursue my career, and make commuting seem so manageable. It’s only a one-body problem. Do I want to commute? Do I want to move? The dilemma is my own. My little family are very willing to accommodate me. I love the work that I do but realize that as soon as my dissertation is complete, life will change. I don’t know if I answered the inquiry as requested, but I do empathize with those experiencing the “two-body problem.” Regardless of context, it’s what you are willing to give, compromise, and let go. Commuting is my compromise. It might be different tomorrow. I may have walked away from so much, but gained so much in return. There is no right answer.

Next Step

I always like to check on my website for previous blogs to ensure that I do not use the same title. Today, I was compelled to use the title “Saying Goodbye” or “Letting Go.” Apparently I’ve used those titles before… hence, “Next Step.” I reread those blogs to see where I was at that time. In the “Saying Goodbye” entry, I was saying goodbye to my Educ 471 class at SFU. They were my first class I taught as a sessional instructor at SFU and loved it. I learned so much from them and about my teaching. I was reminded how much I loved working with students and engaging with them. That was only a few months ago. It seems like a lifetime. The second entry, “Letting Go,” was written in 2012. It’s almost full circle and I’m having similar thoughts.

Today, I was motivated to get some housework done. This is a rare occurrence because I would love to do anything else but housework. From vacuuming to dusting… from washing dishes to laundry… I was finally taking some time for myself to get the house in order. In doing so, I was reminded by my One Word 2017… JOY. I kind of lost sight of that. Hmm… how can I derive joy from house cleaning? I must admit that there was some satisfaction derived when I replaced a light bulb or two and replenished the toilet paper rolls in each washroom. Going back to my first inspiration of “Saying Goodbye” and “Letting Go,” I was motivated to get rid of some of my stuff… starting with my closet. I was doing the laundry anyway. Why not?

My sister spoke of a method called KonMari. Of course I Googled it up and found a blog of someone else who found JOY from decluttering using KonMari. Here’s the blog link if you’re interested. It seemed serendipitous… JOY and cleaning. KonMari seemed right up my alley. Although I did not put all of my clothes in a pile, I did look at each piece of clothing and asked myself if it brought me joy. One by one, I tossed clothes in a pile to give away. My daughter becomes one of those benefactors. She was also another reason why I had to reassess what’s in my closet. She loves taking my clothes at will and quickly turn them into her own. Instead of getting frustrated, I let it go and said goodbye Lululemon shirts, tights, etc.

LIBERATING. Albeit, not done perfectly but it felt great to get rid of things I was holding onto. Why did I hold onto these pieces of clothing, jewelry, or whatever? During the day, I would take a break because I was driving my daughter somewhere, going to a meeting, or having lunch. During that down time, I would reconsider my second guesses and just got rid of them. My closet and drawers look more tidy and organized. I have a big pile clothes in front of my bedroom door and I am ready for the next closet, drawer, or cupboard. Bring it!!! This process of what brings me joy via decluttering my living space is a metaphor for life. You can’t let new things in if you have too many things in hand. Sometimes you have to let go and say goodbye.

What’s my next step? Get this dissertation done. I’m stumped with one part of my Chapter 4 revisions. By making a decision, I have to either let go of a significant finding or redo pages of calculations and hope for the best. I’m not sure if I’m prepared to do the latter. My dissertation is also undergoing a decluttering process… and I hope, in the end, much joy is derived. I do love the learning process and adore the problem solving aspect of writing (I cannot believe I said that). I cannot wait for my next steps, but in doing so I am going to have to let go and say goodbye.

You Just Don’t Know

“You just don’t know… people’s stories.” – CYH

This was a big ah-ha for me tonight. You just don’t know people’s stories. I am so grateful to come to that conclusion tonight. It brought me some solace. My head was spinning. I chose a direction in my life and I’m walking towards an unknown destination. When making a BIG decision, I naturally second guess myself and wonder what’s just around the corner as if I could predict the future. I imagine an infinite number of possibilities (or trajectories) while trying to rationalize my BIG decision. In the end, it doesn’t matter. My family is happy with my decision. I feel good about my decision. And, the world just keeps moving along in spite of my decision. My two school trustee colleagues made me realize this tonight. I’m back to that serendipitous mindset where things happen for a reason and it happened tonight.

Yesterday I even tried to learn more about myself to determine if I made the “right” decision. I have done this test before, but tried it again just to be sure. I completed another Myers Briggs test. This time I answered either STRONGLY AGREE or STRONGLY DISAGREE to get definitive results. As anticipated, I was ENTP-T. 15 years ago, I was an ESTJ. Your type is known to change over time, but I wonder about the influence of workspace or work environment on one’s preferences. Anyhow, I was not surprised… except for the hyphenated T. I was unfamiliar with this preference and it means “turbulent” versus “assertive.” I am 60:40. Turbulent sounds terrible, but I do second guess my actions. As my colleague said tonight… “You do like to analyze things.” This is true, the NT part of my Myers Briggs. And yes, I am (E) extroverted and love being around people and yes… I prefer my freedom (P).

So, what’s my point. My head was in a SPIN. I guess this is “turbulent” part of me in full force and I was engaging with others to make sense of the direction I am heading in. I have no definitive answers or thoughts even though others may. I am eliminating options I’ve acquired since leaving teaching high school math 6 years ago. I wanted to know what was possible. I wanted to understand more about education and the education system. And, I wanted to explore what I was passionate about. I had always admired vendors at the craft fair who were passionate about their craft. I called it “their jam.” Jam meaning preserved fruit, a metaphor for their love. I’ve always wanted to wrap my head around that concept of passion. For example, my friend made tables. I never understood why he loved making these tables with his friend. He told me it wasn’t the tables per se. It was more than that.

My blog tonight reminds me of the elastic band around the wrist for high performance athletes. If they find themselves in a mindset and have to break the thought, they just snap the elastic on their wrist. I felt like that just happened to me tonight with Lori and Pamm. I am so grateful. The mental spin stopped. They started talking about something and I had no idea what they were talking about. They started to share their stories and thoughts on the matter and all I could do was laugh. I was such in disbelief and for these two it was common knowledge. I could not believe what they were telling me. I was hysterical because I could not comprehend what they were telling me. I did not get it. I could not understand it. The more they talked about the topic, the more I laughed. Then I thought about it some more. At that moment, my mind was onto thinking about other things and realizing that we don’t know people… really… not their whole story. So, who am I to judge?

This was so liberating. I loved having a good laugh. I could not stop giggling and shouting “no way.” I still shake my head as I type this blog. That said, my mind shifted. I feel at peace with my decision and let it go to the universe. Things are meant to happen as they are suppose to happen. Surrender. You can’t control outcomes or other people. You can only control yourself and how you perceive things. You don’t know people’s stories. We think we do and believe we do, but that’s the lie.