The Brighter Side

Week 35 – November 14/15, 2020 – Giving Myself Permission

I gave myself permission today to take the day off. I really needed one. It’s been a stint of time that needed a tonne of my attention and effort. Nothing for me. I do enjoy going to Tim Hortons and getting a steeped tea from my favourite Tim Horton’s server. He is so efficient. I really like that. I went out and roamed around with my kid. It’s so nice that she can drive. She took me out “into the real world” to do real people things. In the pandemic, it’s so easy to isolate myself particularly with remote learning. I am doing my whole job online. It’s not my preferred modality, but I’m doing it. It’s taking a beating on me (and my students) to learn 100% online via Zoom and Blackboard, but that’s what it is, for now. I think with all of the numbers rising and K-12 schools closing for 2-weeks at a time for staff and students to self-isolate, I’m anticipating “a new norm” in the second wave. It’s not going to be pretty. I need to take some time for self, give myself permission not to work, and do what “normal people do” to rebuild myself for the next week to come. It seemed like I was in a marathon and I could not get out of the race… and the race was never ending. You think you were on mile 20, but really it’s the 5th mile. UGH. I’m taking a water break and spending time with my kid. I am also grateful to my friends who reached out to me to see how I was doing and for my friends who listen to me. I could not do this without you. I am so happy to take time for myself, clean the house, get a steeped tea, sit in front of the fire place, and go for a walk. The little things keep me happy. 🙂

BTW: I have to post my Week 33 blog post below… why? It’s seriously receiving some major JUNK messaging that has to stop… so have have to delete that blog post. It’s very stalker like to receive messages from BOTS or whomever from porn-liked names sites relentlessly and continuously. I can see why people hate being online and receiving garbage emails like you had nothing better to do but to receive them. Gah. I tried to change my settings, but it didn’t work. Goodbye troll. Find another victim.


Week 33 – November 1, 2020 – Changing Seasons

Wow. Survived Halloween. I did not expect too many kids but about 75 trick-or-treaters walked by in small groups. The kids were so cute and I made just the right amount of candy bags. Normally, I would not make candy bags because more than 200+ kids come by our house, but this year seemed different with COVID-19. It was nice to see families out and it was a gorgeous night with the full Blue moon. Kudos for trick-or-treaters for getting outside. Why not collect some candy en route?

Here I stand at the fork in the road. I am reminded by the song by The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go.” Can you believe it has been 10-years since I’ve been teaching in BC public schools? It shocks me. Time just flies by and I’ve learned so much over the last 10-years, met so many great people, and participated in so many educational experiences that making me into the educator I am today. A humbling journey, but one that is looking at the the fork in the road. I have decided how things will unfold after a decision is made and honestly, I look forward to both. I just have to wait.

That said, am I a patient person? Nope. Am I swamped? Yup. I have plenty of work to keep me occupied (as long as my brain and body don’t fail me). Sleep is getting the best of me and that’s a good thing to do. Anyway, I had two master’s papers to review, 30+ lesson plans to provide feedback on, and 78 e-portfolios to to look at. Let’s not forget to mention the many Zoom meetings I attend, emails I need to respond to, and yes… the classes I have to prep and teach. I have plenty to stay “in the moment.” I am not complaining, but I’m not bored either. It’s busy. It’s messy.

What I can say right now is, SAVOUR THE MOMENT. Things are suppose to happen the way it’s suppose to. Stop controlling what I can’t control. I can only do the best that I can. My Pedagogical Journey will unfold as it should. I am not sad about how things are going. If I had the position, power, or influence to create change, I would. Sometimes I don’t have that and I have to allow things to happen as they should. Will I get caught trapped underneath the bus? Possibly. It happens from time to time. I tried to prevent problems from happening but many times felt that no one really understood what I was saying. Too late and too bad. Here we are. Now what?

A difficult time. An exciting time. Should I say or should I go? Time will only tell.

#pandemicreflections #timeforchange #decisiontime

Not the same… so PIVOT

Week 34.5 – November 11, 2020 – Lest We Forget

Thank you to all those who served the country and risked their lives so that we can have our freedom. I am so grateful. Remembrance Day 2020. It’s one to remember. I feel so privileged not to know what war is, experience what war is, or to lose loved ones to war. I really appreciated those who were able to share photos of family members who served the country on social media. I was moved and heartened. It takes a special someone to protect our country, preserve our freedom, and keep the peace. Honestly, my problems are not problems. I am so lucky. Lest We Forget. And yet, today… Remembrance Day 2020 was memorable because we had to PIVOT and remember those from the safety and comforts of our home during the pandemic.

I will admit. I am pressed as an educator during this time of COVID-19 and I’m confident that I am not the only one who feels this way. I’ve been working full-time everyday. I work during the weekend. I work on statutory holidays. I am working. Sadly, I don’t seem to be catching up, time is flying by, and I have a tonne to do. Teaching asynchronously is getting the best of me and I can only imagine what it’s like for my students. I’m missing out on social cues and I’m pretty sure what’s being communicated is being miscommunicated. I know that my students are stressed and I’m doing the best I can to inform, but not overload. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am.

There are up days and down days. Most days feel like it’s a test or I’m being tested. I do have some amazing moments, like the other night. My class were willing to go with the flow, engage with an open heart and mind, and co-construct knowledge as a learning community. I was so proud of them. What they learned last class exceeded my expectations. They collaborated in breakout rooms, wrestled with the ideas, and made meaning together. I was incredibly blown away with what they had to say. They were so connected to what we were learning. I could not ask for anything more. I feel so blessed. On the other hand, I do get pushback, mixed messaging, and complaints. I try to be nimble, but it’s getting the best of me. It’s not perfect and I am learning, but expectations and work demands are high. How can I make the best of this?

I am my own toughest critic, but I am also glad that I have good friends and those who are willing to check in with me to see how I am doing. Teaching remotely, being at home for most of the day, and working from my computer are not ideal for my social emotional wellbeing and development of my craft. I need to be intentional with my time, my thoughts, and what I do at work and home. I need to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. THANK YOU VETERANS for what you have done so that I can worry about the little things in my life. Life is good. I am very grateful.

#pandemicreflections #reflective #reflexive #bekind

Committing to Passion

Week 32 – October 24, 2020 – Getting It Together

Lots of thinking and reflecting this week and weekend. The ill-fated question, “What’s important to me?” shows its ugly face again. What is important to me and what’s my vision? I’ve been asking myself this question for the last few years. I used to have a vision more than 10-years ago that involve me, a large hotel conference room, and lots of people. Done. Never thought it was possible, but it happened. Who knew? I had to realize that, which I did. But ever since, I’ve been working on my next vision.

Admittedly, I struggled with my next vision and what it would be until a week ago. I was chatting with a colleague and she kept on asking questions and I was reluctant to share what I saw in my mind’s eye. I took the plunge and decided to share my “new” vision and she seemed to receive it well. Her reaction was promising. I then shared my idea with a friend and she provided me with some positive feedback. Then I shared my idea to a mentor and he was really supportive and encouraging. Woohoo.

Validated. New vision established. This is very exciting for me because I never shared my first vision, but now I’m in a situation where I need as much feedback I can get to move forward. Their responses were validating and reassuring and now I am tasked with the job to sell this idea formally and publicly. The journey over the last 2-weeks, last 2-months, and last 2-years has been a roller coaster to say the least. Now I have to pull up my socks and get this task done to the best of my ability. Looking forward.

#pandemicreflection #committingtome #nextsteps

Getting Things Done

Slowly but surely I am getting things done. What an incredible feeling. For awhile I was feeling bogged down. Just take a moment to read my “One Month Check In” post and you’ll get a sense of how I was feeling yesterday. A quick summary would be… it could have been better and the glass is half full. If anything, the last few days have been a wake-up call to change my habits and define what’s really important to me.

Thank goodness for critical friends to slap us in the face and wake you up. I am so fortunate to have a few critical friends. I value their friendship and feedback. It’s so easy to focus on the little things that make us mad or angry. But, you can also focus on the little things that make you happy. I needed to so that today. The past few days have been a wake up call and I need to answer. I need to take care of myself.

I cleaned up my office, my desktop, and my dishes… and life got a little bit better. I am able to get the little things off the side of my desk so that I can make room to focus on the bigger things. I needed to shift my gears even more today by making myself go out for a walk tonight. With each step of action and kindness, I am moving in the right direction. I cannot believe how good it feels to get something done. It feels great!!!

This is a gratitude blog. I needed to do it. I’m feeling good. I’m ready for what’s next.

#pandemicreflections #selfcare #mentalhealth

Guest Blogger – October 2020 Reflection

Gretchen Vogelsang – Lecturer – UNBC School of Education

Reflecting on the first month of the Renewed B.Ed. Program.

I have learned that when, as instructor or lead learner, I purposefully examine and confront my socio-cultural values about teaching and learning, and then bring my lens back to focus on the connections to those of all others- no matter how general or broad the connection becomes- that I build understanding, create space for relationships and ultimately foster the growth of learning community. And as a result, I broaden and transform my own values! And then to create this space online? Who knew? I do, now. Humbled by my own inexperience and ignorance – my mom would say, “Oh dear, how can you know what you don’t know?” Valid, mom, valid (and loving). But I do know now, so I am intrigued how this will continue to impact my practice. Maya Angelou reminds me that now that I do know different, I need to go out in the world and DO different. Yes, ma’ams!

I have learned that when I give myself permission to target the essentials of learning and stand determined not to get trapped in rabbit holes or the minutiae, not only is my teaching and learning more resonant for me, personally, but I notice these essentials echo of joy in the learning of TC’s –Thank-you Covid for granting me this opportunity to consciously decide to choose,  if only for self-preservation. Regardless, what an understanding to come to after 20 +years in the profession – but could it happen any other way? Perhaps not…

I have learned that my work at UNBC supports my work at FSJSS. That my work at FSJSS supports my work at UNBC. Lather, rinse, and  repeat. Scholar-practitioner struggle is real, but the benefits are palpable. The young faces at UNBC and FSJSS radiate untapped potential and promise, the extent of which I  believe I have no right to try to predict or mould – I just feel gratitude for being able to witness the possibility, today, and, use any potential impact on their tomorrow purposefully, thoughtfully, and aligned with each ones emerging sense of self. Standing in service to something so much greater than myself alone.

I have learned that as my boundaries with self and other get even more clear, that more space for working, loving and living is created. In other words, clear ‘nos’ produce more ‘yeses.’ Irony rules!! Boundaries are changing – they are alive – and as contexts change, as children grow and mature, and as I grow and mature, boundaries are becoming a reflection of self – when they were once merely a protection of self. Trying to share these awakenings with my own two children in the hopes that I can save them a few years, at least, of existential angst and pain – probably too much to ask, but I will, and am, asking…fingers crossed!

Man, how I have learned.

And it is only the beginning.

One Month Check In

Week 31 – October 19, 2020 – Still Overdue

What can I say? I’m catching up. It’s neither here nor there. As long as the work gets done by the end of the term, I am ok with that expectation. I spent so much time in August preparing for September to make sure that the program had a strong start with orientation, I am finding that I have been catching up ever since. I am online for a long time everyday during the week that by Saturday I’m pooped. My brain is unwilling to look at the big screen to work, to read, or blog. I can’t do it. By Sunday, I’ve gathered some sense of self such that I might tinker with some work, but would likely engage in “real human activities” like grocery shopping, dishes, and laundry.

I will admit, teaching online from home is a blessing but it’s also a marathon. My life at home is blended with my professional life. I thought the two were overlapping quite a bit when I used to go to work and bring work home, but now there is very little differentiating between the two worlds. As a result, I am mentally trapped in a vortex online with teaching classes, learning activities, and meetings. I’ve picked up my old normal habits into my new normal (i.e. not eating lunch, ignoring my family, and putting myself second or third in my list of priorities). I really need to find a balance of what is to make this online teaching experience during COVID-19 sustainable.

Furthermore, I’m learning how to teach online and figuring out how to honour “People, Place, and Land” on a digital platform. Teaching and learning are incredible acts of VULNERABILITY. I am learning how to park my ego and lean into the discomfort. I am learning how not to be too hard on myself and be reasonable with my expectations. I am not going to pretend. I am not the expert. I am doing my best. I have to be satisfied with that and keep my mind open to new possibilities. I am the learner. I have to remember that. It’s more than just “being seen,” but it’s about taking risks, being vulnerable, and delving in deep into what you are passionate about.

Two weeks ago, I asked the teacher candidates of our renewed program 3 questions:

  1. What is your biggest learning so far about teaching and learning in your first month of the B.Ed. program experience?
  2. What is the expected learning so far?
  3. What have you learned about yourself?

BTW: Question 2 should have said, “What is the UNEXPECTED learning so far?”

Gah.

The instructors asked our teacher candidates these 3 questions (and I will revise for the next iteration to the correct question), but we are also asking ourselves the same questions. What is my biggest learning so far? I AM HUMAN. I make mistakes. Lots of them. My job is to learn from them, help others, and do better next time. That’s all I can do. What is my UNEXPECTED learning so far? A LEARNING COMMUNITY CAN BE CREATED ONLINE. We imagined going outside and gathering as a circle to start and end our B.Ed. program. Due to the pandemic, plans changed dramatically and we started “Our Learning Community” online with 4-days of orientation. Although we started the program not as planned being situated on the land in place, the renewed program is exceeding my expectations so far. What have I learned about myself? BE HUMBLE. I have to be kind to self and take care of myself. Self-care is key. Sitting in front of the screen as long as I do is not good. I need to connect with people, place, and land from where I am while I build my community online. Focus on gratitude.

Thankful in 2020

Week 30 – October 12, 2020 – Canadian Thanksgiving

We had our special dinner yesterday. It was unusual for different reasons. One, the stores were sold out of turkey. My kid was willing to step away from sticking to her vegetarian diet to have turkey, but no worries. There were not to be had. Second, I was prepared to make veggie pot pie as the main course, but there was no pastry left in stores either. What?!? This is karma. Shopping and problem solving in the grocery store, I decided that we would have sockeye salmon (and prawns). My kid loves salmon and is willing to eat seafood from time to time. My sister informs me that she is flexitarian. Oy. All that I knew was, I wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner. In the end, it was delicious nonetheless. Lots of food. Lots of veggies (salmon and prawns).

I am so happy to have today off. My brain shutdown for the weekend. Even if I wanted to, and I did, I will not sit in front of the screen. I get so overwhelmed with big screen time for teaching and learning that I I couldn’t even blog until today. This is my fourth blog of the day and now I’m caught up. Woohoo. Feels great. Yes, blogging is my choice and my work, but I love to blog and write about what is. It’s comforting and fulfilling. What am I really thankful for? I am so thankful to be on the Sunshine Coast with my daughter. It’s been strange coming back to the Sunshine Coast this summer (during the pandemic) because everyone knows I’m working in Prince George and expected me to be back in the fall. I’m still here during my kid’s graduating year. Only the pandemic allowed me to stay on the coast, be with my kid, and continue to work full time, online remotely. HUGE GRATITUDE. She even wanted Crocs, just like me.

Farewell Forties

Week 29 – October 2, 2020 – My 50th Birthday

Who knew that I was dreading this day for about… 50 years!!! Well, here we are and I’m happy. GOODBYE 40’s and #HELLO50. My birthday this year landed on a Friday… what more could I ask for? Oh wait, it’s a pandemic and I’m teaching from home. NO BIG PARTY. No gatherings. And, no worries. I think over the past 10-years with my dissertation and now with remote learning and living, I’m becoming more acquainted with the INTROVERTED lifestyle and appreciated how my birthday went as it did.

I had my EDUC 394 class, I got my FREE drink from Starbucks, and I enjoyed a drink with my walking edu-buddy during happy hour after my 3-hour online class. I spent Friday morning planning and prepping, taught online, and we pleasantly surprised by THIS DELIVERY from one of my students. Cake, pakoras, and cola. BEST. GIFT. EVER. I was super surprised and overwhelmed. Loved our class that day. I feel very luck to be teaching and learning with these teacher candidates. They are incredible!!! Take a look at some of what they said about “what kind of teacher do you want to be?”

When I I look back at my life, I can see that each decade had a distinctive “theme.”

  • The first decade = FORMATIVE (Years 0 – 9)
  • The second decade = SCHOOLING (Years 10 – 19)
  • The third decade = DISCOVERY (Years 20 – 29)
  • The fourth decade = COMPLIANCE (Years 30 – 39)
  • The fifth decade = TRANSFORMATION (Years 40 – 49)

It’s incredible to think that I’ve been on this earth for half a century. I’m shocked because I feel like life is beginning. My decade-themes as stated above are self-explanatory, but calling my 40’s as a decade of transformation is an understatement. I tried to “rebrand” this time as my PEDAGOGICAL JOURNEY, but so much had changed for me. I left teaching in K-12. I became a school trustee. I ran for mayor. I finished my doctorate degree. My mom passed away. I moved to Prince George from the Sunshine Coast to teach in higher education. I was living in two places. I lost my marriage. My kid is becoming an adult. That’s the Cole’s Notes of my last decade.

What’s next for me? Not sure. What I do know for sure is the following:

  • I have an incredible learning community.
  • I have amazing friends and colleagues.
  • I love my family and my kid to bits.
  • I love to teach, learn, and lead.
  • I miss my mom and she was a strong woman.

What I am learning is to be more resilient and persistent. I am learning how to trust myself and others. I am happy and I am deeply grateful for the pandemic so that I can continue to live on the Sunshine Coast during my kid’s grade 12 year while working full time at the university remotely online. I was not sure how I would have survived another year without my kid during her formative/schooling years. Being here with my kid is the greatest gift. My kid did get me an Apple Watch for my 50th birthday gift. She is so generous and kind. Everyday, she amazes me. I am a proud mom. Finally, I had prawns during happy hour with my friend on my birthday… in addition to my wings and wine. It reminds me of my mom. I think she’s proud of both of us too.

Indigenous Day of Learning

Week 28 – September 25, 2020 – SD57 Lhulh’uts’ut’en

What an incredible day of learning. I am so grateful that SD57 Indigenous Education Department invited the UNBC Teacher Candidates and Instructors from the School of Education B.Ed. to participate in this day of professional learning. It’s an opportunity for our teacher candidates to learn from Indigenous Canadian Scholars, Dr. Dustin Louie and Dr. Niigaanwewidam Sinclair, but also learn with currently practicing teachers and from community members from the north and central interior of BC. This gesture of generosity and grace from the SD57 Director of Indigenous Education Pam Spooner strengthens the relationship between the school district and School of Education. I am so honoured and humbled to be part of this Indigenous Day of Learning as an instructor, educator, and learning.

The pandemic lent to a unique opportunity for myself, our teacher candidates, and BC educators to access professional learning via online. I was learning from home. I loved both of the keynote speakers, but I also appreciated the break out sessions I attended to deepen my understanding of Indigenizing, Decolonizing, and local and national lived experiences with respect to Truth and Reconciliation. What resonated with me the most was MAKING SPACE. I’ve been thinking about this as an educator but also as educational leader in higher education. How do I make space for Indigenous Voices? How do I become an activist as an educator? What does it mean to Indigenize and Decolonize my teaching practice? How can I contribute to Truth and Reconciliation in Canada? How will I deepen my understanding on Indigenous Education and deepen relationships in community?

I love how a professional learning opportunity leaves me thinking and left with questions to ponder, address, and hopefully answer. The goal and hope of professional learning days like this one is to KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING. Professional learning days serve as a catalyst, but now the work is in our hands. What are you going to do about it? It’s so easy to move forward and forget about some of the lessons learned on these incredible and inspirational days of learning. I was so provoked on this day of learning and I took many photos of powerpoint slides for me to return to and consider. I also tweet during these days with some of the big ideas I walk away with. For the remainder of my blog post, I will share the tweets I made on this day. This is a great way to collate and re-share what I have learned that day. Thank you again to SD57 Indigenous Education Department and to all the speakers, staff, and participants who made this incredible event possible. All my relations.

Blog Post Catch Up

This is so sad that I have to do this, but I’m doing it. I am spending the day catching up. I have to do multiple blog posts. How to reflect under pressure but also almost a whole month worth of blogging and reflection. I wonder if I can back date some of my reflections? I have no idea. Just be thankful that I am NOT going to cram all of my reflections into one. I am going to make separate blog posts, but I have come to terms with the idea that a “weekly” blog isn’t working for me. Interesting.

I am so happy to be back blogging. I love that even my absence from blogging is an invitation to understand self and to figure out what works. EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING. Love Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle of a concrete experience, observation and reflection, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. I do not want to be limited to a weekly reflection, but I have tried blogging daily and blogged when I was inspired. I think I need to try a combination of all of the listed above strategies.

I’m not a huge fan of feeling obliged to blog because I don’t want to blog about nothing or something that has no meaning. On the other hand, I do not want to not blog and reflect. Reflection is integral to my practice and there is something so wondrous about the writing process that helps me with my thinking. I am reminded to write more often, formally and informally, but also why I do the work that I do. I need to embrace my pedagogical journey. Ahhh… it feels good to reconnect to my why. I was slipping away from it a bit for the last few weeks… and now, here I am.

I am so happy. YAY. My brain needs a definite 2-day break from the “big screen” on the weekend, blogging included. Hello Thanksgiving Day and stat holiday. I needed this day to breathe and be thankful. What I am super thankful for at this very moment is “classic editor” on WordPress. I engaged in “block editor” for a few weeks, but I did not like it. My life is a little happier going back to what’s familiar and getting back to my blog. It’s been a crazy few weeks and it’s time to catch up. So, Here it goes. This is my segway to my series of blogs that I’ve been wanting to write for weeks. Enjoy.