Staying Grounded

Week 25 (of 38) – March 11 to 15, 2019

Catching up on weekly blogs of learning is saying something. I need to take every opportunity to get organized and get things done. ONE THING AT A TIME. That’s the beauty of being an educator… you spend massive amounts of time (or at least you should) reflecting on self and practice to understand who you are, your strengths, and places where you can do things better. What I have learned and learned over again is, I am a UNI-TASKER. It’s really one thing at a time. I’m OK with that, but I’ve got to get things done. It’s almost impossible to get things done when there are many different things happening at the same time that want equal attention and you have to prioritize. Welcome to life, I suppose. What I resent (a bit) is that getting organized TAKES TIME.

Also grounding myself… takes time. After a few days being at home, I am back to Prince George to do my job. I don’t live with my family when I’m in Prince George. They stay on the Sunshine Coast. I love how people ask… “Do you live in Prince George? Is your family moving to Prince George? Are you planning to move from the Sunshine Coast?”… along those lines. You can hear the assumption… we are heading to Prince George. I would like to say NADA. That’s not the case. My response is: “I live in two places.” That’s it. I do live in two places. I live on the Sunshine Coast and Prince George. One place is where my family lives and my house is. The other place is where I work and I have an apartment. I find myself resisting calling Prince George my home, but it is. They are both my homes.

I have to get back to the Sunshine Coast every two to three weeks to get grounded. I love walking along the ocean, being home with my family, and reconnect with friends. It’s absolutely amazing. It makes me appreciate what I have on the Sunshine Coast. I love listening to the waves of the ocean, breathing in the sea air, and feeling the warmth of the sun. It helps me to appreciate MY PLACE. Where I am from is part of my identity… of who I am. Returning this week reminded me that THIS IS MY HOME. I am from the Sunshine Coast. I don’t have intentions of leaving. We are almost finished our mortgage, my kid has 2 more years of high school, and my husband’s career can continue and thrive on the Sunshine Coast. I’m not leaving. That said, it was time to get back to Prince George… to get work done, to reconnect with my colleagues, and support my students as they return back from practicum. I feel grounded here, but in a different way.

It’s clear that the central interior is NOT my place… but I am learning. That’s all I can ask for. I saw a moose (well part of one behind trees) the other day, I am acquiring a larger footwear and jacket collection, and I am learning what it means to be an educator (and researcher) in higher education. There is a tonne on my plate and I am learning what it means to be “productive” in my new position. It is very different from working in K-12. In many ways, the deadlines are set by self. I am the creator of my work, production, and success. It’s very much like being an edu-preneur. Nonetheless, I am learning and I have to feel grounded in my work and my place. In the end, I feel very lucky to have people in both places who are my family, friends, and colleagues. It’s absolutely amazing!!!

Creativity is Messy

Week 24 (of 38) – March 4 to 8, 2019

This week begins and ends off campus. I started the week in Vancouver… I went back home to Sechelt for a day… flew to Victoria… then back to Vancouver… meeting in Richmond… and back home to Sechelt for a few days. Hmm… I guess I travel a bit. Teacher candidates are on practicum, thus classes are not in session. This was an excellent time for me to explore and pursue some of my professional learning and contribution. I started and ended the week working with FNESC (First Nations Education Steering Committee) and midweek at the BC Ministry of Education Open Schools (OSBC). In both opportunities, I am working on creating math resources for teachers: revising the Math Teacher Resource Guide (TRG) with FNESC and creating math videos for OSBC.

The first meeting with FNESC was working with a focus group who provided feedback on the initial draft of revisions of the TRG and the second meeting was reconnecting with the writing team to review this feedback. That was a learning experience. First, I love our writing team and the people I work with. The work is challenging and I am learning so much. Listening to the focus group was challenging at times because they are critiquing your work. The brighter side is, I learned that the field is ready for more authentic Indigenous Education in mathematics. I loved that. A great take-away which lent itself to my other work at OSBC. With much discussion with math educators from around the province, we decided to produce 5 videos: four of which will represent the 4 curricular competencies categories in mathematics BC curriculum and one and and with an Indigenous Education focus. Although 4 of the videos will have an Indigenous component, we decided to have one video that puts Indigenous Education at the front of the learning and math is embedded. Guess which group I’m a part of and spearheaded for? I love that we are doing both approaches of embedding Indigenous Education and mathematics.

I love my team too… Max and Jared. All three of us are non-Indigenous but want to model for the field the learning process it takes to learn about our local Indigenous community and how we can embed this into our teaching of mathematics in light of BC’s Curriculum. WE ARE THE LEARNERS. I love how our motto is: We don’t know, but we will learn and try. We are scared to do this in many ways but really excited as well. LOOK AT OUR THINKING. I love this… a white wash WALL. I need one of these. But what we did was brainstormed a bunch of ideas around a framework focussed on Bentwood Box. To date, we have been doing our local homework. How would this lesson activity apply to non-coastal Indigenous Communities and how can Teacher Candidates be part of the learning process. We aren’t the experts but we are making connections to those who are… local to our communities. We are not the knowledge keepers. We are the math educators and we want to learn about our local Indigenous communities, urban and rural.

I love this kind of work. Teaching, learning, creating, leading, sense-making, exploring, connecting, problem solving, communicating, personalizing, imagining, and co-developing. I am a part of two incredible learning teams with FNESC and OSBC. It’s in these opportunities I see myself growing as a learner and educator. The work is not easy and we often have dispel what we think we know to learn something new. I am learning. The content I get to learn with the FNESC writing team is invaluable. The material we are creating with the OSBC team is inspirational. I get overwhelmed with gratitude (and humbled) when I am reminded in situations like this of where I came from and where I am going. Although I am an Assistant Professor at a university and involved in teacher education and graduate studies, I am a secondary mathematics educator. I was a math teacher. I am a math teacher. I am supporting math teachers. I feel very grateful.

An Interesting Week

Week 23 (of 38) – February 25 to March 1, 2019

On Thursday, I flew out of Prince George to Vancouver, then to the Sunshine Coast. All I can say is, this has been an interesting week. I know that I am trying to keep this as a professional blog, but sometimes life’s events do influence the work that you do. As much as we want to keep the professional face on, things that are extraordinary within the ordinary do side swipe you from what you want to achieve and be. I have to keep this weekly blog short. What have I learned this week? Sometimes it’s ok to “lay low.” This would be one of those times. My students are out on practicum, I have a tonne of marking, forms to fill, and well… I’ve got work to do. Of course, some things take priority and it’s not in my control. That’s ok. I’ve just got to make it a priority. This week started with me taking the time to get organized. That takes time… and I didn’t have the time to tend to that due to other work that was pressing. I can see this is how life in higher education and teacher education will be. I’m just finding my rhythm. All I can do is one thing at a time. What I know for sure is, I’m not a multitasker. I’m a solid unitasker. I can only do one thing at a time. OWN IT and I’m ok with it. My mind is a bit preoccupied as well. My mom passed one year ago on February 28, 2018. It took me some time to process and grieve. I still intend to write about my mom and her last 20 days. I just acquired the text messages (aka. data) from February 2018 to remember the sequence of events and the conversations we had with one another. Thank goodness for texting at the time to stay connected and thank goodness for texting for data collection. That’s me putting the researcher lens on this situation. I was worried that I left it too late but I found the data on my desktop messages. Finally, the week concludes with my dad’s wedding on Sunday. I have no words except I feel lucky that I was in the Lower Mainland at the time for work. I am slowly but surely getting things done, but also I have to remember to be kind to myself. You can’t give what you don’t have. I need to find ways to fill my cup. I’m so glad to be working with FNESC and the Ministry of Education this coming week. Math and math education has served me well. I will never forget where I came from. I am a math educator… now teacher educator and researcher. Life is good.

Meta Learning

Week 22 (of 38) – February 18-22, 2019

I went to my first WestCAST conference in Calgary, AB this week. It’s a conference composed of teacher educators and teacher candidates. I went with my colleague, Deb Koehn, from UNBC and we co-presented one session on “peer-oriented triads” during practicum as we frantically wrote a draft paper a few days prior for the conference. We hope to publish and continue on with our action research with our teacher candidates to find ways to enhance and deepen their learning during practicum in connection to their coursework at the university. We presented at the end of the day of the first day of the conference. I wasn’t expecting too many people to be present because it was 4pm, but we had a full room and our presentation tied so nicely to the one before us. They were talking about teacher authenticity and the relationship between the teacher candidates and coaching teacher. We were talking about giving a framework and autonomy to our teacher candidates during practicum so that they can find their voice and teacher identity, collectively and collaboratively. We were surprised by the support for our work in addition to the beautiful marriage of our presentation with the previous. Very encouraging.

We also presented in another session where we collaborated with instructors from VIU, UBC, and WKTEP in a metissage. We each contributed to the presentation by writing a 100-300 word excerpt on “self, place, and community” in teacher education. We submitted our thoughts and two of the team members took what was submitted, cut them into smaller passages, and then reconstructed the multiple entries into a singular coherent passage about “self, place, and community” in teacher education. We were telling a story. At the presentation, we each read out our part of the passage as we were individually situated in different places in the room. So what you experience are voices from all directions of the room telling the story of “self, place, and community” in teacher education. The metissage was a metaphor (or vice versa) of the Metis sash and how our stories were interwoven to create one. I loved the experience and equal contribution. I enjoyed listening to the composition as a whole and I appreciated how all of our diverse points of view could make an insightful and unique story. We talked about identity, transformation, and how we are influenced by others and where we are from. Writing my 300 words was very satisfying, but the cohesion of our collective voices was gratifying.

Three other teacher candidates from UNBC presented at WestCAST 2019 as well. Two candidates are in second year (their last year) of the secondary education cohort and finishing off their final practicum. One teacher candidate is in the first year elementary education cohort and just about to start his first 3-week practicum. The pair from the secondary education presented in the morning of the first day of the conference on place-based learning and eloquently expressed their passion, their practicum/teaching practice, and connection to community and self. They cited BC’s New Curriculum and beautifully made connections to their practice and interests by showing examples of how others could embed placed-based learning into their classrooms. Moreover, I really appreciated how they got us to acknowledge the territory by imagining a place that we love and adore. The first year teacher candidate presented in the last concurrent session on the second day of the conference about mindfulness and meditation. Again, he made connections to BC’s New Curriculum and First Peoples Principles of Learning. He described what he valued as a teacher and learner and got us to do several activities during his session such that we went outside twice!!! Furthermore, this teacher candidate had the with-it-ness to overcome technical difficulties, being in a basement, and having an unusual room set-up for his session. He was very natural and confident. It was amazing to see our teacher candidates present at WestCAST 2019. We are very proud.

What was great about going to a conference with your Teacher Candidates is that we are all going to the conference as presenters and learners. We were equals. EDUCATORS. The best part of this conference was that I could really see THE TEACHER in each of our candidates. Amazing!!! I look forward to attending WestCAST2020 in Vancouver, BC.

One More Year

Week 21 (of 38) – February 11-15, 2019

As the dust begins to settle and we approach reading week (so that I can catch up with my work), I made the executive decision with my little family to sign another one year contract with the university. It wasn’t a difficult decision. Although I am living away from my little family and enduring winter weather I have never experienced before, I am enjoying the work at the university. I am meeting a lot of great people (i.e. students, faculty, and K-12 practitioners), I am honing my craft, and I am learning a tonne about teacher education and leadership. I really enjoy working with the students and being a part of Education Club in addition to contributing to the university and school as a member of the BEd and MEd Program Renewal Committees. As I learn how to become an academic while staying very close to the K-12 system, I am gifted with unsolicited help from colleagues and opportunities that I would not normally be a part of if I was in K-12.

You just don’t know what you don’t know unless you try. This is a longstanding mantra for me. I often would give this advice to others, but it certainly applies to me. You can guess… you can hypothesize… you can anticipate and make predictions. But truth? Who really knows, unless you try? I guess you could call this a “growth mindset” or “experiential learning” but for me, it’s an opportunity for me to learn, test my boundaries, and determine what I am capable of. This is pretty exciting. The more I learn, the more questions I have. This the BEST place to be. Be CURIOUS, WONDER, and CREATE. I’m pretty sure that my very first school principal, Bev Terry, could easily tell me my potential from when she first met me in 1994. I never asked and I’m still figuring this out. Self-assessing one’s self-efficacy is challenging, but I’m enjoying the journey. JUMP and take risks. I am so lucky to teach, learn, and lead at UNBC. Looking forward to another year.

Getting Motivated

Week 20 (of 38) – February 4 to 8, 2019

A daily dog pic from my man… this is the life of a long distance marriage. I move away for a term position to the northern interior and my husband is left with the house, teenager, and Sally-the-dog. Isn’t she cute. This is a perfect depiction of me keeping up with my weekly edu-blogs and keeping up with my things to do. Sometimes there is too much on the plate that you become cognitively paralyzed and NOTHING GETS DONE. Admittedly, I put much of this work on myself. This is something I have to learn to manage. I love how one of my mentors shared with me the other day that I need to “manage my career.” That had a nice ring to it. Yes, I do. I also appreciated last night’s #bcedchat that focused on KonMari in education. “If it does not bring you joy, let it go.” I managed to come up with a few things to address… like getting things done… and walking into my fears. Finally, I am also grateful for super intuitive people like my daughter who randomly FaceTimes me in times like this or my friend and colleague who calls me on the phone out of the blue to see “what’s up.” I am surrounded by so many good people in my new northern workplace who will lift my spirits up when I am down. How many people do you know who are willing to give you lucky money on Chinese New Year? Well, I used to get that from my mom ALL OF THE TIME. That tradition is no longer but one of my colleagues gave me lucky money last Monday and another colleague invited me to watch the Chinese New Year fireworks (but I was too cold). Moreover, I recently joined the gym and another colleague showed me around the gym and walked a few laps with me. It’s pick-me-ups like this that get me motivated to teach, learn, and connect with others. YAY PEOPLE!!!

Grateful Educator

Week 19 (of 38) – January 28 – February 1, 2019

Here I am composing my weekly blog on the bus. I’m returning back to Prince George from the Sunshine Coast. Yes… this is the life of living in two homes. I do this every 2-3 weeks, when I can. Right now, I am riding in the 257 Horseshoe Bay Express bus to downtown Vancouver… after getting off the BC Ferries from Langdale… so that I can catch the SkyTrain from downtown to the Vancouver Airport. My flight to Prince George is later tonight. This is truly planes, trains, and automobiles but throw in a bus, ferry, and taxi.

Why do I do this every 2-3 weeks? First of all, I need to return back home to the Sunshine Coast to “ground” myself. I really get that now. FIND YOUR PLACE… something that I ask in my TEDxWestVancouverED talk “Alignment.” The Sunshine Coast is one of MY places. My little family is there. My friends are there. My home is there. I love being by the ocean and I love being home, even if it’s only for an overnight stay. It fills my cup that I did not realize before until I accepted a position at the university in Prince George.

I love the work that I do. I feel incredibly lucky to teach, learn, and lead. My edu-entrepreneurial side of me is fulfilled in a way where I take great joy in problem solving, creating, and innovating. CREATE was my One Word 2018. Don’t be limited by what you believe what is. I did for years. As it turns out, I can do almost anything… if I really wanted to. Please don’t for a second believe that I’ve ever wanted to be an NBA player or cello player. No way!!! That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve always wanted to be a CHANGE AGENT. And, I get to do that as a teacher, learner, and leader in BC Education.

I am learning a lot in my new position at the university but also contributing in ways that I never thought possible. What’s even more exciting is, I am learning that I am at the beginning. This is frightening considering I’m slightly over middle age and starting a new career. On the other hand, it’s invigorating and stimulating in ways such that I am discovering and uncovering what is possible. I love the people I meet in education… my students, colleagues, and PLN (professional learning network)… from past and present. It’s like an edu-family that keeps growing. I love the edu-reunions, collaborations, and new connections. For an extrovert, this is my JAM. Bring on the people, I’d say.

I’m experiencing a kind of autonomy that I had never experienced before. EVERYTHING I am doing is directed to my purpose: To enhance the learning experiences of students. I get to write, speak… and yes, encouraged to publish. I’ve got to get that happening in 2019. Maybe my one word for 2019 should shift from WRITE to RESEARCH. Meh… they are correlated and in my mind, mean the same thing, where my writing is not limited to research. I am still learning and know that this will lead to teaching and leading via public speaking, publishing, and conferences. This is new territory for me and I’m stoked.

In the end, big kudos to my little family who makes this all possible. As difficult as it was to live part-time somewhere else, we have reached a new norm of family being. In fact, I feel that our relationships are stronger than ever. How can this be possible? Ah yes, anything is possible. What I know is true is this… you can do whatever you want to do if you really want it. It may take some extra time, additional travel, or humbling oneself to transform from expert to novice to become an expert again. Be patient and be kind to yourself. Keep your mind and heart open to what you experience and learn from your mistakes. Nothing is ever “perfect” but we have to keep our ambition close to our purpose and model what’s possible. Sometimes the “struggle is real,” but relent. You’ll get there.

Same But Different

Week 18 (of 38) – January 21 to 25, 2019

This is a brilliant photo. Same but different. It’s a photo of my workplace in Prince George and I was compelled to take a photo. Look at the sky!!! If this was a photo of the Sunshine Coast, it would look similar but instead of the snow, it would be the ocean. This is how I feel about teaching and learning. I am so happy to be back in the classroom… teaching and learning. I am so grateful to have super awesome people (aka. my colleagues and friends) like Dr. Linda O’Neill from UNBC and Deneen Sawchuk from SD57 who are willing to take the time to share their expertise and passion for teaching and learning with my classes. Honoured. Furthermore, I have incredible colleagues at the institution who act as my mentors, which helps me to realize that I have much to learn about being an “academic.” I am definitely a beginner. I love teaching and learning with my students and wrestling with them, if they are willing, to sense-make. It’s fun.

I take great joy in creating and thinking about how to design a course so that the learning is meaningful and purposeful for my students, but also an opportunity for me to learn and grow in my practice. The drive to improve as an educator has not changed. However, at the university, every instructor and their courses are evaluated. Receiving course and teaching evaluations is never easy. I was only evaluated once when I taught in K-12 and that was after my first year of 16 years of teaching. Now, I receive course and teaching evaluations every term I teach (and my future employment depends on these results). My results last term ranged from “neutral” to “excellent.” Different courses resulted in different outcomes. I am not surprised because some variables were out of my control. I am not making excuses, but putting my evaluations into perspective. It’s not personal.

Feeling Restored

Week 17 (of 38) – January 14-18, 2019

This was my third week away from my family. I know that this is a professional learning reflective blog, but what I have learned is, 3 weeks away from my family and home is a long time for me. Yet, 2 weeks is too short. I need to find a sweet spot between 2 to 3 weeks to reconnect with my family and my sense of place. Above is a photo from one of my favourite spots on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a beach at Davis Bay by Mission Point. I love going there because I feel connected to the land and water. If you notice, the water comes from two directions. I love the hear the sound of the water. I feel very lucky to live here with my family, but I also live in the Central Interior, which is covered in snow.

My “commute” from the Sunshine Coast to the north makes me appreciate the importance of “people, place, and land”… a theme that we are developing at the School of Education. All three aspects play a role of who I am… my identity… what I value… and what I have become accustomed to. I am able to notice “the little things” on the Sunshine Coast and appreciate them. I can see the beauty in both the Sunshine Coast and Prince George such that I am gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of people, place, and land. This weekend I needed to leave Prince George to connect with BC educators at #EdCampBCCC and #BCEdChat Live Event in Richmond, see my dad and brother in Burnaby, and reunite with my little family on the Sunshine Coast. Seeing these people at these places… on the land… coastal to be exact… FILLED MY CUP. Even though it was a quick 3 day trip, I needed this. I feel grounded and ready for the next 2-3 weeks.

One Word 2019: Writing

Week 16 (of 38) – January 7-11, 2019

I spent the weekend working on organizing my week to carve out time to read and write. That’s my One Word for 2019: WRITE. I want to write a book about my mom’s last 20 days… and her anniversary is coming up… I want to write about Communicating Student Learning… and I would like to write about educational leadership and phenomena experienced by educators in the field. I have a few topics I am interested in. To get writing, I’ve got to be reading and researching. Of course blogging contributes to my One Word, but I need to take my writing to the next step… from reflection to academia. I am learning what it means to be an academic and publishing is “the currency” of my career.

This was the first full week back to school… and I’m pooped. I’m sure this a shared story by other educators returning back to school. Teaching and learning is not easy work, but damn… it’s incredibly rewarding. Did I get to the reading and writing I wanted to do this week? NOPE. I spent the week prepping for my classes, going to meetings, and reviewing unit plans for practicum. I’m doing my job. By Thursday, I opted to get a full night’s sleep and it was back to reviewing unit plans on Friday night. Now it’s the weekend. The message I’ve been sending to my EDUC 342 classes is, you are the locus of control… you create what you want to see. Although I had an amazing week… all it takes is one thank you… I need to self-regulate my time to get to my One Word. It starts here… WRITE.

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