Leadership is a Feeling

Week 40 – December 18, 2020 – I know this is true

Here we are at Week 40 of the pandemic and this is about the same time it takes to have a baby. Yikes. I’m not having a baby, but a few of my friends are pregnant and having babies. This is one of the blessings of the crazy pandemic experience. Today is also the last day of school for K-12 schools, even though some had to close a bit early due to low staffing levels due to COVID-19. And, I just learned that one of my colleagues in K-12 schools was called today via contact tracing that she was in direct contact with someone with COVID-19 and she’s expecting. Honestly, I am very thankful that it is winter break for K-12 and teacher candidates have completed practicum (even though I am aware that at least one of the teacher candidates from our program was called this week). That said, the first vaccines for COVID-19 were first delivered this week in BC yet the numbers for COVID-19 in BC are going up.

I am super busy and my brain is super tired. I am still working. Friday is not the last day of work for me. Although my classes ended on December 4th and final assignments due December 11th, I am swamped with marking, report writing, and just getting the term complete. Oh ya, what about planning for next term and look ahead on the program. Sigh. It’s relentless sometimes and I am just about to give up. For the last week, I was basically brought to my knees and had to reflect on what’s important, what do I value, and where to next. I’ve been here before. There is a reason why I completed a degree in leadership. It’s not that I perceive myself as a leader, but I compelled to figure out what is leadership and what does it mean to be a leader. There is a difference between manager and leader. There is also a difference between micro manager and visionary. I still wonder about, what is leadership?

When you google LEADERSHIP, definitions vary from (1) the action of leading a group of people or an organization; to (2) the act or instance of leading; (3) the office or position of a leader; (4) the capacity to lead; to (5) the set of characteristics that make a good leader. What makes me curious about all of these definitions is, these definitions are all focused on “the leader.” What about what “the follower.” One of the biggest ideas that I have taken from my formal studies is the measure of a good leader is the number of leaders they leave behind. Another concept I took away about “good leadership” is always looking for people and grooming those to be better leaders than you. I love that idea. I feel that way about teacher education. After this week though, I think that LEADERSHIP IS A FEELING. How does the leader make the follower feel?

I’ve been thinking about LEARNING and FEELINGS. When I am teaching, how do I want my students to feel? This is a big idea that I have been wrestling with as a teacher practitioner. Cannot reprimand students for not understanding or learning, but also you cannot punish students or manipulate them to do what you want them to do. It does not leave the learner with good feelings. Moreover, they are left with the WRONG LEARNING. So how do you woo the learner to be engaged and see THE WHY embedded in what they are learning that extends beyond the letter grade, final exam, or major paper? Then, I am led to think more about efficacy, agency, and intrinsic motivation. Teachers are leaders. With this thinking, how does this translate to leadership in an organization? How do these leaders make people feel? If the feeling left behind is not good, are they actually leading? If not, then what are they doing?

I am left with more questions than answers but I will continue to ponder this idea of leadership. What does it mean to lead and how do you want people to feel?

#pandemicreflections #leadership #experiential

Disconnected Reconnected

December 11, 2020 – End of Week 39

What a week of life’s learning. Unbelievable. I had to really think about what was triggering me, why it was triggering me, and find a way out of a situation where I could maintain/restore my integrity and identity. It was a challenging week to say the least. I felt betrayed, sabotaged, and put in my place. Not a good feeling.

I feel grateful for those who care for me. I had a lot to figure out. I’ve been here before. More than once. I did not want history to repeat itself again. I had to listen. Give myself some grace and some time. Not typical for me but it really helped. I was able to see through this terrible experience, learn from it, and take a different route.

With some deep reflection, doodling, and some tough questions… I landed again to what’s important to me… my kid, my research, and my students. Sadly, much of my time was not directly focused on these three priorities. No wonder I was reacting. I was misaligned and disconnected.

That was a big aha for me. I need to reprioritize, be intentional, and carve out the time to tend to what’s important to me and accept the consequences in doing so. Right now, it’s been out of focus and what bothered me so much earlier this week brought me back to alignment and reconnecting back to MY WHY.

Today was such a better day for me. I had some really good conversations today. Although there was some “bad news” today, it didn’t seem to phase me when I was more clear about my passion and purpose. It’s even more better when they are verified and validated by someone else. I needed that mentorship and vision to stoke my fire again. Admittedly, I was losing hope.

That’s all we have is HOPE. Without it, why bother? Relationships, connection, and collective action are a few things that keep me going. Efficacy, leadership, and compassion are a few more things I’d like to mention that also matter. I am so glad I ended the week like it did. It humbled me but also helped me grow into a better me.

EDUFAIR2020 and Intentionality

Week 39 – December 7, 2020 – EARLY START TO BLOGGING

I am giving myself some grace. I spent the weekend planning and prepping #EDUFAIR2020 to end the term at UNBC School of Education for teacher candidates, instructors, and practice evaluators. Hosted and facilitated #EDUFAIR2020 this morning and I think the event went very well. Of course I would ask my colleagues soon after the event for feedback. It went well. This ties in so closely to what I advise teacher candidates about lesson planning. When you plan with intention and prep accordingly, all will go well. You are able to flex and adapt because you’ve planned for it. Well, that’s how things went this morning. That said, I am grateful for the #UNBCED teacher candidates who supported and encouraged me just before the Celebration of Learning event started. TECH ISSUES. #classic. They helped and walked me through, and we were back on track soon after 9am. Honestly, it takes a village and I am 100% grateful for this learning community. Thank you all for participating!!!

The power of INTENTIONALITY. Everything that I do has to come from a good place. My WHY is tied in to who I am and I will act accordingly. This has taken me some time to learn my authentic power. I am still learning. What I am understanding is, when we move forward honouring our purpose, karma will work in your favour. Sounds spiritual or “fluffy” but it’s starting to make sense to me. What I need to focus on is, where am I going to spend my time. This is big. I’m back to “what’s important to me?” What I do know is, the work invested in #EDUFAIR2020 was worth it. It came from the intention of community, connection, and collaboration. HELLO? This is completely aligned to My Manifesto. Huh. That’s a wonderful realization. The day was meant to honour the learner and celebrate the learning. From what I understand, mission accomplished. I am also focused on FEELINGS. How are people learning the learning activity? Do they feel good? Do they feel inspired? This is the aim of teacher education. If anything, I also appreciate the SENSE-MAKING opportunity of #EDUFAIR2020, which is based on the framework of Edcamp. Focus on learning.

Anyway, I am happy as to how the morning ended and I am very happy about feeling satisfied. It’s a good feeling. This state of transformation is complicated and shifting mindsets takes time. I am so proud of the teacher candidates. All 5 cohorts reconnected today… from Prince George, Terrace, and Skidegate. Being online and teaching/learning remotely at the university is NOTHING like teaching/learning face-to-face, but it as radically improved accessibility and what can be possible. I don’t want to be limited by the status quo and I don’t want to rely on what was comfortable. I am struck by the term LAZY and motivated to develop my practice to transform my pedagogy to maximize the learning experience of teacher candidates, thus K-12 students they will teach during practicum. I am set on my 2021 challenge. Not only will I get that selfie-stick and tripod in action to video record asynchronous learning that is situated in place and on the land, but also to find ways to design learning experiences that are engaging, participatory, and transformational.

#pandemicreflections #2021ambition #beingintentional

Having Your Back

December 6, 2020 – Week 38 – The end of term

I am racing to the finish line after a very long marathon and I know there is a post race soon after I cross the finish line. Friday was my last class with EDUC 394 and it was also the last day of practicum for EDUC 490. I’m exhausted. It’s like I start and end my week on Friday’s. By the end of my class, my brain is Zoom fatigued.

I always encourage my students get outside after my class. I go the full 3-hours synchronously. I was so happy to have The Elder in Residence to come visit to end the course in a good way. I was not sure what to expect but I got shivers up and down my spine several times during the hour. It was amazing. He ended the class in his language and translated the saying into English. I loved it. “Soar with the eagles.” Super magical. The students appreciated his visit and one student talked about his grandfather. I was so happy to end the course that way. I feel very lucky.

I took my advice and went for a walk with my dog after class. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Sally an I took a detour from the routine of walking around the block and strolled through the forest first. It was magical. I can’t believe this park is so close to my house. It’s a good way to escape the online experience and get back to what’s important… nature and my mental health. I need to do that more often. It’s becoming more clear to me that I have to be a priority in all THIS to be sustainable and viable. I’m definitely not perfect and misstepped a few times. That’s not where I want to be.

I have to be INTENTIONAL with my actions. Returning back home after our walk around the block, I was drawn back into my work with a few phone calls. It was nice to chat with my kid too. I get so consumed with my work that I am missing moments with her and that’s one of my main reasons for staying in the Sunshine Coast during COVID-19. I can teach remotely and be with my kid. Honestly, it can be all consuming. And, it is. How does one find balance in this and I’m not even researching… yet.

I went to bed early and slept for 11-hours. Obviously I needed it. How is this sustainable? No emails, really, on the weekend. I get to address my work at my own pace. Can you believe that? I worked all weekend. I have a tonne to do but I have done enough to get Monday morning going with #EDUFAIR2020. Let’s see how this goes, but I’m prepped. That’s all that matters. The post-race will come soon after.

When I started this blog, it was suppose to be about me have the back of others, like the people I work with or my students. I do. Sometimes conversations are not easy but the goals and learning intentions have to be clear so that you can have tough conversations. I hope people feel safe but I also want to remain honest, supportive, and kind. Anyway, what the blog is turning into is to recognize those who support me and have my back. Admittedly, I can be too focussed and lose sight of what is.

I realized that my scope is limited. I have an expertise but so do others. The goal is for them. Not to be like me or vice versa but find ways to connect, converse or collaborate. It does kit work with everyone. I’m so grateful for friends who can keep things in perspective for me. I don’t think the term “letting go” is the right term that I am developing, but more like “accepting” what is and influence where I can, if needed or asked. I can only do what I can do but I am learning that it’s the same for others. This does not make it right, but understanding this helps me to have their back.

Relationships are the underpinnings of education. It takes time to develop trust and respect. I need to be patient but persistent. Keep the vision. Be mindful of self. Be intentional. That’s my next step in the pedagogical journey after I mark portfolios and finish my paperwork for the term. I’m back to, “what’s really important to me?” I’m still figuring that out. If anything, I have to have my back because I’m important too.

Two Blog Posts In One

Week 36 and Week 37 – November 21 and 28, 2020

CONVERGENCE – bringing two things together to one point. That’s what I’m doing today… well, now a few days later. This COVID-experience is almost like a time-warp. Time goes by fast. Time goes by slow. I have no sense of time and now I find myself catching up most of the time to get where I want to be. I don’t know how other people are doing it but I will admit that I am completely exhausted and I am 100% underestimating the time it takes to do things. I feel so lucky to teach remotely and be in my home on the Sunshine Coast with my daughter… but dang. This online lifestyle is getting the best of me. I feel like I am shifting again to a “new normal” where I have to PIVOT to getting outside and connecting with nature.

This photo is one of my most favourite places to be… MISSION POINT in Davis Bay. This place is amazing and it’s one of the places I walk with my edu-buddy to discuss life, kids, and education. We walk along the seawall and to Mission Point Park where there is a sandy beach and a massive spit where the two waters CONVERGE, as you can see in the photo above. It takes my breath away and I love that this is a place where I feel at home. I also love the imagery of the two waters meeting at one point. I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful place and community. However, I will admit, with the new COVID-19 numbers in BC, I am so compelled to just stay at home. I just don’t get out. It’s very much like how I felt in March 2020. #stayathome

I am not really that motivated to leave the house, except to walk with my edu-buddy and to walk my dog Sally around the block. I will sometimes force myself to go out and get a Steeped Tea from Tim Hortons or Pink Drink from Starbucks. Most times I am on my computer, like I am now, attending a Zoom meeting, teaching a class, or sending out emails like I had nothing better to do with my time. My legs ache. My head is numb. And, I wished I had the strength to make dinner after a 12-hour online day. Most days I can’t. Even my favourite local Chinese restaurant just closed for 14-days due to a COVID-19 exposure. Nothing is safe anymore (and I have to cook).

The one thing I do appreciate about online is ACCESS. I am able to attend meetings with people whom I may have never met otherwise face-to-face. I am able to attend conferences and workshops without the expense of travel and accommodations. I am participating in MOOCs and I hope that I am able to carve out the time soon to write. I need to read and write… and I never thought I would say that in my lifetime, but I feel that it’s time. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time until the work of this term is complete. I do love the work that I get to do. I feel that each thing that I am a part of is ALIGNED to my purpose of “improving the learning experiences of students.” The experience is transformative, progressive, and disruptive… for self and others.

Tomorrow I am a guest on a former student’s podcast. This will be my third podcast and I am struck by what my friend said to me… you feel like a professor when you are professing something… honestly, this is the next step. To understand this, I have to get reading and writing, and carve out the time. TIME MANAGEMENT. Be more INTENTIONAL. I need to exercise my AUTHENTIC POWER. I am drawn to Gary Zukov right now and what resonates with me today is, “accept the consequences.” Agreed. No fear. There is nothing to lose. Act and accept the consequences. I also loved what I heard yesterday in an interview with Oprah and Jack Canfield and he said you know when you are on the right path when what you are doing feels joyful.

As tired as I am, I am on the right path. I am currently visioning a life that I am currently living. How many people can do that? I am not sure where the pandemic will take me. I am constantly deliberating what to do with my apartment and the level of uncertainty with anything right now is high. What I do know for sure is, I am grateful for every moment I had so far and I love all of the people I have met along the way. I love how my daughter is learning math at home and loving it. She can factor a trinomial like nobody’s business. I am so impressed. She is transforming her mindset and level of math efficacy right before my eyes. It’s really rewarding. And, I know that I am safe where I am (even though I am teaching online). Life is very good.

#pandemicreflection #catchingup #onestepatatime

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.