Alignment… Find Your Place

Photo creds to @jnovakowski38 on Twitter.

What an amazing experience… presenting at TEDxWestVancouverED. Yes, it was a 4-minute presentation… which had a lot of content in such a short time frame. The title of my talk was ALIGNMENT… my message was FIND YOUR PLACE. It was fun for me to connect my love for mathematics and pattern making to systems thinking. The underpinning of my presentation is “whatever we want for students, we should want for ourselves”… and “it will take all of us” to not only “make ripples in the system”… but together… “make waves.” I loved that I used the Russian Nesting Doll as a metaphor for my TEDx Talk. Thank you Sandra Cunningham for letting me borrow your dolls and take pictures of them as seen in this photo. Thank you to all of the volunteers and crew who made this event possible. Thank you to the awesome presenters (I am so inspired). And, thank you to my PLN. I could not have done this without you. You are the best!!!

Doing a TEDx presentation was more like giving a mini-dissertation defence. You need an idea that you are passionate about. Then, you are given a time allotment to get your message across. On the one hand, you are motivated to inspire the audience with what you have to say, but also you are asked to call the audience to action. A CALL TO ACTION. From passion to message to action… and thank goodness for the experience and expertise of Craig Cantlie, a school principal from the West Vancouver School District, who facilitated our “learning” to get prepared for the TEDx event. We spent almost a year from application to presentation to GET IT DONE. I needed that time… to make my thoughts and presentation coherent, purposeful, and meaningful… from what I had to say and what images I wanted to show to compliment what I had to say. I spent hours rehearsing my script. I was revising until the last minute. What I had to say underwent major revisions after rehearsal the day before the event. More rehearsing. No pressure.

Oh… the power of FORMATIVE FEEDBACK. Thank you Craig… It sounds too much like a lecture. Inspire them. Have fun. Be joyful. Hmm… very good points, hence the major revisions. Well, I did not change the meaning of what I wanted to say (or the PowerPoint slides), but I did change my approach. Interestingly, it was an easy change and it FELT GOOD. It was meant to be. In the end, I was satisfied with my presentation. Yes, it took me a moment to use the clicker to get my PowerPoint started because I think I am too conditioned for IGNITE presentations and automated slides. Aside from that and struggling with the clicker in general (I think I lost 20 seconds to clicking), I believe I said what I had wanted to say. Even though I find myself still rehearsing in my head post TEDx and I’m not sure what I had said. I don’t remember. What a strange phenomenon. That said, what pleased me the most was the immediate feedback from my friends in the audience. Some said that they loved the metaphor of the Russian Dolls, others said that it was nothing like what they had expected, and others said they just LOVED IT.

TEDxWestVancouverED was one of the best experiences I had. I was humbled by the work that went into preparing my presentation and I was honoured to be presenting with an awesome group of presenters. Everyone at TEDxWestVancouverED… participants, presenters, and volunteers… were INCREDIBLY POSITIVE and encouraging. Thank you. I appreciated the change in formats from an audience of 400 to 100 with small tables for the audience to sit around. I loved the PADLET coffee, SWAG bag gifts, and FOOD from Loblaws. The intimate nature of the event created a professional learning environment where you can connect deeply with your PLN and meet people. Others also participated in a socratic circle during the breaks, but of course, I opted to chat with friends. Best of all, I loved the “collective painting” activity. You can see examples of them on each side of the screen as seen in the photo. Presenters made paintings, but so did the participants. It was a beautiful metaphor for togetherness and vulnerability. It was awesome.

PS. I will post my TEDxWestVancouverED video on my home page once it’s available.

A Full House

WEEK 2 – EDUC471 D100 – September 15, 2017

It’s a full house. All but one student attended this week’s class. 38 students are enrolled in this class, which has a class capacity of 35. As the deadlines for course changes approach, I am fielded with several emails regarding enrolment. Compelling stories and I allowed several students to enrol but I had to say NO to student number 39 and future requests. It’s a compliment when students say that they took this course because they read my blog or it was recommended to them, but I worry about the quality of education I can provide when the class is over capacity. We just had enough seats for those who arrived to class. I do have one more seat, my chair, to offer to the 38th student for next week. I do like it when everyone comes to class. As you can see in the picture above, we used the hallway (aka. available space) to facilitate our first warm-up activity.

It was so nice to get started with EDUC471D100 this week. This week we read an article on Curriculum Theory and Practice. Based on the reading, our discussions, and our past experiences, we are asked to answer the following reflective journal questions:

What was your learning experience like when you were in K-12 schools? 

I know that I am the one asking this question, but I think it’s a good question. What do I remember? Admittedly, my learning experience in K-12 schools was somewhat uneventful. I loved my “drafting” class and regret dropping out of my “typing” class (whoa… I am totally dating myself). I really liked my Chemistry 11 and 12 classes. I remember Grade 2 and 4, but not for good reasons. I would say that I struggled with reading and writing (now, not the case… that took years to resolve). What I remember most about my K-12 experience was CURLING. I used to compete at the provincial level. Otherwise, I would spend most of my time doing what my teachers asked me to do (aka. learn).

What is your learning experience like at university?

I will say that my learning experience at the university was a struggle. At least, that’s what I remember. I took first year science because I liked Chemistry so much in high school. I failed Math 100 in my first year and it’s been a journey ever since that experience. I did retake Math 100 and got an A but my scheduling to be a Chemistry major was offset because I did not pass Math 100 in my first term. A long story made short, I did finish my degree in Chemistry with a minor in mathematics. What I recall is trying to do what I thought I needed to do as prescribed by the professor. It was CURRICULUM AS SYLLABUS and product. My most favourite course was CHEM412, which was my chemistry project when I had to quantify a certain chemical in dish soap. I loved that course. I did not return to that kind of learning until my “PhD in Education.”

What role does curriculum play in your learning experience? In schools?

The curriculum is the WHAT. What are we suppose to learn. We have student agency to select what major we would like to study, but whatever direction we choose, there is curriculum that suggests what we are suppose to know and CURRICULUM AS PRODUCT tells us how well we learned it. As a sessional instructor in education, I am drawn to the idea of facilitating CURRICULUM AS PROCESS or praxis. What does it look like when students are a part of the co-creation of knowledge? I believe that this is what BC’s New Curriculum strives for. The curriculum has content but also competencies. Competencies, in my mind, are geared towards curriculum as process and still “prescribes” what students should learn. The curriculum is STATIC… nothing happens to it anyway until it is “delivered” or taught to students. Thus, factors such as assessment and evaluation, quality of teaching, and mindset would influence how curriculum is perceived.


MY REFLECTION

I am an experiential learner at it’s best. I like to be learning as I am doing. As my students are stumbling along with PARTICIPATION ACTIVITY SIGN-UP and it’s limitations using Canvas, I am stumbling along planning and preparing for this course. This is not to say that I am not able to facilitate their learning and design a course that address curriculum development, what I am saying is the momentum of the class dramatically changes when there are 12 students more than what I had last term. Group discussions take more time, mobilizing our class to play/learn in the hallway takes more time, and dealing with technology also takes a bit of time. Sadly, I had to assign homework this week to get what was intended accomplished. Albeit, it was a TEDx video and our journal reflection, but sometimes I like to offer class time to sense-make and reflect together. That said, it’s also an opportunity to implement some of the blended learning strategies I learned at the UBC T-BLE workshop this summer as well. It’s only Week 2 and we are learning the rhythm of our course and building our learning community. It was an incredible Week 2. Those who implemented the participation activities this week were AWESOME and met expectations. The group discussions went very well too. It was an excellent class of EDUC471D100… I may have fallen in love with this class already.

Apply and Publish

I love this photo. This is where I live. It’s on the Sunshine Coast, BC at Davis Bay. Look at the sky, the ocean, and mountains. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The photo makes me feel optimistic and hopeful. There is also a person standing out there on a float-pad. It’s a metaphor of where I am. There is a sea of possibilities and I am looking for my alignment. After writing my last blog entry, Back Here Again, I ended the blog looking forward to the next 12-weeks. I am transition. My daughter is back to school. And, I am in the driver seat to figure out what’s next for me. Admittedly, it’s an odd feeling when my lifetime goal was to complete a PhD. Now that it’s done, it’s time for new goals.

I did not realize the process post-dissertation. My oral defence was on August 17th, I submitted my revisions on August 18th, and they were approved on August 21st. I submitted my final draft to the SFU library online on August 21st. On September 7th, my thesis intake was completed by the SFU Library and TODAY, September 12th, the “Senate has awarded [my] degree of Doctor or Education.” Convocation is on Friday, October 6th. I can’t wait. This break is good timing nonetheless. I started teaching at SFU-Burnaby Campus on Friday mornings and I used this time to reflect to figure out what’s next.

When I was doing my dissertation, thinking about what’s next was a distractor. It took time and effort to think about what’s next and not to think about it. I had to do the latter to focus on my research, get things off my plate (even though I may have loved doing certain things), and complete my dissertation. Mission accomplished. Now, I feel like I’m trying to force something to happen. This is not a good place… because, nothing happens. I was reminded by my friend today, hence the inspiration to blog, that SERENDIPITY plays a role in what’s next. Whether if you know it or not, everything that you do is aligning itself to what’s next. You have to allow it to happen and LET GO.

What I mean by “let go” is not a passive role of “doing nothing” or “hoping for the best.” It’s bigger than that. You just can’t force things to happen. And if you do, it was not meant to happen and it’s doomed for failure. Alignment is key to making things happen… but letting things happen. You have to do what is within your reach and works towards what you want or intend to do. When I look back… and I’m looking way back… I find it odd how everything I have done forms a straight line to where I am. At the time, it may have felt like chaos, incongruent, and uncertain… but now I see it was meant to be. You have no idea when one relationship, one project, or one event can transform your life.

I am humbled by serendipity. I am also humbled by TRUST and intuition. Sometimes you have to listen and do what you believe is the right thing to do even though you may have no clue where it’s heading. That’s OK. This is another form of letting go. You don’t have to know. As long as it feels good and you’re aligned to that person, direction, or way of being… then do it. Misalignment takes work to maintain and for what purpose? What feels right for me for the next 12-weeks is to continue writing academically and write articles to be published. I also need to complete another study I am working on and write that paper up. Finally, I need to complete writing my CV, educational philosophy, and cover letters and apply for jobs. I’m at a new beginning. It’s time to apply and publish.

Back Here Again

WEEK 1 – EDUC 471 D100 – September 8, 2017

It’s official. A hat-trick of teaching at SFU as a sessional instructor. Honoured. I return back to teaching EDUC471 – Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice. It’s a morning class instead of late afternoon and I’m in the main building, not in a portable building. I am feeling pretty lucky. As promised to my students, I have committed to writing a blog entry as they are asked to write a reflective journal each week. This week is introductions. Who am I? Why am I here? What do I expect to learn in this course?

Who am I? I am a former secondary mathematics teacher with 16 years of experience teaching in public schools. I am also a secondary science too. I have taught Math 8-12, Calculus 12, Science 8-10, Chemistry 11/12, and Earth Science 11. Currently, I am a sessional instructor at SFU and school trustee on the Sunshine Coast. I have facilitated workshops on BC’s New Curriculum, been on the Math K-9 Curriculum Development Team, and tutored mathematics from my home. My greatest accomplishment is finishing my Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership at SFU. I successfully defended on August 17, 2017 and will be participating in convocation in October. I can’t wait.

Why am I here? The official question asked to my students was why did he or she choose to take EDUC471 as a face-to-face course on campus. For me, you apply to what courses you wish to teach and hope that you are selected to teach at least one of the courses you’ve applied for. I say that because I taught EDUC454 last term and did not initially apply for that course, but loved it in the end. It’s amazing how life leads you in a particular direction and you have no clue where you are going but realize that you were meant to do it. I learned a tonne in EDUC454. It’s an honour to have EDUC471 again. Many professors I speak to love teaching EDUC471. It was the first course I’ve taught at SFU and feel that this is an excellent opportunity to revisit the course again.

What do I expect to learn? I hope to learn more about the students in front of me and how I can hone my craft as an instructor to provide a learning experience that is engaging, thought provoking, and interactive. The learning intentions are not as specific as EDUC454, which focused on environmental education and quantitative approaches. I hope not to fall into the trap of doing what I had done last year. It’s not about “reinventing the wheel” but it’s more about being a critical friend (to self) and identify what didn’t work out that well last year and how I can make it better. I have already found myself “in a trap” and can’t seem to see a way out of it. It’s nor here or there, but it could be better. I will have to think about that one. I might make some adaptations.

My Reflection

Overall, it was a really good first day. I’m always curious about not having a full attendance on the first day but those who did attend are pretty keen about getting started. I think about sitting in someone else’s class to see how it’s run because my students seem to get confused soon after my first class about the makings of my course. We spend the entire first class going over the detailed syllabus and Canvas. I appreciate their questions, but I wonder what I am doing (or not doing) that is not clear. This will be my test this term. How much am I willing to flex with the design of my course.

I find it very interesting how many emails I have received over the last few days. Some emails are from students trying to get into the course. Some emails are from students looking for some clarification on assignments and activities. While other emails are about the course itself and where to find things. This class is certainly not shy about asking questions… which I like. They are also willing to “break the rules” or ask for changes… which I like as well. What I have to consider is how I will answer them and where my boundaries lie. It’s not possible to be accommodating to everyone, even though I may want to be. I will do my best, but it will remain a balance as to who leads the course.

I am glad to be teaching this term at SFU. It gives me some time to figure out my next steps and see what’s out there that is a best fit for me at this point in time. Life now not as a student means to get out there in the big world “to make a difference.” Teaching makes a huge difference in a student’s life. I need to determine what kind of impact I would like to make on student learning. My lifelong goal was to complete a doctorate degree. All that I have done has led to this achievement. Now that I am here, I have to figure out what’s next. I look forward to this and the next 12-weeks with EDUC471.

Expressing Gratitude

Ahh yes… it’s Labour Day… aka. the last day of summer and it’s back to school tomorrow for my daughter… and back to a weekly routine for me. Well, I say that. I’m not sure what this will look like. It’s been 2.5 weeks since I’ve defended my dissertation and 2-weeks since my final draft of my dissertation as approved and submitted into the SFU Library. For the past 7-years, I have not had a “regular weekly schedule.” My husband would say… it was UNPREDICTABLE. I should have gone on holidays or camping post-dissertation, but I spent the last 2-weeks mulling over what’s next and transitioning back into regular life.

I am left with a lot of questions post-dissertation. I wrote The Other Side and Put In My Place in the past 2-weeks to reflect on where I came from to figure out where I am going. I did find a clue. I started to get “organized” for the new school year. I spent time on my September 2017 calendar and what I need to do and accomplish. I was overwhelmed with gratitude when I spent some time preparing for my first class at SFU. I’m teaching EDUC471 (Curriculum Development: Theory and Practice) again in the fall. I taught this course last year and feel very fortunate to returning back to SFU as a sessional instructor. I love imagining what this class could look like and getting the chance to facilitate it. I love the creativity and what I will learn en route. Also, I can make the course better.

Another clue came in an email. Someone read my #EDUC454D100 tweets and contacted me to see if I would present to her class in the SFU PDP program. I taught EDUC454 (Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education) last term and LOVED IT. I loved it so much that I blogged about it every week, just like I did with EDUC471. What I am asked to present about is how I taught the course, which included place-based learning, Indigenous Education, and mathematics. I feel honoured, but truth… I wanted to play with the principles of BC’s New Curriculum and EDUC454 gave me the opportunity to learn about the curriculum’s potential. Now, I am asked to share what I have learned.

I am so happy to be back in the classroom, albeit at the university, but I love connecting with students and learning something new. I love the challenge of teaching content in a comprehensible way and provoking students to ask good questions about what they are learning. It’s way too fun for me. I love that I have the chance to learn with my students during the course and they are willing to learn with me. Moreover, I love that I get to continue my relationships after the course ends. Thank goodness for social media.

I believe in serendipity and things happen for a reason. Here’s an opportunity. Instead of feeling burdened by what’s next, I can reframe the question to what do I want to learn. First, I want to learn how to complete a research study that is not a dissertation. Second, I want to learn how to make a research poster and present it. Third, I want to learn how to write an academic article and publish it. Finally, I want to learn how to write a book. I love learning and I love learning from what I want to learn. Hmm… this is telling.

Put In My Place

A couple of weeks between post-dissertation and start of the school year, I had some time to reflect on where I came from, where I am, and where I want to go. What I have realized is, I have not skewed too far from where I’ve come from and I fully intend to move forward accordingly. I am reminded of a few memories from my teaching career that paved the road ahead of me, whether if I knew it or not. Looking back, the vision is clear.

I was put in my place early in my teaching career. I was teaching a few years in the math department and part of the curriculum implementation team. At the time, I was deeply concerned about math education and students coming into Grade 8. I was given an opportunity to talk to the school principals during one of their monthly meetings as a guest speaker. Let’s talk math, right? Wrong! I suggested to this group that one way to improve student achievement in mathematics was to teach elementary teachers mathematics. One school principal quickly responded by saying, “Who would want to do that? Nobody.” That was a quick end to that conversation and I was put in my place. Who in their right mind would want to learn more about mathematics? <<rhetorical question>>

As a result, I thought I was wrong. Who am I to think that elementary school teachers would benefit from learning mathematics? Shall we assume that all teachers are prepared to teach what they are assigned to teach? I know for me, that was not the case. I was not prepared to teach Keyboarding 9, but taught it anyway. I was not prepared to teach Biology 8 or Earth Science 11 even though I am a trained secondary science and mathematics teacher. Yes, you just get by and hope for the best, but was I prepared? Of course not… but I had to learn the subject matter on the job and develop subject specific pedagogy that would/could reach all students.

If you are a pattern seeker like me, I wondered how often I was put in my place. I recall another defining moment when I was taking my Masters Degree more than 15 years ago. At the time, I was feeling overwhelmed because I was doing coursework, teaching full-time, and sponsor teacher of the yearbook club. There were other events happening during that time that may have affected my performance but I was pulled aside by the school principal who basically told me that I was underperforming and I should drop out of my Masters program. I was devastated. Later, the school principal did say (with my staff rep present) that I was performing at a “satisfactory” level. I consulted with my Masters cohort instructors and cohort about the situation and they said to quit yearbook club instead. I hated doing it but that’s what I did.

I am so thankful that I completed my Masters degree. It helped me to dig deeper into my practice, question my practice, and make sense of teaching and learning. I was reminded by a former classmate, colleague, and friend… but also one of my editors for my dissertation… that I had always wanted to improve mathematics education. After she read my early, early draft of my dissertation, she said that she remembered me talking about this topic during our Masters program. In my MEd comprehensive paper, I wanted to create a learning community where students, teachers, and subject specialists could gather together to talk about math. I am so very grateful that my friend reminded me of this. She brought my purpose back to consciousness.

I had always felt like I was putting my job on the line when I wanted to “step out of the box” to benefit student learning and make mathematics exciting. I remember later in my teaching career in public schools that I used to do a collaborative, summative review game for Math 12 and we played in the foyer of the school. I wanted everyone in the school to get involved and get excited about mathematics. We had math-teams, daily updates, and created a lot of hype for the summative review game. Why not? Math is fun. Math is for everybody. Math is everywhere. Well… I was put in my place again. The white wall in the foyer transformed into something else and I was put back into my classroom to play. Regardless of advocacy or approach, I was told by my school principal, “You don’t have the big picture. I do.” Well, it just wasn’t the same.

A long story made short, I left teaching in public schools 7-years ago. My classes were going great at the time and I loved my students, but I opted to leave to complete my dissertation. So, I end this blog entry with my dissertation defence. Looking back now, every action I took has been in light of my purpose. My writing, my teaching, and my learning have all been designed to take me to the next step. I realize now, for example, that my interest in assessment had nothing to do with assessment itself, but had everything to do with the teaching and learning of mathematics. My purpose continues with my dissertation and at the end of my oral defence I was put in my place again. In short, I was told not be be limited by my perceived role(s). I have an important message to share. Change will occur one person at a time. So, do it.

How can you not be inspired? 20-years later I feel validated. My purpose is clear. I am reminded of it when I see articles on line like these (see below) on social media and when I work with students. Things need to change and it’s bigger than ‘new math’ pedagogy. If we really want to see change in mathematics education and want our students to succeed in mathematics as life-long learners, then we need to get to the heart of the problem… and dig deep. What I know for sure is, I can’t teach something I know very little about… at least not well. Try imagining what it would be like to learn from someone who knows very little about what they are teaching. It’s a struggle.

From the CBC: Just fix the bloody math curriculum

From the Globe and Mail: In the battle of old versus new ways of teaching math


My dissertation/abstract

For those who are interested in reading my dissertation, please see link below.

The Professional Learning Experiences of Non-Mathematics Subject
Specialist Teachers: A Descriptive Study (Ho Younghusband, 2017)

https://theses.lib.sfu.ca/thesis/etd10292

The Other Side

I believe I have posted this photo before. I’ve just cleaned out my office… post-dissertation. Not a lot of garbage, but lots of recycling. It took me all day to sort through my stuff, dust, and move the furniture around. I was trying to keep with the ideals of KonMari… to create a working and learning space that would foster JOY. Many things remained the same in my office, but I definitely made room for my “new” degree to go on the wall and there is less clutter on my desk, shelves, and floor.

This feels good to have my office in working order. Clear the clutter and clear the mind. It was an excellent process and I would highly encourage others to do the same, particularly if/when you have completed a dissertation. You don’t realized where you were until you see and hold artifacts of where you were. It’s weird because I believe my dissertation is straightforward. What I realized post-purge is, it was not.

That’s why I think this picture is perfect for this blog post. It’s messy, but this “artifact” was a turning point in my doctoral journey. At this time, I had collected my data and done some analysis, but had to put it all together. It was that day when I found out that my father-in-law passed away. I was out of town in Vancouver at a conference and my husband was back in my hometown with his family. That night, I stayed in my hotel room and doodled my dissertation together… although it may not seem like it.

I am grateful for artifacts like this. It keeps me humble. I may have purged much of what I had that led up to my final draft of my dissertation, but I did keep a few artifacts around to remind me of the journey to get where I am. Now, I am faced with another mess… “So, what are you going to do now, Christine?” There is no end point to any journey. If you’re done one thing, it’s common to here… so what’s next?

It’s been 9-years since I was working on my dissertation. 2-years of course work, 3-years of figuring out my WHY and my research question, and 4-years to complete my dissertation. It’s shocking to think about how long I was working on this, but it’s also amazing to think about what I have learned. I would not trade that in for anything. My dissertation brought me solace, my Oral Defence was validating, and my desire to write a book on Math Stories is aligned to my purpose and part of my next steps.

Thinking about what I would do next was a distractor for me during the dissertation process. I had to come to terms with my purpose at the time, which was to answer my research question. Now that I am on the other side, I need to consider my options and opportunities. I did apply to several places prior to my oral defence. At that time, I was looking at opportunity. What I should be looking for is ALIGNMENT… which is ironically the title of my upcoming TEDxWestVancouverEd talk this September.

I definitely want to teach. I love the creative process in teaching and orchestrating ways to facilitate learning. I definitely want to write and publish articles to hone my writing skills but also honour my research and share some of my findings with others. I definitely want freedom and flexibility. I would love to continue with research and how it connects to practice. I have a few tasks to complete this fall and would love to partake in research and implement recommendations as it relates to my research.

So, I’m back in the mess again… what will I do next? I did not know it, but when I look at the direction I am heading towards… it’s research, public speaking, and teaching. There is no question that EDUCATION is at the heart of what I do, but I have to true to myself. When I left teaching almost 7-years ago, that was my first inkling that I did not want to be a school principal anymore. I wanted to be a school principal for many years. It’s was a turning point in my career in public schools and future trajectory.

Truth, I don’t need to be the leader in name or position. I have no desire to, as proven in previous experiences and decisions. Being the president, the head of something, or organizational leader is not my main motivator. Teaching and learning motivate me. Enhancing student learning experiences (and my own) captures my attention. Asking questions, creating something new, and playing are the best aspects of what I do. I lead from within and I know things can be better for students. We just have to try.

I will end my blog entry today with a serendipitous experience I had not too long ago. I had posted my “dissertation completion” on my Facebook account (again) and one of my former Math 12 students liked my post. Classic cyberstalking, I checked his Facebook account to see what he was up to. He’s an engineer working in Alaska. Wow. I was touched that he liked my post (as I am when any of my former students reconnect with me on social media). That same day, I was heading into Vancouver via transit to visit my parents. Who do I see on the bus? This student. Soooo crazy!!!

I’m thinking he’s in Alaska… not on the West Vancouver Blue Bus. He tapped me on the shoulder and said hello… “I thought it was you… your bookmark gave you away.” I was re-reading George Couros’s “The Innovator’s Mindset” with a geometry set 60-30 right triangle ruler as my bookmark. We chatted about my dissertation, former students, and what he was up to. Of course, we ended our conversation with… “So, what are you going to do next?” I said, I’m not sure… maybe this, maybe that.

He said, “You have better ways to spend your time. You’re a doctor now. You should be screaming on top of the mountain.” I like that metaphor and I was so inspired that my former student can see the potential in me and my work. He we so supportive of me writing and publishing. I’m sure that he will hold me to task on getting published. That is my short term plan… complete another study, write some articles to publish, and present at conferences. I hope my long term plan is aligned to this as well.

Math Stories

What does inspired action look like? I have always wondered, but now I have come to understand that it’s exactly what it says, INSPIRED ACTION. Here is a photo of me and my Senior Supervisor Dr. Daniel Laitsch from the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. This photo was taken of us soon after my oral examination for my Doctor of Education degree (August 17, 2017). I passed with minor revisions and submitted those revisions the day after my defence (August 18, 2017). Only a few days later, my revisions were approved by the senior supervisor and I submitted my dissertation to the SFU library on the day of the solar eclipse (August 21, 2017). Coincidence? I think not.

I realize that I am “building the plane in the air” with this blog entry or STORY, but that’s what this page of my website is all about. I was taken aback at the end of my oral defence when Dan said to me… that it’s my job to “speak truth to power” and not be limited by what I perceive as my role or roles to be in education. The examining committee concurred and emphasized that I have an important message to share with others. Wow. If that was not a pivotal moment in my PEDAGOGICAL JOURNEY, then I don’t know what is. My dissertation brought me SOLACE. I answered a research question I pondered about for more than 20 years. My oral defence brought me VALIDATION. I did not realize the importance of my research until after my oral defence and my colleagues in the audience called me to action. It’s time for the next chapter of my pedagogical journey… I have decided to write a book (aka. PURPOSE).

This will be a compliment to my Doctor of Education dissertation research, “The Professional Learning Experiences of Non-Mathematics Subject Specialist Teachers: A Descriptive Study.” It will take the qualitative approach to descriptive research where I want you hear YOUR MATH STORY. What’s your math story? It’s something that you remember so vividly in your formative years (aka. Grades K to 12… or possibly university) about mathematics, mathematics instruction, and your math efficacy. I’ve heard many stories as a mathematics educator ranging from “I was born that way” and “I can’t do it” to chatting with a clerk in a clothing store who purges her Grade 4 math experience to me and a colleague after you disclose that you’re a math teacher. Many of these “math stories” are not positive ones and often they guide our future decisions on what we can or cannot do. If you would like to participate, then email me YOUR MATH STORY to mathstories888@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Submitting your math story:

  1. Tell me a little about yourself. This may be embedded in your story.
  2. Describe YOUR MATH STORY. Take as long as you need to write this.
  3. Send your story to mathstories888@gmail.com. I will follow up after.

Oral Defence

Good grief. Look at those tan lines!!! That was one thing I did not plan out that well… and I expected that the room would have been a bit cooler with air conditioning. I was soooo warm that day. I could not wear my purple scarf, as you see below, to HIDE my freaking tan lines. I digress. Photo creds to my sister (top photo) and husband (bottom photo). Thank goodness someone was taking pictures. I missed a few selfie opportunities. DAMN. I did not realize it until well after my oral defence. I guess I had my mind on something else. Oh ya… my oral examination and degree completion.

What was sooooo exciting for me was who attended my oral defence. Two of my classmates, Carey and Marian, were there. They have been by my side right until this day. A former Chatelech student, Sabrina, was there. That was super nice and unexpected. My friend and former trustee colleague Wendy was there (and asked a killer “call to action” question at the end of my defence… thank you!). My friend and #bcedchat co-mod Kat was there with her friend (who are both in the EdD program now at SFU and Kat asked a follow up killer “call to action” question too… thank you!). My former instructor Fred was there (his brother was my external examiner). And, my sister, dad, and husband were there. Yes… they were representing the family.

As you can see in the photo above… it’s me, my tan lines, and my examining committee. From left to right it’s Dr. Bruce Beairsto (Chair), Dr. Robin Brayne (Member), Dr. Daniel Laitsch (Senior Supervisor), and Dr. Patrick Renihan (External Examiner). At the last minute my Internal Examiner, Dr. Michael Ling, was unable to attend the oral defence but sent in his comments and questions for the chair to read. That was super nice… Michael taught me in the summer of my Master of Education program at SFU in 2000. Wow. That’s awhile ago… sheesh. Anyway, an awesome examining committee and it was important for me to set the tone for the oral examination. I did not want to be TOO serious because that would make me TOO nervous. I was me… and it you know me… it was light, succinct, and FUN.

I practiced my oral presentation the night before… alone… in my hotel room. My husband insisted that I get a hotel room for a couple of nights… to prepare and to celebrate. I was reluctant at first but it was the best thing I did in preparation for my defence. I rehearsed my oral presentation until I had it memorized and under 20 minutes. That was a lot of ME listening to ME. I had notes to refer to, if needed, but the goal was to have it memorized. I did not get my oral presentation memorized and under 20 minutes until the next morning at 8am. I got it to 18.5 minutes… with very little pausing or breathing. My exam was at 9:30am and I had to get a Starbucks.

Ha, ha. You can see my Starbucks (triple grande non-fat latte) on the table. I like that. I made it to the University and found parking, no problem. I had a tonne of stuff to carry but managed to get my latte and make it to my room with plenty of time to set up. Thank goodness for Carey and Kat for helping me set up the tech and my sister and Irene (from SFU) to set up the tables. One by one, members of the examining committee came in and sat down… and we were ready to go at 9:29 am. So, we started early. With a quick introduction by the chair regarding process and outcomes, I delved into my oral presentation. It was going pretty well. A few stumbles here and there, but I referred to my notes. When I started to read, I stumbled more… and stopped that ASAP so that I can meet my time limit. The chair informed me after my presentation that I finished it under 18.5 minutes. BOOM. A great start to the exam…

I stood for my oral presentation… and sat down for questions. I distributed handouts for the audience and had my note pad in front of me, just in case I needed it. I wished that I had recorded the oral examination to hear their comments again. They were all good… but sometimes when you are in a certain headspace, you can’t receive all of the messages that were given to you. That’s why I am so glad to have Michael Ling’s notes as a keepsake. It’s about as close to a record to the event that I have. Post-presentation, the candidate fields two rounds of questions from the examining committee. It was sooooo strange… great questions… few I had anticipated… but I answered them all to the best of my ability. I was totally authentic. I gave answers that reflected my research but also my professional experience. IT WAS AMAZING.

I loved my questions… and I believe they liked my answers. I did not hesitate on any of the questions… and it really felt like more of a conversation about my research rather than an examination. I LOVED IT. It took many days and hours to prepare for the oral examination… an UNDERESTIMATION (again) on what it took to get it “just right” but I’m so glad that I figured that out and invested the time. You never feel quite prepared but I absolutely enjoyed the question period. It got me thinking… conceptual framework, what does it feel like to be an NMSST, what brought me to my research, possible policy changes, type of mentoring, recommendations I would make, being a knowledge contributor, learning communities and vulnerability, etc.

I know that I’ve worked hard for this. I found solace in my dissertation when I completed it. During my oral examination, I found validation. As my senior supervisor said to me at the end of my defence was… it’s my job to “speak truth to power.” I loved that. This was supported by the rest of the examining committee who said that I had an important message to share (how was I going to do this) and it is likely to start as a grassroots movement with one person at a time (to create a momentum for policy change). I LOVED THIS SOOOO MUCH. My work has been a 20+ pedagogical journey, which has underwent doctoral research and the rigour of a defence with colleagues. I heard and received their support, encouragement, and calls to action.

The revisions were relatively minor… but they were not joking about verb tenses. I was getting annoyed changing them. I can only imagine being them having to read it. I had to change a few sections based on the external’s feedback, which was also discussed during the oral examination. I had to change a few terms and voila. COMPLETION. I’ve submitted my final, final, final draft to my Senior Supervisor for him to approve. Once approved, it will go into the library (which is a process I’m about to embark on). This is it. I’m done. I am “Dr. Christine Younghusband, EdD,” graduating in the Faculty of Education in Educational Leadership. Feels great!!!

Learning from Inquiry

Final Assignment Due – EDUC454D100 – August 8, 2017

Today is the last, last day of EDUC454D100… meaning, it was the first day in 14 weeks I did not commute out to SFU to teach this class… and, it’s the last day for my students to hand in their final assignment (aka. their quantitative inquiry project or unit plan). I took a break from my oral defence preparation today to commit my time and headspace to read and evaluate these assignments. One by one, they are being submitted. They had until midnight to hand it in… well, the results surprised me.

Admittedly, this was a tricky assignment. Best results would have come from those who started this assignment early in the course… and they were encouraged to. Last minute inquiries or those who opted for no consultation lent itself to a difficult situation for my students such that they would not achieve what I would like them to learn or engage in the assignment because they themselves have not engaged in inquiry before. I wanted to personalized their learning, not a cookie-cutter assignment for my students to complete. Why would I want to read 26 papers of the same thing? I would not. As anticipated, I received a wide variety of inquiry projects.

Project topics ranged from plastic in oceans, measuring light, a vegan diet, to community gardens. My initial thought with the final project stemmed from my understanding of experiential learning. You can’t teach something you’ve never experienced. If we are asking pre-service teachers to teach with inquiry-based learning with BC’s New Curriculum, then they should engage in inquiry based learning. I started this class with Stage 4 Inquiry; they could study any topic they would like with an inquiry question they composed. As we moved forward with the assignment, I would scaffold when needed. From this learning experience, I hoped that my students would glean on some ideas and transfer them to their teaching practice.

As time went on, I realized that many of my students were not comfortable with the idea of inquiry because they have never experienced it before, some were asking questions that were TOO BIG for the length of the course, and some required ethics approval to use human participants for their inquiries of minimal risk. Furthermore, I had several students who wanted to investigate Indigenous worldviews and ways and that had stricter limitations. I had to make adaptations. So instead of a personal inquiry, some students could choose to do a unit plan. Personally, I thought that the unit plan would be more difficult to achieve but I wanted to give an option.

Final assessments ache me… truly. As much as I want everyone to personalize their learning and every project that submitted have been very different from each other… the level of inquiry varied… and what was learned varied. Moreover, the clock struck midnight and not all of my students handed something in. Truth be told, all of them had passed the course before the final assignment but I had hoped that all would be willing to accept the challenge of inquiry as a learner to inform their practice as a teacher. Some students rose to the challenge while others fell short. Not only did I get a diverse set of final assignments, I also had a diverse set of outcomes.

Some assignments made me giggle (in a good way)… some made me wonder… and others just wowed me. I have to remind myself that we all have strengths. Some of us are better face-to-face in discussion. Some of us are better at reading and reflection. Some like to perform while others can synthesize their thoughts eloquently as a final paper or exam. I will admit, it agonizes me to differentiate my students by grading. A part of me wants them to be all the same, but I understand that this is the end of the course and the final assignment was a an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in the course and from inquiry. In the end, I am happy to hear my students enjoyed the course. Many of them shared that with me. For that, I am grateful.

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