Finding Solace

Week 66 – June 14, 2021 – Everyday is a NEW Day

I will admit… some days are harder than others. Today was a tough day for me. I am not sure exactly what was weighing me down. I’d suspect a few things… some are personal, some professional. Slowly but surely I had to stop and take a moment. I cried. Not my jam, but I had to feel my way through it today to unpack and deeply understand what was going on for me. I know that I am in a state of transformation. It’s not easy. I see this in my teacher candidates, especially when they go through practicum. Something in the experience is transformational. All of a sudden they enter the program as students and exit the program as learners/educators.

This weekend I am feeling the shift. I am turning a corner. My job right now is to allow and surrender. Instead I am finding myself resisting, hiding, and protecting myself from the possibilities. I see this behaviour in my candidates as well. When this happens, transformation cannot occur. Practicum becomes challenging and sometimes candidates are unsuccessful. It’s heart wrenching, but there is something to say about readiness, willingness, and vulnerability. I’m not about to shame myself, but I needed a moment today to let go… to wonder… and to feel. I was overwhelmed by grief today. My kid was not happy with me because she could see I was feeling sad.

I could not figure it out. On the weekend, it was pretty clear to me I reached my limit. I need to turn the page. I struggle to find the energy and do all the things I want to do. I look for guidance. I look for help. I am so grateful to have people I can lean on. TRUST does not come easy to me. It scares me. I think today I experienced a “vulnerability hangover.” Brene Brown speaks to this in one of her TEDx talks. The feelings were ugly and you cannot go back in time. I extended myself, but remained guarded. A strange combination. I was uneasy but wanted to take the leap. I felt disconnected when my deepest desire was to connect. Anyway, I’m over it now and found solace.

The power of time and reflection… as I am left thinking about the day. Gawd. I never felt this sadness before. I needed to sit in these feelings so that I can move forward. I start delving into self-doubt, I second guess, and then question my worthiness. It’s an awful feeling when you have other people telling you differently. I took the time and space to be with my sadness, my heartache, and my heavy feelings to put the pieces together to make sense of what I was experiencing and witnessing. This is where I found solace. All of a sudden I felt joy again and happiness. I was able to laugh and giggle. I can lift myself up again and TRUST in who I am, my values, and my integrity.

I needed to get here. No more hiding. No more judging. No more protecting. I can’ t do that anymore. I have to be who I am, believe in what I am doing, and keep persisting when no one seems to understand or hear what I am saying. What I do is not for me. My self interest is student learning and creating spaces that honours equity and diversity. It’s ok if people don’t hear or understand me the first time. Keep moving. Persist. Follow your passion. Today was a tough listening day for me… but as I reflect, I recall the stories shared with me that reminded me of MY WHY and my mantra of “Anything is possible.” I have to believe it’s possible and believe in myself.

Deepest gratitude to the people in my life who hold me up. I would not be here or who I am without you. You inspire me. I hope, one day, I can do the same for you.

Tampering With Why

Davis Bay and the Salish Sea

Week 60 – May 9, 2021 – Happy Mother’s Day

This year is about DISRUPTION and TURBULENCE. This is the pros and cons of being an “experiential learner.” It takes time and you have to go with the punches. Your life is a learning lab. You are given feedback at all times. Your job is to recognize it and when you do… you have a choice on whether or not you do something about it. 

I have to admit… I’m a REFLECTION ADDICT. There was a time when I was so numb to life, that nothing mattered. I was angry. Never happy. And guess what, nothing changed. What’s the point of that? I guess at some level, it was self-serving, but really… what is my agency, what’s within my control, and what am I willing to do?

Sometimes I take risks and sometimes I want to hide. It’s so important to understand “your why” to make those critical decisions that you need to take to serve your greater purpose. Much of my life was lived in fear. Hiding. Trying to be someone else. Now, I understand my why and often it gets tampered with that forces you reflect. 

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of leave Prince George to return back on the Sunshine Coast to be with my kid. I left on Mother’s Day. I felt it would be a nice gift to me despite the complexities and uncertainty of my marriage and the pandemic. At the time (and now), seemed like the right thing to do. No regrets.

Working remotely has been difficult and pivoting my practice into an unknown territory was challenging at best. The only thing that gives me solace is, that it’s a shared experience. It’s been traumatizing to say the least but you have to relent and keep moving forward. In the end, you have to make the most with what you have.

“You can’t please everyone.” This is so true, but I’ve been thinking about this mantra and I’ve come to the realization of “what about me?” Where am I in all of this? I am left to wonder. Self-doubt can get the best of you, but I have an expertise, I have knowledge worth sharing, and I need to connect this understanding to my why.

Recent events… and there has been many are all pointing in the same direction. I need to listen. I need to honour self. I need to fulfil my why. I am pretty stoked about this and it’s going to take a huge amount of vulnerability, courage, and grit. I can do this. I never thought I could, but now I’m more convinced than ever. Here we go.

#pandemicreflection #turningthepage #jumpingtwofeetin 

My Location Statement

Week 51 – March 7, 2021 – Preparing for BCTEN

I took a moment to write a location statement in preparation for our BCTEN Virtual Conference 2021 presentation I am co-creating with a Teacher Candidate. I was inspired by the location statement of Dr. Henry Harder from UNBC. Our presentation is about uncovering one’s cultural identity as an individual and educator help and support learners to develop their own identity. This is my first draft (see below). Admittedly, I found writing my location statement difficult. It could have went in many directions and I kept with one direction. I could have talked about my perception of being “Number 3,” talk about my experience constant struggle with my name, or dig deep into my experiences with racism. Instead, I focused on my career, family, and lack of cultural identity. If anything, this exercise was an excellent opportunity to explore my biases or at least some factors that influenced my identity, values, and sense of self.

Location Statement for
Alice Christine Ho Younghusband
B.Sc., B.Ed., M.Ed., Ed.D.

My name is Alice Christine Ho Younghusband. I am a non-Indigenous settler and first generation Chinese Canadian woman. I am a math educator, teacher educator, and action researcher. I am a mother, daughter, sister, aunty, niece, cousin, colleague, and friend. My mom and dad are both from Hong Kong and immigrated into Canada in 1968. My dad was a gas engineer in Hong Kong, and my mom was a wife and mother. My mom and dad immigrated to Canada with my sister. She was two at the time. My twin brother and I were born 4-years later in Prince Rupert, BC. I am the youngest of three and lived my life as “Number 3.” I have one daughter of my own.

Although I am of Chinese heritage, I do not have my language and know of any Chinese culture. I was assimilated to be a Canadian. My parents were a part of the Chinese Community in Prince Rupert and they worked very hard to give us a better life in Canada. My dad worked at the pulp mill as a chemical engineer and my mom worked at the cannery and pulp mill cafeteria. She was also a coffee shop owner, caterer, and worked at the delicatessen. My mom saved every dime and never asked for help. I remember as a child that my mom used to buy “X bread” (aka. day old bread) to stretch the dollar. They bought a house and built one too in Prince Rupert.

I have good memories of Prince Rupert. I graduated from Prince Rupert Secondary. I love being by the ocean and living in this small town. Being in Prince Rupert defined who I am and yes, I do miss the rain. I’ve always wanted to return back to Prince Rupert but only visited as a guest. At my 20-reunion, I did not realize that I was part of the largest grad class. My childhood was at the height of Prince Rupert’s economy, hence the good memories. After graduating from UBC with my Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education, my first teaching position was on the Sunshine Coast as a secondary math and science teacher. I taught at one school for 16-years.

The Sunshine Coast is/was my home for the last 25-years. I live in a small town by the ocean. This is truly part of my identity. I’ve meandered with my career choices in university and during my time as a math teacher. I completed my Master of Education degree on the Sunshine Coast from SFU in Curriculum and Instruction with hopes of being a school administrator. Over time, I took on teacher leadership roles as the professional development school representative, math department head, and staff rep. I was at the height of my career but broken inside. At the time I felt like I was constantly “fighting” for students at the risk of my own career and mental health.

My dreams of becoming a school administrator dashed, I left teaching and pursued a doctoral degree in educational leadership at SFU. I was so frustrated and disenchanted with leadership that I had to learn more about it. I continued my passion and wrote my dissertation on out-of-field teaching in secondary mathematics, subject matter acquisition, and professional learning. During this time at SFU, I was a school trustee and served on boards locally and provincially, contributed to the Math K-9 in BC’s Curriculum and FNESC First Peoples Math Teachers’ Resource Guide, and worked as a sessional and independent educational consultant.

Many of these opportunities stemmed from my work in K-12 education of a co-created Math 8 project with the District Principal in Aboriginal Education called “Math Embedded: A Tribute to Susan Point.” We created this project because the Math 8/9 curriculum at the time was newly released, the school district moved towards and block and a half for Math 8 (we had extra time), and I wanted to explore new learning for myself and students (because I was no longer teaching Math 12 and Calculus). I was reassigned to teach 2 blocks of Math 8 where each class had one-third of the class identified with learning needs. This project integrated mathematics, First Nations culture, and art. Moreover, we explored Assessment for Learning, technology use, student agency and choice, and co-teaching and co-creating. The results were phenomenal.

I would have loved to pursue this further and explore more deeply this idea of Indigenous culture and mathematics, but I was reassigned again to teach Science 9 with no Math 8 classes. This served as a tipping point. I could not do this any longer. Certainly, there were other factors such as my daughter being little and I resented the idea of not being with her during her first day at school or her first field trip, but I was also feeling burned out because I did not have voice in my own trajectory, and I needed some agency to take back my control. Admittedly, this was a huge turning point in my life such that I was even too scared to tell my parents. I feared disappointment and shame. To my surprise, they were supportive, and it helped me to gain a broader knowledge of K-12 education and perspectives to complete my dissertation.

Soon after I completed my dissertation and graduated from SFU, my mom was dying, and I had the privilege of taking care of her as Number 3 during her final days. She hated asking for help and not being independent or in control. I watched this woman transform from someone who was physically eroding from cancer to someone who took hold of her life and died with strength and dignity. She opted for MAID (medical assistance in dying). She held strong for the family and I learned more about her and from her. My mom was funny, intelligent, and loving. She held the family together. She was a peacekeeper (at least for me) and she found peace.

I am currently an Assistant Professor at UNBC. My mom would have been proud. It does not escape me that I have returned back to Northern BC but continue to live in two places because my daughter lives in Sechelt and hopes to graduate from high school soon. I am also flooded by the feelings of teaching out-of-field. I am learning how to be a researcher (as teaching faculty), I am teaching teacher candidates how to become teachers, and living in Prince George (a place not next to the ocean, not small as Prince Rupert or Sechelt, and snow is normal, not rain). My mom always told me that I never chose to do things the easy way. She is absolutely correct.

I am (re)learning what’s important to me, what’s my research agenda, and what’s my identity. This “pedagogical journey” I am on has not been straightforward, yet when I look back it seems like a straight line. During COVID, I returned to the Sunshine Coast to be with my daughter and teach remotely. I am loving being back in the rain, in community, and by the ocean. Place and land play a huge part in my identity. I am returning back to my roots in math education and assessment and learning more about local Indigenous peoples and culture and how the TRC influences who I am as a settler Chinese Canadian who was also colonized and assimilated. I am learner, leader, and educator. As a result, I will continue to disrupt, question, and take action.

Remembering What’s Important

Week 50 – February 27, 2021 – It’s Mom Day

It’s been 3-years since my mom passed away and I have officially made February 27th MOM DAY. This would have been one of her favourite views… METROTOWN. Gosh. She loved walking around this place. She knew every store and where to get the best food or the best sales. My mom would insist going there everyday to walk around, to at least for exercise or food shop, with my dad. I miss her dearly. 3-years ago today I said GOODBYE. It wasn’t easy, but I respected her decision. I cannot believe that 3-years ago that I wanted to write about my mom and her last 20-days of life. She was sick for months, if not years, and 20-days before February 27, 2018, she was admitted to the hospital. My mom wanted to go home, but on Family Day we learned she had cancer in the liver, on Valentine’s Day she opted to stop testing (she hated the needles), and on Chinese New Year’s Day she decided to for MAID (medical assistance in dying). Damn, she was a strong woman. I have such huge respect for her. And, even though she is not with me in the physical world, she is always with me. I miss her dearly and I continue to learn from her. What an incredible woman. Brave. A maverick, really. All I can say today is, “Happy Mom Day.” I love you. I miss you.

#pandemicreflections #lifeisgood #missingher

Understanding My Value

Week 47 – February 6, 2021 – Everyday is a learning day

Slowly but surely I am getting a better sense of who I am and what I can contribute. I am also learning how to value self and create boundaries that honour self and my work. I realize that at some level “I am the bad guy” because I have to “bad news” to problem solve. I know that I am a person of action, which at times being still would be more appropriate. I can see my value and that people can see my work too.

I am loving taking Saturdays off… guilt free. Even writing this blog entry is challenging because I’m on my computer. I need the rest. Napping was a thing for me today. I loved starting my day with book club, then a walk with my friend at the duck pond. I love the chillax pace of today. Although I have a tonne of things to do, as always, I worked hard this week to ensure that it would end with a natural break.

I’m not going to be shy about the shoes I stand in. Yes, they are Crocs. Another big week to come, but I will start working on my next steps that are best for me and the work I need to delve into. This is not going to be easy work, but I do need to be easy on self so that I can feel good about what I need to do. When I think about it, life is moving forwards as it should. I have nothing to complain about. Life is good.

#pandemicreflections #goingtobed #sleepisgood

A New One Word 2021

Well… 19 days into the new year and I am changing my #OneWord2021. Do not judge but one needs to pivot in these times to be responsive to what is and be open to what will be. I am excited and relieved at the same time. As a friend would say to me, when a door closes, a window opens. That’s the truth. I can feel it and I believe it.

If I really listened to myself and listened to what was really important to me, the door closed on my for a reason. This is not the right path. Change directions. Pivot. Find the joy you deserve and desire. What’s really important to you? I’m faced with this question again. And I wonder, it’s time to be wholehearted and vulnerable. I need to let go of what is and make room for what’s possible.

I can’t wait. I know what’s important to me. I need to get my ego out of the way and do it. I love how my friend can describe my career and passion in three words: math, assessment, and leadership. This is so true. These three words resonate with me. I have deep feelings and attachments to these words. I’ve lost touch with them and would like to reunite soon someday. My work right now is to take action to do so.

My NEW #OneWord2021 is FREEDOM.

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.

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.

Farewell Forties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog Post Catch Up

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

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

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

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