Davis Bay, Sunshine Coast

What a way to end the summer and start the new school year with an inspiring blog entry about REJECTION. I’ve been meaning to write this for some time but it’s been a whirlwind leaving the Sunshine Coast and returning back to Prince George. Why I want to write about REJECTION is that it is often perceived as negative. From what I have been blogging in previous entries, the “making is in the breaking.” We are wanders and sometimes you have to put yourself out there to realize if something was meant to happen or not. Whether it be an application for a job or program… a relationship… or the stomach flu, you invite something in with hopes of it working out (or not).

I may sound indifferent, but really I’m grateful. What REJECTION means to me is, this is the WRONG way. Thanks for trying, but try again. It’s not so say that you couldn’t try again and depending on context that might be the most appropriate thing to do. It reminds me of Assessment for Learning and Formative Feedback. Try. Get feedback. What are you going to do about it. Try again. But “trying again” can also mean in another context to try something else. This is not the direction to take. The universe is talking, shall we say… or serendipity. You are meant to be somewhere else. I embrace that thinking. Don’t define yourself by REJECTION but rather, ask yourself what’s next?

I am brought to the First Peoples Principles of Learning: LEARNING TAKES PATIENCE AND TIME. It’s more than just the western/euro point of view of giving time and being patient. It’s more about being on a journey and you are learning certain things at certain times and you might not be totally aware as to why you are learning something at a particular time or at a particular place, but you are meant to learn it in preparation for something else. There is a bigger picture or intention meant for all of us and each of us know what that is, whether if we can admit it to ourselves or not. We need to trust the process and deeply engage in the present with the understanding it will help us in the future.

I just came back from a professional learning experience in the Nechako Lakes School District at the Nadleh Whut’En First Nations at the Nautley River with KOH-Learning. It was an amazing experience and I had realized the importance of connecting oneself to the land because LAND IS IDENTITY. I have a deeper understanding of that, as I am a visitor to this territory, but also as someone who lives in two places. It is incredibly challenging and diverse. For me, it’s not to reject where I am but to embrace and invite where I am to understand who I am. And when I look around the Central Interior of BC (compared the the Coast), it is equally spectacular and beautiful here as it is at my other home. CONNECTION. PASSION. IDENTITY. We were asked to think of 3 words after our learning experience and this is what I’ve come to learn. Love where you are.

Being on the land that day and being next to the river helped me to rebuild my relationship with WATER. I love the water. I’ve always felt connected to it as a child and as an adult. This is not to say I swim or like to be in a boat, but I love listening to and watching the ripples form in water. I was born and raised by the ocean and my adult years living near the ocean. I remember noticing when returning to the Sunshine Coast from Prince George was the sound of the ocean waves and the smell of the salt air. It’s incredible. The water speaks to me. But being at Nautley River, I realized that the water rippling through the river was equally amazing and wonderful. She is speaking to me.

My biggest take-away from the KOH-Learning experience was “What is the watershed/waterways teaching us?” We engaged in a World Cafe activity and I was facilitating this table. We are all connected and interconnected. The river is resilient. THE SALMON ARE RESILIENT. Yes!!! They are. They will always know how to swim upstream when the conditions have changed. The river will continue to flow even if it’s been traumatized by a damn or landslide. We will find a way. Therefore, there is no such thing as REJECTION. We are resilient. We are meant to take a different path.


Nadleh Whut’En First Nations

Pursuing Your Jam

Here is something that I thought I would never do. I got a tattoo. This is my first and thus my tattoo-virginity is now gone. I got this tattoo with my daughter last week. She got a picture of orchids on the side of her arm. We got these tattoos as a tribute to my mom. I loved when I showed my tattoo to my friend today… she said, “it’s like it was always there.” Like it was meant to be… Thank you. Yes. My mom has always been with me. I love looking at my arm and seeing her name VIVIEN. She named herself after the actress Vivien Leigh when she moved to Canada. I love how her name is spelled… with an “e” instead of an “a.” It’s so unique and special to me. I love how my friend said that she can see the word “vie” in the name, which means “life” in French. Even better!!!

I’ve just finished my mini-blog series about my year of professional learning in 2018/19 and what I have learned from reflecting on my learning experiences is… you have to be PURSUING YOUR JAM. Am I pursing my jam? When you are pursuing “your jam”… you are doing what you love to do, you know who are are, and you understand your “why.” This is one of my most favourite things to do… chatting with people who have found their jam. I love going to Circle Craft in Vancouver because I love chatting with people about why they do what they do. Some of these people create jewelry, others make clothing while others make food. Why are you doing what you are doing? What motivates you?

If I am really listening… to myself and others… I have constructed my edu-trajectory from the beginning I was about 16-years old, the same age as my daughter, and I used to write on a piece of paper “Dr. Christine Ho, BSc, MSc, PhD.” I guess this was a form of visioning, but I would do that often when I was in high school. My dad reminded me of this story at the end of my doctoral oral defence. What the? Not only do you tell this story to my examination panel but I learned that you used to sneak into my bedroom and looked at my stuff. What a strange way to find out. Anyway, this caught my attention in addition to another event. At a BCSTA/CSBA conference in Whistler, I was the emcee. I was a trustee and debated whether to apply for a job with BCSTA or continue on with being a school trustee. I was chatting with the two educators who helped organize this conference and I learned that they both had their PhD. One said to me, “I’m not like you. You do research.” She was an educational leader from the Vancouver School District.

I went to Oprah’s event in Vancouver on June 24th about “The Path Made Clear – Discovering your Life’s Direction and Purpose” and what she had to say at the end of her presentation is, “you’ve always known.” You know what your life path is going to be. I was a bit stunned about what she had said and yet, she is right. I have always known and sometimes I had BETRAYED myself many times on this journey. The story about my dad and educational leader from Vancouver were only two examples of many that reminds me that I have always known. In my last blog entry “Six of Six – Transformative,” I wondered how teaching mathematics had anything to do with educational research. Now, I understand. I think about one of my edu-heroes, Nel Nodding. I saw her spoke almost 10-years ago at SFU. She is a former secondary mathematics teacher who now known as a scholar who researches about the ethics of care. Teaching mathematics and serving a school trustee, for example, are only steps on our path. Oprah speaks about this as well.

I am filled with fear. I will not be shy about that. It’s challenging to think about being a “writer” or “researcher.” It seems like a lofty goal or dream (for me) but it seems that this is my life’s direction or purpose. I never thought I would be writing on a blog and enjoy writing. I never thought during my dissertation that I would enjoy data analysis. I do. I have to remember that everything I am doing (whether perceived right or wrong) contributes to my life’s path. I feel myself holding myself back because I am “scared” or “fearful” of what could be and where it will take me. What I am realizing is, I need to pursue my jam. My jam is my curiosity about leadership, teaching, and learning in the K-12 context. I am interested in systems, assessment, and professional learning.

What I need to do is WRITE… my #OneWord2019… and READ (more)… to deepen my understandings and propel myself towards RESEARCH… which will help me to investigate and learn more about what I am curious about in education. Although this is a “required process” to survive (and get promoted) in higher education in addition to teaching (my source of joy), my motivation is to fuel my passion, be vulnerable, and pursue my jam.

What are you passionate about? What’s your jam? What are you doing about it?

I Am Happy

JOY (noun): a state of happiness or felicity.

Wow. I started this blog entry on August 16, 2019 and many, many things have changed since. And yet, I am still happy. This is AMAZING and I am so HAPPY that I am still happy. Can it get any more meta than that? I don’t think so. This is what I wrote back then…

August 16, 2019

Here I am. HAPPY. I was driving home tonight… alone… knowing that my kid was at a friend’s place and my husband was out of town. The only one waiting at home for me was my dog. So I could not resist and pulled aside to stop at Davis Bay and take a short walk along the pier and ocean. My initial intention was to take a picture… and I did… but I also wanted to embrace this moment of solitude to reflect and be grateful. Life is good.

It’s been an extraordinary week (so far) and I met up with a few friends from past and present over the past few days. Some are visiting the Sunshine Coast while others live here. I’m returning back to Prince George soon and connecting up with different people before I go to the university to teach is important to me. HELLO and GOODBYE. I would say that the people I’ve met and spoke to over the last few days have been serendipitous.

I am reminded of where I came from and where I am today. I would consider it a real-life meta-reflection via face-to-face dialogue and connection. I reunited with folks from my teaching days in the 90’s; I spoke with folks from my school board days; and, I met up with a student from the university I teach at. This is not to mention I was also connecting with a friend and colleague of mine who was with me throughout all these stages of my teaching profession. We call ourselves Grass-Fed Butter and Margarine. I feel very lucky.

Focus on the feeling… It was fun reminiscing with my former colleagues and friends of teaching in the late 90’s. It was early in my teaching career. I remember very vividly the people I taught and taught with. I have very fond memories and I believe I was the most autonomous and effective as a teacher at that time. We were a community… or dare I say, a FAMILY… who had FUN at our workplace. We loved what we did and we loved the students, even though it was challenging as heck. In the end, we had each other’s backs.

I loved laughing with my friends at OUR 20 year reunion and realized that none of us are teaching at that school anymore. Times have changed and we moved into different directions. That was clear evidence of growth, but we were true alumni. What I realized that day is, even though there were only a few of us meeting up that day, I remember every teacher’s name. They had a lasting impact on me and who I am as a teacher.

Meeting up with a couple of folks who served on the board with me was also telling. I was very happy to see them and to see how they were doing, but I learned that this chapter of my life is also closed. I have moved on and I am back to my calling of teaching and being an educator (and researcher). Meeting up with one of my students on the Sunshine Coast was spectacular. We had a brief conversation in Prince George about the summer, camping, and presence of wildfire smoke. A few months later, my student and their family arrived on the Sunshine Coast to camp and immerse themselves in this amazing place.

Connecting, reminiscing, listening, laughing, and conversing with these people this week made me realize that my “midlife moment” is over. I know what I am meant to do and want to do. I understand my why and I was reminded today that THE MAKING COMES FROM THE BREAKING. I was broken a few months ago. I will own that. I am grateful to have people who stood beside me, particularly Grass-Fed Butter. I took the time to heal. But when you are broken, as painful and agonizing it is, a new chapter is just beginning.

Today… August 14, 2019… I AM HAPPY. Revelation. Thank you for everyone who have been integral to my personal and professional growth and development. There are many. TRANSFORMATION can be very difficult. Think of a butterfly. Once the caterpillar has fed, grown, and fully developed… it pupates in a chrysalis. When metamorphosis is complete, the adult insect (aka. butterfly) climbs out, it’s wings dry, and flies off. It’s tough work. There is ongoing growth. After a brief incubation time… there’s a new you!!! #yayme

September 7, 2019

I am back in Prince George and happy to be back at work. We’ve been running ever since I arrived. My mind has been pretty busy nonetheless, but I was broken again with the news on the day of my arrival to Prince George that my husband ended our marriage. I’ll admit, it took me about 8-years to finally complete my “midlife moment” but now it’s time for my soon to be ex-husband. After our 28-year relationship, we are officially separated.

I was spooked by seeing so many people from my past. I thought I was going to die. I even met my mentor from my first year of teaching just days before I returned back to Prince George. It was a 25-year reunion. Come to think about it, I did die. My marriage is dead, yet we will continue to co-parent. I am keeping his name as well as mine. I am rebranding. He is part of my identity. What disappoints me is, I had it all wrong. My bad. My TRANSFORMATION is now complete. I’m not sad or depressed. I was very angry, but now I am very excited, optimistic, and curious. The making comes from the breaking. 

Our separation created space for me… and I’m stoked. Dr. Christine Ho Younghusband is turning a corner. I hope my soon-to-be ex-husband finds happiness and is happy with his new trajectory. Big picture, I am happy too. The future is bright… and I can’t wait.

Six of Six: Transformative

The day after… Six of Six is REVISED. I was motivated by the wrong reasons of “getting it done.” This is not to say that completion of tasks is a bad thing, but I normally like to write when I take the time to reflect and get inspired to write. I woke up this morning feeling like I was not my authentic self to really depict the TRANSFORMATIVE nature of my professional learning this year. Yes, I scraped the surface with some thinking and topics in the first iteration of this blog entry, but I want to take the moment to delve into what I mean by “transformative” in my professional learning (and self), so this blog may require some to take a second read.

This is my last blog entry for this #miniblogchallenge. As much as I love reflecting on my year of professional learning via 6 words, as asked by @JanetChowMSc on #bcedchat in June (celebrating our 6th anniversary), and challenged by @RosePillay1 to write more about each word… I have other writing to do (my #OneWord for 2019: Write). It’s taken a full year to get to this point of understanding. Let’s do this!!!

In this mini-blog challenge series, there are 5 blog entries that precede this one…

One of Six: Collaborative
Two of Six: Dialogical
Three of Six: Networks
Four of Six: Exploratory
Five of Six: Exciting

Without further anticipation… here is blog Six of Six: Transformative. THIS is the word that Rose was waiting for… TRANSFORMATIVE. How was my professional learning experience transformative in 2018/19? A great question… and it’s time to address this question TODAY. It’s a back-to-back blog day as I just wrote “Five of Six: Exciting.”

I’ve just posted a few of these pictures on Facebook and Instagram. My little family and I ventured to Gibsons to go to the GARLIC FESTIVAL at the Persephone Brewing Company. What an amazing community event… and it was busy. I was so happy to find a parking spot. There were a half a dozen stands selling garlic (of course) and other locally grown or made foods. There was honey, vegetables, and vegan chocolate. What more can you ask for? Oh wait, there was locally brewed beer and cider as well as a food truck on the side. It was the place to be on BC Day. We bought some tomatoes and garlic (see above).

I got inspired to make a tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil salad for dinner with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing… served with BBQ spareribs and garlic bread. We bought cheese and basil from SuperValu and VOILA… salad. Slice the tomato, slice the cheese, and tear off basil leaves. It got a little messy but together (see photo below) it made a beautiful and tasty dish. It was AMAZING. I was so happy. What a beautiful metaphor to my TRANSFORMATIVE mini-blog on my year of professional learning. Each ingredient equates to a part or element of my professional expertise. Each ingredient needed time to grow. Each ingredient possesses different qualities and characteristics that is unique to itself. But when the ingredients are put together to make something else, this is where the magic begins and there is something new to discover. The process of transformation is messy and unpredictable, but once assembled, it was really delicious.

Transformation is not a linear process. You have to let go of some core beliefs and develop a deep understanding of who you are. Currently I am working with a group of educators talking about making changes to one of the MEd programs at UNBC. What I love about this group is that they are willing to CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO. They are thinking about things that excite me and makes me think. But also, they are talking about “transformative leadership” and “transformative learning.” What is this, what does it look like, and how are we going to get there? I love the concept and even though we are still in the talking-phase of our work. I am very interested to see how these ideas will manifest over time and if/when it will be implemented. On the other hand, working with FNESC (First Nations Steering Committee) on the Math and Secondary Science Teachers Resource Guide, I had many moments that felt like “a punch in the head.” I don’t mean that the experience awful or frightening. Quite the contrary. What I was learning kept on challenging my thinking and beliefs. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I’m still learning. My job is to listen, understand, and get back up to be punched in the head again. It’s not an easy process to hear the truth to get to a place of reconciliation but it’s the work that has to be done and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to do so. I have many plans for the new year.

When I think about previous blogs that I have written about the things I’ve done professionally, I spoke of different positions I’ve held in education. I was a secondary mathematics teacher (16 years), school trustee (7 years), doctoral student/research assistant (?? years), curriculum developer (3 years), sessional instructor (3 years), math tutor (8 years), educational consultant (9 years), and Assistant Professor (one year). How are these positions interconnected? Why did I take this path? I wonder about that often.

Although I’ve accomplished some pretty incredible things this year at UNBC, I have not fully embraced the idea (yet) that I am an assistant professor and educational researcher. This year, I got to teach full-time in the teacher education program with a couple graduate level courses; I participated in two committees looking at educational reform in the teacher education and MEd programs. And, I am a UNBC senator. This is not to mention my first publication with Dr. Daniel Laitsch from SFU (my EdD supervisor) and worked with FNESC and OSBC (Open Schools BC). I continued my work with #bcedchat and BCAMT, but for doors to open, I have to close some doors. This is the challenging part. In the end, I could not let go of my teaching roots of teaching secondary math.

For the past school year, I felt lost or disconnected along with my unwillingness to let go. I could not believe that I was living in Prince George and living the life of an academic. How does reading, writing, and research have a thing to do with teaching mathematics? Nothing and everything. Talk about the IMPOSTER SYNDROME. Yet, I would not be the person I am today without the experiences of being a math teacher, school trustee, and early researcher during my doctorate. All of these INGREDIENTS (and more) are coming together very nicely in my professorship at UNBC. The process has been messy and uncertain, but also “collaborative, dialogical, networked, exploratory, and exciting.” I found myself second guessing while transforming, but I am so content with where I am TODAY. It’s taken the whole year to realize this. The barrier in my professional learning and growth is MYSELF and the belief in myself that I can do it and that I am doing it. THIS IS WHERE I AM MEANT TO BE.

When I took the picture below with Rose and April McKnight (@rilmcknight) at CAfLN in May I was beside myself and feeling uncertain. Transformation is not fun, challenging, and extremely disruptive. You have to subject yourself to EXTREME VULNERABILITY to challenge your core beliefs… and change. Get out of the comfort zone and put yourself out there. This process of transformation is very reminiscent of the change I witness our teacher candidates experiencing in our teacher education program. As my EdD supervisor Dan Laitsch said to me during my doctoral work, “why would you enrol in this program if you didn’t expect to change?” I am returning back to this learning all over again.

There is no question that after this past year working at UNBC, engaging in various professional learning activities that are new to me, and challenging myself to extend beyond my perceived capabilities have been incredibly transformative. This is not to hide the internal struggle of disrupting who I think I am and what I am able to do. My job is to get up and always try again. This is the journey I have chosen and now I think the pieces are all fitting together. Thank you to my friends, colleagues, and PLN for having my back and believing in me. And, I am very grateful to all of those who I have met and reconnected with in Prince George. I do feel at home here. It’s been a challenging year of professional learning at the university for many reasons, but also a rewarding year. I never thought THIS was possible, but all the pieces have come together, I am learning, and this is what I am meant to do. I have transformed and will continue to change.

Five of Six: Exciting

Oh geez… as I look back at my original blog post of accepting this mini-blog challenge by @RosePillay1, I realized that the question posed by @JanetChowMSc, the moderator of #bcedchat on June 30th was asking for 6 words to describe your PERSONAL LEARNING… not professional learning, which is what I had originally thought the question asked. Hmm… all I can say is TOO LATE… I’m on the home stretch with this mini-blog series and it’s almost over. I am not going back. That said, I’ve really enjoyed having to write about my year of professional learning and taking the opportunity to synthesize and summarize my learning into 6 words… then challenged to describe what those words really mean to me in context to my professional learning experience in 2018/19. In many ways, it’s much like getting students in BC to summarize their learning with respect to the Core Competencies in a student self-reflection. It’s a challenging task and would challenge other teaching professionals to take this challenge on as a blog or written journal.

OH YAY… now it’s my time to reflect and comment about EDCI 568 at UVIC with Dr. Valerie Irvine (@_valeriei) and #TIEGRAD. Valerie is an assistant professor and co-teaches this course on Social Media and Professional Learning with her college who teaches research methodology. They co-teach their course online… or at least it is accessible online. I love her point of view that technology makes learning accessible and breaks down barriers to those who seek higher education. So, as you can see in the selfie photo above, some students access her course online while other can attend face-to-face. I love this idea!!! What’s more incredible is, they co-teach their courses within 3-weeks in the summer as a “kick start” to their Master of Education program in Technology Education. (OK. I will admit, I may not be getting the terms exactly right, but its the BIG IDEA that I am focussed on.) Anyway, Valerie and her colleague invited guest speakers from Twtitterverse to impart some wisdom, expertise, or insight on education, social media, and professional learning. I was one of them. She just asked and I accepted.

Why did Valerie invite me? I’m the “regular shmoo”… a teacher in the field who uses social media for professional learning. My expertise is my use of social media as a teacher and teacher educator… as consumer and contributor… as a member of the #bcedchat co-moderator team… and well, an exemplar that ANYONE CAN DO THIS. This is so true. I would also like to say that writing this blog is my opportunity to write about this professional learning experience. It was incredible. This was the first time that I got to chat with Valerie even though we’ve been following each other on Twitter for years. We also had the opportunity to chat online via video chat to sort out some of our ideas but also get to know each other. I had so much fun in these conversations. I want to learn more about what she is doing in her research but also what’s she’s doing with her #tiegrad v.2 MEd cohort at UVIC. She invited many speakers to her class who were members of her #PLN and how graciously shared their time and expertise to be a part of her class. I LOVE THIS. Can you see that I am getting excited!!! THIS IS EXCITING!!!

This is the power of social media. Send me a DM on Twitter. Ask… and you shall receive. Anyone is accessible on Twitter. I’ve heard many stories about “regular educators” making connections with “edu-gurus” or educational leaders and having a conversation AS EQUALS. Twitter (as one social media platform) levels the playing field. Our ROLE on Twitter is as LEARNER… that’s it. We are all learners on Twitter. That’s the fun part of using social media as a means for professional learning. It’s a place where I can share my blog, but my blog helps me to think about what I am thinking about… oh yes, METACOGNITION. I feel more INTERCONNECTED to my PLN and others in the teaching field. Some also use Facebook and Facebook groups as a means to connect, share, and learn. I was so happy to connect up with Valerie’s class who you can follow online at #tiegrad. I am so interested in what they are doing and the momentum that Valerie is discovering with her class as to how we can use technology to teach and learn. My #bcedchat co-moderator and friend, Ian Landy (@technolandy) joined me as we co-presented during Valerie’s class. He’s AMAZING because he inspires me with his work and learning activity on social media. That’s how Ian and I have met… on Twitter. That goes the same for Valerie, Janet, and Rose (everyone that I have mentioned in this blog).

I also want to mention that Valerie and #tiegrad took this notion of using technology and social media further by hosting a #tiegrad #EdCamp. I was so impressed. I saw the invitation… on Twitter, of course… and started engaging in the TieGrad EdCamp journey. I’ve been to a few EdCamps before and this EdCamp mimicked EdCamp beautifully, but all online. We registered, suggested a topic (or two), we voted on topics, and 5 topics were chosen for our online one-hour EdCamp. It felt exactly like EdCamp but it was virtual. There was no way I was going to miss this event… but I was experiencing some EXTREME technology issues that week (and a few weeks before), so I attended this event on my phone. It had to be done and was so glad to make this event. Topics ranged from digital citizenship to Indigenous Education. I attended Indigenous Education.

Valerie had 5 virtual places open, one for each EdCamp topic and on that Monday at 12pm, we “jumped in with two feet” and attended the #tiegrad #edcamp topic of choice. You can stay or you can go. That’s the premise of EdCamp. No feelings are hurt if you leave because you are the agent of your learning. YOU CHOOSE what you want to learn… and if that topic is not for you, then leave and join another group. I was super stoked to join the Indigenous Education group, especially after working with FNESC on the Math and Science Teacher Resource Guides. I reconnected with some of the grad students from the #tiegrad program and met a few other people who joined the group who were personally invited by Valerie but also were researchers or experts in the field. I really appreciated talking to a group of BC educators about Indigenous Education and talking about some comprehensive projects some of the MEd students are considering. I also loved having the opportunity to share what I’ve learned as a non-Indigenous educator about Indigenous Education with other non-Indigenous (or settler) educators. It was a chance to emphasize that choosing NOT to include Indigenous Education into your classroom in BC is a privilege, thus it is a moral imperative to do so. Anyway, what I realized is, non-Indigenous educators need more time and opportunities to discuss in a safe, collaborative place talk more about Indigenous Education and our practice.

Wow… submissions for my mini-blog challenge was intended to be SHORT and SUCCINCT, but as you can see I’M EXCITED. I can keep talking this and I AM LEARNING. I will be teaching the EdTech course at UNBC this school year and this was an excellent exemplar and professional learning opportunity as to how to embed technology into teaching and learning. Although we were initially discussing professional learning and social media, this is really about how we can make learning accessible, dialogical, and engaging via technology. This is a social justice issue and Valerie has brought that to my attention. Thank you Valerie for inviting me to be a part of your #tiegrad v.2 class this year. I loved it. I’m learning. And, I am super excited about the potential of technology in the MEd programs at UNBC, the BEd Teacher Education programs at UNBC, and K-12 students.

PS. Both photos were taken with permission from the UVIC #tiegrad students and EdCamp participants to take and to post. Thank you for for inviting me into your class and I am super excited for you and your professional learning in your MEd program.

Four of Six: Exploratory

It’s August 1st and I’m heading back to Prince George from the Sunshine Coast in a few weeks. Where has the time gone?  Here is Four of Six: Exploratory… the next segment of my mini-blog series about my professional learning experiences in 2018/19… challenged by @RosePillay1 and supported by @JanetChowMSc from the June 30, 2019 #bcedchat. I will admit, I am going to cheat today with TWO BLOGS AT ONCE. What I mean by that is, I am committed to writing to this mini-blog series, but I am also committed to writing a blog about my upcoming research and professional learning experience with Nina Pak Lui (@npaklui) and Dr. Gillian Judson (@perfinker) on Assessment in Higher Education.

Being EXPLORATORY in education would seem like the obvious thing to do for teachers and students, I would even say for administrators and parents too. Learning is about exploring. The act of research is about exploring, even though the contents of my research was trying to explain or describe an educational phenomena. Although it may seem obvious that all stakeholders in education should be exploring in our field as learners, its a “tough crowd” out there if something does not work out the way as planned or as well as you hoped. As a result, everyone is a critic. Ironically, it takes a lot of vulnerability and “tough skin” for an educator, leader, or student to be exploratory.

This school year as a teacher educator, I had the opportunity of being an explorer. I was learning about the program, the university, and the job. Yet, on the other hand, I was compelled and encouraged to explore in my practice and hopefully soon in my research. I was focussed on Assessment in Higher Education and how we could embed more formative assessment into teacher education programs and graduate studies. Embedding Assessment for Learning into my practice as a secondary mathematics teacher CHANGED MY PEDAGOGY, focussed more on student learning, and managed to stay within the framework of grading and provincial exams. I wanted to do this in higher education.

Who was I kidding? I thought grades in high school were important. Grades in higher education are even more important and this way of thinking has endured 4-5 more years to reinforce the idea that grades equate to learning. I would like to challenge this notion. What are grades? What are work habits? We mix the two up in K-12 when work habits do not equate to achievement, but they might be related. In higher education, we don’t have a work habit section on transcripts so either that variable goes missing from the summative assessment or gets conflated or mixed into final grades. Working hard at something does not equate to your understanding of the course content or competencies.

To over simply my summative assessment practice in secondary mathematics, the chapter tests and final exam were worth 100% and homework and quizzes were worth 0%. Everything that we did during class was all about our preparation and learning for the “big event” that would synthesize and summarize their learning. It was incredible. Students were on board. EVERYTHING WAS FORMATIVE until the very end. I was on their side. I was no longer the “policeman” tracking their work, but I was the “educator” who helped them learn the content. The students were agents of their own learning and personalized their learning to achieve a common goal. There was no competition. We worked together to learn together. It was fun. How could I mimic this in higher education?

Well… I will be blogging more about my assessment journey in higher education as part of a mini-network formed with Nina and Gillian. I met Nina at CAfLN where Gillian was presenting about Imagination and Assessment. Nina was captured by that presentation, as well as I, and a long story made short, we have created a mini-network to use the Spirals of Inquiry to research or do a collaborative Action Research study on Assessment in Higher Education. I’ve been teaching in higher education for a few years, three as a sessional instructor and one as a full-time teacher educator. Admittedly, it’s been a hit and miss experience in higher education with attempts of embedding formative assessment and implementing a summative summative assessment that captures the teacher candidate’s learning that is personalized and meaningful. Grades, percentages, and policies pertaining to the course syllabus hinder what I think I am able to do.

On the one hand, I have students on board and focused on learning. On the other hand, I have students who want the grade and will do whatever I ask them to do to get the grade with clear expectations and outcomes so that they can get the grade. Any level of uncertainty on my part, thus on their part, only generates angst, questions, and a lack of trust. One of my main goals when I frame a class around assessment is to design learning or learning experience that would model what I would like them to design and facilitate for their students. Sadly, I’m learning while I am doing. Not everything unfolds exactly as I had imagined or planned but I would like my students to be nimble and go with the flow (aka. move forward based on their learning needs). Habits are hard to break, I say that lightly, for me and the students. I am not convinced that having a pass/fail framework would be better in our program, but it’s more about learning than achieving. Moreover, courses end with a grade. Quality of the work matters.

I’ve tried the “imaginative collaborative summative,” which I described in Gillian’s blog http://www.educationthatinspires.ca/2019/07/15/an-imaginative-collaborative-summative/ That was extremely successful. We focused on the formative. We collaborated, shared our ideas and thoughts, and co-constructed our knowledge of what school based teams would look like and operate… and understand why. We personalized our learning and we were able to come together successfully in a collaborative summative EVENT. I have some successful moments in my undergrad classes over the past few years but some students would underestimate the power of this framework and underperform or not attend, while other students perceived this framework as too fluid or too easy such that they asked for higher grades or expected to get higher grades. Ahhh yes… back to the grades. So, I am SUPER EXCITED to work with Nina from Trinity Western University and Gillian from Simon Fraser University to research and EXPLORE about Assessment for Learning in Higher Education in collaboration with CAfLN. I look forward to the upcoming year and believe we will be blogging about our learning experiences as data collection. I can’t wait.


Three of Six: Networks

First of all, I have all of my computers back from the shop. No more phone blogging for this mini-blog series. Thank goodness because I noticed on the last two blog entries that some photos were upside-down. Yeesh. You can’t see formatting so well on the phone, but the orientation of photos have been remedied. Second, I’ve been thinking about this blog entry for some time. I love the reflective nature of the mini-blog series and Three of Six: Networks has come together very nicely… or shall I say, serendipitously.

Once again, I would like to thank @RosePillay1 for challenging me to do a mini-blog series and @JanetChowMSc for moderating the 6th anniversary #bcedchat and supporting Rose’s challenge. I don’t think that I would have moved forward otherwise and I am very grateful. Both Rose and Janet are in my Professional Learning Network (PLN). This blog entry is about NETWORKS and I would like to describe 3 recent examples that exemplifies the “power of networks” in professional learning and how it played out for me.

The first example is this “Beyond Report Cards – Assessment” Facebook group my friend Shannon Schinkel (@dramaqueen4) started up. When she invited me to this “secret” Facebook Group on Wednesday night, there were only 4 of us. Three days later on Saturday afternoon, there are now 730 members. The group is growing exponentially and exceeding expectations. Do you know how many times I took a screen shot of this image below? My first screen shot started at 479… then it was 536… to 601… to 665… to 707… to 730. I had to stop taking screenshots and write this blog. AMAZING is all I can say!!!

This is a beautiful NETWORK and we are still doing introductions. To join this group, you have to be invited and accept the invitation.  BC educators inviting BC educators. Once the group establishes its membership, Shannon will make the group “public.” I was so impressed how many BC educators who were interested in learning and sharing more about assessment and going “Beyond Report Cards.” Yay for Shannon!!! She saw a need and went for it and I am happy to support her in this initiative. I am a moderator for the group and she’s the administrator. Really… Shannon is taking the lead and I am super proud of her for creating this group and facilitating a discussion with BC educators about formative assessment on Facebook.

The crazy part is, Shannon and I first met on Twitter. We were mutual followers and met face-to-face for the first time when I moved to Prince George. Her hospitality and kindness will not be overlooked. She welcomed me into her community and took me out for a walk to the Ancient Forest when I first arrived. We co-modded #bcedchat a couple of times and once about assessment. I know that we are kindred spirits regarding assessment and I am super stoked about her excitement and passion. She is willing to play, experiment, and share with others on Twitter and Facebook. Ironically, most of my PLN is on Twitter, so I felt somewhat limited as to who I could invite to this “secret” group. The numbers don’t lie and BC educators are networked. People will join the FB group over time. I am looking forward to Question 1 on Monday. It’s going to be great!!!

My second example just happened on Friday during one of my edu-walks with my friend Caroline (@caropicard). Seriously, we ALWAYS talk about education… which I love. On our walk this day we were walking along the waterfront of the Sechelt Indian Band. There is a row of little cottages at the end of this road, which terminates at a small sandy beach. We have done this walk in awhile and it was so fun to walk along this road again imagining us sitting on two lounge chairs that are situated on a little platform on the water. We like to dream. We were walking in front of a truck on this road where this couple was politely trying to pass us to get to one of these cottages. Caroline and I moved out of the way and we reached the end of the street. We turned around to walk back to Sechelt.

On our walk, Caroline and I were talking about Indigenous Education. I was sharing with her my learning experience that I just finished online with the UVIC #tiegrad led by Dr. Valerie Irvine (@_valeriei). She was facilitating an online version of an EdCamp with her Technology In Education (TIE) MEd cohort and it was brilliant. We went through the entire process of signing up, providing topics, voting for topics, and participating in one (or more) of the topics online via BlueJeans. One of the five topics being discussed was Indigenous Education. Given my interest in Indigenous Education, I joined this group (Group 5) with some #tiegrad students and researchers from outside of the cohort. I will blog about this event further in Five of Six: Exciting.

Caroline and I were discussing this online EdCamp session and SERENDIPITOUSLY Jessica Silvey (@weavingwoman4) jumped out in front of us during our walk. Literally, she jumped out in front of us and said, “Are you Christine? Do you remember me? I’m Jessica Silvey.” I was so starstruck. I thought I recognized her in the truck but I said NOTHING. She’s a weaver from the Sechelt Nation. She holds weaving workshops in Sechelt, Squamish, and the UBC Museum of Anthropology. She is connected to my friend and colleague Janice Novakowski (@jnovakowski38) who just visited Jessica last week. I know Janice from Twitter, #bcedchat, FNESC, and BCAMT. It was such an amazing moment for Jessica to jump out and introduce herself to us because she wanted to show me something. I introduced her to Caroline and we proceeded to Jessica’s home. OH MAN… I was so enamoured by the CEDAR all over her patio. I wanted to take pictures so badly, but restrained. We walked inside Jessica’s home and she showed us a “kit” she is working on for the school district. It was a BASKET OF CULTURE. It had cedar, shells, slate, a map, handouts/flashcards, the shishalh dictionary, story books, and so much more. I was OVERWHELMED, excited, and very curious about how I could use this kit in my classroom. She is working on this in collaboration with Kerry Mahlman (@allnationscoast) from SD46.

I could not believe the SERENDIPITY of this interaction and knowing of the upcoming professional development days in BC dedicated to Indigenous Education. I was so happy with our conversation, but no photos taken… out of respect and privacy. As a result, I took a selfie with Caroline and I on the Sechelt pier after our visit and walk… then tweeted about it. Jessica tweeted back. That excited me as well. This is a connection I would like to continue. I want to learn and understand more. This I know, WE ARE NETWORKED.  I was vibrating after that visit. It was such an honour to be in Jessica’s home to talk about the kits, Indigenous Education, and the kit’s potential.

My final example to briefly highlight and emphasize the word of NETWORKS to describe my professional learning this year is this photo of Sandra McAuley (@sandramcauley72) from SD 54. She works in Smithers and she’s a member of my #PLN, much like the others I’ve mentioned above. How do I know her? From TWITTER. She welcomed me with open arms when I first announced that I was teaching in Prince George at UNBC. We had many chats on Twitter about meeting up in Smithers or Prince George. Neither has happened YET to date. But we did meet face-to-face at the BC Core Competencies Ed Camp in Richmond, BC that is lead by Janice Novakowski (@jnovakowski38) and Carrie Antoniazzi (@carrieantoniazz)… who BTW were inspired to create this camp for BC educators from a conversation on #bcedchat… and Sandra and I met face-to-face in Sechelt!!! She was visiting and we met at the Lighthouse Pub. The 5 hours we met felt like 5 minutes.

It is so fun to meet members of my #PLN to delve in on some edu-talk. It was amazing to meet up with Sandra. I got to learn more about her practice, pedagogy, and passions. I am soooooo inviting her to guest speak at one of my classes in the fall. She’s got a tonne of expertise and I want to share that with my teacher candidates. Sandra is super, duper awesome and I can’t wait to collaborate with her soon… but she is one example of the AMAZING people in my PLN and I have already mentioned a few in this blog. Build your PLN. I only mentioned a few examples in this blog entry and can think of many more. NETWORKS is a place to be for your professional learning. What networks are you a part of? How do these people contribute to your professional learning?

Two of Six – Dialogical

Oh my gosh… it’s days later and I’m still phone blogging. Albeit I am sitting in the waiting room at BC Ferries en route back to the Sunshine Coast (see photo below) but all 3 of my computers are in the shop. I should be able to pick up my computers tomorrow but in the meantime, I might as well address Two of Six words that describe my year of professional learning: DIALOGICAL. Thank you again @RosePillay1 for this mini-blog challenge and @JanetChowMSc for supporting her and nudging me on. I love the challenge. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on these words to uncover what they really mean to me.

DIALOGICAL. I learned this word from my edu-hero Dr. Geoff Madoc Jones from SFU along with the word DISTANTIATE. I was writing my dissertation. The latter word means to distance myself from the problem whereas “dialogical” means to talk with others. I want to take that idea further. There is one level of dialogue where you may be conversing with another person or persons (about nothing) and there is another level of dialogue where you are deepening your understanding, gaining clarity, and sense-making.

Take for example my kid. It’s my number one priority with her as her mom to keep dialoguing with her. She’s 16. She “knows it all.” And, she’s still a kid (who needs her mom… just saying). Even though she is continually driven to find her independence and identity, if we did not have the RELATIONSHIP to talk about different things, whether if it is perceived big or small, we would automatically default to assumptions, rumours, or stereotypes. That is not a great place for me or her. So sometimes we have to park our egos to ask a question, apologize, or listen to each other wholeheartedly without judgement.

Being dialogical in my work is also critical. When we are talking (i.e. with my students, colleagues, community partners, etc.), we are SENSE-MAKING. I have to… especially being new to Prince George and UNBC. Things don’t make sense if I don’t ask a question. Sometimes I will make mistakes and other times I will assume. Both scenarios don’t feel great and I didn’t learn anything. Mistakes remain mistakes unless I learn something about it and seek CLARITY to deepen my understanding of my new workplace and work. It’s not easy sometimes but you don’t know what you don’t know… except you know that you don’t know. That’s the troubling part. Thus, it’s so important to develop relationships, build trust, and make connections. Being dialogical in my mindset and thinking has helped me with my professional learning.

What does it mean to teach in higher education? What does it mean to be a researcher? How am I contributing to my discipline but also supporting student learning? How am I improving my practice? I am guided by questions and curiosity. For me to understand and learn in my professional practice, I need to reflect, question, and dialogue. This is so true about my work with FNESC. I am non-Indigenous. I’ve heard the term “settler.” I don’t know what I don’t know, but I am curious, I will ask questions and I will dialogue with someone who is willing to tell me “the truth.” It’s not easy sometimes because it’s a lot easier not to know. That is a privilege. It is a moral imperative to ask, listen, and dialogue regardless of context.

According to Myer-Briggs, I am an ESTJ. I am an extroverted thinker. No question. I need to talk to sort out my ideas, collaborate with others, and make connections conceptually and relationally. Being dialogical is who I am as a person and learner. I am so happy to have people in my professional circles who will sense-make with me. It is way better to ask a question and dialogue to sense-make rather than to guess and hypothesize in isolation (meh, not my preference).

PS. A great time to end this blog. I’m on the ferry. Woohoo!!!

One of Six – Collaborative

Oh boy… here it goes. My mini-blog series challenge begins with COLLABORATIVE as my first word of six to describe my professional learning for 2018/19. Thank you @RosePillay1 for the challenge and @JanetChowMSc for the nudge. Yay for #bcedchat to create THIS professional learning opportunity. What’s more challenging is the lack of technology. I’m writing this blog entry from my phone. My laptop died. My desktop is in the shop. My new laptop is mid-set up and will be heading to the shop. And well, it was between my phone or iPad. My iPad is pretending to be my pseudo laptop but my phone has my pictures. So, let’s blog from my phone. Yay!!! (Not my preference but I will overcome this first world problem.)

It is very serendipitous to be blogging from my phone because now I can scroll through my pics to select a sample of collaborations I had this year to visually describe why this school year was COLLABORATIVE with respect to my professional learning. This school year has been a year of CHANGE (professionally for me) to say the least. I got a one year contract to teach full time at UNBC in Prince George. I ended my two terms of public service as school trustee. I stopped math tutoring. I was no longer a sessional instructor at SFU or St. Mark’s College. And, I moved away from my little family to Prince George to teach at UNBC. This could have potentially been a lonely and isolating school year for me. Yay for professional learning and people.

The first photo is me with a few of the members of the #bcedchat co-moderator team. I can’t believe I joined that team 6-years ago and I’m hanging in there regardless of role changes. This is an incredible team. Collegial and essentially a group of learners. I feel very honoured to work with these K-12 BC educators to facilitate learning online with BC educators and beyond. There may be a time I might “grow out of” this group like I did with the BCAMT (BC Association of Math Teachers) Executive Committee. I loved this group of educational leaders and learners as well. But sometimes it’s OK to move on to other things and make room for others to join.

The second photo is one of many selfies with my friend and colleague Caroline. We both started teaching more than 25-years ago as secondary math teachers in the same school. Over time, we took different paths in education. I call it the “Grass-Fed Butter / Margarine Phenomena.” Regardless of route or role, we’ve manage to see eye-to-eye on education. She’s been one of my CRITICAL FRIENDS I am very grateful for and we make time to see each other when I’m back home on the Sunshine Coast to go on one of our EDU-WALKS. Love them and won’t miss them. The third photo also shows two more NEW critical friends who I met at a Open Schools BC planning session on making math videos for Grades 10-12. They took a risk with me to develop a math activity and video that focussed on Indigenous Education first then finding the “math embedded.” We put the First Peoples of Principles of Learning at the heart of what we were doing, knowing it would look different from the other 4 video/math activities that did the reverse thinking in their planning. I was so proud of this work. It was risky but we moved forward together as non-Indigenous Educators. We consulted with the UBC Museum of Anthropology and knowledge keepers in our local communities. It’s not perfect and we know that. We are not the experts. We are learning. We have formed a bond that will continue in future and at events like the 2019 BCAMT Fall Conference.

The third photo is of me, Tracy and Robyn… and the fourth photo of me, Des, and Noelle. Both photos were taken in Kelowna. I first met Tracy online via Twitter. We met in Sechelt and became friends ever since. Robyn and I follow each other on Twitter as well. Tracy worked with Robyn this year in the same school. They formed a collaborative professional learning relationship and I had the opportunity to observe their classes one day while I was in Kelowna. That was super fun. I was working in Kelowna to collaborate with Des, Noelle, and a few others on a TC2 project on how to include Indigenous Education into a science resource. That was incredible. Any time you think that you are contributing, the gift in return is learning. I loved it. Des, Noelle, and I with a few others are also working on revising the FNESC (First Nations Education Steering Committee) Math Teachers’ Resource. That is another incredible collaborative learning opportunity for me and I am humbled.

Ok. Now I’m finally caught up with the correct photo. In the fifth photo (see above), is me and my colleagues, Deb and Gretchen, from UNBC. I call us “Charlie’s Angels.” I don’t think I would have survived the school year without these two. We work together as instructors in the School of Education, we’ve been on the BEd and MEd Renewal Committees together, and we attend conferences like NOIIE 2019 (Networks of a Inquiry and Indigenous Education) together. It’s great to find people who you work with to collaborate and learn together as we collectively move towards a common goal. Humbling but also motivating, supportive, and inspiring.

Another collaborative professional learning group I joined this year was @CIRCE_SFU Academic Council let by Dr. Gillian Judson (@perfinker) as seen in photo number 6. We meet online and we come from all over the world to talk about imaginative education and research. I am amazed by this group and I always leave the meeting recharged and inspired. You can’t help but learn. In the photo below, number 7 (and the last photo for this blog) is of Nina Pak Lui (@NPakLui) from Trinity Western University. She is a bundle of energy and created a mini-Network of me, her, and Gillian to use Dr. Judy Halbert’s and Dr. Linda Kaiser’s Spiral of Inquiry in an action research project looking at Assessment for Learning in higher education in partnership with Dr. Lorna Earl and CAfLN (Canadian Assessment for Learning Network). This is the beginning of a new collaboration with Nina and I look forward to learning and working with her on a few projects.

This is only a sample of collaborations I had this school year. I had many more. I had an incredible COLLABORATIVE professional learning year. I look forward to more this coming school year. Until then, I have 5 more mini-blogs to go. Woohoo!!!

Challenge Accepted

Where has the time gone? It’s been almost 2 weeks since the last weekly #bcedchat for this school year and Rose Pillay (@RosePillay1) challenged me to do a “mini blog” series that describes my year of professional learning. This was Question 3 of #bcedchat on June 30, 2019. We celebrated #bcedchat’s 6th Birthday. The chat was moderated by Janet Chow (@JanetChowMSc). I remembered that Rose challenged me. I first attempted scrolling through my Twitter handle, then through #bcedchat’s hashtag to find my 6 words. I gave up. So, I went to @bcedchat’s website to find the chat under “Archives” and voila. The scroll was way easier and I found the tweets that document the acceptance of Rose’s mini-blog series challenge. I never done a mini-blog series and I don’t think that I have ever posted tweets as part of my blog. There are always time for firsts. Thank you #bcedchat Storify for cataloguing our edu-chats. What you will see below is the conversation between Janet, Rose, and I. There are repetitive images because one is responding to the other. Nonetheless, challenge is accepted and a mini-blog series is coming (possibly done on my I-Pad because my laptop just died).

The Question:

My Answer:

The Compliment:

The Challenge:

The Consideration:

The Follow-Up:

Challenge Accepted:

The Criteria:

The Closer: