Not a Trustee

Day 45 (of 187) – November 6, 2018

Well… it’s official. I’m no longer a school trustee of School District No. 46 (Sunshine Coast) Board of Education. I served 2-terms as school trustee… 7-years of service. I was focused on enhancing the learning experiences of students. I was also focused on good governance, leadership, and educational change in light of BC’s New Curriculum. I was passionate about student voice and I appreciated being a part of the public school system while completing my doctorate degree in educational leadership. I never held a chair position, except on committees, but I didn’t need to. I was always leading from the roles I held and contributed my voice and expertise when needed. In terms of my expertise, I was in the minority of trustees on the Boards and committees I sat on. I am an educator… a practicing educator via consulting, tutoring, and higher education. My background is in K-12 education with a Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate degrees in education. Being a school trustee with this formal background in addition to my experience in BC education… I had much to say. However, in the role of school trustee… I am in governance, not the operations. Some things that I knew or believed in had no place at the board table because it was perceived as operational. I’m not the math teacher. I’m not the school principal. I was the school trustee. This is why it’s so important for boards of education to understand their role and their importance in the public education system. What I realized is, school boards and trustees do not understand (in a deep way) their potential to create change and enhance the learning experiences of students. I hope one day, they will. This ends my chapter in SD46. It’s been 16 years as a math educator and 7 years as a school trustee. I would not be the person I am today without you, the people, and experiences in this school district. I continue moving forward to find ways to enhance the learning experiences of students. Right now, I am focused on teacher education in the north. Here I am in the photo visiting student teachers at schools during their short practicum. My interests continue to be math education, professional learning, assessment practices, policy, and leadership. I look forward to the next chapters in my PEDAGOGICAL JOURNEY. Each step is never easy and it’s not meant to be. I am grateful for the teaching, learning, and leading. These variables give meaning to my purpose. Thank you SD46 for being part of my journey.

Surround Yourself

Day 44 (of 187) – November 5, 2018

Today marks the last day of being a school trustee on the SD46 (Sunshine Coast) Board of Education. It was also the first day I drove in the snow to go to Quesnel and Prince George to visit teacher candidates in their schools during their short practicum. I have more visits tomorrow. My role has shifted into a new one. I’m still in education… like I have always been… but now I’m focused on teacher education. So far, so good. We have a great team a the university really trying to innovate and make learning meaningful for our students. I am really happy with our progress and optimistic about what’s to come.

One thing I’ve been very grateful about my school trusteeship was meeting people. I met some pretty awesome school trustees and senior management. I felt very fortunate to make connections with educators and educational leaders who were aligned to my vision but also resonated with me in ideology and educational philosophy. Meeting these people fuelled my fire but also reminded me that there are other people like me in the field, regardless of role, trying to create a kind of change in the system to create learning experiences for students that are meaningful and memorable. In changing my role in education… again… I am heartened by the work of universities and all those involved to educate future teachers. The work is relentless, but the payoff will be so worthwhile.

In trusteeship, I surrounded myself with good people. These people were not those who would leverage my profile or help me win elections. They were people I trusted, respected, and highly regarded. It was an eclectic bunch, but I loved each and every one of them. One thing about surrounding yourself with good people is that you also attract good people, if that’s “your vibe.” This takes deliberate action… of the self… but also who you seek to attract. I feel so lucky coming to Prince George of the people whom I already know from Twitter, school trusteeship, and my former teaching practice as a secondary mathematics teacher. These people are in my tribe… and I am meeting more.

Surrounding myself with good people and taking the time to be in their space… to teach and learn… I feel very lucky. I also end my day off bumping into my friend at tonight’s community event… waved to another friend across the venue… and meeting somebody new sitting beside me. Moreover, my little family communicates with me via text and SnapChat as we exchange Bitmojis and everyday conversation as if we were under the same roof. Admittedly, I do love the daily dog pics my husband sends me. They just bring me a little bit of joy that I do appreciate. I will not take my little family, my family, my friends and colleagues for granted. Be happy. Be joyful. I am filled with gratitude.

Love Where You Are

Day 43 (of 187) – November 2, 2018

Love where you are… I saw this sign tonight and I had to get it. I had an incredible day with Dr. Susan Crichton and the Design Team today. We are spending 2 intensive days reimagining education. How lucky am I to be in the place at this time? I feel incredibly grateful and honoured to work with the people that I do and I am humbled to be a part of this work with my colleagues. Best of all, I love the students. They are resilient. My students teach me something new everyday. I love how the leave me thinking… and WONDERING. I love being in this state of mind. I love looking at the big picture and observing what makes something “good” or “bad.” Best of all, I love imagining what if.

Is that creepy? I am always left in a state of wonder… as mentioned in previous blogs… I am wondering about assessment, structure, and student learning. That’s today… it’s likely that I will be wondering about something else… like learning resources, e-portfolios, and sense making. Learning is fun… and it’s ongoing. I have always been a curious person… thinking about my thinking but also thinking about why things are the way they are. I questioned a lot as a child. I don’t think my parents appreciated my questions that much. It often led to me and my dad fighting and my mom trying to bridge the gap between me and my dad. Nonetheless, I had questions. Admittedly, I did not question too much as a student of K-12 or as an undergraduate student. I was too preoccupied by “getting things right.” But as a K-12 educator and school trustee, I had plenty of questions to ask.

Now, I am at the university as part of a redesign team and it’s almost like I FOUND MY PLACE. I am asking questions. I am contributing my voice. I am listening to others. We are working together to reimagine what teacher education can look like. It’s absolutely amazing particularly when leadership has your back. Truth… it’s something that I had always imagined to be a part of. Where we can be curious, be playful with ideas, and collaboratively come up with possible proposals for faculty to consider? WAY TOO FUN. However, to move forward, you have to LOVE WHERE YOU ARE. In saying that, it’s not about being content with the status quo. It’s about acknowledging where you are and being OK to walk away from old ways of being to transform into another. When we are not OK, that’s when we hold on to old ideas so tightly and thus, we can’t change.

A Collection of Steps

Day 42 (of 187) – November 1, 2018

Yes… it’s true. SNOW on November 1st… in Prince George. This is about the amount of snow that we get on the Sunshine Coast, BC. I know that this is just the beginning.

This is a nice segway to my daily blog of learning. TEACHING IS LEARNING. I had an awesome teaching moment today. Students facilitated their learning activity today based on a lesson play they created within the time constraint of half-an-hour. They put their planning into action and I appreciated that my students can realize or “experiment” what their lesson plan could look like. The best part of that experience was asking these students to reflect on what they had achieved and determine if they were successful with their lesson plan or not. They took the time during class and returned back to me after class and said that they did but it could have been better if they added “why” to their questioning to deepen learning. Wow!!! I am always learning as my students learn.

I know that I am “the teacher” or “the instructor” but really what that means to me is… I AM A LEARNER and I am imparting some of what I have learned but I continue to learn. It also reminds me of the messiness of teaching and learning and if we are to MOVE TOGETHER during this learning process, sometimes the course syllabus has to change, adapt, or modify. As a result, it looks REALLY MESSY, which can be scary because it may look like that I’m not planned in a detailed way. Sometimes I hesitate to create a course syllabus that is too detailed because you don’t know who will be in our class and how they will respond to the contents of your course syllabus. It’s a true dilemma. Stick to the syllabus or adapt to student learning??? The struggle is real but I choose the latter.

Choosing student learning versus sticking to the course syllabus is a risk I’m willing to take but also a skill that I am learning how to hone. What I mean by that is, I hope to develop syllabi that won’t require me to make too many adaptations. I am also learning that STRUCTURE is really important to student learning. This is more than the time that the course is being offered and how tables are set in the room, but students do appreciate the comforts of structure to know what they have to do and need to learn to succeed. I understand that too. I hope that making these adaptations does enhance their learning experience in my course, but only time will tell. Taking it one step at a time. 

Love the Formative

Day 41 (of 187) – October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween… Yes, I’m an UNBC Timberwolves FAN!!! Thank you for noticing. That said, I am listening to the fireworks in my neighbourhood of College Heights in Prince George where I am “laying low” on this Halloween night. It the first night in 15 years that I’m not at home in Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast with my daughter where she would like to dress up, hang out with friends, and give out candy. I’m here… miles away living in an apartment building. NO ONE is coming by my place to “trick or treat” and that’s OK.

It does not take much to make my day. I did have candy to give out to my class today. The student presenters brought candy too. We had gummies, licorice, and chocolate. A winning combination… especially when my students just finished a midterm exam in a previous class and I’m recovering from my fall from yesterday. Why not soothe the soul with a bit of candy? To top it off, today’s reading summary was about FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT and Assessment for Learning… one of my favourite topics to discuss and do in education but also one of the key underpinnings of BC’s New Curriculum.

Lots of thoughts go through my mind as my students present a summary of the article and facilitate a learning activity based on that article. The article focused much about policies and systems, and how the framework of formative assessment should be found throughout the system to support and enhance student learning. It was a big article, meaning that it wasn’t focussed on the details of how to implement specific formative assessment strategies, but it revealed many of the big ideas of formative assessment and its value to student learning and quality of teaching. At the end of the presentation… “I tried” to clarify some ideas about assessment and what to expect in some of my course assignments, but I think I made it worse. I did not seize the formative opportunities.

One of the underpinnings of my course is EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING. I was so compelled to “tell the answer” and I did. I think what I said only made sense to those who had already completed the assignment. I did not honour experiential learning cycle and allowing students to struggle. Well, I did with those who had already completed the assignment but there are still those who still need to complete the assignment. Nonetheless, all was said and done and we had only 10 minutes to get into our collaborative learning groups to design an interdisciplinary unit plan and lesson plan.

After a couple of meetings and carbo-loading with a Tim Horton’s bagel (and some yummy cake), I returned to my office to pack up. I sat there for some moments to “catch my breath” and appreciate my surroundings. I needed to regroup. What was great was… one of my students popped his head in my door and cheered. I think that he was glad I was still here. It was getting late. There were two students… and yes, they were asking for some help. FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT and FORMATIVE FEEDBACK. I could not have asked for anything more. With some discussion, I hopped out of my seat to talk about the learning intentions and the assignment. YEEEESSSS!!! Formative in REAL-TIME. Students engaged in the struggle… and the AH-HA… for ME and my students. Love the formative.

That Kinda Day

Day 40 of (187) – October 30, 2018

Not a morning person… but managed to drag myself out of bed… get ready… and make it to my computer by 9am for a conference call with members of the CIRCE Academic Council. If anything, it’s a great way to get inspired by others who are so passionate about imagination education in their research and fields. I am proud and honoured to be part of this group and hope to contribute in a meaningful way to move CIRCE forward.

With CIRCE on my mind, I was heading to my car to go to work. With garbage to discard in one hand, my cell phone in the other, and my backpack on with my computer… off I went. Instead of taking my “normal” route to my car, I opted to take a different route. I was so caught up about thinking about the meeting and my day ahead… I TOOK A FALL. Save the phone. Save my computer. Save my head. Long story made short, all three were saved. As a natural consequence, something else had to give… like my hand and ankle.

I lied there on the ground for a bit. Admittedly, I wanted to get up right away but couldn’t. Literally, I’ve fallen and I could not get up. I stared at the sky for a few minutes, took a deep breath, and mustered the strength to get up and go to work. YIKES. This was a serious fall… well, more serious than I thought. Good thing you have people at work who can provide some pills, ice, and a little help to alleviate the pain. I’m not one to complain, but I was in a lot of pain. I barely made it back to my car after work. I was a slow walk, limp, and drag. I was so thankful to get back into my car to go back home.

It wasn’t my best day… for work, for play, or for rest… but in the end, the message is, GET UP, march on, and don’t do that again. I tripped over a HUGE metal nut & bolt that was randomly situated on the ground. Why I walked on that path? Who knows? What I do know for sure is… the hot bath tonight is going to feel really, really, really good.

Data Collection

Day 39 (of 187) – October 29, 2018

Wow… one of the things I am trying to remind myself is… GET YOUR RESEARCH ON. No pressure… but I’d like to get into the groove of research without thinking like it’s a dissertation. I wonder if the experience is the same. I’m over thinking. I’m hoping it’s a bit different. Although I have 2 articles on the go in collaboration with a colleague, I have to start taking the lead on my research and writing. But as you can see with this pic… as part of MY DATA COLLECTION, I’m busy. I took very few pictures today. In fact, I took no photos until I got home late tonight and started FaceTiming with my little family. Yup, I’ve got screenshots and my dog is blatantly ignoring me. Classic. Thank goodness for technology so that I can stay connected with my family, but the lack of photo taking showed me that I was on-the-go today. And, that’s OK. I’m enjoying what I am doing  but I’ve other work to do that NEEDS TO GET DONE. No pressure, again. Anyway, cheers to data collection. A great indicator to me how my day is going. NO FACEBOOK POSTS TODAY. LOL. 🙂


Shared Understanding

Day 38 (of 187) – October 26, 2018

Teaching is a funny profession. We deal with so many people yet it’s one of the most isolating professions… meaning, we rarely connect with other educators to sense-make together to establish a shared understanding. Most times it’s because we HAVE NO TIME. Sometimes other reasons could be “the door is closed”… we have professional autonomy… and basically, we easily adopt the mindset of “I’m on my own”… so no need to share, collaborate, or be a critical friend. This is concerning particularly when we want our students to be critical and creative thinkers, be good communicators, and find personal relevance in their learning. BIG ASKS but do we as educators ask ourselves to do that.

Educators are often ALONE in their classrooms, physically separate from other colleagues. We are surrounded by students and students have the luxury of observing different educators over time… but educators do not. In this case, I say educators… but it’s all those who are also connected to the educator like administration or support staff. We need to have a SHARED UNDERSTANDING to collectively operate but also offer a cohesive and comprehensive learning experience for our students. This is where I am beginning to value meetings more and more. I did a lot of meetings as a school trustee and some as a mathematics educator. Meetings are important to stay connected and share our stories.

The meetings can be formal or informal. The meetings could last 20 minutes or 2 hours. These meetings are opportunities for sense-making… collaborating… and co-creating. We need to meet more often to the point where meetings are not an event, but they become another segment of an ongoing conversation with each other. When we understand who we are more, what our collective purpose is, and how we can achieve our share goals together… that’s when we have a winning team but also students will see our collective efficacy in ourselves as educators but also our shared belief in them as learning to achieve and succeed. We we can be vulnerable with each other with a deep level of trust and respect, that’s when we are learning and great things happen. Hello next meeting…

Meeting Expectations

Day 37 (of 187) – October 25, 2018

One of my curiosities in education is assessment and evaluation. One of the articles we considered this week was Students in my class were considering Alfie Kohn’s (2011) “A Case Against Grades.” In this group of three, one talked about Joe Bower’s work in Alberta with Grade 8’s. The second student summarized the article via PowerPoint and led the class through a discussion. The third student did a demonstration.

In this demonstration, she asked for four volunteers. Each of the volunteers left the classroom. One came into the class one at a time. The first two students were given “letter grade” feedback and the latter two students were given “descriptive” feedback. The objective? Each student volunteer was blindfolded and asked to throw a whiffle ball into a recycling box. They threw about 6-8 whiffle balls each. The first volunteer did a C-/C performance. The ball never made it into the box. The second volunteer did a B/A/A/A performance. Once he got the ball into the box, he was consistent and continued to throw the ball into the box successfully. The third volunteer got descriptive feedback to get the ball into the box to the point of yay/yay/yay. The fourth volunteer got the ball into the box over time with descriptive feedback as well. It was a brilliant “experiment” on demonstrating the difference between letter grades and descriptive feedback on learning.

My TAKE AWAY from this assessment/feedback experiment was the appropriateness of FORMATIVE FEEDBACK. One of the “complaints” from my previous course at SFU was that my students wanted feedback on their demonstration of learning AFTER the demonstration even though I was giving them ongoing feedback, if needed, during the learning activity. If they met expectations, they did not need formative feedback. They met expectations. I could understand if they wanted DESCRIPTIVE FEEDBACK as a form of summative, but it would never be intended for improvement because they would never do that activity again. It could be an opportunity for reflection, so it would be formative if they did a self-assessment versus me providing formative feedback afterwards.

In this experiment, I felt like my curiosity of my assessment method was clarified and verified. The second volunteer got the whiffle ball into the recycling box soon after the second throw. B-A-A-A-A. That was it. The third volunteer had similar results. “A little the the left. A little more power. Yay. Yay. Yay. Yay.” What did I observe? That in both cases, when the student MET EXPECTATIONS, the formative feedback ceased and what the students got in return was a summative assessment of A-A-A or yay, yay, yay…. verifying to the learner that they achieved what they were expected to do. The second volunteer even said during the post-experiment discussion that he could hear that the first ball hit the box. The sound of the ball hitting the box gave him the formative feedback he needed to MEET EXPECTATIONS (i.e. throw the whiffle ball into the recycling box). Furthermore, it happened during the learning process… not after. This was very telling to me. YAY!!!

My Perceived Brain

Day 36 (of 187) – October 24, 2018

What did I learn today? We are all different. Of course “I know” that we are all different, but today’s guest speakers on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) during my EDUC 360 class shed some light on some of these differences and WHY. The guest speakers were arranged by a colleague of mine for another course she teaches that my cohort is taking. The guest speakers are teacher consultants in the local school district but also presenters for @POPFASD (Provincial Outreach Program on FASD). They provided the teacher candidates (and myself) with lots of information on what FASD, why it happens, and how we as educators can help SUPPORT these students in our classrooms. I do like the mindset of what works for FASD students works for all students. They offered data, research, and strategies to support students with FASD and how we as educators need to be informed of what it is and to question our assumptions about FASD and students in general. It is so true that when you are dealing with 30 students at a time, 4 blocks per day… it can be daunting and somewhat confusing what we observe from our students and how we deal with these behaviours. I would say, YOU DON’T KNOW PEOPLE’S STORIES. You just don’t. Luckily, as teachers practicing at schools, we have resource teachers to support us in supporting the student in our classroom but also a “team” of professionals to support the student as well. Another great message… we are not alone in our work in supporting students. We have research-based recommendations on how to support FASD students but many of these strategies will support all students. That’s key particularly when we are not the professional who identifies FASD students, we support students. Because 70-75% of FASD students are not “physically” recognizable, we could easily mistake behaviour derived from FASD as “bad behaviour” and respond with disciplinary actions versus implementing a strategy that supports student learning. Although this workshop was intended for my secondary first year teacher candidates, I walked away with valuable information on the what, why, and how to support students with FASD.

PS. This is a picture of my perceived brain. The whole class participated in this activity… and yes, they were all different. I saw it as different moods. Another student saw it as a picture of them… MY STUDENTS. Admittedly, I am student driven. Very appropriate.