An Interesting Week

Week 23 (of 38) – February 25 to March 1, 2019

On Thursday, I flew out of Prince George to Vancouver, then to the Sunshine Coast. All I can say is, this has been an interesting week. I know that I am trying to keep this as a professional blog, but sometimes life’s events do influence the work that you do. As much as we want to keep the professional face on, things that are extraordinary within the ordinary do side swipe you from what you want to achieve and be. I have to keep this weekly blog short. What have I learned this week? Sometimes it’s ok to “lay low.” This would be one of those times. My students are out on practicum, I have a tonne of marking, forms to fill, and well… I’ve got work to do. Of course, some things take priority and it’s not in my control. That’s ok. I’ve just got to make it a priority. This week started with me taking the time to get organized. That takes time… and I didn’t have the time to tend to that due to other work that was pressing. I can see this is how life in higher education and teacher education will be. I’m just finding my rhythm. All I can do is one thing at a time. What I know for sure is, I’m not a multitasker. I’m a solid unitasker. I can only do one thing at a time. OWN IT and I’m ok with it. My mind is a bit preoccupied as well. My mom passed one year ago on February 28, 2018. It took me some time to process and grieve. I still intend to write about my mom and her last 20 days. I just acquired the text messages (aka. data) from February 2018 to remember the sequence of events and the conversations we had with one another. Thank goodness for texting at the time to stay connected and thank goodness for texting for data collection. That’s me putting the researcher lens on this situation. I was worried that I left it too late but I found the data on my desktop messages. Finally, the week concludes with my dad’s wedding on Sunday. I have no words except I feel lucky that I was in the Lower Mainland at the time for work. I am slowly but surely getting things done, but also I have to remember to be kind to myself. You can’t give what you don’t have. I need to find ways to fill my cup. I’m so glad to be working with FNESC and the Ministry of Education this coming week. Math and math education has served me well. I will never forget where I came from. I am a math educator… now teacher educator and researcher. Life is good.

Meta Learning

Week 22 (of 38) – February 18-22, 2019

I went to my first WestCAST conference in Calgary, AB this week. It’s a conference composed of teacher educators and teacher candidates. I went with my colleague, Deb Koehn, from UNBC and we co-presented one session on “peer-oriented triads” during practicum as we frantically wrote a draft paper a few days prior for the conference. We hope to publish and continue on with our action research with our teacher candidates to find ways to enhance and deepen their learning during practicum in connection to their coursework at the university. We presented at the end of the day of the first day of the conference. I wasn’t expecting too many people to be present because it was 4pm, but we had a full room and our presentation tied so nicely to the one before us. They were talking about teacher authenticity and the relationship between the teacher candidates and coaching teacher. We were talking about giving a framework and autonomy to our teacher candidates during practicum so that they can find their voice and teacher identity, collectively and collaboratively. We were surprised by the support for our work in addition to the beautiful marriage of our presentation with the previous. Very encouraging.

We also presented in another session where we collaborated with instructors from VIU, UBC, and WKTEP in a metissage. We each contributed to the presentation by writing a 100-300 word excerpt on “self, place, and community” in teacher education. We submitted our thoughts and two of the team members took what was submitted, cut them into smaller passages, and then reconstructed the multiple entries into a singular coherent passage about “self, place, and community” in teacher education. We were telling a story. At the presentation, we each read out our part of the passage as we were individually situated in different places in the room. So what you experience are voices from all directions of the room telling the story of “self, place, and community” in teacher education. The metissage was a metaphor (or vice versa) of the Metis sash and how our stories were interwoven to create one. I loved the experience and equal contribution. I enjoyed listening to the composition as a whole and I appreciated how all of our diverse points of view could make an insightful and unique story. We talked about identity, transformation, and how we are influenced by others and where we are from. Writing my 300 words was very satisfying, but the cohesion of our collective voices was gratifying.

Three other teacher candidates from UNBC presented at WestCAST 2019 as well. Two candidates are in second year (their last year) of the secondary education cohort and finishing off their final practicum. One teacher candidate is in the first year elementary education cohort and just about to start his first 3-week practicum. The pair from the secondary education presented in the morning of the first day of the conference on place-based learning and eloquently expressed their passion, their practicum/teaching practice, and connection to community and self. They cited BC’s New Curriculum and beautifully made connections to their practice and interests by showing examples of how others could embed placed-based learning into their classrooms. Moreover, I really appreciated how they got us to acknowledge the territory by imagining a place that we love and adore. The first year teacher candidate presented in the last concurrent session on the second day of the conference about mindfulness and meditation. Again, he made connections to BC’s New Curriculum and First Peoples Principles of Learning. He described what he valued as a teacher and learner and got us to do several activities during his session such that we went outside twice!!! Furthermore, this teacher candidate had the with-it-ness to overcome technical difficulties, being in a basement, and having an unusual room set-up for his session. He was very natural and confident. It was amazing to see our teacher candidates present at WestCAST 2019. We are very proud.

What was great about going to a conference with your Teacher Candidates is that we are all going to the conference as presenters and learners. We were equals. EDUCATORS. The best part of this conference was that I could really see THE TEACHER in each of our candidates. Amazing!!! I look forward to attending WestCAST2020 in Vancouver, BC.

One More Year

Week 21 (of 38) – February 11-15, 2019

As the dust begins to settle and we approach reading week (so that I can catch up with my work), I made the executive decision with my little family to sign another one year contract with the university. It wasn’t a difficult decision. Although I am living away from my little family and enduring winter weather I have never experienced before, I am enjoying the work at the university. I am meeting a lot of great people (i.e. students, faculty, and K-12 practitioners), I am honing my craft, and I am learning a tonne about teacher education and leadership. I really enjoy working with the students and being a part of Education Club in addition to contributing to the university and school as a member of the BEd and MEd Program Renewal Committees. As I learn how to become an academic while staying very close to the K-12 system, I am gifted with unsolicited help from colleagues and opportunities that I would not normally be a part of if I was in K-12.

You just don’t know what you don’t know unless you try. This is a longstanding mantra for me. I often would give this advice to others, but it certainly applies to me. You can guess… you can hypothesize… you can anticipate and make predictions. But truth? Who really knows, unless you try? I guess you could call this a “growth mindset” or “experiential learning” but for me, it’s an opportunity for me to learn, test my boundaries, and determine what I am capable of. This is pretty exciting. The more I learn, the more questions I have. This the BEST place to be. Be CURIOUS, WONDER, and CREATE. I’m pretty sure that my very first school principal, Bev Terry, could easily tell me my potential from when she first met me in 1994. I never asked and I’m still figuring this out. Self-assessing one’s self-efficacy is challenging, but I’m enjoying the journey. JUMP and take risks. I am so lucky to teach, learn, and lead at UNBC. Looking forward to another year.

Getting Motivated

Week 20 (of 38) – February 4 to 8, 2019

A daily dog pic from my man… this is the life of a long distance marriage. I move away for a term position to the northern interior and my husband is left with the house, teenager, and Sally-the-dog. Isn’t she cute. This is a perfect depiction of me keeping up with my weekly edu-blogs and keeping up with my things to do. Sometimes there is too much on the plate that you become cognitively paralyzed and NOTHING GETS DONE. Admittedly, I put much of this work on myself. This is something I have to learn to manage. I love how one of my mentors shared with me the other day that I need to “manage my career.” That had a nice ring to it. Yes, I do. I also appreciated last night’s #bcedchat that focused on KonMari in education. “If it does not bring you joy, let it go.” I managed to come up with a few things to address… like getting things done… and walking into my fears. Finally, I am also grateful for super intuitive people like my daughter who randomly FaceTimes me in times like this or my friend and colleague who calls me on the phone out of the blue to see “what’s up.” I am surrounded by so many good people in my new northern workplace who will lift my spirits up when I am down. How many people do you know who are willing to give you lucky money on Chinese New Year? Well, I used to get that from my mom ALL OF THE TIME. That tradition is no longer but one of my colleagues gave me lucky money last Monday and another colleague invited me to watch the Chinese New Year fireworks (but I was too cold). Moreover, I recently joined the gym and another colleague showed me around the gym and walked a few laps with me. It’s pick-me-ups like this that get me motivated to teach, learn, and connect with others. YAY PEOPLE!!!

Grateful Educator

Week 19 (of 38) – January 28 – February 1, 2019

Here I am composing my weekly blog on the bus. I’m returning back to Prince George from the Sunshine Coast. Yes… this is the life of living in two homes. I do this every 2-3 weeks, when I can. Right now, I am riding in the 257 Horseshoe Bay Express bus to downtown Vancouver… after getting off the BC Ferries from Langdale… so that I can catch the SkyTrain from downtown to the Vancouver Airport. My flight to Prince George is later tonight. This is truly planes, trains, and automobiles but throw in a bus, ferry, and taxi.

Why do I do this every 2-3 weeks? First of all, I need to return back home to the Sunshine Coast to “ground” myself. I really get that now. FIND YOUR PLACE… something that I ask in my TEDxWestVancouverED talk “Alignment.” The Sunshine Coast is one of MY places. My little family is there. My friends are there. My home is there. I love being by the ocean and I love being home, even if it’s only for an overnight stay. It fills my cup that I did not realize before until I accepted a position at the university in Prince George.

I love the work that I do. I feel incredibly lucky to teach, learn, and lead. My edu-entrepreneurial side of me is fulfilled in a way where I take great joy in problem solving, creating, and innovating. CREATE was my One Word 2018. Don’t be limited by what you believe what is. I did for years. As it turns out, I can do almost anything… if I really wanted to. Please don’t for a second believe that I’ve ever wanted to be an NBA player or cello player. No way!!! That’s not what I’m talking about. I’ve always wanted to be a CHANGE AGENT. And, I get to do that as a teacher, learner, and leader in BC Education.

I am learning a lot in my new position at the university but also contributing in ways that I never thought possible. What’s even more exciting is, I am learning that I am at the beginning. This is frightening considering I’m slightly over middle age and starting a new career. On the other hand, it’s invigorating and stimulating in ways such that I am discovering and uncovering what is possible. I love the people I meet in education… my students, colleagues, and PLN (professional learning network)… from past and present. It’s like an edu-family that keeps growing. I love the edu-reunions, collaborations, and new connections. For an extrovert, this is my JAM. Bring on the people, I’d say.

I’m experiencing a kind of autonomy that I had never experienced before. EVERYTHING I am doing is directed to my purpose: To enhance the learning experiences of students. I get to write, speak… and yes, encouraged to publish. I’ve got to get that happening in 2019. Maybe my one word for 2019 should shift from WRITE to RESEARCH. Meh… they are correlated and in my mind, mean the same thing, where my writing is not limited to research. I am still learning and know that this will lead to teaching and leading via public speaking, publishing, and conferences. This is new territory for me and I’m stoked.

In the end, big kudos to my little family who makes this all possible. As difficult as it was to live part-time somewhere else, we have reached a new norm of family being. In fact, I feel that our relationships are stronger than ever. How can this be possible? Ah yes, anything is possible. What I know is true is this… you can do whatever you want to do if you really want it. It may take some extra time, additional travel, or humbling oneself to transform from expert to novice to become an expert again. Be patient and be kind to yourself. Keep your mind and heart open to what you experience and learn from your mistakes. Nothing is ever “perfect” but we have to keep our ambition close to our purpose and model what’s possible. Sometimes the “struggle is real,” but relent. You’ll get there.

Same But Different

Week 18 (of 38) – January 21 to 25, 2019

This is a brilliant photo. Same but different. It’s a photo of my workplace in Prince George and I was compelled to take a photo. Look at the sky!!! If this was a photo of the Sunshine Coast, it would look similar but instead of the snow, it would be the ocean. This is how I feel about teaching and learning. I am so happy to be back in the classroom… teaching and learning. I am so grateful to have super awesome people (aka. my colleagues and friends) like Dr. Linda O’Neill from UNBC and Deneen Sawchuk from SD57 who are willing to take the time to share their expertise and passion for teaching and learning with my classes. Honoured. Furthermore, I have incredible colleagues at the institution who act as my mentors, which helps me to realize that I have much to learn about being an “academic.” I am definitely a beginner. I love teaching and learning with my students and wrestling with them, if they are willing, to sense-make. It’s fun.

I take great joy in creating and thinking about how to design a course so that the learning is meaningful and purposeful for my students, but also an opportunity for me to learn and grow in my practice. The drive to improve as an educator has not changed. However, at the university, every instructor and their courses are evaluated. Receiving course and teaching evaluations is never easy. I was only evaluated once when I taught in K-12 and that was after my first year of 16 years of teaching. Now, I receive course and teaching evaluations every term I teach (and my future employment depends on these results). My results last term ranged from “neutral” to “excellent.” Different courses resulted in different outcomes. I am not surprised because some variables were out of my control. I am not making excuses, but putting my evaluations into perspective. It’s not personal.

Feeling Restored

Week 17 (of 38) – January 14-18, 2019

This was my third week away from my family. I know that this is a professional learning reflective blog, but what I have learned is, 3 weeks away from my family and home is a long time for me. Yet, 2 weeks is too short. I need to find a sweet spot between 2 to 3 weeks to reconnect with my family and my sense of place. Above is a photo from one of my favourite spots on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a beach at Davis Bay by Mission Point. I love going there because I feel connected to the land and water. If you notice, the water comes from two directions. I love the hear the sound of the water. I feel very lucky to live here with my family, but I also live in the Central Interior, which is covered in snow.

My “commute” from the Sunshine Coast to the north makes me appreciate the importance of “people, place, and land”… a theme that we are developing at the School of Education. All three aspects play a role of who I am… my identity… what I value… and what I have become accustomed to. I am able to notice “the little things” on the Sunshine Coast and appreciate them. I can see the beauty in both the Sunshine Coast and Prince George such that I am gaining a deeper understanding of the importance of people, place, and land. This weekend I needed to leave Prince George to connect with BC educators at #EdCampBCCC and #BCEdChat Live Event in Richmond, see my dad and brother in Burnaby, and reunite with my little family on the Sunshine Coast. Seeing these people at these places… on the land… coastal to be exact… FILLED MY CUP. Even though it was a quick 3 day trip, I needed this. I feel grounded and ready for the next 2-3 weeks.

One Word 2019: Writing

Week 16 (of 38) – January 7-11, 2019

I spent the weekend working on organizing my week to carve out time to read and write. That’s my One Word for 2019: WRITE. I want to write a book about my mom’s last 20 days… and her anniversary is coming up… I want to write about Communicating Student Learning… and I would like to write about educational leadership and phenomena experienced by educators in the field. I have a few topics I am interested in. To get writing, I’ve got to be reading and researching. Of course blogging contributes to my One Word, but I need to take my writing to the next step… from reflection to academia. I am learning what it means to be an academic and publishing is “the currency” of my career.

This was the first full week back to school… and I’m pooped. I’m sure this a shared story by other educators returning back to school. Teaching and learning is not easy work, but damn… it’s incredibly rewarding. Did I get to the reading and writing I wanted to do this week? NOPE. I spent the week prepping for my classes, going to meetings, and reviewing unit plans for practicum. I’m doing my job. By Thursday, I opted to get a full night’s sleep and it was back to reviewing unit plans on Friday night. Now it’s the weekend. The message I’ve been sending to my EDUC 342 classes is, you are the locus of control… you create what you want to see. Although I had an amazing week… all it takes is one thank you… I need to self-regulate my time to get to my One Word. It starts here… WRITE.

Happy New Year 2019

Week 15 (of 38) – Friday – January 4, 2019

I flew back to Prince George from the Sunshine Coast/Vancouver on January 1st. Happy New Year!!! I was back on campus on January 2nd and spent a solid hour shovelling snow off my car. I’ve never done that before. Welcome to my learning. As much as I enjoyed my holidays to Vegas with my family and time at home on the Sunshine Coast with my little family, there was much work to do (aside from shovelling snow) at the university to prepare our second year teacher candidates for final practicum and course design for our first year teacher candidates. It was a cramming opportunity. It was an incredible 2-days of unit planning with our Year 2 students and an awesome start with the Year 1 students. What I am grateful for and impressed with are my colleagues who were willing to come to campus to support our students and support me in my work to support our students. I love being a part of a TEAM… a winning team. It was a great start to the new year.

Year in Review 2018

I cannot believe 2018 is coming to an end. I had some amazing moments in 2018 that happened to me professionally, but also some NOT so amazing moments. I know that it’s all about learning and the learning process but some events were so traumatizing that I am still working on it. That said, I walk away from 2018 with lots of gratitude. I took the the opportunity to review my 2018 photos on my phone and selected one photo per month as highlights of my 2018 year, which I briefly describe each event below:

January 2018: This was an excellent way to start the year. I presented my dissertation as a poster at the Hawaii International Conference on Education (HICE) in Honolulu. I also presented a paper on behalf of Dr. Daniel Laitsch and presented our paper on BC School Trustees and their use of research and information for decision making.

February 2018: I wasn’t working… and very thankful. Karma has a funny way of working and I had the time to take care of my mom full-time. My mom was not well for months (if not years). We reached a moment where we went to emergency and within 20 days she passed away from cancer in the liver. I was grateful to have this time with her.

March 2018: I was PUBLISHED in the Education Canada magazine. Woohoo!!! I attended a couple sessions in Vancouver looking at “The Signals of Change” in education. Participants were encouraged to submit a 300 word article and mine was 1 of 5 published in the magazine. https://www.edcan.ca/articles/signal-questioning-pedagogy/

April 2018: A TSN Turning Point in my School Trustee career. It was an “all or none” situation for me and I ran for President of the BCSTA… and lost. No loss though. I learned a lot during that AGM conference weekend and seized the opportunity to say what wanted to say about public education, educational leadership, and school boards in my speech.

May 2018: Decided to change my trajectory and opted to walk away from organizations that I was involved with to pursue another direction in education. I was unexpectedly nominated as the VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR at the Sunshine Coast Community Futures. Serving on the Board of Directors as director for 5-years was very rewarding.

June 2018: This was my last speech to give to the Chatelech Secondary School Graduates on behalf of the SD46 (Sunshine Coast) Board of Education. I taught math at this school for 16-years and served in the district as school trustee for 7-years. It was time. Saying Goodbye… and HELLO. https://christineyounghusband.com/saying-goodbye/

July 2018: Flew up to Prince George for an interview at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC). It was an amazing experience. It felt right from the beginning. I had an other interview a few days after this one. It wasn’t good and didn’t feel good. I got the position at UNBC (and not the other). A one-year, full-time contract here I come.

August 2018: I taught an amazing course during the summer. What I hoped to achieve in this course was to design and facilitate student led learning that was competency based, which used current content knowledge. I was so proud of what this group accomplished. It could have been better, but it was my WORST COURSE REVEW EVER.

September 2018: I moved to Prince George and started teaching in the Teacher Education Program at UNBC. I taught a secondary Year 1 cohort, an elementary Year 2 cohort, and a research methods class. The learning curve is huge and rewarding. Love the people I’ve met and continue to meet within the School of Education and Prince George.

October 2018: Presented at the Northwest Math Conference in Whistler. I loved reconnecting with fellow math educators and meeting new ones. I presented on my teaching and learning experience from a couple summers ago on Quantitative Approaches to Environmental Education. I had about 200 attendees and positive reviews. Reassuring.

November 2018: The fall term ends at UNBC School of Education with the inaugural EDUCATION FAIR 2018. Students from all 4 cohorts volunteered and demonstrated their term’s learning to fellow classmates, university instructors, local educators, and the public. I was proud that half a dozen of my students presented their IGNITE presentations.

December 2018: I feel very lucky to be mentored by and to work with Deb Kohen at UNBC. She invited me to partake in a collaborative event with Vancouver Island University’s (VIU) Dr. Paige Fisher and the Ministry of Education. Together with other instructors and teacher candidates from each university, we went to the Vancouver Public Library to collectively learn more about Place Based Education in Teacher Education.

“I eat a little bit of Everything and not a lot of Anything.”

Giada De Laurentis (Giada Vegas 2018)

It’s been an amazing year. I am so happy to have the people in my life who help me rise.

HAPPY NEW YEAR. Looking forward to 2019.