Exceptional School Year

definition of “exceptional”

ex·​cep·​tion·​al | \ ik-ˈsep-shnəl  , -shə-nᵊl \

1: forming an exception : RARE
2: better than average : SUPERIOR
3: deviating from the norm:
From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Hi. My name is Christine. It’s been exactly one month since my last blog entry. I can’t believe it. I’ve been wanting to write a blog for quite some time. So much has happened since my last blog and beyond. I don’t mean to exaggerate but titling this blog EXCEPTIONAL SCHOOL YEAR is 100% true. It was rare, better than average, and deviating from the norm. I am not sure how I want to approach this blog entry but what I do know is, there will be no picture in this blog that exemplifies SOCIAL DISTANCING.

Today marks the end of Day 2 of self-isolating and staying home. I stay connected online via social media and watch the news 24/7 on COVID-19. After today’s announcement (March 17, 2020) that BC K-12 schools were suspended until further notice, I was feeling a bit oversaturated and bummed. No news for BC universities. We transitioned to online and were called off campus one day earlier than expected. I took my office plant home on Sunday (March 15, 2020), spent Monday putting my classes asynchronous online (as recommended by a tweet on Twitter), and listened to today’s announcement. Our Teacher Candidates will not be returning to practicum. I will not be returning to campus (until the pandemic is over). I am a bit reluctant to be in public spaces. I tend to hug people when I see them and I touch my face a lot. Not good habits to have when there is a pandemic.

So… in this blog… I have photos from the UNBC Faculty Association Strike that happened in the fall. Another exceptional event this school year. The top photo is a photo of my picket crew at the daycare site. I was the afternoon shift picket captain. Below are photos of some of my Teacher Candidates from Year 1 and Year 2 who came out to visit me and other faculty members on the line (which was SUPER nice), but the blog concludes with a photo of me and my EdD Senior Supervisor from SFU who came up with his Faculty Association to provide support and boost morale. I never thought I would be striking at the university. It was a bit deal for us but also for other universities in Canada. People were watching. Aside from the fact it was very cold and wet sometimes on the line, what I loved about the strike was meeting new people, getting to learn more about the university, and connecting with my students in a different way. It was kinda fun.

What I also love about my students is, they all know that I love taking selfies. I know this seems like a small detail, but they are so willing to take a photo with me (because they know I like to take these photos). True educators, I must say. Think of the learner. This is my second year back at the university and this will be my first year going through the entire 2-year rotation with my teacher candidates. I’ve been with them for their 2-year program. I almost feel like I am going to graduate with them. Class of 2020. This was my first year to observe them in their classrooms for practicum for EDUC 490 and EDUC 491 and I got to know my teacher candidates a little bit better. I never thought that I would establish a RELATIONSHIP with my teacher candidates like I did with my secondary math students (in my past life), but I was wrong. I really got to know some of them. I am also MESMERIZED and PROUD of the candidates I got to observe in EDUC 491. You can see the TRANSFORMATION happen right in front of your eyes as they move from student to educator. It’s absolutely amazing and humbling. It was an honour and privilege to be part of their learning journey and incredible to witness their transformation. The vulnerability and willingness to accept and act on feedback was astounding. Thank you for having me.

The Year 1 Teacher Candidates are a pretty awesome crew too. I don’t know the elementary cohort as well because I don’t teach them. I do feel a deep connection to these candidates. They are on Twitter (which I expect my EDUC 431 students to be, but some of these students are early adopters and jumped on board) and I find my secondary cohort crew nimble. They are critical thinkers who are willing to try new things and do not hesitate to provide feedback on how things are going. I appreciate that. This will be our last crew going through our 2-year Teacher Education program because we got our REDESIGNED B.ED. PROGRAM approved by the BC Teachers Council and the university. We just got it done at the very last moment so that we could send out acceptance letters to the next cohort who will be engaged and immersed in this new program, which prescribes to the signature pedagogy of People, Place, and Land. This was a year and a half in the making and we just had our last meeting last week on Friday (March 13, 2020). Proud of this work and the work to come with the REDESIGNED M.ED. PROGRAM. When you study educational leadership in your doctoral program and you get to be a part of a team to discuss educational reform like this (and BC’s New Curriculum)… life is good.

Certainly, I have things to work on. I need to get things published. I need to start writing formally. I need to read more content to deepen my knowledge of what I am interested in that supports my research agenda. As mentioned, I need some time. Observing students as a faculty/practicum mentor and teaching certain courses for the first time TAKE TIME and my job assignment is 80/20, thus designed more for teaching than research. Aside from my current online teaching to the end of the term and the multiple reports I have to write (and there are lots), I had some incredible opportunities at the university and met some amazing people. I serve on senate as a faculty senator, I was interviewed on CFUR (by a former Math 11 student, now grad student), and I made connections with other faculty members from other universities. I am creating a new learning community in higher education. For that, I am grateful. This has been an EXCEPTIONAL SCHOOL YEAR.

I am so glad I returned back for a second year to learn what I need to learn and meet the people who I needed to meet. There are no questions that there were some challenging moments during this school year. Nothing is perfect. What I will say is, everything I have done academically and professionally has brought me here to this place at this time. I am thankful to my mentors, my colleagues, and my students for being part of my pedagogical journey. It’s always transforming and I am always learning. I’m not sure what will happen for me next year. Lots of uncertainties, locally and globally. That said, I have no regrets.

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