Posts Tagged: reflection

No Regrets

The day after… the BCSTA AGM… and I am feeling great. I have no regrets running for president and I am so proud of SD46 for passing 3 motions on student voice. What should I be disappointed about? Nothing.

Putting my name forward as BCSTA president was one of the best things I have done for myself. First, it was unfinished work from last year. Second, I wanted to be what I wanted to see. Third, I had something to learn.

The assembly had spoken. A clear majority voted for the incumbent and I can understand that. It keeps continuity, he’s done the job as expected, and the directors to be elected were subject to change. I am led by the assembly. That said, I was not willing to put my name forward for VP or director as part of a strategy. The assembly made a decision about leadership and I wanted them to make a decision. I knew the outcome of the election well before the vote when trustees asked me to put my name forward as VP throughout the AGM. Thank you for your confidence of having my voice on the board.

To follow through with my campaign was a test of my character but also a test for others. I appreciated the authentic connections I had with trustees throughout the weekend who supported my campaign, gave me tips and suggestions for my campaign, and connected with me as a person. I loved that. Running for election is not personal. It was interesting to observe others who were not willing to chat with me or give eye contact. I got plenty of courtesy hello’s or smiles. I was awakened. But, I did appreciate the post-election compliments for my campaign and speech. This is politics. The best part of the campaign experience was the unconditional respect and support I got from others. It was the best I could do and I could not have performed as well without their formative feedback.

I don’t feel that I have failed. I feel like I have won. I am satisfied. I am confident that this board of directors will lead the BCSTA as best as they can, that is guided by the membership. The leadership team of the P/VP remained the same and 3 new directors joined the board. This will be the fresh voice the board of directors need and will benefit from. For me, running for president was about modelling what I want to see for BCSTA. Put your name forward, have your voice, and let the assembly choose. I wanted to offer choice for leadership, but also challenge the assembly to make a decision and feel good about it. My work is done and I am filled with gratitude. Now, I am set onto a different direction. I am finding my place and the outcome of the BCSTA election was a gift.

I am driven by three principles:

  1. You never know unless you try. (take a risk, don’t assume)
  2. You can’t tell a drunk they are a drunk. (self-actualization)
  3. You don’t know what you don’t know. (be open to learning)

I know that Principle 2 needs revision. It’s not the best saying, but it’s meaning resonates with me. I have satisfied all three principles, hence my satisfaction. Thank you members of the BCSTA. Continue to do the great work that you do. An extra special thank you to those who are choosing to not to run in the upcoming municipal election as school trustee. And best of luck to those who are planning to run. Make this role attractive to others. Boards of Education do make a difference to BC public education and student learning. Don’t forget that. You are change agents. You are Educational Leaders!!!

Keep Growing

This is one of my favourite images… a tree growing from another tree. A friendly reminder that we have to keep growing and growth can come from anything and anywhere. Growth is not always a straight line. Yesterday, I spent time updating my LinkedIN page and resume. I attended a few alumni workshops held at SFU and wanted to apply what I had learned. Updating took some time and it’s still in progress. My friend took a look at what I had written and said…

“Your path is so untraditional, for someone like me and yet we have so much in common.”

I take this as a compliment. I am thankful that my friend could see this. Sometimes it’s not all about going the traditional route from A to B. I could have “climbed the ladder” to move through or up the system, but opted to take my own route… a personalized route that filled my heart and mind. I left teaching to pursue doctoral studies. In the meantime, I started a business as sole proprietor and called myself an educational consultant. Is this how it works? I was soon find out. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted but I loved the freedom and flexibility to create and learn. I had to go beyond the status quo.

Much like my dissertation, I want to get under the problem. Sometimes “problems” in education seem cyclic thus difficult to see its starting point. To make a long story short, I had to take a different route to see what I wanted to and needed to see. Leaving K-12 helped me to complete my dissertation and make the recommendations to practice and research I did, so that we could create system change in the context of professional learning and subject matter acquisition. I know that I would not have accomplished this had I stayed in the system as a teacher. I was able to see and understand the system, as a whole, in a deeper and broader way as a school trustee. For this, I am grateful.

The other part of my friend’s comment… “yet we have so much in common”… raises my spirit. On the one hand, it surprises me and on the other hand, it pleases me. I am surprised because I did not move up the rungs of the education system to understand what my friend understands about the system… what’s working… what’s not working… and what needs improvement. I will say that I have not done some of the super awesome things my friend has done or the super awful things my friend had to do… vice versa in terms of research and politics… but happy to know that the BIG IDEAS are the same.

It’s time for new growth. I love being the learner. My goal is to follow the path of learning. I think about returning back to the system often. I love teaching at the university and I would love to teach high school mathematics again… particularly in BC’s New Curriculum. But I wonder about the kind of freedom that exists in the system. I also wonder about what I have to contribute. I think that I have a lot to contribute but it has to be aligned to the direction of the school district. I would love to see some of my recommendations from my dissertation to come to practice, but I am also excited about doing more research to bring meaningful information back to practice. Right now, I am writing a book. It’s fun.

Is it me?

Wow. It does not take much to trigger me. “Is it me?” A classic question that NO ONE wants to answer. I appreciate that someone is willing to speak to someone face-to-face and inquire if the problem is him or her. Unfortunately, you’re NEVER going to hear the answer that would reflect the truth. So why ask? Is there another way to ask the question? NO ONE is going to say the problem is YOU. That’s just a fact. How can we get around this issue in an educational system that desires and hopes for vulnerability? As you can see, one question provokes me to ask many other questions. It makes me curious.

I just spoke with a student who was faced with this situation. “Is it me?” This student could not confirm or deny that the problem was the teacher. Why would this student do so anyway? Horrifying. If the roles were reversed, we would never say that the problem in our classroom is the student. We would say it’s his/her behaviour, actions, or mindset… SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN CHANGE. It’s a strange phenomenon in education that I question. How can we have a more vulnerable education system that encourages more formative feedback amongst stakeholders to leverage learning when all those involved are somewhat defensive, politically paranoid, or easily hurt? We end up “functioning” in a edu-vacuum where not much is said except for pleasantries and workplace politeness.

Formative feedback is NOT PERSONAL. It should reflect your performance and competencies. Not only should it reflect these attributes, but also should provide you with what to strive for and how to get there. In fact, receiving formative feedback is in your best interest… to be come a better YOU… and those who are providing feedback provide an expertise and want YOU to be a better you. They have your best interest in mind. Formative feedback is about helping each other and the information shared benefits both the evaluator and recipient. It goes beyond collective efficacy… formative feedback is more like COLLECTIVE WINNING. The mantra would be, “we’re in this together.”

But no… “Is it me?” sets people apart… to an US vs. THEM scenario. The power differential is in full play and of course, the subordinate in this relationship would naturally concede and say… “no, no, no… it’s me.” Unbelievable… and in the end, NOTHING CHANGES. There is no opportunity for “real” formative feedback and an opportunity to get better, be better, or make the situation better. All that this scenario perpetuates is the status quo… and if it’s not good??? It remains NOT GOOD. Is this an educational model that we can tolerate? Apparently, the answer is yes. This is disheartening. Education is ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS. It’s fragile and resilient at the same time. We need to be asking the right questions. We are the creators of what we see. So, what do you see?

We are constantly immersed in the formative. From the viewpoint of the teacher, are your students engaged, empowered, and passionate about what they are learning? Or are your students disengaged, on their phones, and indifferent? Maybe they are somewhere in between… but guess what? You are creating that behaviour. This is the challenge of teaching. It’s complex and dynamic. There is never THE SAME at any one moment in time… nor should we strive for that. We are not hoping for robot-like students who are homogenous in their thinking or doing. We want to nourish their competencies, strengths, and interests. How do we create a love for learning for all stakeholders? Wouldn’t it be great to develop passionate learners instead of compliant consumers? This is my hope.

The worst part about this question, “Is it me?,” is asking the same question to self. “Is it me?” Self-assessment and self-reflection are integral to the teaching/learning/leading process and when we question self inappropriately or inaccurately because we are functioning in a vacuous silo, then this is when it goes wrong and ugly. How can someone take ownership of something when they don’t know if it’s them or not? It’s a poor assumption. Similarly, one cannot take ownership for something when no one is talking formatively or if one is confronted with “Is it YOU?” No one is winning. Nothing and no one gets “better.” And yes, the status quo persists. Are we really learning in education?

Let’s end this edu-rant with a bit of research. According to John Hattie’s (2016) updated results… factors with the greatest effect size on student learning include feedback (0.73), teacher clarity (0.75), and teacher credibility (0.90). Teacher credibility ranked NUMBER ONE. Do not underestimate the power of the teacher and your influence on student learning. Student looks up to the teacher. It’s important to be a role model but also provide feedback and clarity. It can’t be “Is it me?” anymore. This message goes to all levels in education. We are in this together. It has to be, “It is WE.” Think formative.

The Goods Internal


I am so fascinated by the learning process. I love learning about student learning, especially in the context of mathematics education. I love learning about teachers as learners, the premise of my dissertation. Best of all, I am learning about my learning. It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve started the doctorate program in Educational Leadership at SFU… and I’m almost done. So why am I blogging? Good question.

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, “What Motivates One To Blog,” I blog when I’m inspired. There is no schedule for inspiration. First, I hate to be writing something that may not have a mutual benefit to the reader and writer. Second, sometimes if I don’t blog, I get blocked from doing my other writing (aka. my dissertation). Also, it’s a good reminder to me of what’s important. What’s my boundaries? What’s my goals?

One aspect of learning I would like to blog about today is… The Goods Internal. This concept comes from Aladair MacIntyre (1984), The Nature of Virtues. I first learned about this during my Master of Education degree I started in 1999. It was my first course with Dr. Murray Ross. My brain went for a loop. Education philosophy as my first course was a humbling learning experience, but also an awakening.

At the time, I could only make sense of MacIntyre’s (1984) work when I referenced it to curling. I guess, for me, that curling was one of the few practices I have engaged in to truly understand the goods internal to the practice, the goods external, and standards of excellence. I just loved the example given in his book as he describes a young boy first learning how to play chess. At first, the boy was rewarded with candy to play chess. In time, the boy learns through engagement the goods internal to the game of chess and not longer needed candy to motivate him to play and win.

For some reason, I wanted to include this concept in my literature review of my dissertation. Unfortunately, it seemed disconnected to my research question. The goods internal to the practice is more about the ‘why’ and not about the ‘what.’ So, I deleted this section from my literature review. Admittedly, I was disappointed. I felt that the goods internal had some relevance to my study. Maybe I was wrong.

Here’s my moment of inspiration… finally. From writing in my blog… I have learned the goods internal to the practice of writing. Never thought this would be possible, but it also transfers to my dissertation. The goods internal are the ‘good feelings’ or intrinsic reward from engaging in the practice. And, you can only understand the goods internal to the practice when engaged in the practice itself. I think I’ve got it!!!

Well… so what? Guess what I found out from my data in the data analysis? Engagement in the practice matters in the professional learning experience. Boom!!! Let’s be real. I’m not going to disclose the results of my research now in my blog. That would be totally ridiculous. You’ll have to read my dissertation, when published, to find out those results… or come to my oral defence examination (TBA).

What I did realize is two-fold. First, I have had a huge dislike for reading and writing for many years… almost 40. I would say that reading and writing are not my strengths and had spent much of my formative years and higher education avoiding opportunities to read and write. It just wasn’t my preference on my ‘things to do.’ So, what do I do? I decide to go into education. I thought I was not going to make it passed the application process… for my B.Ed., M.Ed., and now Ed.D, The most crazy part of this edu-journey is that now I have to write a dissertation!!!

I am not going to lie… I did have some demons to work through. No question. Writing in a blog was one vehicle to practice writing, but also a new opportunity for me to express myself. I was living the life of an extrovert for over 15 years as a secondary mathematics teacher and when I left my job, my life transformed to one of an introvert… aka. academic/researcher. That was not a natural transition for me and would still rather extrovert than sit quietly… alone… to read and write.

Guess what I’m doing now? I’m sitting quietly… reading and writing. It has taken some time to engage in the practice of writing… reading is coming along as a close second… and enjoying the process. Looking back at how I started to compose Chapter 1 draft compared to writing Chapter 5 was almost night and day. I was paralyzed before. Overthinking. Overanalyzing. Overcritical. Now, I much enjoy free-writing to purge my thoughts, in a thoughtful and tangible way. I have found the goods internal.

Second, I have learned that the goods internal are a part of my study. I am not sure how I will integrate this back into my literature review or discussion/conclusion, but I am confident to reach for excellence in anything, one has to engage in the practice. Yes… initially one may be lured by the goods external. But it’s the goods internal to the practice that is the transformative staying power of the learning process where one will strive for excellence and develop a PASSION for what he or she is doing.

Hmm… I never thought that I would be a writer… and enjoy it. I have enjoyed the dissertation process thus far and excited for what’s next in this edu-journey. What an incredible vehicle for me to understand and appreciate the goods internal. In this case, persistence pays off. Tomorrow I’ll be going to the SFU Vancouver Thesis BootCamp. Three full-days of complete dissertation immersion… and I’m looking forward to it.