Posts Tagged: student learning

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!!!

Younghusband for BCSTA President

Christine Younghusband
School District No.46 (Sunshine Coast)

I am proud to be running for the position of President of the BCSTA Board of Directors. I have 24 years of experience in BC education as an educator, researcher, curriculum developer, sessional instructor, and school trustee. I am deeply invested in BC public education and passionate about teaching and learning. I believe that boards of education are integral to the success of students in BC. We can influence the learning experiences of students while we advocate for quality public education in our communities and province. We are, collectively, educational leaders. Our role as boards of education is to effectively connect community values and identity to the operations of our schools to help students learn and thrive.

“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” – Sir Ken Robinson

Returning back to the BCSTA Board of Directors as President would be an honour and privilege. I am able to effectively connect with others, listen to the concerns of others, and critically look at and question BC public education through multiple lenses. These are essential competencies as we move forward together as a provincial organization in terms of decision-making, policy-making, and building our collective efficacy. Although I took last year off from the Board of Directors to complete my dissertation and doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, upon completion I took the time to reflect and consider what was important to me. Boards of education make a difference in the lives of students and student learning. Being a school trustee is a leadership role I value in education. Boards of education have voice, choice, and agency. What we want for our students should be what we want for ourselves. My desire is to lead BCSTA with a common purpose focused on student learning. Thank you for considering my candidacy as president.

BCSTA Board of Directors, 3-years (2014-2017)

  • Liaison with the BCSTA Legislative Committee
  • Liaison with the (former) BCSTA Education Committee
  • Liaison with the Metro Branch, Northwest Branch, and VISTA Branch
  • Member of the BCSTA Trustee Learning Guide Ad Hoc Committee
  • Metro Branch New Trustee Mentor

School Trustee with the SD46 (Sunshine Coast) Board of Education (2011-present)

  • Chair of the SD46 Policy Committee
  • Chair of the SD46 Education Committee
  • Represented BCSTA on the Standing Committee on Provincial Curriculum
  • South Coast Branch Representative on the BCSTA Education Committee
  • South Coast Branch Secretary


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.

Gaining Perspective

Love what you do.

This may sound cliche but when you realize that your time on earth is limited, it would be in your best interest to do what you love. I had the gift of being away from my life for 20-days and experienced the JOY OF TRANSFORMATION. Admittedly, I’ve changed too. I witnessed people change before my eyes, recalibrating what was important to them and intuitively knowing why. I experienced a type of advocacy and agency that I have never seen before. Clear conviction. I feel lucky to have this opportunity and now I am taking a moment to reflect on what happened and think about what’s important to me.

Before the 20-days, I was participating in a couple of career education workshops at SFU to figure out my next trajectory in life. It’s too easy to look back and consider what I have done before. As much as I have fond memories of teaching secondary mathematics and continue to teach secondary mathematics one-on-one as part of my educational consulting business, I know that I am meant to do something else and my experiences as a math educator will inform and influence me on what I need to do next. I know that my love is in education, even though several times during the 20-days I’ve been asked if I’m in health care or in the medical field. As mentioned, I’m not that kind of doctor.

What I do know for sure is, I love teaching… I love learning… and I love leading. Hence, this is the underpinning of my business. But so what? Most people in education feel the same way. What separates me from other educators and what am I meant to do next? I do know that whatever I choose to do next, I need to be teaching, learning, and leading. I will make no compromise to that. What I also know for sure is, I love data analysis. I love making sense from numbers, I love creating a narrative. That is soooooo fun for me. I just completed the “School Trustee Study” with my research partner (and former senior supervisor) Dr. Dan Laitsch. I just loved playing around with the numbers and making meaning from what we found from the data. I loved the collaboration, critical thinking, and shared expertise. I felt like we accomplished something that is worthwhile.

At the last SFU workshop, I identified 5 core values: (1) integrity and truth; (2) self-respect and pride in my work; (3) having a positive impact on society and others; (4) using creativity, imagination, and being innovative; and (5) autonomy, independence, and freedom. There were many other items to choose from and rank, but this turned out to be my top 5. What amazes me from this list is… I AM COMPLETELY ALIGNED. These 5 core values resonate with me and aligns to what I am doing now… with my business, research, and school trusteeship. This realization is invigorating… knowing that I am doing what I want to be doing. I am on the right trajectory. So, how can I go further?

I am so stoked that I am teaching EDUC454 for a second time this summer. I love that I can take what I have learned from last summer to make this course even better. It’s a time for me to return to my love of teaching and learning, but also find innovative and creative ways to engage and empower adult learners / pre-service teachers. I am driven by my research and the power of experiential learning and reflective practice. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to work with pre-service teachers to influence and encourage them to do what’s right in the K-12 classroom and develop their pedagogy.

I am also thinking about how to expand my business. I am getting new tutoring clientele, I am engaged in research as an affiliate scholar with the Centre for the Study of Educational Leadership and Policy at SFU, and it looks like I will write a book or two as promised in my TEDxWestVancouverED talk. I definitely have one in mind… and another one… and another one. It’s a matter of getting started. I need new material to glean from. I recently guest blogged for McGraw-Hill Education on the “Art of Teaching,” to be published in April. I continue to write about my practice as a secondary mathematics teacher, just like I did for Gillian Judson’s blog ImaginED. It’s been almost 8 years since I left the K-12 classroom and it’s time to write and talk about something else.

Finally, school trusteeship is something to consider. If you look back at previous blog entries, I learned so much from my trusteeship as an educator, parent, and educational leader. Governance plays a huge role in public education and it’s the responsibility of school trustees and boards of education to understand their role, work together with senior management teams, and do what’s best for student learning. I am passionate about this role in education. What we do matters… at all levels in education. Trustees have the responsibility of representing community values, bringing expertise to the table as oversight, and politicizing in a way that leverages learning FOR ALL. This term ends October 2018 and many are deciding whether if they will run or not in the next municipal election. That decision, for me, might come up in my next blog entry. TBA.

Although the “endpoint” is not clear or precise, I am on the right path. It’s reassuring that I am heading towards a vision. I am passionate about education and “finding my place” is important to me… as it should be for all those who are involved in education. Your role matters. Your expertise matters. You competencies matter. And, the right fit matters. We are always changing, so “fit” will also change over time. Be true to yourself and do what’s best for you and the people you serve. There are many opportunities in education where you can make a difference in student learning. You have to find it, then do it well.

It Doesn’t Matter

I meant to write the blog entry a few years ago when I worked on the Math K-9 Curriculum Development Team. We worked in small groups discussing curriculum and what students “should” or “should not” learn. Of course the conversation always veered into practice and what happens in the workplace with respect to math education. My big aha THEN was, regardless of where we come from, the problems that we perceived were the same. I was coming from a private practice, another person was from a rural public school, and the other person was from an urban independent school. I was so fascinated by this phenomena. Our perceived problems in math education were not unique.

Here I am again, reminded of this phenomena… but in a different context. Again, I am wowed. My friend/colleague and I both started in education basically doing the same thing.. teaching secondary math. We were kindred spirits THEN and I loved working across the hall from this person. As time passed on, we proceeded with our careers in different directions. My friend went into administration and I opted to quit teaching in public schools to pursue doctoral studies and I became a school trustee. To make a super long story short… we ended up in the same place of being NOW. How can this be?

We took different paths and assumed different roles in education but reunited we realized that we have the same concerns about education but also the same vision for education. I love this metaphor: grass-fed butter versus margarine. My friend is like grass-fed butter valued at $11 for 250g and I am like a tub of margarine valued at $5.50 for 907g. One may have earned more than the other and took a greater responsibility in education, but in the end, you find us on on the same piece of toast. I find this fascinating… again.

I look at research and my own teaching practice to find and experiment with viable solutions. My friend reads a tonne of books and implements what was learned into the workplace. I continue to feel concerned about some aspects of education, yet feel hopeful about other aspects. I am aware of the potential of the education system and how it would benefit student learning but the machine does not move easily. One person cannot move the machine into a particular direction; it’s the collective. How does the saying go? CULTURE EATS POLICY FOR BREAKFAST. It also eats mindsets, dreams, and possibilities.

How do you create a SOCIAL CONTAGION, something that the keynote speaker from the BCPSEA Symposium spoke of? Although her keynote was referring to HAPPINESS IN THE WORKPLACE, I am wondering about how “we” could change culture that would nourish student learning for all. Happiness is a huge part of it. BC’s New Curriculum is one avenue. It’s a policy document that creates space for those in the field to implement 21st Century Learning opportunities for students. It will take time to successfully implement this curriculum. LEADERSHIP is another key to shifting culture in schools.

The leader has influence on those whom he or she leads. The leader has a vision and clear purpose. The leader must also be resilient, passionate, and persistent. The leader is courageous and models what he or she wants to see. The leader is kind, caring, and empathetic to those around him or her. The leader is selfless and not driven by his or her ego. The leader builds people up, not break them down. The leader is transparent, has good relationships with others, and listens. The leader is also willing to the break the rules (i.e. find new ground) because it’s best for all students and student learning.

I always thought my love for education was math education… but I realize that I am more consumed by leadership and systems. Math education brings light to my passion and purpose. Teaching secondary mathematics brought me to where I am today… as an educator, educational leader, and researcher. I am looking for system change. How can we leverage change together? And, do we want it? I wonder about that. I am about to write a brief blurb on the SIGNALS OF CHANGE. I see one signal and I am curious if it will embark on a social contagion or go underground, which will sustain the status quo.

Acknowledging the grass-fed butter / margarine phenomena brings some solace to my pedagogical journey. To understand what I understand today, I did not have to go through the system and climb the rungs of the public education hierarchy to realize that there is work to be done, I am looking for system change, and shifting culture as a collective is at the heart of it. Leadership is key. Breaking down barriers are as well. But also having the courage to speak up, having your voice heard, and doing something about it. I have great admiration for all those who want to “make a difference” in education and are doing something about it. We need more of us. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter where we come from or what role we possess. What matters is our common purpose.