June Comes the Same Time Every Year

I feel like I have neglected this blog a little in the last month. It isn’t for a lack of ideas but rather the right words. So on this last day of the school year I’m taking a chance and not waiting for the right words. Here it goes.

I have a colleague that loves to remind us that “September comes the same time every year.” No need to panic or act ill prepared because it always comes at the same time. I think for me the saying should be “June comes at the same time every year.” It may be the goodbyes or the reflecting while writing my report for the year, but around this time I always have this frantic panic that I have run out of time.

Have I done enough? Have I made a change? Could I have done it differently?

No matter my role, I have the same feeling whether it is 20 beautiful grade one eyes staring back or the 47 schools on my report.

So knowing that “June comes at the same time every year” I’m trying to change my bad habits. As I was procrastinating from report writing once again yesterday I stumbled upon a great quote.

For a moment, instead of focusing on what I need to do differently, I’ll focus on the small things that have made this year a great year.

Just a few:

  • Peel21st Storifies: I loved looking through all the amazing ideas on Friday morning, seeing the growth and learning and sharing it with the community. It was my Friday morning feel good moment. I can’t wait to see what happens next year! Here is the collection
  • Twitter Chats: I have to admit there was always a slight worry about half an hour before our #peel21st twitter chats that no one would come, but every single time you proved me wrong. It is amazing to think that folks are willing to give up prime time to share their practice and thoughts. In addition to the great dialogue, I feel I have connected with more of you this year through those mad dash conversations.
  • Uniac Sunrise Group: Once a month, a small group of us in one of my family of schools would get in our cars before the sun rose to share and learn together. I am not only grateful that they dragged themselves out of bed for our 8 am meetings but also for an amazing group of educators willing to take a risk together. Our last day of exploration was everything I could hope for from an open ended learning can be for adults: guided conversations and explorations. Thank you!
  • 6Cs Friends: When I had a crazy ideas to blog through the 6Cs @debbieaxiak, @jrichea, @MatthewOldridge jumped on board with no questions asked. I think it’s time to go back and re-read our posts. Being able to collaboratively explore what we really mean by these 6Cs was an incredible learning experience. We need another idea now folks!
  • Home Base: In supporting 47 schools I don’t get to do frequent repeat visits, but I have a few that allow me to come back. In the craziness of driving around it is wonderful to be able to come in and have a kid say “Good Morning Miss Zita”. It is even more wonderful to be able to take risks, learn together and watch the growth that happens once I leave. To all my home base classrooms, thank you for letting me crash every now and then. And to the educators in the classroom, thank you for letting me explore and learn alongside you. I know my ideas were crazy at times!
  • Smiling Faces: It is wonderful to be able to see those learning moments in the classroom. That moment when a spark lights in a child, their eyes start to sparkle and that “I’m smart” grin grows across their face. I have had the privilege to observe some amazing moments of learning this year from a kid schooling me in the Makey Makey board (of course you can have 2 grounds), to students finding their voice with a new app. I need a better way to document those amazing moments next year!
  • Every year I think I have reached my max but there seem to be more and more wonderful educators willing to learn and grow together. It has been amazing meeting each of you. To those who have suffered through my passionate monologues, thank you.

As I reflect on the small things that have made my year great, I am reminded of all the wonderful small things I have observed over this year in #peel21st. Change never is individual. Our collective learning and explorations have made this a wonderful year in #peel21st. I can’t wait for what is ahead for us. Thank you.

Have a wonderful summer!


Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. Vincent Van Gogh









Yesterday we had two learning opportunities for staff to share strategies and ideas for gaming, gamification and coding in the classroom. Now I have to confess, I’m not a gamer. It may be hard to believe but I have never played Angry Birds or Candy Crush. My nephew will always know more about Minecraft then me. I know there are many benefits but not being immersed in the world myself, I think sometimes I miss some of the potential.

“Ooooo” he said.

I was rushing out of our network meeting as I bumped in to two friendly high schoolers. You could tell they knew something was just not right but curiosity kept them from leaving. I politely said the library was closed and they politely responded with ok.

On their way out, one gentlemen turned around and said “Miss, would you mind telling us what is going on?”

“It is a group of teachers looking at how they can use games, gamification and coding in school.” I responded.

You should have seen his eyes light up! “Ooooo”, he said tapping his chin. “I better leave them to it so they can use it with us.” 

Part of me wanted to invite them to stay, to hear from teachers and kids, to share their own expertise but left with a perfectly timed reminder of why our conversations yesterday were so important.

As I left I wondered when the last time was that I went ‘Ooooo’ about a learning prospect.

My “To The Moon with Google”

As I scrolled through my tweets earlier this week I saw a post by Doug Pete (Thanks Aviva!). He shared an inspiring clip To the Moon with Google. Of course it didn’t stop there, the post came with a challenge to share our story. I have had so many great moments and love to share stories but this is a story I often keep to myself.

When I was a little girl I told my parents I wanted to be a teacher. They tell me I never changed my mind after that day in grade 1.

I remember playing school with my brother, standing in front of the class. After playing school for many years the real job began.

There were…

  • the stickers
  • the garage sales
  • the accidents (primary teachers know what I’m talking about)
  • the emergency snacks
  • hours searching for just the right book or the perfect clip
  • professional reading stacks
  • the pep talks
  • constructive feedback
  • the “aha moment’ smiles and confidence
  • cherished relationships
  • daily learning opportunities

Then one day, on the last day of the AQ course, she came to me and said “You made me a better teacher“. I have to admit I was fighting back the tears.

I don’t think that six year old girl ever planned for that moment. A moment where the dream of being a teacher became inspiring teachers. Till the day I retire, even if it was just for that one person that one day, it will remain my “To the Moon” story.

When I was a little girl I told my parents I wanted to be a teacher.

Back to Change-Purpose

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. To be honest the concept of change has haunted me this year. I am grateful for the many positive experiences and kind words individuals share but still question if I am being effective in inspiring change.

Kevin Kerr shared a clip last week about our purpose in life from the Skoll World Forum. It’s a beautiful clip that has 50 different individuals reflect on their purpose in life. I dare you to watch the clip without being inspired and then reflecting on your own purpose.

As i listened to the responses, I identified with many voices. I wanted to ‘borrow’ the purposes I was hearing from the woman who mentioned:  lighting sparks…in complex and dark spaces. (@2:05) to the gentleman that mentioned the reflective question of What good is one doing to humanity?

I wonder if in education we just assume each others purpose. We all want what is best for kids, we want to help them succeed, so our purpose must be that. As I listened to the clip it was amazing to see the shock, the smiles, the passion that came through in their responses. Listening, I realized I need to take the time to ask colleagues what their purpose is. Better yet, I need to be clear of my own purpose and how it evolves over time. I wanted to be a teacher since I was 6. That first year of teaching in 2001 I probably would have told you my purpose is to teach. As time has passed I think I now understand that my purpose is to inspire a joy of learning. It is what excites me the most: the smile, confidence and pride that comes from learning something new whether 6 or 60.


The biggest moment of reflection for me came at 2.22. I was struck by a statement.

I’m thinking it’s time I have to measure how much I’ve changed the world and how much more I need to push.

he followed up later in the clip 3:56

All this effort was not changing the world in any way and I had to fix that.

No matter what role you have in education I think we can get busy with DOING that we forget to reflect on how it aligns with our purpose. What struck me most from his statement was how he used his purpose as his measuring stick of success. I can get carried away sometimes measuring my effectiveness by that of colleagues or leaders I admire or measuring my effectiveness by the list of things I have done.  As I ask myself how I have effected change I need to keep my purpose front and center as my guide.

The best reminder of the clip was at 4:50 I don’t have to do it alone.

We are not alone. What a reassuring reminder. As different as the purposes in the clip were they all came back to the good in humanity. Who would have thought you could take so much away from a 5 minute clip! In our many conversations around change in education from informal chats, to conferences to twitter I don’t think we have always taken the time to share our purpose, our visions. That shared vision is so essential if we want to move forward as a system.





Our purpose becomes our lighthouse through the rough waves of the change process. At times it reminds us we are on the right path, at others it reminds us we are off course and need to re-evaluate.




The Small Moments

It might have been the piles of snow or the dark grey mornings but this winter has seemed busier and a little too long. While whipped up in the frenzy that comes with busyness, it was wonderful to be jolted by unexpected, small moments.

Small moments including…Image

  • a free parking pass from a kind stranger
  • a week of brilliant sunrises
  • a voluntary ‘good morning’ from a middle school-er
  • a giggling child on their way down the hall (who knew attendance was so much fun)
  • coffee with a  friend
  • an encouraging tweet
  • a thank you email

It was amazing how one very small moment could help refocus an entire day.

So it got me thinking.

As a teacher leader, do I need to focus on the small moments a bit more? Name them, share them, celebrate them.

The snow may have melted and the sun returned, but I reminded of a need to focus on the small moments moving forward.







Mobile and Ubiquitous

Tonight is the final night of my MEd course this semester. We have been exploring mobile and ubiquitous computing for two months which has been a fascinating topic that has boggled my mind from wearable technology to robots to cyborg men and surveillance.
Over this time my nephews and I returned to Bell Lightbox digiplayspace. I absolutely love this exhibit and was hoping and praying my nephews didn’t think they were too cool. Luckily they jumped at the possibility to attend. There were led walls that reacted to water, robots made of digital cubes that snapped together and a bike riding oculus rift (new word for me) paper boy game.


Being immersed in technology day in and out I often forget how amazing it can be. The digi playspace is my yearly reminder of what can be, that technology does not need to come in a box and can appear seamless at times.
Last week in the course we watched the following Ted talk:


If you want to be wowed by technology, watch a robot in a music jamming session. As I watched the clip though I realized the most amazing part of the technology is not the technology but the process.
The spark of an amazing (maybe outrageous) idea, going with it, searching out learning, connecting with colleagues, testing, trying, playing.
What a gift for our learners in an ever changing world full of mobile and ubiquitous computing.

Even if I give that gift to just one child, how amazing!

Lost in Translation

There is a page in one of my favourite books The Arrival by Shaun Tan where the protagonist is having difficulties communicating.

I think I love it so much because I remember those frustrating days as a kid when I couldn’t communicate with my peers in school in Germany or Italy.

If I am completely honest sometimes I feel the same way in discussions about education. We love our terminology (me especially). Just to think about the number of terms that have come and gone since I started 13 years ago is amazing: SAMR, documenting, II, Differentiation, Personalization, TLCP, Collaborative Inquiry and so on. It is good (essential) to evolve, to improve, to deepen our understanding as professionals. I don’t believe the words or concepts presented are at fault.

At times though I wonder if we are lost in translation. We get so attached to the terminology,  strongly discussing and defending our own definition, our interpretation of meaning. Sometimes we think we are discussing the same thing and leave confused why we haven’t come to an agreement. Other times we argue about a difference in vocabulary but really had the same goal in mind. Worse yet I fear we judge individuals based on how current their terminology is when they are common threads through out. How can we improve the conversations? How can we dig deeper if we are so attached to the terminology?

Are we complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated.

A few weeks back I was so excited to see some former students. I was at the same school for nine years (probably too long) but had the opportunity to watch many of them grow up from the small shy Kindergarteners to the grade 5 graduating class. I am always excited to see them and their smiling faces when I travel (sometimes in the most unexpected places). I got to see C this time and as C ran over to say hi, I found myself rushing over as well. I think every educator has had those moments when you are reassured you have connected with a learner, when you have the opportunity to check in after a few years and see they are doing well. And it hit me, I can’t tell you what I taught her. I know we spent hours chatting about books and reading together but her passion for reading was sparked at home way before me. I could learn a lesson or two about confidence from C, so that is certainly not the lesson I taught her.

Are we complicating the simple and simplifying the complicated.

C reminded me that the most complex part of our job is the learner; the unique, marvelous, mysterious individuals that are in front of us every day. The frameworks, terms, research are all there to help us better meet the needs of our learner not to get in the way of it. They really are the simpler part of our job.

My take away from it all? I am going to make a better effort to not name drop the current terms, but make strong connections to ideas of the past, the evolution and most importantly the learner. Above all else before jumping to conclusions, I will take the time to listen closely so we aren’t Lost in Translation.