Confession: I am not Wonder Woman Pt. 2

Some lessons are harder to learn than others. 

After a gentle push that we all have something to share, two years ago I blogged Confession: I am Not Wonder Woman. It was the first time I really experienced how therapeutic writing this blog could be (also how long it could possibly take to write a few paragraphs). So am I less busy? Well it may not seem so sometimes but it has become the lesson I can’t avoid. From MEd courses on Mindfulness in Education and #the100dayproject I realize I am slowly taking the time for those small steps and trying to let myself say NO once or twice. Still a long long way to go, but at least I’m moving in the right direction.

But I noticed a different side of the Wonder Woman Syndrome creep in.

It is amazing to be in a profession where there are so many role models, educators doing AMAZING things from creating apps to keynoting conferences to publishing their work. You look up at these inspiring superhero figures and sometimes all you can do is have that fan girl experience like a 5 year old. How do they do it? How do they balance it all? And then the doubt starts creeping in, even just for a second. Should I be doing more? Am I putting my ideas out there? Maybe I’m not meant to be the superhero, maybe I’m just meant to be the sidekick or ‘hair and make up’. I’m good at the behind the scenes, the connecting, the sharing.

And just when you think you learned a lesson, there’s more.

I thought that was where the lesson would end, battling the questions of whether I was just too chicken or wanting to be something I was not. Then last week I had a few experiences that got me thinking. I wondered if folks at times, even for just a split second, may look at me with that same fan girl expression of awe and intimidation I had experienced. Suddenly I realized that maybe we all are heroes looked up to for a moment in time by our colleagues, our students, or family.

The Take Away

Maybe the take away is to remember to share the person behind the mask, the good and the bad. Or maybe the take away is that it is ok to be our own version of a super hero.

I may not be the image of Wonder Woman, but to someone at the right time I may be just enough hero.

ALL Speeds Ahead – Lessons on Change from the Ocean

IMG_6083The last time I was on the East Coast I reflected on Waves, their Power and Lessons on Change. So this time as I stood at the ocean edge with the freezing waves at my toes and sea glass in my hand it was hard not to reflect. Was I remembering to focus on the beauty formed over time with the sea glass or longing for the big photo worthy waves?

I kept thinking about the sea glass and wondering about change.

It didn’t hit till we were touring old war ships in the Halifax harbour. As we climbed the stairs and started our tour of the ship we came to the bridge and the Engine Order telegraph (ok, I had to get some help with that one). To be honest it was the old print and shiny casing that caught my eye. Through the lens I noticed the various speeds, imagining the boat barreling through open waters at full speed. It’s the ideal picture we often create of change, full speed IMG_2203ahead, no looking back.

I would have seen full speed ahead as the ideal for but over the two weeks my dad had roped us in to binge watching The Last Ship. Not necessarily quality viewing but definitely addictive and informative (for this post). Depending on the conditions, the purpose, and crazy hurdles that kept popping up in the show, different speeds served a different purpose. Sometimes it was necessary to just stop and be still in the pursuit of moving forward, using a slow speed to navigate the reefs, and other times it was full speed ahead. Even through the dramatics of the show, I wondered if the same could be true of change. Was I making the best of the various speeds of change or rushing to push the dial to full speed? Maybe sometimes we need to go half speed ahead so we can hone the skills a little more. Maybe we need to slow down to see what path is best next to get us to our final destination and sometimes we come to those calm open waters and it is full speed ahead.

It seems like every time I’m at the ocean’s edge I’m reminded that change is often not a quick endeavour. It’s a long journey with twists and turns, requiring a great navigator that isn’t focused solely on speed.

I may slip a piece of sea glass in my pocket this year so I have that small reminder to remember time. Here is hoping for a year at ALL speeds ahead.

Love to hear your thoughts!

The 100 Day Project: A Final Reflection Blog Hop

It is hard to believe it’s now a month since the group got together to100 Day Project Collage celebrate the end of #the100dayproject. I still remember seeing the post on @elenatreehouse Instagram feed and thinking I was crazy to take something on the day after completing my MEd. To be honest I don’t think I would have followed through if it wasn’t for a great group of folks that decided to come along for the journey. We each had a different focus over the 100 days but learned and shared from each other’s journey. We each are reflecting on our journey and learning (click the links below the post to hop from one post to another) using some of the ongoing prompts from @elleluna as some inspiration for our final reflection.

Most Challenging & Most Rewarding

I don’t think I truly knew what I was signing up for at the beginning of the project. 100 days seems simple till about day 31 when you run out of topics to photograph. The last thing you think you have time for on a busy or tiring day is to stop and create but it was amazing to see how those few minutes could reset the day. I tended to leave it to the last possible minute sometimes literally posting at 11:59 but taking those last few minutes of the day just to create with no set agenda was invigorating. I create all the time for work but there is often a set goal and determined audience. I think it was the first time I created just for me in a skill that was completely selfish.

New Connections

I loved taking a few minutes through out the project to hit the hasthag and see what others were posting. Having such a great community of individuals creating pushed my brain past my own limits and forced me to look at the world a little differently. I loved @chriscureton #100daysofsymbolizinggreatness. I felt silly complaining about time watching @elenatreehouse create her amazing paper art with a toodler and another on the way. It was also great to connect with colleagues in a new way. I love social media and as an avid Twitter user, I have seen the power of connections but there was something different in us all embarking on a learning journey together. It felt intimate and allowed me to have daily connections and ongoing advice with some great friends.

Biggest Takeaway

As I was reading Austin Klein’s Steal Like an Artist there was a great quote by Gustave Flaubert “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”  It seemed to capture my experience through the project perfectly. Taking the time to create daily, no matter what I felt like, helped me look at the world around me in different ways. I thought the biggest take away would be a better understanding of my phone but I think I leave understanding the need to take those 10 minutes, to set a routine, to take the time.

And that leads to what is next. I feel like I need a 100 day project for the start of the school year. I had considered a blog a day to get me back in the routine of writing and reflecting. That may be too ambitious. Perhaps a quote a day would be a better focus.

You can see all 100 pictures HERE. Have a suggestion for me? Want to do a first 100 days of school challenge together? Love to hear your thoughts and please if you have a few minutes check out the following posts.

Storytime

First of all I have to apologize for the tardiness of this post. I have been struggling with ideas, worthiness and time. I need a blogging buddy to keep me accountable!

I have always loved a good story, no matter the medium: told by an animated friend, played out on the big screen or found on the pages of a book. Stories felt like an escape, an adventure, a pause. So as ADE2015 (Apple Distinguished Educator Institute) kicked off a few weeks back and we were presented with the theme of STORY, I was excited for the learning ahead. The conference didn’t disappoint as we explored the elements of a good story through film, explored how story appears in our design, in the composition of our images as well as an overflowing list of inspiring stories on stage.

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For me though, the real learning about STORY didn’t happen under the spotlights. It was in the one on one (or one on few moments) of conversation at the beach, during breakfast, around the table. See I have always loved telling stories. If you read this blog regularly, stories seem to be how I share my world (maybe it is my constant attempt to avoid big words). I don’t know though if I always appreciated the value that stories could bring to our learning community or worse if I was taking the time to listen closely to the stories of those around me.

There were so many stories that helped me learn and connect but I think that is what we expect from a story exchange at a conference. A give and get of ideas. The luxury of having 4-5 days together allowed me to learning a few more surprising powers of a story.

As we sat around the table in a small pizzeria after some crazy science experiment ice cream and a sweet inducing but inspiring art walk, we sat back and moaned a slight sigh of relief. The water came and the food waiting began so we started sharing our stories of adventure; stories of rediscovering family history; stories of families back home and landscapes out our window; stories of adventures we were hoping to have in the future. In that moment I realized how much of ourselves we give in stories. Stories have the power to make us human, to remind us that we are more similar than different.

I often see stories as something that is shared with us, passed down from one to another, exchanged like currency in a store but out with the guys one night I realized that co-writing our stories together forms community. The institute was full of long days packed with great learning but we needed an escape so we headed down to South Beach to observe the scene. An interesting ride in a taxi van and uber back, a late night toe dip in the ocean and some crazy loud music later we found ourselves laughing, chatting and sharing about life. Education wasn’t a banned topic at the table but it wasn’t everything. I realized how our shared story helped us form community. Our shared story brought the individual pieces together to be one. 

I had met the ladies from Brazil at breakfast in the morning. With limited language (my Portguese needs much work) we were able to exchange some information and then reconnect later in our learning communities. They had this feel good positive vibe going on that no matter the language barrier you wanted to be around them. It came time to share what we do and as C. began, despite the translator, I found myself focusing on her words. With every word I could see her passion for her kids, her passion for wanting to make a difference, her belief in change. There may have been a tear or two. Stories have the power to inspire you. Sometimes it is a call to change, sometimes a call to explore but best of all sometimes they reconnect you with the belief that this job is as powerful as we believe.

I don’t think anyone would argue the power of a great story (the film and book industry would agree I’m sure). For me I leave challenged to take the time: take the time to just sit with no agenda, no plan, just listen to the story shared. Maybe it will be a typical educational story exchange but hopefully it will be a chance to connect, to understand and to be inspired. 

What do stories mean to you?

A Little Bit of Awesome: Avoiding the Could Have-Should Have-Would Have moments

SunnySide ParkEver go for a walk and get distracted by the little bits of awesome all around you? It could just be that I am a master procrastinator but it’s amazing when you allow yourself to be distracted what will catch your eye and force you to look a little more closely. It could be the shimmer on the lake or the plover you have never spotted before, a kids’ giggle or a dog’s eagerness to explore. It’s amazing how those very small moments can reset your day.

I always go into the school year with BIG plans and then June comes. The moment of crisis hits and I start thinking of all the things I should have, could have, would have done. (I will leave the conversation of measuring success to another post). Now this year seemed to be a year full of detours, maybe even derailments at times, that when I looked back I kept fixating on the should have/could have/would have moments. Leave it to a kid to remind me there are little bits of awesome if I just looked closely (listened closely).

I was at a school I have had the pleasure of visiting often. I hadn’t been there in a few months, but standing by the elevator waiting to bring the iPads up, a class walked by eagerly saying hello. I don’t think they were a class I worked with more than a handful of times so as a student asked who I was, the girl responded she’s the app queen. I promise I do more than apps but in that moment it just made me smile.

It made me think, despite the detours and derailments there were a lot of those little bits of awesome this year.

Little Bits of Awesome this Year:IMG_0077

  • Watching a 5 year old write 18 lines of code to get Dash through the obstacle
  • Standing back and watching the murmurs of on task children problem solving in Scratch Jr.
  • Listening in to the chatter of Kindergartners around Osmo.
  • Having a colleague come back and share how they have used ____________(insert tool here) after we chatted
  • A colleague and her class that were willing to take a crazy risk with me (Thanks @BrantsLaura)
  • Looking back each week with the Storify recap and seeing the growth in conversation and individual joining the conversation
  • Having friends join in with #the100dayproject, challenging and sharing along the way
  • The eager “What is the name of that app/tool?” after we try something new with big and small learners
  • A note of thanks from a student whether an 5 or 55

Just like looking closely at the lake reset my day, I’ve realized how my Little Bit of Awesome moments can reset my perspective on the year. I still have big plans and the could have, should have, would have moments are still present but my Little Bit of Awesome moments remind me that each of those detours were worth it.

What have been your Little Bit of Awesome moments this year?

Think I’m going to create a hashtag for next year to keep better track and remind myself to reset.

Stuck on Leadership: Reminders for Myself

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation around teacher leadership. Our hope was to define and explore the many facets as we move in to a new learning opportunity on just that topic. I had left thinking I would blog that night. The conversation was so rich from servant leadership to the leader as artist then on to management versus leadership. So I was a bit perplexed when I sat down to write and nothing came. Maybe it was just too big of an idea to capture in one post.

Last night as we were chatting after hours I realized perhaps I needed to take a different approach. What if I looked to the leaders I admire and reflect on what I would hope to emulate. What were the reminders for myself I needed to have front and centre moving forward?  (This is a good time to sneak in I think we all  have the opportunity to lead and be led whether it is in your job description or not).

So here we go.

Dear self, please remember…

  • To walk the talk I have to remember that this does not necessarily mean being the expert but rather leading by example. If I want to see honesty, I have to model honesty. If I want to inspire risk taking, then I need to take risks myself. I remember watching a leader take that one step of trying something new in front of us all. It wasn’t the flashiest, newest tech, but the impact that moment of risk taking had was immense. That one simple act gave me the go ahead to take risks as well.
  • LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN  It’s so easy to get carried away looking immediately for something smart to say or a way to help. I need to remember to truly listen, no judgement. I’m lucky to have amazing leaders/mentors that take the time to listen both in person and virtually. There is something powerful in the simple act of someone who doesn’t have to listen to you, taking the time to do so. The best listeners though are those that hear what isn’t said. They know you well enough to read what lies beneath it all. A skill I need to work on.
  • Build relationships & then push We often speak of relationships. Listening really helps here to build trust and care (and homemade shortbread cookies of course). I’m lucky to have a lot of great cheerleaders in my life but have come to realize we also need that coach that pushes us to be more, to try something new, to think of something from a new perspective. Without the relationship it seems like criticism. With a caring relationship I know it is meant to help me grow.  I may be writing this blog post because I got a gentle push last night. 
  • Self regulate like a Kindergartner. We often equate self-regulation with Kindergarten but oh how we need it as adults. I know this is where I fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness, the busy work, the system and blame others for the place we are in. I have a bad habit of getting lost in the work, consumed by a project to the point that I can’t find a path out. What’s worse is I know what can balance it all out again whether playing with some Kindergartenersor catching a few minutes of fresh air. So why don’t I? I think sometimes it is ego thinking that I am needed, other times it is a fear that my passion for the project may be lessened if I take that moment of pause. Overall I am slowly starting to realize (only took 30+ years) that those moments of balance make all of it possible.

What are your reminders for yourself whether leading 8 year olds or administrators?

#makeschooldifferent: My Five (or close to it)

I’ve started this blog post a few times and I don’t know why I’m struggling. Hopefully you forgive the rambling.

I stumbled upon Scott McLeod’s post: We have to stop pretending via Greg Pearson (@vptechnodork) twitter feed. Of course I asked him what his 5 were and he blogged right away, returning the question. I’ve been stumped. Not for a lack of passion on the topic but rather because one or two keep swirling in my head. The format also feels direct. I usually mask my thoughts in cute stories. This format feels a little revealing. I could say a lot of things that everyone would nod along to but I’m not sure that’s the point of the exercise. This is a bit more challenging, hope you forgive me. Here we go:

We need to stop pretending…

1. That technology is an option. This may seem a little weird but it is an idea I’ve struggled with a lot (wrote about it here). We often say we want to use technology meaningfully, move into the deeper waters of SAMR, maximize the tool. It is about it’s purposeful use. I completely agree! At some point though we have to stop pretending it’s an optional tool, a tool that needs to be justified, measured and advocated every time it’s used. A tool that the ‘techy’ or ‘comfortable’ or ‘cool’ teachers use. When will it become our paper and pencil, textbook, camera? Computers have been in schools since I went to school. How would our conversations change if we just saw it as part of our toolbox? Do we really have an option to say no to the technology when the world has moved on?

2. That we don’t have enough access. #1 seems to lead to # 2. Another point that seems a little silly. More access is always better for planning and implementation. The more we have in the building, the more I will be able to engage my learners. I don’t disagree, but the number of devices shouldn’t be a reason to stop using the tools. We are a resourceful profession, making a few hundred dollars in school supplies last a whole year, finding five new uses for used paper (Primary teachers, you know what I’m talking about). We have access to more technology than ever before. I am sure we can apply our resourcefulness to any devices we can get our hands on. I have seen amazing lessons that have maximized 2 or 3 school devices available and/or a few BYOD tools.

3. That change waits for someone else. This is the idea that keeps gnawing away at me. Primarily because it is one I often fall victim to personally. It’s easy to point out what needs to change in a system, to find the cracks, to point out what or who is holding us back. It’s harder to acknowledge what I am choosing not to change. Am I living my beliefs or building my defense for why it isn’t possible? If I believe we need a new definition for school than I need to start with myself. This does not mean we will not be frustrated, not experience roadblocks, not feel defeated at times but it does empower us to take an active role to #makeschooldifferent

I debated adding the wonderful ideas of others posts I’ve read that I completely agree with but I feel these are the three I would like to add to the conversation. What are your thoughts? What are your top 5 to #makeschooldifferent?