My One Word for 2018 (maybe two)

Every year I get to this point and am stumped. What is the one word for the year ahead? You climb this mountain, stand at the summit and shout out your word hoping the universe shouts back some tips. As I read through past posts, I realized perhaps they are still areas of growth. I still need to focus on the necessary (#oneword2016) and I’m not sure I was as fearless as I wanted to be in 2017. Maybe I need to work on the action piece or perhaps a quarterly revisit will help.

Back to the word.

As I have been reading Creative Confidence by Tom and Dave Kelly this week, the pieces started falling in to place. The authors define creative confidence as the combination of thought and action: “the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.” It feels like a perfect fit for many reasons. One it builds on last year’s word of fearless but it also focuses on action. As much as the ideas come, the fear creeps in: fear of being judged, fear of failure, even fear of success. Tom & Dave address it so well in chapter 1.

In our experience, one of the scariest snakes in the room is the fear of failure, which manifests itself in such ways as fear of being judged, fear of getting started, fear of the unknown. And while much has been said about fear of failure, it still is the single biggest obstacle people face to creative success.

So for 2018 I want to live out my creative confidence. A year of new ideas and the courage to bring them to life and push the fear aside.

Here’s to wishing you each a year of action!


The Half Way Mark

I was sitting begrudgingly cleaning my den last weekend when I stumbled on a pension wise pamphlet. I have to admit I usually set them aside but, in full procrastination mode, it seemed like a perfect time to have a closer look. And there in the front cover popped the number 16; 16 years down – 16 years to go. This is the half way mark of my career.  

Then the internal dialogue starts swirling:

16 years! Oh my goodness. What have I done in 16 years? Is it enough? Have I had an impact? How do you measure impact? Could I be doing more? Was it worth the time/energy/money? What will the next 16 years look like? I should have done…..

I stopped myself from the comparisons for a minute to think about what I wanted my legacy to be. It’s easy to get caught up in numbers, awards, accomplishments (they are all nice and greatly appreciated) but is that what mattered? Is that the legacy I want to leave behind? And then I read a quote from Carol Ann Tomlinson in her monthly reflections in Educational Leadership:

That’s it! I found my measuring tool. I don’t want to measure my impact in the number of publications, likes, people in attendance but rather in how many gentle nudges sparked growth. Sometimes you nudge a system in looking at resources differently, sometimes it’s nudging a friend in a class to see their potential, and other times it’s nudging friends to share their amazing stories or try something a little different. Each nudge a small seed requiring different supports to grow. I realize as I write this I’m choosing the harder path. These seeds are often not glitzy or glammy. It may not always be the popular path. It often happens in the small one on one moments, not big events. Nudges and growth are hard to quantify. Sometimes it takes years to see the impact if you get to see/hear of the impact at all.

I realized I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the educators in my life that nudged me along, planted the seed and supported it’s growth. So here at the half way mark I’m grateful for the nudges and will check myself as I think of my impact. As I start fixating on the numbers or accomplishments, I’ll pause to count the seeds.

I stand

on the sacrifices

of a million women before me


what can I do 

to make this mountain taller

so the women after me

can see farther




the sun and her flowers

Better Together

“The people I respect most have one thing in common — they gather.”


Sometimes you just can’t avoid a lesson. It hits you at every turn. This time it was a reminder that we are better together.

It was the morning of our presentation at BIT and I opened an email update from AJ Juliani. He was sharing a moment from a session with Austin Kleon where the idea of everyone being a scenius came up –  the idea that many of the geniuses we know were actually part of creative scenes. The genius was in the group.

Brandon, Heather and I had just started our session on creativity at #Bit17 when it hit them. We had such a great response to the first interactive activity and being responsive to some of the pre-session chatter, Brandon & Heather had the idea to do a YES AND activity with the group. It wasn’t part of our original plan but we went with it. Looking back it made the session, it kept the energy level high and imparted a quick strategy before diving even further into our discussions.

The pieces came together as I stumbled upon Good Good Good Co post on Instagram. The quote about the importance of gathering had me reflecting on the many times an experience was better because I did it with others.

Collaboration may look different at different times, virtual – face to face, brief or ongoing, but great learning can’t happen in isolation. We need to find times to gather. Sometimes it may just be a Flipgrid collection but we are all better together!

There was a famous film actress that had attended this conference we've been attending in Egypt and she said something that really hit home for our team. . "The people I respect most have one thing in common — they gather." . We loved this. We think it applies to people who seek to bring messy hope into the world — they always gather. Ideas, dreams and hopes for change can manifest themselves while we are alone, but the difference between making those dreams a reality or letting them die is community. There is strength in numbers and strength in the oneness of purpose. Furthermore, gathering requires showing up. . So here are a couple of questions for you today: 1. Where are you showing up? 2. How do you show up? 3. What keeps you from showing up? . While abroad, we've been paying close attention to the idea that we have to show up for our own lives and gather to make real things happen in our communities. . (PS: This is a photo of our new friend Homam. He’s was born in Syria and currently lives in Dubai who works as a creative marketing director. Our team has decided that we all want to be more like him.)

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THIS IS IT moments piling up

As I’ve shared some of my THIS IS IT moments over the last little while, I started reflecting on those moments over my career.

FPC, the Fallingdale Publishing Company, started as a digital newspaper (yes, I’m that old) and moved in to a media production studio over time. A small group of junior friends would create media products for school events over the lunch hour. We decided to create our own fairy tale remixes and a group of guys decided to create the gassy frog prince (standard topic for a junior group). We were planning our stories in groups, writing a script for our final recording when I glanced over. I watched the group of guys sitting in a circle on a table chatting through their script. In that group there were friends that soared with academics and others that had to work a bit harder, some that were social butterflies and others that preferred smaller groups. It didn’t seem to matter in that moment as ideas bounced back and forth, as the group engaged in collaboratively creating. It was at that moment that I saw the power of innovating and the way a digital tool or strategy could inspire a new approach.

I thought the grade 2 blog was a failure. Our learners were exploring Global Communities and we decided to set up a blog using voicethread to collect ideas and questions. I had big hopes to connect with friends globally and after waiting patiently for a week no one posted to our Voicethread. I was definitely disappointed. I had a sample story of growing up in Europe on our blog so a friend came with a bunch of artifacts one day to add her own voicethread. Over recess we took pictures, put them in her story and had her add her voice. Lo and behold friends kept coming at recess to share more about their culture. Students found a voice in a simple class blog.

I was in one of my last linguistics courses working on a project on Icelandic. How I ended up with Icelandic I have no clue. I couldn’t find much on the topic in the libraries but stumbled upon an email address. So I opened that dark DOS screen email and composed my message. I was shocked to get a reply a few days later. It was my first time seeing the power of technology to create global connections.

My THIS IS IT moments reminded me of the power of technology to spark conversations, share our identities, create connections. We often see posters that peg pedagogy against technology, battling it out to see which one carries more of the weight. I realized as I reflected on my stories that perhaps technology can come before the pedagogical links but above all else it comes after our learners. Each story brought me back to the competent, capable empowered modern learner using the tools to spark new learning journeys, share their identities and create connections to the community.

As much as I love technology, I love the power of technology in the hands of learners more. I have seen it change conversations, engage the disengaged, put big learners in a co-learning stance. How can we resist when we have a chance to empower a learner in new ways? 


Buddy Needed

I’ve shown the clip 100 times, usually accompanied by a long rant about the importance of sharing and yet I sit here feeling guilty because I haven’t blogged in 9 days. Maybe guilty isn’t the right word, perhaps it’s disappointed.

In my job sharing kind of comes with the role and I LOVE it: sharing a quick glimpse from a classroom moment or the great learning experiences colleagues across the board. This blog has always been an opportunity to share differently. Sharing that is a little deeper, more personal and sometimes as much about the downs as the ups. I never realized how much I love to write till I started blogging and each post feels a bit like a release of swirling thoughts.

Yet I sit with 6 draft posts because doubt creeps in.

  • Who is going to read this?
  • Is this worth folks time?
  • Have I said it before?
  • Has someone else said it better? They are much smarter/more followers/better researched anyways.
  • Do I have enough evidence/sources?
  • Why do I need sources?
  • Am I writing this for hits or because it’s what I’m really pondering?
  • I could write something that folks would probably like better!
  • Does it really matter?

Here’s the thing: I know that the questions are just getting in the way. I have lived the aha moment in the clip more than a handful of times and I do want to write. So how do I overcome the doubt?

So I’ve decided I need a buddy. It works for working out, why can’t it work for sharing. I’m looking for a buddy that may be in the same predicament where being accountable to each other will help us push through the doubt. I’m keeping it simple: one blog post a week for now.

Want to be my buddy?

Empowered Modern Learners – This Is It ep. 2

I shared a THIS IS IT moment this spring not realizing at the moment it may become a series but couldn’t resist sharing another moment that made me see our vision document in Peel in action.

I didn’t quite know what to expect as I put a call out to the #peel21st community to try Breakout Edu together. One, because it was the first week of school. Two, I had only done it with adults to that point. Surprisingly the replies came in and I had a handful of classrooms to learn alongside those first few weeks of school. With no experience with escape rooms, I was supposed to lead others. After messing up a lock or two and racking my brain to decipher a clue, I put together the pieces for the Dot Day game and brought it to our first group. Learning a little each time and then tweaking it for the next group.

No matter the age: grade 2, 5, 7, or 12, it was mesmerizing to watch. Every time without fail, you would see friends..

  • collaborating together
  • finding a way to communicate their ideas
  • justifying their thinking enthusiastically
  • problem solving and persisting when their first, third or fifth combination didn’t work

As I stood back I had one of those THIS IS IT moments again. It was like the 21st century competencies from the Global Competencies discussion paper came to life in front of me. I could hear myself saying: This is what empowered modern learning looks like. 

At first glance it may feel like technology didn’t play a big role this time. As I reflected though I could see the little moments it supported the experience. From the first tweet I stumbled upon about Dot Day, the simple retweet that led to a few scheduled visits, accessing the Google Drive folder of resources for the game to sharing the learning with images & video back to the community.

This time the digital tools just played a background role, other times it is more the supporting actor. No matter what the lead in every moment has been an empowered modern learner.

Defining Moments

I was in the middle of a project when Jonathan first tagged me in this challenge of sharing our top 5 moments.A whole slew of great educators reflected on their top 5 defining moments in their teaching career. Thanks to Lisa’s post yesterday for the reminder to reflect.

As I reflect on the last 15 years or so there are so many moments that stand out. It’s hard to pick defining moments. What makes those moments worthy of such a title? The more I reflect, the more I realize the impact my teachers, my family, my experiences have on my day to day work but here are a few that happened right within the walls of the school house or at least the daily schedule (couldn’t decide on 4 and 5). Some are big, others small. They may seem insignificant but it’s crazy to see how they all add to my journey.

  1. Diving in with Both Feet – I’m not sure why I didn’t question leading lunch and learns in my first year of teaching. I was just so excited to get the job that I said ok to everything. It maybe wasn’t amazing and I maybe did sessions on Bailey’s Book House (I can’t believe I am sharing this) but it’s amazing what that small act taught me. I walked away with an understanding that everyone could be a learner, no matter how far along in their journey. We could all learn from each other in our learning community, even from a timid first year teacher.
  2. Wait – I can’t even remember which colleague it was now but I walked into their classroom to collaborate in my role as a Literacy Coach. They were in the deep of a conversation with a friend. The gesture was so simple. A quick show of the hand to ask me to wait one minute. I know this may seem silly but it has always stuck with me. Learner first. Everything else can wait.
  3. Community – An offer came up to collaborate with two other boards as we looked at instructional intelligence in our practice through a collaborative inquiry. I had never done anything like that before. Having opportunities to be challenged, pushed by and learn alongside great educators outside my board changed my perspective. More than anything the experience reminded me of the power of community and set a high bar for any future collaborations.

It’s fun to look back and see the small moments. Moments that made me stop and reflect while challenging me to look at learning differently.

What are your defining moments?