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? 


At the Start of a New Year

With the start of a new school year comes the excitement of new plans and projects. You start with one and before you know it you have a list from flexible seating to diving deeper with design thinking, reflecting more, exploring Microbits and livebeacons. The list gets longer and longer as you read and browse, chat with colleagues. Then that overwhelming sensation starts creeping in. Where to start? I get why colleagues sometimes ask what initiative should I pick? Which one should I focus in on? Exciting goals and plans quickly turn in to a long list of individual to dos.

As participants came in to our Primary Basic AQ course this summer, this quote was on the screen from How Learning Happens:

Children are competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, and rich in potential. They grow up in families with diverse social, cultural, and linguistic perspectives. Every child should feel that he or she belongs, is a valuable contributor to his or her surroundings, and deserves the opportunity to succeed. 

We came back to the quote time and time again. It was our anchor as we explored, discussed, challenged. Although we have used the quote each session I think what caught me off guard was how the idea of seeing kids as competent, capable, rich in potential kept coming up in our discussions in the Teacher Leadership course as well. The more I reflected on the quote I realized it became a lens that brought all the pieces together. It all comes back to the child. Our list of ideas, strategies, resources to explore may be long but if we keep this is mind, they just become a tool to empower and engage.

And then I thought…

Do I look at educators, parents, leaders with the same lens? Do I assume positive intentions and realize we share a common passion for education? How am I sparking curiosity? Do I value their past experiences?

Then the hardest reflection…

Do I look at myself and my work from that same lens? Can I say I’m compentent, capable and curious? Am I acknowledging how my past affects my practice?

So as a new year begin and the ideas start swirling, I’m printing off the quote as a daily   reminder to focus on our competent, capable, curious and rich in potential friends.



Standing at the Waters Edge

Every summer for the past three years I head to see my parents. They live on the beautiful island of PEI where it seems hard NOT to find a long secluded beach to wander. It is always out first stop.

It seems silly but standing there at the waters edge, the waves crashing in one after the other, I felt peace. After three weeks of madness rushing between jobs and learning adventures with limited sleep I hadn’t really paused. As each wave came in, it seemed to pull back the haste and replace it with calm. Funny when those reminders will hit you. Its at the waters edge that I could hear Jack Miller, the prof for my last MEd course say:

What makes your soul sing?

A simple question as we chatted about mindfulness in education but the more I ponder it, the more I realize how essential it is. I can list what makes my heart sing: a photo walk, time by the water, a great story, a kids excitement when they have that aha moment, tinkering & making, even writing. I know that when I take time to do the above I can give more but yet I let the BUSY creep in. And maybe it isn’t about being busy but making sure the long list includes activities that refresh and do not drain. 

As a group of us have been reading the Empower book by AJ Juliani and John Spencer I’ve been thinking about this question in regards to empowering learners. What role does it play for us as educators? Are we more willing to share ownership when we are full? What if we asked learners the same question? If we tapped in to what made their souls sing would it change our relationships together?

It may not be as secluded or clean, but I have a waters edge at home too. I think for the year ahead I will set myself a regular reminder to step away and find some calm at the waters edge.

“That’s how you get it wrong but right sometimes”

I was scrolling through my Facebook page one day when I stumbled on a clip of Jamie Foxx on the Graham Norton show, talking about his first encounter with Kayne West.  A line at the end of the clip caught my attention

That’s how you get it wrong but right sometimes.”

After planning and chatting with the classroom teacher, we started our 3 part design task with a grade 6 class creating games in Hopscotch. Convincing friends of any age to design a game is usually not a hard task but this time around there was a friend that didn’t quite seem to buy in. He wasn’t really causing a rukus so it was all good. I was a little bummed but I was reassured by educators who knew him better than me that he was engaged. Fast forward to our last session together. Our games were starting to come together and I looked over to see my friend’s game. I looked over to see random shapes across the screen. Like Jamie in the clip, my brain was thinking “what is this?” but instead of jumping in I decided to ask a question. One simple question and I was blown away. Not only were the random shapes not random, but he had figured out code we never chatted about. We even chatted about how we could improve the game.

A lesson learned: sometimes things aren’t as they seem, sometimes my first thought can be wrong, sometimes a simple question can teach you so much more.

“That’s how you get it wrong but right sometimes.”

Summer Learning

Or this should be titled, how I got myself it to two projects a week before the end of the school year.

With only 2 more days with little ones and three days left to the 2016-2017 school year, you would think it would be time to slow down yet the excitement of summer this year has led to two summer adventures. They may fail miserably but there is no harm in trying I guess.

Empower Online Book Chat

A small group of us did an online book chat with A J Juliani & John Spencer’s book Launch this spring. It was a great opportunity for growth made even greater when we were able to do a face to face inquiry with some of the group this spring. So when we saw that a new book Empower was coming out we were really excited. I mentioned to Wendy on Twitter when I first saw the post that we should do a book chat and have to admit I forgot. Then Brandon mentioned a book chat for the book as well and I thought, why not let’s see whose interested. I’m always amazed how educators will so willingly give of their free time to learn. We already have 12 on the Google Form and can’t wait to get our hands on the book. The group has decided on a slow chat over Twitter so if you are interested, leave a few details on the form.

#peel21st 10 Summer Challenges

It was the end of June after a strike and in the middle of work to rule for me. With the gift of time Jay and I were sitting around (I promise for just a moment) wondering how we could help kids see that digital tools were more than Youtube, Snapchat and Clash of Clans so we came up with 10 summer challenges for the summer. Each week we would tweet out a different theme with resources to help folks get started. We had 2000 views that first summer and would share it when we had a chance but like most things with time it needed an update. I didn’t know if it was worth the investment of time. Fast forward to the end of this month and I was chatting with Sylvia one day. As excited as some friends are for the summer, we know others are not as excited to leave the structure and learning of school. It seemed like the summer challenges could be a resource to support some of our friends looking for an adventure. As I updated the cards and site I realized we needed something more. How do kids like to get information? All I could think of was Youtube and video. Enter the new Clips app by Apple.

If nothing else the weekly prompts will be an opportunity to work on my skills with Clips. At beast I hope a few learners find a spark to their own summer learning journey. If you want to join in, I’ll be posting the weekly prompt to a dedicated Flipgrid where you can share some tips around the theme for that week or where you can show off your creations!

So the year may be coming to a close but the learning is just ramping up.

Happy Summer!

#the100dayproject: Can you help?


So I have made it to the half way mark of #the100dayproject or almost, one more Canadian emoji picture to go. As I look back it’s interesting how the same project, daily taking a photograph for 100 days, can have different learning outcomes each time.

The take away in year one was all about using more than the automatic mode on my camera and creating with friends. Year two was more about photography. I learned big lessons around black and white photography and minimalistic shots. This year brings with it a different lesson, one about the subject we photograph and how it can spur a conversation. With all the Canada 150 celebrations I decided to do #100daysofCanadianpics this year (I know it should be 150). It feels like the collection of images this year is spurring conversation. It has been so great seeing others jump in with their own images or suggestions. I’ve tried to stay to themes of 10 as it makes the 100 days go by faster. Only a few days behind as I’ve captured Canadian foods, red and white, tried to capture the national anthem.  My favourite set though was the first where I created 10 images for Canadian words. One of the suggestions from Janet and her class was meegwetch, the Algonquin word for thank you. I didn’t just want to squish it in and have been pondering where it could lead.

I was a little embarrassed this week as I thought about all the discussions in my undergrad linguistics degree and I couldn’t remember ever discussing indigenous languages. I’d love to say my program was at fault but if I am completely honest, I don’t know if I would have noticed. So this next theme of images is an opportunity to expand my own understanding. It would be wonderful to connect with speakers of the languages instead of just Googling. There is so much more to our favourite words, phrases than just the literal translation.

This theme will really push the boundaries of collective learning for me. So can you help?  Know someone I should connect with online or perhaps you can help me yourself.

Thanks in advance!


An Invitation

Earlier this month I was so excited to be a part of our district’s early years conference and it wasn’t just for the food trucks (but seriously how can it not be awesome when you have food trucks!). It’s the one conference a year that always pushes my thinking around what an adult learning experiences could look/feel like and this year was no different. As attendees came they were invited to explore the various playscapes around the building, designed and facilitated by awesome early years educators.

Invitations & Provocations are something the early years team has been exploring for awhile now and we can see brave educators take the idea to more grade levels. If you are unfamiliar Louis Jupp in her blog defines the terms invitation and provocation as the following:

Invitation – something that encourages someone to do something or that makes something more likely to happen; written or spoken request for someone to go somewhere or do something.

Provocation – an action or occurrence that causes someone to begin to do something.

I know I am personally working through the difference between the two terms but they both serve the purpose to spark a learning experience.

I escaped the green screen playscape for a few minutes to look around. Each space had beautiful materials arranged in bins, baskets, jars and tables all begging to be explored. Many had questions or statements to help guide you to new questions or ideas you hadn’t thought of. All the space was used from floors to table tops and then the walls. It was impossible not to touch, play, explore.  It reminded me of countless early years classrooms I’ve visited or follow on social media where educators have done the same with carefully selected and organized materials.

As I wandered I kept coming back to the idea of provocations or invitations for adult learners. The playscapes during the conference were just that, an invitation to think differently, to play, explore, to learn as a community. How was I inviting educators to play, explore, and learn? What materials could I use to spark a conversation? What does an invitation look like when it comes to modern learning and how would educators respond?

Maybe everything we do is an invitation: an invitation to think differently, to change our practice, to play, explore and learn. The trick is making it irresistible and provoking the thinking further along the way. Something I will be reflecting on this week.