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? 

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.

What is Teacher Leadership? – Our First Week

This summer I was asked to facilitate our first run with a new Additional Qualification course, teacher leadership with OISE. I was excited for the opportunity as well as a little nervous. My mind went back to our open space activity at OCT as we were writing the guidelines and the richness and diversity in the conversation. I found the hardest part those days was defining teacher leadership. It meant something slightly different to each of us. What could we all agree upon?

So as we tackled just that question of what is teacher leadership and the various roles it can take on on Tuesday, I thought I would send the question out on Twitter. I am so grateful for a PLN that is so willing to jump in and support. Check out all the responses here.

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Going through the responses and knowing a bit about each path, I can see that uniqueness come through. I loved how Maddie jumped in after Chris had done his reflection. It was interesting to see the two words broken down and Maddie working through the definition.

Going through the clips there are so many different skills we tap in to as teacher leaders from modelling to listening, leading to supporting. Mike pulled out a great set.

As I listened to the responses and reflected on our conversations this week and the various readings/clips in the course I realized it may always be hard to define teacher leadership but there will always be common skills we can agree upon.

Teacher leaders

  • understand the power of relationships
  • they listen attentively
  • provide support when needed
  • share a passion for learners
  • are always learning and they show it

What does teacher leadership mean to you? Leave a comment or add to our flipgrid collection.