Weathering the Storm

This week Vancouver, British Columbia was smacked with a rarity – a snowstorm.  Not just the light dusting followed with the creation of muddy snowmen and snowballs filled with gravel.  A real snowstorm that went on for days.  A snowstorm that wreaked havoc with the roads and put heating systems into overdrive.  A snowstorm that even closed down  Vancouver schools to all but the principal and the janitor / custodian for a day.  A snowstorm that coloured clouds pink, dusted local ski hills and delighted both children and the young at heart.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

The response to the snowstorm is determined not only by levels of job responsibility but also basic personality.  As a school principal, you have ultimate responsibility to ensure safety of your school, staff and students.  Even when the schools are closed, you make your way to the school to ensure no one is left outdoors with nowhere to go.  The snowstorm triggered an immediate response for me to analyse the data and devise a plan to conquer adversity.  For others, it was an opportunity to get out and play.  For still others, it was an opportunity to plug in the kettle, and settle into the warmth of cozy spaces and wait it out.

The valiant fight with the storm would begin just before 6 am for me.  The snow on the hills and side streets was compacted to slick ice by the snowboarders and people with sliding apparatus of many shapes and sizes the night before.  My wonderful RAV4 SUV was designed to battle this kind of beast.  But no, I did not want to subject the deep red paint to the ravages of Vancouver drivers in the snow.  And yes, the chances of being sideswiped or rear ended had just increased exponentially.

No longer living in the suburbs, I had a variety of transportation options – partial drive on the warmer road by the seashore, foot, SkyTrain, bus, and by car on the final day, mostly because treats for staff and visitors took priority. However, the upside of doing battle is the realization that you can.  I had already discovered that riding my bike to school was a great option on sunny days when I don’t have important meetings and have factored in some extra time.  However, in battling the “big snowstorm”, I discovered, yes, I can walk to school.  The SkyTrain from Cambie is only two stops and drops me off right beside a Tim Horton’s.  Bonus!  I love walking down Main Street from 23rd Avenue after school and checking out the restaurants and shops.  My favourite restaurant, The Sandbar, has a great Happy Hour.  Snow covered branches on side streets are gorgeous.  People love to be thanked for shovelling the streets in front of their houses.  Yes, challenges bring new learning, surprise encounters, and joy.

Yes, on those long walks this past week, I have had time to ponder life and celebrate the resilient  heroine in the audiobook of my February book club selection (Where the Crawdads Sing).  Being “right” or “being just” or “bullied” in my life has led me into impossible battles and lots of learning.  Defeats are not always decimating.  Victories are not always empowering or celebrations.  The trick seems to be deciding which battles are worth fighting.  I now have an emerging set of rules to guide the decision.

Rule #1

Perhaps my most significant learning was not to engage in battles with those people who live for the fight.  The saying “Never fight with a pig.  You both get dirty, but the pig likes it.”  True.  True.  True.  Those are the times to walk away without a response.  If people choose to listen to the pig, it is because they have their own motivation to do so.  This is what my pretty, wide eyed mother never understood.  Document your truth in a journal, with a therapist, or in your own notes, but never waste the effort on the pig.

Rule #2

Growing up, my Mom always had a copy of Desiderata, on the wall:  “Speak your truth quietly and clearly”.  Appearances mattered to my mother and as a young, divorced woman with limited resources, her goal was for her and her girls to be treated with respect.  Her truth was buried behind the iron walls of a vault that she kept closed, until she could no longer contain it.  It took me a long time to understand that the lies she kept, burdened her heart, robbed her of joy and empowered those who lied.   Yes, truth matters.  It is worth the battle.

Rule #3

Sometimes acquiescing to daunting power results in a sense of unhappiness, powerlessness and futility in the face of unfairness.  Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself or others even though it may come at a cost.  You may not always experience victory, but you will experience the satisfaction of a  battle well fought on your own terms.  Sometimes you need to do battle to maintain your belief in your own self- worth.

My perception of myself is that I am far more mellow since I turned 50.  Perhaps only those who knew me in my youth will agree.  Even in the midst of the more mellow me, I will choose if I will battle the beast.  I will continue to fight for a world in which respect is a common denominator.  I will be an Amnesty International member for the rest of my life and fight for human rights.  I will speak my truth and weather the storm.  Or if on this snowy Saturday morning, I decide to just make another cup of coffee and delight in the snow and my cozy condo in Kits, I will.

Creativity Through Cookbooks

 

Creativity finds a multitude of outlets.  With the burgeoning of foodies in our midst, one of these outlets is not just in the places we go to eat out and the tantalizing of taste buds, but the communication of ingredients, recipes, places, spaces and recipes.

I was sitting in St. Paul’s Hospital waiting for my son’s broken leg to be assessed.  My compatriot with the bannock recipe on her bag, was waiting for her Mom. We both needed a diversion from our worry.  Our conversation was not so much about how to make bannock, but our experiences of eating bannock. Her stories were those of childhood, laughter and community while cooking with aunties and friends.  My stories were those of learning and participation in Indigenous culture. The conversation and camaraderie stimulated by the sharing of a recipe.  

At our meeting of the British Columbia Literacy Council just prior to the winter break, our treasurer, Garth Brooks (the literacy guy, not the country singer), presented each council member with their particularly perfect card and the winter edition of Lindt; The Season Celebrating with Chocolate.  What followed was a particularly animated discussion of cookbooks.  Memories stimulated by smells and tastes. The experience of watching family members cook or the shared experiences of cooking with others.  Grand successes like the Yorkshire pudding rising. Abysmal failures like the cheesecake with the brown rubber skin that I made for my friend Dee Kroeker’s birthday.  Party planning with endless discussions of recipes and favorites that emerged year after year, like the toxic blue jello to create the water for the jello boats my kids adored.

The conversation took a turn to the discussion of cookbooks.  Not just finding recipes but the process of the recording of oral and cultural traditions with both adults and children.  The integration of photographs of ingredients, finished creations, places, and people in the process of preparing and enjoying food.  And hence a literacy event for educators emerged.

The conversation will continue on Wednesday, January 22nd at 4:15pm in the Point Grey Secondary School Library.  Kelly Patrick, the school librarian is a grand fan of cookbooks and will be sharing not only her cookbook collection but sharing her process of writing cookbooks.  Other literacy educators will be sharing the process of writing cookbooks with children, connections between travel and cooking, supporting students with accessible text, and inviting your participation in the discussion. 

Please follow the link if you live in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver, British Columbia and would like to join us.

Poster: https://docs.google.com/CreativityThroughCookbooks

Free Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/creativity-through-cookbooks-tickets-86211445755

Truth Matters in 2020

Tree of Life on Game 5 Ranch – Eastern Texas

The problem with telling lies, is it can easily become a lifelong habit.  The people I respect least in the world have spouted a litany of lies that obscure the concept of truth in their own minds.  And, as every wise grandmother, Shakespeare and popular fiction will tell you – lies always surface.

Plato’s notion of truth has been used by Christians for many generations to explain the existence of God, or the transcendence beyond the external world of the senses to greater illumination seen by the soul.  I am not discounting this greater notion of truth or dismissing the power of the concept, but it is not what I have been recently pondering about truth.  I have just been reflecting on the things that come out of our mouths that are verifiably true or false, and the subsequent justification that we provide.  Sometimes things are just true or false and nothing else.  Apparently, the term truth bearer describes this concept.

Aristotle defined truth as how we use logic and reason to decide how we act.  This seems to be the basis for the slippery slope that we exist on.  The rationale is usually to get ahead in an overwhelming competitive line or save face. In this case, anything and everything spouted can be provided as truth, as long as it is not verifiable as false or embraced as truth by those predisposed to accept it.  One example of this is padding a resume. Another example of this is the ramblings of a politician, prolific on Twitter, who has been able to identify with his supporters on some level that does not require verifiable truth.   Fake news abounds.  Verifiable truth is presented and dismissed as irrelevant.  Perhaps Kate Atkinson calls it in her book Transcription:  “People always sa[y] they [want] the truth, but really they [are] perfectly content with a facsimile.”

Another slippery slope has been the notion of “truth to self”.  Whereas I agree the notion that two people can experience similar situations and view them differently based on their background knowledge, I have also seen it used as a cop out.  If you are truly going to keep yourself accountable to the truth, you need to analyse the situation rather than simply justify your own perceptions.  Sometimes my feelings are hurt or my conclusions are wrong.  Yet sometimes when I analyse the situation, I am able to identify my own misreading of the cues or the egocentricism or the overt Machiavellian intent which can result in misunderstanding, manipulation and/or lies utilized to save face or further an agenda.  I am proposing that we hold ourselves accountable for our own rationale for lies, white or other, as well as our perceptions by reflecting rather than simply engaging in the process of justifying our initial responses.

As an elementary school principal, I frequently deal with students who have made inappropriate choices.  My philosophy is that no one is expected to be perfect and tomorrow is a new opportunity to make good choices, however it comes with some very basic caveats in dealing with the situation:

  1. Calm down first.

Take responsibility for using the strategies that work for you to self-calm and allow your brain to move beyond “flight or fight” mode and engage in problem solving.

2. Own your choices. Admit your mistakes.

Hiding behind justifications for inappropriate behaviour is not taking responsibility for the choices you made.

3. Ask yourself: “Is this who you want to be in the world?

4. Determine how you could have better handled the situation.

Come up with a plan of what you will do next time if a similar situation happens

5. Repair the relationship.

Admit your bad choice without excuses.  State clearly how you felt in the interaction and how you will handle a situation like that in the future.  Don’t expect forgiveness to be a right.  Now that you know better. Do better.

My students quickly learn that I have no tolerance for someone looking into my eyes and lying.  It diminishes both our relationship and his/her integrity. Khaled Hosseini states it best in The Kite Runner:  “When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.”  A lie represents a second bad choice when it comes out of your mouth and you must begin the arduous and misguided process of justifying it to yourself.    I suppose my end goal us to reach kids to be the best version of themselves.

So yes, truth does matter.  Philosophers, scientists, artists, theologians, you and I are required to continue to grapple with the truth and celebrate it,  in order to preserve the best in each of us.  In the end we choose who we want to be in the world. We also choose the example we want our kids to live by. Live like truth matters. A valiant challenge for 2020.

 

 

 

The New Face of Solitude

I’m sitting in Joe’s Coffee house with my funky, red hat pulled down over my unruly hair

I’d rather be back at the cabin,

Surrounded by forest,

With the rain hitting the tin roof

And the fire cracking.

All by myself.

In serene solitude

But I’m Sitting in Joe’s Coffee with my funky, red hat pulled down over my unruly hair,

Looking out the window at the rain,

Past the parking lot into the forest.

My back to any activity in an attempt at alone.

Apparently my solitude requires wifi today,

So I’m sitting in Joe’s Coffee with my funky, red hat pulled down over my unruly hair.

What’s the Deal with Self-Regulation? Part 1 – Social Emotional Learning

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Self-regulation is a term at risk of getting lost in the world of educational buzz words. I believe clarity about this concept is mandatory because it is so foundational to how we function in our homes, our schools, and the world we move in.  Simply stated self-regulation is how we manage our emotions, behaviour and thoughts in order to achieve our goals.  How we learn and teach self-regulation is an extremely complex endeavour.

The most well-developed conversation around self-regulation is in the arena of social-emotional development.  We are seeing too much stress compromising the brain/body regulatory systems that support thinking, emotion regulation, and social engagement in communities of people.   Dr. Gabor Mate tells us this is coming from an increasing sense of alienation being experienced in society as a whole.  Dr. Stuart Shanker (on Twitter @StuartShanker ) states it is due to the overt stressors causing dysregulation in the behaviour, mood, attention and physical well-being of a child, teen or adult.

One key focus in the school is helping students to manage emotions so that students are able to learn, develop relationships and maintain friendships.  If students are going to be included in the social fabric of the school, they need to be able to make good choices around identifying their feelings, developing a bank of calm down strategies to use as needed,  to problem solve, repair relationships and come up with a plan for next time.

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I particularly like The Zones of Regulation program developed by Leah Kuypers.  It provides the materials to instruct our kids how to identify and understand our emotions.  Many children over the years have told me that anger is a “bad” emotion.  It often takes reteaching that emotions and thoughts do not make you a bad person.  Hitting or swearing in the midst of being angry represent poor choices not a statement on your character.  It is very liberating for children to learn they have to power to make good choices even if they are tired or sad or angry.  I also love the Zone of Regulation chart available at Odin Books on Broadway in Vancouver, that facilitates the development of  class banks of possible strategies to cope with being in the four identified colour “zones” that reflect basic emotions commonly experienced.  This allows kids to learn in a very tangible way that different people experience a range of emotions throughout any given day and have different ways of coping with the emotions they feel.  It also provides a diverse range of options that can be tried to self manage emotions.

The most powerful strategy to teach kids to self-calm is to slow down their breathing.   It is an accessible strategy that can be used in any context.   When students are having a biological fight or flight response to stress in their environment, slow breathing actually triggers the brain to calm down the body. This is why yoga has been popularized as a relaxation exercise.  Kids can also be prompted with the good ole’ count to 10 backwards.  A tool like opening and closing an expandable sphere from the dollar store or a chime are also frequently used with success.

It is our responsibility to support students with a range of spaces and places to support their ability to self-calm.  Classroom teachers have a range of tools and spaces within the classroom to support students.  At our school, we have open library times where students can get the support required to self calm if they are struggling with transitioning into the classroom at the beginning or the day or after lunch time.  It is a natural addition into the student’s schedule.  Students go to the library for a variety of purposes, to self calm, to engage in lifeskills programs, fulfill monitoring duties or check out books.  There is no stigma around leaving the classroom and going to another program.

Currently we have an Active Learning Room with mats and tools as a possible option to support students requiring a physical outlet.  This space is also a place to develop sensory integration skills and motor skills, as well as kineathetic awareness.  We are fortunate to have trained staff in The Ready Bodies Learning Minds program and are hoping to expand this program ,as it is a universal program recommended by physiotherapists.

Students are encouraged to explore physical outlets that may be successful in helping them to manage their emotions in a variety of contexts.  It may be as simple as walking to the water fountain or changing activities.   Going outdoors invites physical activity.  A great playground with swings, sports equipment that can go outside, and a field to run or walk around are all possible ways to self-calm that are accessible to the students at our school.  Big deciduous trees with falling leaves and a school garden is another avenue for students to re-direct their attention to assist in self-calming and outdoor learning.  We are fortunate to have a school garden with several garden beds, a perimeter of established plants, a little orchard, a Mud Kitchen for digging, and a bench for sitting and watching the garden, bugs and the visiting birds.  It is also overlooks the two mountain peaks know as The Lions or The Two Sisters for thousands of years.  The legend is of two twin sisters who are immortalized in the mountains as a reward for creating lasting peace between two nations who were traditionally enemies.  Not a bad place to learn, self-calm, problem solve and repair relationships.

Coming Soon –

What’s the Deal with Self-Regulation?

Part 2 – Managing Learning in School

Entering the World of Graphic Novels

Due to an unforeseen set of circumstances, I have been spending more time in the school library than I have for years.  As the once again, president of the the British Columbia Literacy Council of the ILA (International Literacy Association), and a lover of books, this is a bonus for me.  Talking to kids about books is as much about the kid, as it is about nurturing a love of literature.  This was something my elementary school librarian at The Marpole Public Library understood well with her “Now” section that lured us into the library on a regular basis.

At the ILA Conference 2019 in New Orleans this fall, there was again much conversation about graphic novels.  This was not conversation solely about high interest, low vocabulary sources, but discussion of graphic novels as literary sources.  I have two extremely intelligent friends who are both adult males who have tried to help me understand this concept over the years. One has a long time love of comics that he himself writes.  Some about childhood antics.  Some political cartoons.  The other has a love of graphic novels.  Understanding of this has been elusive.

Two game changers.  The well loved librarian is hired as a Vice-Principal and leaves to assume her new job.  I want to ensure kids keep coming to the library until our new librarian is in place.  The kids want graphic novels and Anna takes the time to explain why graphic novels are appealing.  She starts a list and kids start giving me purchasing ideas.

After professional development day, I venture to Vancouver Kidsbooks, another infinite source of information.  If ever there has been a case for why you hire well trained staff who are readers in a book store, it is Vancouver Kidsbooks.  Immediately I have two very knowledgeable people to guide me in the right direction.  However it is Jesset who has a passion for graphic novels and wants to answer all of my questions and share his learning about what is particularly good for readers at different ages and levels.  He helped me to understand that the beauty of a long series is that the characters and their motivations unfold over the course of the series.  That is why he loves long series because the plot and characterization develops over time.  He also made it clear that the pictures and the text do not function independently but are intertwined to create meaning.

My home work was clear.  I needed to do more reading.  Jesset carried the very heavy box of books to my car.  I carried them into the condo.  A strained back, recent gum surgery, a husband with the flu, and a long weekend created all of the conditions for a weekend of serious reading.   And now I am coming out the other side.  I do believe I understand more.

My mistake was that I was locked into the perceptions of my background experience of the Sunday funnies in the newspaper, the Archies, and superhero comics.  It was social reading that you did with your friends, or at Tatlow Park with my sister and cousins on Sundays.  It was something that I left behind in childhood.

Some graphic novels continue to focus on humour of daily life, relationships, and experiences.  Series like Will Henry’s Wallace the Brave  and Snug Harbour Stories; Aron Nels Steinke’s Mr. Wolf’s Class; and Lincoln Peirce’s Big Nate are reminiscent of the Dennis the Menace and Calvin and Hobbes comic strips.  Yet they are much like Ramona and Beezus or Little House on the Prairie series with the ongoing antics and relationship issues.

The Harry Potter series create a fascination with fantasy that plays out in many of the graphic novel series such as Stephanie McCranie’s Space Boy, Tui T. Sutherland and Mike Holmes’ Wings of Fire and Emma Steinkellner’s The Okay Witch.  The characters in these stories wrestle with alienation and the quest to discover of self efficacy.  One series I have yet to explore is Kamome Shirahama’s Witch Hat Atelier series, which Jesset at Vancouver Kidsbooks, assures me is one of the best for upper intermediate students.

One of the big appeals of graphic novels seems to be the willingness of authors to share authentic experiences that matter to young readers, such as homelessness, physical health challenges, anxiety depression, therapy,  and death.  Jen Wang and Raina Telgemeier are both authors who trust their young readers with stories that matter.  As a result their readers adore them.

Kwame Alexander works with Dawud Anyabwile on the graphic novel adaptation of Crossover.  This adaptation is every bit as powerful as the original Newberry medal winning novel and audiobook.  Michael Nicoll Yahgulanagas incorporates Japanese manga with Haida imagery and story to create an entirely new art form.  Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg address the environmental crisis on earth with Astro-Nuts.   R.J. Palacio, George Takei and team, and Robert Freynet use comics and text to provide a comprehensive graphic novel on the topics of the Holocaust, Japanese Internment in the United states during World War II, and accurate analysis of Louis Riel and his role in Canada.

My homework has left me with a much better understanding of the graphic novel and an ability to weigh into an important conversation.  As my daughter so aptly portrayed in her stick figure drawing of me sitting on a stack of “fat, sad books” with tears streaming out of my eyes in her Grade 1 family drawing – I do love the fat fiction novel that delves into feelings and the injustices of life.  That will undoubtedly not change.  However what I now understand is that graphic novels are as multi-faceted as fiction or non-fiction books.  Reading enthusiasts may gravitate towards the humour of daily life, intricate fantasy worlds, a quest to explore relationships, self discovery, history, adventure or a new art form, and find it in a graphic novel.

 

 

 

 

BCPVPA: Leading a Culture of Learning

(from the left) – Carrie Froese – Vancouver SD, Tara Zielinski- West Vancouver SD, Ellen Roberts- BCPVPA, and Kathleen Barter – North Vancouver SD

The British Columbia Principal Vice-Principal Association Team recently presented the Leading a Culture of Learning standard of the Instructional Leadership domain in the newly updated BCPVPA Standards of Leadership.

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The book by Gary Keller with Papasan, Jay – The One Thing:  The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, provided an organizing frame for the three sessions that North Vancouver administrators rotated through.  Participants were challenged to define one thing that would most impact student achievement to take away as a focus in their schools at the end of each session.  We could not have asked for participants who were more engaged throughout all of the sessions.  This sli.do word cloud represents some of “The One Thing” commitments NOVA administrators are incorporating into their work.

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As promised, the sources listed below include the links for ease of access.  These are some of the key sources that informed our thinking as we created the sessions presented.

Breakspear, Simon. (2017).  Learning Sprints and the Clarifying Canvas

Dewitt, Peter (2017). Collaborative Leadership:  Six Influences That Matter Most.  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin / Learning Forward.

Donohoo, Jenni (2017).  Collective Efficacy:  How Educators’ Beliefs Impact Student Learning.  Corwin / learningforward / Ontario Principals’ Council, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Erikson, Lynn:  A Quick Guide to Concept-Based Learning and Curriculum

Concept Based Education  https://www.rubicon.com/concept-based-learning-curriculum/

Fullan, Michael. (2018).  Nuance:  Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail.  Corwin.

Gawande, Atul (2009).  The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. Henry Holt and Company.

Hargreaves, A., & O’Connor, Michael (2018).  Collaborative Professionalism:  When Teaching Together Means Learning For All.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Hattie, John (2012).  Visible Learning for Teachers:  Maximizing impact of learning.  New York, NY: Routledge.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UYGrk1VpcQ

Katz, S., Earl Earl, L., & Ben Jaafar, S. (2009).  Building and connecting learning communities:  The power of networks for school improvement, Thousand Oaks, CA., Corwin.

McTighe, Jay & Curtis, Greg (2015).  Leading Modern Learning – A Blueprint for Vision-Driven Schools.  Solution Tree.

Parker, Kathryn, Boudett, Elizabeth, & Murnane, Richard J. Eds. (2013). Data Wise, Revised and Expanded Edition: A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Assessment Results to Improve Teaching and Learning , Harvard Education Press. Cambridge.

Robinson, Viviane (2013) Five Facets

https://www.teachingtimes.com/articles/dimensions-of-an-effective-leader.htm 

https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=research_conference_2007

https://inquiry.galileo.org/ch6/instructional-leadership/what-is-instructional-leadership/

Sinek, Simon (2009). Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA

Wiseman, Liz, Allen, Lois, & Foster, Elise (2013).  The Multiplier Effect – Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools.  Thousand Oaks, CA.: Corwin Press.

 

 

Why Blog?

Although I have not always thought of myself as a writer, I have always been one.  I have Holly Hobby diaries recording the events of my life – who I liked, where I had ridden my bike, what Nanny Keenan had cooked for Sunday dinner, what my older sister and cousin said, and who had made me mad.  My Hobbit journal details all of the food I ate, provides detailed descriptions of places, people and events as I traveled through Europe after graduating from high school.  There are many diaries and variations through-out  the years. I wrote letters to my best friends about my siblings, the chores I had to do, and how sick of watching Days of Our Lives EVERYDAY with my step-mother during bright and sunny California days.  I detailed my life for my Mom when I was away and wrote of my aspirations.

 

I understood the power of the written word at an early age.  I have letters and cards with words of love and affirmation.  My father used to write me letters from the hotel he was staying at when he was presenting at Neurosurgery conferences.  I would formulate future travel plans based on the postcards I liked best.  I have letters dripping with anger and mean-spirited intent – the dark underbelly of the acrimonious divorce of my parents.

 

As I got older, writing became a vehicle to explore my feelings and my thoughts.  In many cases, it became a coping strategy.  In the midst of family conflict, I would go sit on Ventura Beach or in The Sierras and write until long after the sun had disappeared.  I would also sit at a log on Jericho Beach or Spanish Banks and detail the gloriousness of life.  It continued to be a mechanism to facilitate coping as a wife, a mother, and a daughter watching the denouement of my parents lives.

 

An opportunity to teach practising Chinese teachers at The Fuyang Bureau of Education came up right after my Mom died.  I gave my family a gift and went off to China to document life.  I had no interest in exploring my very raw emotion.  I started my first travel blog.  I got two pieces of feedback immediately.  One came from my step-mother noting how embarrassed I must be having spelt the word “massage” wrong – an “e” rather “a” and I learned about the downside of autocorrect. The other feedback came from my good friend, Jan Wells.  She commented that she loved reading about my adventures in China, and she loved my style and skill at writing.  In fact, she kept it on her desk top and read it with the newspaper every morning.

 

As with children, a little encouragement goes a long way.  I became a diehard blogger.  Travel blogs.  Food blogs.  Blog posts instead of newsletters for parents in my schools.  And then I roomed with Rosa Fazio @Collabtime at the Vancouver Elementary Principal / Vice Principal Association Conference co-sponsored with the VSB.  Rosa introduced me to the Twittersphere.  This was my advent into connecting with like-minded professionals online.  The retweet grew into participation in TwitterChats and then developing online relationships.  Then reading articles from the people I connected with online, replaced subscriptions to professional journals.  Recommendations for professional books to read came from my online professional learning committee.  Like-minded educators in the Lower Mainland would come together at Edvents and other face to face meetings of the mind.  The desire to chew on the ideas, formulate an understanding and engage others in the conversation emerged.  I wanted a Book Club online.  This was my advent in to the professional blog.  It precipitated a different type of writing that incorporated aspects of writing for my thesis and other university course along with all of the other writing I had been doing over the course of my life .

 

Writing a professional blog may have similarities with Book Club, but there are no like-minded friends to finish the sentence for you.  You have to write down your ideas with enough context for the reader to understand your thought processes.  It requires a grasp of your topic and that you’ve had enough reflection time to fully formulate your ideas.   You need to develop the skills to consider who your audience is, and strategies of how to engage them.   Blogging also forces you to rely less on spell-check and to develop your editorial skills.  Or just come to terms with being less than perfect!

 

Many of my colleagues tell me they don’t have time to blog.  To quote Adrienne Maree Brown: “There’s always time for the right work.” Certainly not all people are writers or readers or talkers.  I am all three so for me it is the right work. Blogging allows me to reflect of what I reading, living, thinking and talking about.  It pushes the card on considering things from a different angle.  Best case scenario, someone responds with a comment, a question, or a conversation.  We all do what works for us!  Blogging makes me better.

Indigenous Experience is Canadian History – Remember on Sept. 30th

Orange shirt day is officially marked on September 30 each year, as that was the time of year Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to attend residential schools in Canada.  Orange shirt day is not a day about guilt for actions of other Canadians in days gone by.  It is about being part of a story.  Our story as Canadians.  A story in which 150,000 Indigenous children were taken out of their homes and communities and put in residential schools because the differences in culture and language were not understood or appreciated or tolerated.  A story where 10,000 years of experience living off the land was not understood as a learning opportunity.  A story that started in 1831 with the first residential school and continues today.  Because although the last residential school was finally closed in 1996, the trauma of generations of residential schools has left a trail of shame, sadness, and racism.

One of the best things for us as a country has been the work of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada.  From 2007 – 2015, as the commission traveled throughout Canada, the stories of residential schools became common knowledge.  In many cases for the first time, Indigenous people were able to tell their stories and have people believe they were telling the truth.  We learned of the harsh, punitive conditions in which children were not allowed to speak their own language or practice their cultural traditions.  Six thousand children never returned home due to inadequate food, health and sanitary conditions.  Stories of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse are all too common.  The trauma has crept through generations.  And yet the beacon of hope is that the truth has been told and heard.  And now the work of reconciliation has a chance of success.  We have the opportunity to forge a vision of a future in which Canadians value differences as opportunities for learning, ask questions, problem solve and recognize that every person matters.

Indigenous elders teach respect of the sacredness and importance of clean water.  Autumn Peltier from the Anishinabek First Nation on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario learned this as a young child.  These teachings have allowed this 15 year old girl to clearly articulate the need for clean water to the United Nations and at hundreds of events around the world.  She speaks and people listen.  Her question, “All across these lands, we know somewhere where someone can’t drink the water.  Why so many, and why have they gone without for so long?”  I am certain she will be included in the next edition of Wab Kinew’s book about Indigenous heroes!  Our country is better with her voice.

 

The Vancouver School District has identified an Indigenous Goal for all of our public schools:  To increase knowledge, acceptance,  empathy, awareness and appreciation of Indigenous histories, traditions,  cultures and contributions among all students

At David Livingstone Elementary, we will be exploring the Indigenous Principles of Learning incorporated in the new curriculum in British Columbia and exploring Indigenous ways of knowing.  Our starting points will be in the school community garden.  It will be a place to learn about indigenous plants and how they were used by local Indigenous groups as food and as medicine.  We’ll also be exploring many of the legends  that are based on different aspects of nature.  We have lots to learn and we’re ready to begin.

City Life in a Temperate Rainforest

This blog post is intended for families in the school community to help get students prepared for the rainy season.

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I understand that in the far north, the Inuit people have many words for snow and ice.  Each word indicates an overt or sometimes subtle difference in the snow and ice.  It could reflect the conditions or qualities within the ice and snow.  As a Vancouverite, we see snow as fluffy which translates into not good for snowballs but very pretty.  There is “perfect snowball” weather which translates into good for building snow people, forts and snowballs.  Then there is wet snow which is horrific for driving in and is generally a wet, soggy mess.  There is slippy ice we can see and black ice that forms a slick surface and is hazardous on foot and in the car.  Our vocabulary around ice and snow is pretty basic.

Vancouver is an amazing place to live and is a popular tourist destination because of the oceans, the rivers, the lakes, the mountains and the green.   Basically it is amazing because of the water.  It provides an astounding range of things to do and a diversity of plants and animals in our own backyards.  It is a place that beckons us to “Get Outside”.  The reality is this amazing city exists because we live in a temperate rainforest.  The temperature remains mild throughout most of the year.  We don’t have snow and ice very often so we don’t really see the nuanced differences.  What we know is rain.  Throughout the year, it sprinkles, floats down water, drizzles, mists, showers, rains, rains cats and dogs, pours, and sleets.  I challenge you to add to the list of words and expressions to describe our plentiful precipitation.

The question that always comes up is what to do when it rains.  One option is to just stay inside.  I must admit, I love a rainy day when I can curl up with a good book and a pot of tea.  However this is just not a feasible everyday option.  Life goes on, even on a rainy day.  We have places to go and a body that requires activity to be healthy.  I believe there are three understandings to be ready for the rain.

Number 1:  Wardrobe Matters  If you are warm and dry, you are ready for anything.

The standards include:

A waterproof coat, preferably with a hood.  This allows maximum flexibility to do stuff.

Boots.  There will be puddles.

An umbrella.  I have purchased many and have left them all over the city.   I worked at Lost Property for Metro Transit when I was in university and there were hundreds of umbrellas of every size and colour left on busses.  Guess what the most common colour was abandoned in the Lost Property Department?

 Number 2:  Attitude Matters  Regardless of how miserably you complain, it will rain.

 If you choose to be miserable because it is raining, you are committing yourself to a lot of bad days.  When you frown at the world, it frowns back.  Smile and make a rainy day plan.

 Number 3:  Observe Rainy Day Life  Life in the rain is different.  Not better or worse, just different.

 Just after my daughter’s 6th birthday, we went traveling in Italy.  A torrential downpour hit one evening in Venice.  People ran for cover.  Our family was the only one strolling down the street and delighted with the break from the perpetual heat.  My daughter looked up at me and said “Oh, Mommy.  It smells like home.”

It did.  And it was glorious!

Perspective is everything.  Expect rain.  When it comes, dress appropriately and venture outdoors.  Adapt your activities to accommodate the changes.  Running on wet concrete can be a problem.  Find another option.  Going for a walk under a big umbrella is a good option.  Open your eyes and look for changes.  One of the first songs I learned in kindergarten at Queen Mary Elementary School from Mrs. Hicks was “Robin in the Rain.”  There is a reason there is a song about it.  Look how the plants and animals respond with joy to the rain.  Close your eyes and take a big breath and try to describe it.  Look up and notice how the clouds change.

Expect that almost every day will be an outdoor day.  And smile about it 🙂