Thursday, October 31, 2013

'Necessary for some, good for all'

Alright, humour me.  I want you to think that it's 4 p.m. and you are at home when your son or daughter has just arrived from another day at school.  You ask, "What did you learn at school today?"  And, for a change, your son/daughter actually replies.  This is what you hear come from their mouth next,

     "So-and-so" just got an iPad at school to help "so-and-so" learn      and I don't think that "so-and-so" should even get that thing              because "so-and-so" never does his work.  Like, ever Mom!  He      never does his work, and now he gets this?  What a joke!"

Can I ask you what your reaction is?  

Parents, what do you say to your son, or your daughter when this conversation comes up?  Or maybe is already has.  Or, if you're in my world (my kiddies are young), it hasn't yet... but it will happen.  
In one way or another, over the course of your son or daughters educational history a conversation that is somewhat similar to the one above will take place.  I bet you money on it.  Pretty cocky of me to assume?  Well, maybe, but not really.  You know how I know?  Because I'm there.  I'm in those classes.  I'm in the hall.  I'm on the school yard and I hear kids talk.  And talk, and talk, and talk.  

And, I get it.

You see, as a kid, it's hard to see that the 'special tool of technology' allowances that "so-and-so" gets actually lets them start to demonstrate their thinking, understanding, and allows the rest of us to see inside them.  I am blessed to actually witness these miracles.  I'll tell you a tiny bit about one of those miracles: 

This student of 'mine' (because he's in my school, and he's one I could take home with me and call my own on any given day ~ but I won't because that's wrong...!) you see is doing these great 'things' with the gift (SEA claim) of his iPad.  Now, many of the same students in "so-and-so's" class may see that iPad, with all it's bells, whistles, and shiniest apps as the coolest thing since sliced bread.  And it is.

But for "so-and-so" that tool, that piece of assistive technology allows him/her to shine.  To read.  Independently.  To create.  Independently.  To rewind.  Independently.  To search.  Independently.  To calculate.  Independently.  And to do so many more educational tasks that this list could go on and on.  Now independent.   

And that's awesome.  

The really cool thing about that piece of assistive technology is that now "so-and-so" has a way to rock out his learning.  Now he can read the same level of texts as his classmates.  Now he can write through the use of his voice... just as I'm doing here!  (And you thought I was typing this didn't you?)

"Necessary for some, good for all" is just that.  If we lived in a world were money was no object than yes, iPads all around.  But, to be honest, I don't think that's actually what we need.

We need instead to stop looking at 'those' kids as getting the bells and whistles in learning.  Instead, we need to look and see where we can provide supports and structures that allow all our kids to have that step up.  To even the playing field, if you will.

We need to do good for all, regardless of what it is that that student needs.  That's the system I want to be apart of... And you know what?

I am. 

Thanks for reading.
I hope through my words you have got to see a glimmer of what I see.  And, if you could, the next time your son or daughter comes home and talks about "so-and-so," listen.  Listen to what your son or daughter is saying.  But also listen to the right in the world.  For it's those supports that is allowing for success to start.  "Necessary for some, good for all."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TLLP #2 Digital Learning From The Cart

My experience with the Ontario Ministry of Education's Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) has been second to none!  You really can't get this type of personal professional development anywhere else!  And if you can... tell me where, because I want in!

Not familiar with the acronym TLLP?  Now really sure what that means?  I find it really amazing that their are a lot of people in the education field with no idea about this awesome opportunity.
One one hand I feel like I shouldn't dare to tell a soul about this opportunity (SHHHHHHHH!!!! DON'T TELL ANYONE!!) ...... but on the other hand, I feel like a girl who should be standing on a mountain top shouting out the good news!

  A TLLP is a project-based activity for selected experienced teachers whose choice of career is the classroom. It is intended to create opportunities for experienced teachers to enhance their professionalism and skills, extend their learning and share their expertise with others for the broader benefit of Ontario’s students. Teachers can apply, as individuals or as a group, to undertake a project. The program has three goals:

  1. Support Teacher Professional Learning; 
  2. Foster Teacher Leadership; and 
  3. Facilitate the sharing of exemplary practices with others for the broader benefit of Ontario's students.


As the title of this page notes, I'm involved in my second TLLP project with the Ministry of Education.  (Although, if you'd like to know more about my first TLLP project, "Apps in the Class: Teaching and Learning with iPads" click the hyperlink.)  It is both a real honour and a whole lot of scary!  For starters, the honour is that first and foremost my administration believes in me.  Your principal needs to be on board with the project and, for lack of a better way to put it, be on your side.  When he or she signs the dotted line, they are allowing you the opportunity to try something new.

They are saying that they 'have faith' in your abilities, your plan, and even your success and failure.  (Because let's face it, everything in the education world doesn't always work the first, second, third, or nineteenth time we do something!)

Next, the honour and scariness continues as you move your proposal to the board level.  My heart literally beats in my head waiting to hear back from the board about whether they see the merit in my project.  Have I written the proposal well enough that they can see my vision, my path, and are they ready to get into the car with me and come along for the ride?  Sometimes I wish there was another part of the application, like the part where they could see into my heart about why I want to do this project so badly.  

I feel like I've won the lottery when you get the message a whole month or so later after submission that, by George, they do see my vision!  They too think this learning goal has the ability to be successful.  Yes, it does help to meet my school and boards goals, and yes, it does align with the position the board is steering in.  

The final bit of emotion comes when February hits.  For many people in Ontario, February is a month filled with positive emotions: the winter is rounding it's way out, chocolate, candy, and the theme of love is splattered everywhere.  What's not to love about February?  


You see, February is 'THE MONTH' when TLLP applicants (that's me!) find out whether they are in or out for the following school year.  I kind of place it in the same category as waiting to hear if your "accepted to university" kind of feeling.  Hoping and knowing that their are so many awesome educators and people in education that are applying for this opportunity across the province of Ontario.  In the last few years, the number of TLLP projects has grown.  Through the use of social media, voices from past TLLP participants, and key educational players, like Ann Lieberman and Andy HargreavesI'm so happy it has. 

I was blessed this year.  Blessed with the successful opportunity of having "a-go at it!"  Working my way through a project that is not going to only benefit me, my students, but also, (here's hoping) my fellow educators who are in a similar position.  

You see, for me, it's not just about getting to work with cool tools and new fangled gadgets (although, that is a fantastic PLUS).  
For me it's not about attending amazing PD conferences (ECOOOPHEA, CODE), workshops (DancePl3yMindsOnMedia)  and meeting a whole slew of awesome people in education along the way.  

For me, it really does come down to how can I do more diligence to my students?  How can I bring them opportunities to learn, create, and flush things about without this opportunity?  I need this project just as much as they do!

Friday, October 11, 2013

'A Closet' with #etfoaqiict2

Greetings and if I may, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Thanksgiving is truly a time in tradition and theme of reflecting, looking inward, and counting our blessings.  Tonight I counted mine.  Well, most of them.  I talked to my God and said a prayer for how much I really have.  And I have a lot. A whole, whole, lot!

Just a little while ago my closet was bursting at it's seams.  For, if you know me, you know that there is a few things I love to do.  I love shopping (with a purpose) and I love clothes.  Like, really love them!  :)
I love the textures, the patterns, the accessories, and the feel of new items.  I love how they make me feel, and I simply like just having them in my possession!

But, sadly, after not being able to put a new purchase away on a hanger (because there wasn't a hanger left to be had in this whole entire house!) a little while ago I decided enough was enough.  Yes, that was it.  How much was too much?  How many clothes does one person really need?  How many sweaters is really too many sweaters?  So, in having a moment, I scoured my closet; purging, organizing, folding, and packing up the items that I really didn't need.

Now, I tell you this not to brag about my clothes or items in my closet.  Rather, to hopefully get you to see what I saw.  When does enough become enough?  How long had it been since I realized that my closet was become a hoarders den and why didn't I see it sooner?

When do we start to see what so clearly is before each of us before we need to change, purge, pack or fold the items in our lives that need our attention?  I'm really quite lucky in that this was only a Saturday afternoon of work to make things all better, if you will.  Bigger items and needs will not be so easy to fix, fold, and gift away.

If I place that same type of reflection on my journey as a teacher, a mother, a student, and a friend, can I see where my closet is too full?  Maybe I should actually be building a closet in some of those areas instead of purging and packing?

Throughout my first three weeks in my IICT2 course from ETFO, I feel like I'm really building the base for housing important items within my professional learning closet.  Our instructor Rod Murray, has helped us in these first learning experiences to build the footings, shelves, and hanging rods for my new closet.   In the past three weeks I've activated my thinking and learning by considering points of view from colleagues and peers within my course that I can honestly say I've not considered before.

I'm thinking about their thinking, considering my own values and standards, and looking to build a future.  My favourite learning experience so far has been creating a two year professional learning plan ~ with money being no object!  (As a conference LOVER, in this scenario off I went to ISTE in Texas... into the world of learning, engaging, and purposeful connection.)  But, while here in the real world, I guess I hadn't thought that far ahead.  Have you?  Two years.  Where will you be?  What will you be doing?  What do you need to do to get there?

I'm thankful for the structures and foundations this first three weeks has brought me.  For, as with life, learning and building - it can get awfully messy.  In order to move towards my goal, I need to keep my peripheral view open to the items in each of the closets I own, set aside time to recycle and revamp items as needed, and give myself permission to purchase all the new and shiny things I need to make it work in areas where my closet is way too sparce!

I wish you all the best as I encourage you to look within your 'closets' and see where changes can be made.

Thanks for reading.
Leave me a comment, question, or information about a closet that you have that needs attention.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Proactive Through Reflection ~ I 'stole' the title from George... Read on!

Hello, hello.  Here we are again.  So, if you are reading this, you will be reading my second 'real life' blog post!  Each time I do this it is my hope that I will start to feel more at ease and more comfortable.  I wonder when that feeling will set in... probably with my luck at post number 932?  

I'll offer you a little spoiler alert for those of you who are reading --> tonight's posting has to do with my life as a teacher.  There.  So, if you would rather not get all deep and mucky with me and go down 'that' teacher road that I sometimes travel on, then you won't offend me in the least if you pack it up and move on to another page.  Don't say I didn't warn you!

Alright, here we go.  As a teacher I sometimes feel all I do is live, breathe, and think of other peoples kids.  Really.  No joke.  I do think of them outside the classroom.  In fact, many days on my way home it is absolute silence in my car while I gather my thoughts and enjoy a quiet moment or two before stepping back into the mom role that I play at home.

As a teacher I feel like I'm always trying to come up with the next best thing that will engage my students, make their learning fun, or challenge them in someway.  I've done lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of thinking about them... but have I always done so much thinking about ME?  About my role in their learning?  About how my reflection on them and their learning and on me and my understanding.  Have I really dug deep and looked at what the true reality is?

After reading an older post from my buddy, George Couros
(well, he doesn't know that I call him my buddy, even though I have been stalking him on Twitter for a few years now, plus, as a total aside... he's such a cutie!) and being asked to reflect on a post he wrote back in 2012, "Another Reason to Blog; Proactive Through Reflection" for my IICT Part 2 course through ETFO, I find myself thinking that I really need to carve out more time to reflect with a sense of purpose.  I think of my drive home tonight from work.  The sun was shining, I was already thinking of two students that I know I need to really check in with tomorrow, to see the whites of their eyes, and about how the day went.  Mentally writing a "must do list" for when I enter the doors of my home.  Thinking of the weekend and how great that will be.  Pretty typical.  

But, did I really reflect about how the past month or so has moved along?  What can I change, even subtly that will allow for greater success within my realm of tinkering?  

I don't know... maybe it's even too deep for me!  But, I think, no, I will try. NO ~ I will make it a point to reflect a little further, a little deeper, and a little more often than in the past.  For, as my friend George says, "If we do not take time to look back, how will we ever be able to move forward?" Good point George, good point.  

As I leave you all, when was the last time you looked back? What would you do differently?  What would you tell yourself then that you have learned from that point?  I'm hoping to paint a new, clearer portrait as I move ahead looking back.  

Thanks for reading,
Be well,


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

For Real This Time

Ok. If you know anything about me, you will know that I sometimes talk faster than I think, say things I sometimes wish I hadn't (really, insert foot into mouth!), and need to talk myself through different scenarios, situations, and to hear my own voice ~ all of it is in the sheer fact of trying to move forward, onward, or even upward.

I love saying things like, "For Real This Time," as if saying that allows me to start fresh, start over, and to reconnect with the thing that I was going to do in the first place.

Yesterday, while Facebooking, (yes, I know I just made that into a verb) I read something that a friend of mine, Nancy R. posted, and really took it to heart.  I found myself misquoting it today, so instead of miserably repeating it over and getting the point of her message wrong, I've included it here for you.  I hope it resonates with you in a meaningful, powerful way.

"It's time to stop waiting and start DOING. Every day ends in the word "day" and each month is just another month. No sense in putting off what we could all do tomorrow. Make it a daily habit to change one thing, ONE THING and you will begin to see BIG changes. You don't need a Monday, a "1st", a new year or a January. You need a new day, that you were given, an opportunity to WAKE UP and LIVE! 

That's it! Super simple with no days, no dates, no years, just the morning, another day, another JUST DO IT!"

Did you love it?  Roll it around in your mouth.  Say it out loud again.  How does it taste?  What do those words make you feel?  I tell ya, I'm feeling both inspired and motivated and completely overwhelmed and questioning.  Today I am trying something new.  I did it.  I blogged.  Half because I was told to ~ I do want to pass my IICT Part 2 Course through ETFO ~ but because the other half of me has wanted to document and share for sometime now.  (I started to try this whole blogging 'thing' many years ago, but seemed to fall of the wagon!)  Writing is supposed to be reflective.  Soul searching, and in my opinion, really great for reflection of self, practice, and life.

So, as I've titled this post... "For Real This Time."  Here is goes.  The start of a new page.  A new day.  A new opportunity to get it a little more right than last time.

Thanks for reading,