Saturday, 28 February 2015

Civix PD - Democracy Bootcamp

This past week I had the incredible opportunity to attend CIVIX Canada's Democracy Bootcamp in Vancouver. 130 educators from across the province got together to learn about elections, voting trends, and resources to aid in teaching students about democracy and implementing Student Vote.

Taylor Gunn is the man behind it all. If you haven't met Gunn, you've missed out. Gunn is so very passionate about "building the capacity and commitment of young Canadians to participate in our democracy." But that doesn't do Gunn justice. I have had the pleasure of listening to Gunn speak twice and he is a whirlwind of infectious enthusiasm.

Bootcamp was incredible not only because of Gunn's enthusiasm but also because of the outstanding agenda he and his team at CIVIX put together. From Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail hosting the first session to Clifton van der Linden of Vox Pop Labs closing out the conference, each session was rich with stories and information that I could take back to the classroom. What amazed me was how much respect each speaker had for each other and how passionate each was about politics and democracy.

After 2 days of frank and insightful conversations, it was impossible to leave uninspired. Indeed, I fell back in love with Canadian politics. With the next federal election around the corner, I'm ready to launch Student Vote and I have some ideas about how I can make this vote even better. As Taylor Gunn wisely stated in his opening remarks, "[Let's} graduate students as citizens not just future employees."

For more information about Student Vote, click here. They have brilliant video resources for teachers that you can find here.

For more information about CIVIX, click here

Rep Day is coming up. I've booked our MP for a talk with grade 8s and 9s in April and you should book yours. To find out more about Rep Day and how to book your MP, click here

Monday, 23 February 2015

Sickness and stress

I haven't posted on the blog for awhile because I have been hit with this cold bug and I've been fighting it, clearly unsuccessfully, for 3 weeks now. When I was talking to my mum on the weekend, I realized that it's one of those times of the year that I get sick. And I get really sick because of the increased stress in my life. Right now, it is course selection time.

When I was an academic classroom teacher, this time of year meant crunching numbers to determine how many sections of each grade there would be next year and thus how many blocks of English and Social Studies I would have. Very minor stress. Being married to an elective teacher, I know that course selection causes a greater amount of stress because suddenly it's not just about students in a given year, it's about how many students in that given year pick your courses. Quite stressful. As a teacher librarian, and thus a non enrolling teacher, it is another level of stress altogether. Now is when the uncomfortable conversations start about budgets for the next year and to the library what that means both in terms of teacher librarian time and budgets. It's time to start defending the library program.

Don't jump to conclusions here. I'm not a passive teacher librarian who waits to be told what next year's timetable and budget is going to look like. I spend the months leading up to timetabling keeping my administrators informed as to what is happening in the library. I create monthly reports that I talk to my administrators about. I make appointments to talk about my vision and the direction I want to take the library program.  I am quite vocal in promoting the library. I am also so very fortunate that I have colleagues who will also defend the importance of a healthy school library. And I have amazing students who constantly vote with their feet and their library cards.

But at the end of the day it comes down to the principal's decision. Here in British Columbia, the cuts to education have been deep for many years and it's just been announced that cuts will continue for the next three years as well. I understand the dilemma that administrators face in an underfunded system. That said, it is hard to not take it personally when those difficult conversations start up again.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Reviewing my resolutions

I was sitting helping some grade 9s with their genetics projects and we somehow got on to the topic of New Year's resolutions. My main focus this year is to improve the reflection component of collaboration and so I began reflecting on my work related goals for 2015. With February now here, I thought I'd see how those resolutions are coming along.

1. Applications. My goal was three applications this year for awards or grants. I have two partial applications completed with due dates a couple of months away. I am feeling pretty good about this resolution. Now to find a third award or grant...

2. Time. I wanted to take back my lunches and I knew that this goal would be very difficult. So far I have managed to take back one lunch a week and that's been a struggle. I really do need to work on this resolution a bit more. The other part of this resolution was making sure I set time aside for individuals that I don't usually collaborate with. This, I feel, I have been doing okay with but I still have a lot of room for improvement.

3. Leadership. I've started the Leadership Academy and so far so good. I'm keeping an open mind and trying to learn as much as I can. I was very nervous about this, but I think I am doing just fine in the program.

4. Redesigning. I want to continue to update the library and we have been doing that this year (well, the library assistant is running with this). We had an amazing googly eye book display and a fairy tale display in January. We also added 3 bean bag chairs to our reading nook which have been popular. We also had our printer moved which has greatly improved our sightlines in the library and has given me a clean space to work at the circulation counter.

5. Balance. Another tricky one that clearly is on my list for a reason. Need to work on finding the balance between work and family.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Reflecting on a Foods lab

I have really been focussing on improving what I see as being the fourth stage of collaboration: reflection. Wanting to improve my reflection practice and doing the reflection work though are two different things. Fortunately, I have incredible colleagues who read my blog and keep me in check.

At the beginning of January, the Foods teacher at our school used collaboration time to sit down and revamp a Foods lab (and she used the wonderful collaboration space that used to be my office but I much prefer it as the collaboration room - see below. I just love the silver birch wallpaper)

After teaching the revamped lab, the Foods teacher suggested we sit down and reflect on the lab. Finding time was a challenge as it always is for teachers, but even more so for such a specialized teacher. But find time we did and when we sat down to talk, I found that the Foods teacher had really already reflected a lot about the lab. We talked about the one thing that didn't go quite that well, what wonderful things did go well and what the next step was. Overall, I would say the lab was a tremendous success. What I didn't think was successful was my role in reflecting.

I know what we talked about were all the correct items and we did a fine job of reflecting but I came out of that meeting feeling like I did not contribute enough. Maybe contribute is the wrong phrasing. I really did feel like I was out of my comfort zone in talking about a Foods lab which is odd because I think I'm knowledeable enough about the lab topic and am comfortable enough in a kitchen.  But I wonder if it has to do with not having taught a course like Foods that I couldn't see all the pieces clearly. I can't imagine different recipes being used by each and every kitchen. I struggle with understanding how to assess individually and really how to assess at all while a lab is going on. The organized chaos that is the Foods room amazes me and mystifies me at the same time.

Yet, that was only one part of the problem. The other part is time. I think that reflection takes a lot more time than I realized and it is a different type of time that I am used to. In my world, the role of the teacher librarian is very fast paced. I'm constantly on the go and often trying to problem solve on the fly for teachers, students and administrators. I think though reflection needs to be done in a very slow gear, one I haven't had to use in awhile.

It probably sounds very odd that I've been reflecting on this reflection session but I have. A lot. And I'm pretty sure that's a good thing.