Sunday, 28 February 2016

Reflections on my leadership goal

As a result of tonight's #bcedchat, I've been reflecting on one of my goals for this year. I decidedd to look back at what I think is my most challenging goal: leadership outside of the school.

What I've accomplished so far:
1. I've managed to pluck up the courage to present at the BCTLA conference. I did go many shades of red, but it went quite well.
2. Presented to the February COTLA meeting about collaboration. It was great to have the teacher librarians at CNB as this was the first time in my 9 years as teacher librarian that I had been asked to host.
3. I was asked to help facilitate Civix Canada's 2016 #Democracy Bootcamp. I was honored to be asked but also extremely nervous. In the end though, it was all worth it.
4. Joined the SSLSA executive and so happy I did as the executive is an incredibly amazing group of people who love history as much as I do!

What I've struggled with:
1. By far the hardest challenge would be myself. I doubt myself: "Why would someone want to hear from me?" "What do I have to offer?" "Good grief, how can I possibly talk for an hour?"
2. Time. It takes a lot of time to do any leadership outside of the building. The prep time for the actual presentation is one thing, then the prep time for a TTOC, and then as a non-enrolling I find there are things that I just can't get a TTOC to do because a lot of my job is about relationships and trust and lots of conversations.
3. Being an introvert. I get exhausted very quickly if I am constantly out. I need to make sure I give myself balance and enough at home time.

What's next:
1. Help the SSLSA plan the summer pro d days. I would like to plan a road trip pro d.
2. Award writing. I want to nominate a couple of colleagues for some awards. Leadership isn't always about me.
3. Look out for some more leadership opportunities!

Monday, 8 February 2016

Differentiated Instruction

At our last staff meeting we had a vice principal come in and talk to us about what differentiated instruction is and what it isn't. The presenter was a lovely individual and did a fabulous presentation but I was feeling somewhat disappointed.

It would be nice to have someone present who was in the trenches themselves. Even if you've only been out of the classroom for a couple of years, teaching has changed drastically in even that short time. I am constantly amazed by my colleagues and how much they have adapted to the increasingly trying classroom configurations and parent/administrative expectations. I often wonder how I would cope if I returned to the classroom.

I also would love to hear a presentation that was cutting edge and spoke to the middle school setting. In middle school, we don't have parent volunteers in classrooms, we don't have either the space of the schedule flexibility to combine classes. In middle school, we have all the students in every class. Students can't yet choose what type of math class or elective they are in. Fitting with middle school philosophy, we have all students of all abilities in every class. The problem is that the divide between the lowest student and the highest student is becoming an overwhelming gulf. And the supports (LA teacher, Resource teacher, CEAs) are being slashed.

Perhaps we in the middle school setting need to have a different discussion first. Maybe we need to talk about student apathy. Maybe we need to talk about chronic absent students. Maybe the system needs to realize that not every student flourishes in the traditional public school system.

Maybe. But we all know that change will not be happening any time soon.

Maybe we need to talk about what wonderful things are happening with the students that are attending and are engaged in learning. When we focus on those students, we realize how much we have adapted our teaching already to meet the needs of our students. Teachers are developing highly engaging classes that really invite students to challenge themselves and wrestle with the curriculum. Teachers are already differentiating instruction for the myriad of learners they face and often they differentiate on the fly as they identify the student's current needs. Teachers are working harder than ever to make sure each and every student is given the opportunity to succeed.

I think we, as teachers, need to acknowledge all that is being done well and build upon it.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

February's #yabookchat titles and blurbs

Please read the blurbs and vote here for the novel you would like to read.

All blurbs and images are from

1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by B Albertalli
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
2. Salt to the Sea by R Sepetyx
Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. Yet not all promises can be kept.

3. Pax by S Pennypacker

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed, and “his boy” Peter rescued him from abandonment and certain death. Now the war front approaches, and when Peter’s father enlists, Peter has to move in with his grandpa. Far worse than being forced to leave home is the fact that Pax can’t go. Peter listens to his stern father—as he usually does—and throws Pax’s favorite toy soldier into the woods. When the fox runs to retrieve it, Peter and his dad get back in the car and leave him there—alone. But before Peter makes it through even one night under his grandfather’s roof, regret and duty spur him to action; he packs for a trek to get his best friend back and sneaks into the night.

4. Infinite in Between by C Mackler
Zoe, Jake, Mia, Gregor, and Whitney meet at freshman orientation. At the end of that first day, they make a promise to reunite after graduation. So much can happen in those in-between years….
Zoe feels like she will live forever in her famous mother’s shadow. Jake struggles to find the right connections in friendship and in love. Mia keeps trying on new identities, looking for one that actually fits. Gregor thought he wanted to be more than just a band geek. And Whitney seems to have it all, until it’s all falling apart around her.

Questions for #yabookchat's Illuminae

In keeping with the presentation of Illuminae, I tried to take a different approach with the questions.

Q1 What were your initial thoughts about Illuminae as you started reading?

Q2 What connections to text does this image generate?

Q3 Do you have an image that you associate with the text?

Q4 Comment on the following quote: "Perhaps bravery is simply the face humanity wraps around its collective madness."

Q5 We get to know Kady and Ezra from chats and reports. What made the relationship work for the reader?

Q6 Let's talk about AIDAN. Good, evil? When did you question its motives? Did you suspect it was Ezra?

Q7 With all the different documents used, is there one type that you preferred reading?

Q8 In the end, did you like Illuminae? Why or why not?

Monday, 1 February 2016

Reflections on my book a day challenge

I haven't posted much on my blog in a month and it's not because I've forgotten about it or that I have nothing to say. This January I decided I would try to read a book a day. I see TLs using the book a day hashtag and wondered it was even possible to accomplish without just reading picture books each day. I didn't think it would be possible to read a YA book each day, so I also included graphic novels in the mix. I have also made the goal to read more graphic novels this year because I am finding more students are reading graphic novels and are asking me for recommendations.

So I tried reading 31 books for the month of January and I made it. The list of the 31 can be found here. What I noticed though is that
  • I struggled keeping the novels straight afterwards as they all began to blur
  • I struggled with the rest of my life. Attempting this did not help with my marking load or my laundry pile.
  • I started becoming pickier about what I was about to read. I certainly wasn't tackling any Sarah J. Maas tomes.
There were positives though.
  • I did end up reading more graphic novels and I enjoyed talking about them with my eldest who is an avid graphic novel reader.
  • I also read a lot of younger novels in the collection (grade 6/7), novels that I tend to avoid.  
In the end though, was it a good challenge? Yes, I think so. I've always wondered if I could do it and now I know that I can. It was also interesting to read one book and see a reference to say, Robert Frost and then read a second book and notice the author also referenced Frost. It felt like there were many random threads connecting the novels in some way.
Would I do the challenge again? No. This challenge reinforced that balance is key in one's life. Also, putting pressure on myself to complete the challenge took a bit of fun out of reading and that's just something I can't let happen again.
Am I up for a different challenge? You bet. In fact, I'm doing the #HubChallenge. If you are interested in joining, check it out here.