Thursday, 24 October 2013

Where the Magic Happens - #ECOO13

As I drove to Niagara Falls this morning to attend the #ecoo13 Bring IT Together conference, I was feeling a little anxious. I didn't know if it was because I was feeling guilty for leaving my class for two days, or if it was driving to a new place with bright sun in my eyes that made seeing my exit difficult, or if it was because I'd be getting the chance to meet and learn from some incredible people.

Then I gave myself a little pep talk - thinking about a scene from the T.V. show "Girls"


Yes, it would have been easier to go to school today. No application for funding, no lesson plans to leave behind, no waking up before the crack of dawn or driving for an hour.
But pushing myself beyond what is 'easier' or comfortable (and I'm NOT saying that teaching is easy) might be scary, but it is also exciting. The 'magic' often happens outside of your comfort zone.

I gave myself a little pep talk - told myself that I should be proud of myself for doing whatever it took to get to ECOO13, because it is something that interests me and will be good for me & for my students and co-workers when I share my learning back at school. Go Debbie!

Then I met Magdalena Front @TechMagFront who wasn't just attending ECOO, she gave a fantastic presentation on Projects for Fostering Creativity. I listened to Heather Durnin who shared the ways she has been Connecting With Purpose with her intermediate students - and she WOWed me. I got to meet @LeBlancPeter and @dougpete - two men who have taught me so much via Twitter over the last six months.

Needless to say, I felt a little silly for feeling any anxiety about just showing up and learning when so many people were really putting themselves out there and sharing so much of themselves and so much great information.

Day 2 tomorrow - no anxiety & no guilt, just gratefulness for all of the presenters and excitement about all of the learning I'm getting to do.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Who Brings KFC to a Turkey Dinner?

Driving alone for hours with the radio must have put me in a nostalgic frame of mind on Saturday. I heard a song that reminded me of a wedding I went to as a kid (Knock 3 Times), songs that reminded me of students I've taught & that I still think about all the time (Somebody That I Used To Know), and songs that took me back to places and times that I thought were long forgotten.

As I pulled off the highway with the intention to stop at a grocery store to buy the things I would contribute to the Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's farm, I saw a KFC store and pulled in there instead. I thought about the jingle "Colonel Sanders and his boys make it finger lickin' good" and about how getting Kentucky Fried Chicken was a huge deal when I was a kid. I bought a big bucket and got back into the car for the final leg of the drive - memories of childhood, my sisters, mom &dad flooding in.

When I arrived, smiling brightly, my brother-in-law asked "Who brings Kentucky Fried chicken to a Thanksgiving turkey dinner?" He looked seriously concerned about my mental health.

My sisters and my dad were smiling - I didn't have to explain it to them.

BTW, my brother-in-law was the first to grab a piece of the chicken :)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Thank You Alec, Tina and Carla

I've been thinking a lot about why I was so energized by Alec Couros's presentation at PDSB's Leadership Launch in the post I started here.

And why I love Carla Pereira's post BringThe Awesome Always and Tina Zita's post  Can We Stop Longing for the Good Old Days

The positive energy, the honesty, the warmth and the passion that these people bring into my life is incredible. I have had the pleasure of meeting each of these people in person just once, but through Twitter, I am able to have a connection with them that wouldn't otherwise be possible.

These connections don't replace my in-person relationships with friends and family - they add value to my life both professionally and personally.

Alec Couros, Carla Pereira and Tina Zita are incredibly hard working and positive people. They make me laugh, make me think, inspire me, and best of all they shine the light on the possibilities in education, in relationships, connectedness, and in teaching & learning.

Thank you Tina, Carla & Alec!!


Our school has a spelling program. Everyone in the grade gets the same spelling words and work. I'm new to the school, and new to primary, so I just went with it (even though I wasn't 100% comfortable with it).

I think that learning to spell is important. I think that some spelling work really helps with phonics and reading. But I was never convinced that spelling tests on Fridays helped everyone become better spellers.

This past Friday, there were students who got every word correct on the test and there were students who didn't get any words correct on the test. A few students didn't even try - their paper was blank except for their name.

Could they tell I wasn't 100% committed to this spelling program? Or was it because they thought it was too hard, or because they really didn't care? I'm sure there were as many reasons as there are children.

On Friday afternoon we had a discussion about Thanksgiving coming up and what we are thankful for. Everyone was involved, everyone had something to say. Everybody planned a Thank You card for someone in their life.

As they completed their rough draft(s) and final products- EVERYONE CARED ABOUT SPELLING! Some of the words they NEEDED help with had been on the test that day, but now they were interested, now they CARED.

When recess came, nobody wanted to go outside - they wanted to finish their work. This has never happened before. I asked them to check their foreheads for signs of fever. I called our Vice Principal and told her that something amazing was happening in our classroom. I wrote a note to parents on our classroom website.

The students were involved in an authentic task and they wanted it to be neat, they wanted it to be special. I have never seen them work so hard on a writing task. I'm so proud of their hard work and so interested to see if this will be replicated when we get started on our blogs.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Inspired by Alec Couros - Leading a Learning Culture

Today I was very fortunate to have been a participant in Peel's MFO Leadership Launch.

I'd had a tough few days and I almost didn't get there, but when it was over, I felt energized. On the drive home I wondered what exactly had inspired this renewed sense of excitement about teaching and learning.

Was it the energy in the room? Was it getting the chance to meet Carla Pereira and others who I've only ever 'met' online before this? Was it catching up with colleagues I've worked with in the past and meeting new ones? Was it because I'm part of a phenomenal school board?

Yes to all of the above! But it was more than that.

Alec Couros is an engaging speaker whose warmth and humour captivates everyone.  It wouldn't matter if a participant was already a Connected Educator with a huge PLN or if they had never heard of a hashtag before, because Alec, like every great teacher, provided a safe environment with multiple entry points.

Alec Couros inspired me to think further about the possibilities that connection allows us.

I'm going to keep thinking and will post again tomorrow.