Thank Goodness for Gears

This morning, I attempted my second bike ride since my skating accident which occurred 6 months ago.   Following the accident (which resulted in a broken femur) I was surrounded by knowledgeable others who continued to share with me that my recovery was going to be long and strenuous.  I, being stubborn, refused to listen and assumed that once the needed hardware was in place and the bone healed back to what it should look like, I’d be as good as new.  What I had not anticipated was the fact that as my leg was recovering, the rest of my body needed to compensate for the less than fully functioning appendage.  On a regular basis, that compensation caused pain for many of my regular physical activities, such a navigating stairs, lifting groceries, getting in and out of the car and walking for any length of time.  Needless to say, other than stationary physio exercises, I’ve been less than physically active for the better part of 6 months.  So today’s bike ride (which may have seemed like a recreational ride for many) was fraught with fear of falling from going too quickly and losing my balance and trepidation as I ventured towards the inclines. I even gave myself a pep talk and insisted that I would ride the whole way and not get off and walk up the hills.  Along the route as I needed to adjust my speed or my tension, I was so thankful for the gears on my bike.  They allowed me to maintain my desired state (on the bike) and work towards my goal (heading in a forward motion ~without falling off).  The gears leveled the playing field for me.  Other talented, stronger individuals may not have even used them or they may have used them at different intervals and for different lengths of time along the very same route.  Needless to say, without those gears, my ride would have been unsuccessful.

As the ride continued my nerves calmed and my confidence increased and I started to think about tomorrow ~ the first day of the 2018/2019 school year.  Tomorrow we will be welcoming a variety of students to Sir Arthur Currie. Some of them we know very well and they will be ready for the start of a new year with great confidence.  Others we also know very well and we know that new beginnings tend to require a softer start and additional support.  We need to adjust our gears for those Coyotes.  And for those students who will be brand new to us, we have yet to figure out what works best to support them. For some it may mean using Google Translate to level the playing field of communication. For others it may mean allowing them to self-select a spot in their learning environment, so that they feel that their needs for “movement” are being respected. And for others it may mean extra time and reassurance that their educator is there to support them (through all of the inclines and declines).

Regardless of what supports are required, the one thing that I know for sure is that we will all adjust our gears as needed to ensure that all of us at SAC will maintain our desire state and work towards our common goal which is to have an amazing first day of school ~ followed by 194 more!

How do you adjust your gears to support others?  Come write with me….

Pondering the Pepper Effect

The final lesson from Allyson Apsey in The Path to Serendipity was to “Sing my Song loudly” ~ so what better choice as my next #summerread than to dive into The Pepper Effect by Sean Gaillard, and hum my way through numerous Beatles classics, picking up inspiring leadership moves along the way!

Gaillard provides his readers with a lyrical approach to leadership which challenges the status quo and in turn provides a playlist for how to create a collaborative and creative school community.

This leadership book is peppered (groan ~ sorry, couldn’t resist) with “Next Moves and Grooves” which cause the reader to stop and reflect on current practices as well as providing them with concrete examples of how to impact educators, students and school communities.  The use of Twitter as a platform for celebrating learning, flipping a staff meeting into an EdCamp model, creative ways of collecting student voice and abandoning meaningless practices are but a few of the well-crafted ideas within this book.

Although I appreciated the style of the book and it’s suggestions as to how to evolve my practice, I found myself drawn more to the story of the Beatles during their creation of their iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album and how it relates to sustainability ~ and ultimately to school culture sustainability.

As I reread chapter 6, I made connections between the Beatles’ desire to depart from the very sound that had caused Beatlemania just a few years prior as they created this new sound and other musical groups. Didn’t the Beach Boys (Brian Wilson) make a similar move when they produced Pet Sounds ~  an album’s sound that was a huge departure from the “surfing sound” that the public had come to connect with the Beach Boys?  This new sound was one which couldn’t be recreated live because of the unconventional mix of various instruments.

The blending of both Eastern and Western sounds, along with unconventional instruments such as tissue paper, combs (Beatles) bicycle bells and Coca-Cola cans (Beach Boys) lead me to wonder about the importance of Global influences and trends which may initially be considered unconventional when looking for successful sustainability strategies for school cultures.

“With a little help from my Friends” takes on a whole new meaning when you look beyond what your own school board is doing and embrace Provincial, National and International practices which are proving to positively impact both teacher efficacy and student achievement.

I couldn’t help but wonder ~ is the key to sustainability, the ability to “not” sustain the status quo, but to disrupt the very recipe that brought you success in the first place?  Steven Katz and Lisa Dack who penned, Intentional Interruption would certainly have us believe that in order for organizations to move forward they need to disrupt the status quo for professional learning in order to influence teacher practice and subsequently student achievement.

We will continue to ponder these ideas as we get set to embark on year 2 at Sir Arthur Currie.  We’ve committed to veer away from a status quo mindset as much as possible in order to be “Getting Better” all the time.

I love and, at times, overuse the phrase, “What if”?  So I was thrilled when Gaillard left his readers with this “what if” challenge.  “What if we connected with our kids as The Beatles did in wanting to create something bold and innovative for their fans? What if we created something every day at masterpiece levels for our kids? What if we inspired our kids to do the same thing?”

 

To my friends, who help me get by ~ what are your thoughts on school sustainability?  Come write with me…

A Serendipitous Connection of Two Paths

As many of my family and friends know, I’m a self-professed “Chick Flick” fan. There are a handful of movies that I’ve watched so many times that I can recite each line (which tends to annoy anyone who ventures into the family room while I’m enjoying one of my favourites). One of my best “gotta watch it whenever it is playing” movies is Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.  I think that it was shortly after my fifth or sixth viewing of that movie that the word Serendipity either chose me or I chose as my word. I use it on a regular basis to describe the indescribable, yet meant to be fortunes that tend to occur in my life. My friends tend to use is it in Twitter messages when they want to get my attention. Case in point ~ last Tuesday a friend sent this DM, “Found your boat” ~ The Serendipity Princess”.  My serendipitous reply, “Look at my latest Amazon purchase and next summer read”.  So with great anticipation on the following morning, with a cup of tea on the arm of the deck chair, I cracked the spine of Allyson Apsey’s, The Path to Serendipity.  Within minutes it became clear that this was not going to be a passive, cursory read for me.  With mechanical pencil in hand, my notes quickly decorated the margins or any other available space.  As someone who “reads with a pencil” I appreciated the blank pages at the end of each chapter.  At times, my notes needed a different platform to percolate, so my newest journal adorned the other arm of the deck chair.  It wasn’t until the ninth step along the pathway that I realized of all of the journals that I have on the go, that today I chose this one, along with an encouraging message from a fellow educator.

 

As the sun made its way from the dock, to the front deck, the side deck and finally to the point facing the east, I continued to follow Apsey’s path making endless connections to her work as a passionate educator. Other than the occasional refreshing dip in the lake and replenishing my ice tea, I didn’t stop until the final page. It is evident that within her 15 year career as a school administrator, Apsey has learned through trial/error and experience, some of the secrets that one can only hope that others will learn from ~ and hopefully early on in their career.  At times, her turn of phrase reminded me of the best part of me ~ the part that I try to model on a regular basis.  We all know the right words and how to use them. The key is to remember them in the heat of the moment, when things aren’t going the way we had envisioned them. I smiled as so many of the pages reflected not only my current path, but my current “resting spot”. Leadership is indeed a journey ~ and at times a long hard journey ~ but we must remember to stop along the way to rest, relax and reflect. It is during those times that our creativity blossoms.

I was hooked (my ode to Dave Burgess, my favourite pirate) within minutes of the Forward. You’ve gotta love it when the guy responsible for Kid President starts out by making connections to Michael Jackson and his iconic moonwalk during Motown’s 25th Anniversary special.  Just a month ago, I took my mom and daughter to see Motown, the Broadway show ~ which begins and ends with that very same moment in history. One might call this early connection to the book, Serendipitous.  Then not more than two pages into the actual book, Apsey states, “Homework, don’t get me started”. I love this author already ~ we are kindred spirits. The topic of homework is one that is currently at the forefront of my thinking in terms of truly supporting our students and making the most of their time in our learning environments. I’ve been reading, posting and justifying oodles of tweets about this topic for the past several months.

I appreciated Apsey’s honesty in sharing that it was Danielle Steele’s Zoya that helped her get through History in College.  Until now, I’m pretty sure that I’ve hidden the fact that Danielle Steele was my #summerread long before we used hashtags to itemize our thinking and sharing.  These days, thanks to my PLN of literacy experts my summer reads are somewhat different. But I’m sure that my years of Steele and Kranz have also impacted my leadership journey ~ just not sure exactly how!

Although I connected to each step along the Path2Serendipty, I continue to find the Communication Balance the most precarious step for leaders. I love how Apsey encourages her readers to stop sandwiching feedback between positives.  This chapter had me stop and think about whose emotions truly matter. Newsflash ~ not mine, but the receiver of the information.  In my margin notes, I had written about how I had made a huge communication error in my first year as a principal.  Instead of stepping up to the plate and asking a staff member to reflect on her attire, I shared that another staff member had brought it to my attention. We had tears, upset, anger and misplaced accusations.  In my effort to soften the message, I created a terrible situation which to this day continues to remind me of what “not to do”.  On the other end of the balance scale, I’ve witnessed leaders who cut to the core without any regard for how the message will be received ~ to the point of tears and causing educators to question their ability.  I often wonder why leaders take such an approach. Is it a power play? Do they truly believe that their message will be heeded and acted upon with such an approach? Balance is the key!

Like Apsey, I know that many of my thoughts, actions, ideas and invaluable resources are shaped by my global PLN. Many an article on Twitter has caused me to stop and reflect, “How might that work at SAC or within TVDSB?” Posting a controversial article, quote or statement opens the door to rich dialogue which forces me to justify and sometimes change my original thinking.  I’m always evolving as an educator ~ my core stays the same ~ but the many pathways leading to it change, evolve and strengthen with each new experience, new acquaintance, new book, etc.

Similarly to Aspey, George Couros has had an impact on my path to becoming a connected educator. Innovator’s Mindset is our current staff mentor text at SAC and we’ve invited him to speak in Thames Valley on a couple of occasions to both system leaders and our Learning Support Services staff. We use his visuals and quotes when meeting potential SAC Crew members during the interview process. (Crew ~ Yes, that’s what we affectionately call ourselves. So you can just imagine my ear to ear grin when Apsey recalls arriving at Quincy Elementary and receiving a welcome message from the Q-crew! ~ can I get another “Serendipitous”!!) I often tease George that years ago, when he was presenting at BITT, I actually left his session early to beat the traffic back to London. A mistake which probably slowed my trajectory towards being a connected educator by a few months.

Although my readership for my blog pales in comparison to Allyson’s “Serendipity in Education” I’ve been making my leadership journey visible within the posts of “Leadership, Learning and Life” for the past 8 years.  What started as a deeper way to connect with the school community of Wilfrid Jury instead of the traditional newsletter

has become a landing spot for reflection on just about anything ~ including this latest post which tries to capture my strong connection to “The Path to Serendipity”.

“Life is not merely a series of meaningless accidents or coincidences ~ but rather, it’s a tapestry of events that culminate in an exquisite sublime plan” ~ from the movie Serendipity.

Well That’s Fantastic!

Today was a prime example of “WTF ~ Well that’s Fantastic”.   I’m not sure about our colleagues in other parts of the province, but the new “normal” for my day is crossing my fingers that all staff absences are covered by occasional staff.  I find myself checking the system before I go to sleep, when I first wake up and again before I leave the house.  At that point, if there is still an unfilled job, my thought process on the way into work becomes which chess pieces on the board will have to be shuffled today in order to ensure maximum student safety with a less than full force of staff members. There have been days that during my 20 minute drive into the school positions have magically been filled or more often than not, more openings have been created.

This morning, as I drove into the school, I actually allowed myself to enjoy the countryside drive as I listened to CBC radio.  I had checked the system and we were good to go. “All hands on deck” is a phrase that I love starting my day with and I was positive that was how today was going to start.  And indeed it did….until 8:50 am.  At that point our admin assistant popped her head into my office and sheepishly shared that the occasional teacher who had picked up one of our open assignments was refusing to teach in the afternoon.  “She says that she only teaches primary”.   For our staff member who was absent, her day is spent with a grade ½ class in the morning and then with half of a grade 7 class in the afternoon (15 lovely students).

My initial reaction was one of disbelieve and then exasperation ~ one of those WTF moments.   As I went out to the main office, my demeanour quickly softened as I explained that we were in need of her help ~ if she could support the grade 7s in the afternoon (only 15 of them), we would truly appreciate it.  Her response was a curt and abrupt, “I only teach primary”. She was refusing to teach the grade 7s and proceeded to school me on how the posting should have been reflected in TVARRIS.  I’ll admit at that point my demeanour was not overly “soft” as I returned to my office and back to the “chessboard”.   Now what to do? 

At that moment, one of our grade 1 educators was walking past and noticed my look of annoyance.  She inquired as to the cause and before I could finish sharing the full scenario, she piped up and said, “I’ll teach the grade 7s this afternoon and she can teach my grade 1s”.   This selfless, tremendous offer poured out without a moment’s hesitation.

 

For readers who may not be overly familiar with our situation at Sir Arthur Currie PS, we are a brand new school ~ we opened our doors in September.  This grade 1 teacher does not have the luxury of knowing these students as their former teacher. Her interactions with the intermediate division have been limited as a result of our exciting but chaotic first year and yet none of that phased her.

Needless to say, we took her up on her offer and then at the end of the day, we listened with great interest as she shared her interactions, her insistence that our grade 7s enjoy a Read Aloud prior to embarking on their writing task and her explanation of the proper way to use a wobble stool.   And as she laughed her way through the explanation and garnered praise from her colleagues for her wonderful offer of help, I couldn’t help but think to myself ~ WTF ~ Well, that’s FANTASTIC!!!

I bet we’ve all had those WTF days. Would love to hear about yours!

Come write with me….

A few more laps to go….

Last night the Thames Valley District School Board honoured approximately 30 administrators and 1 Associate Director at their annual OPC Retirement Celebration.   About a month ago, when the list of school assignment changes was published, I recall reading, in disbelief, the number of my contemporaries who were not listed beside a new school location, but whose next assignment was listed as “retirement”.  Retirement?? How is that even possible?   Yet, when one does the math, it certainly makes sense.  I was presented (again in disbelief) with my 30 year pin earlier this year and although I rarely look at the pension pamphlet that arrives periodically in the mail,  the last time I peeked, I’m pretty sure that, on paper, my “Freedom 55” is just around the corner.  Although, I currently plan on taking a few more laps before turning that corner.

Last night’s celebration became emotional as I watched with nostalgia, pride and joy as two special honourees were recognized. Both of these educators played an integral part at pivotal moments in my career and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to express how much they have meant to me over the years.

Valerie Nielsen, our Associate Director, and I met in Teacher’s College.  We were placed in the same panel and as we had both been married the summer prior to attending Althouse, the mystery of which last name (maiden or married) our professors would use was our first, in a very long line of connections.   We were inseparable, to the point that our classmates would refer to us as the “twins”.  Valerie’s Dutch heritage saved me on many a night as a newlywed who had married into a very Dutch family.

Following teacher’s college, I witnessed, with great respect and adoration, Valerie’s dedication to the continual pursuit of learning ~ from her Masters to her Doctoral degree.  I watched with pride as she went from teacher to learning coordinator to vice principal to principal to Superintendent and then to Associate Director ~ being admired and respected each step of the way.

It was through Valerie’s example and “nudging” that I pursued both my Masters and my Supervisory Officers Qualifications.  She has been that constant voice in my head ~ pushing me to do more, be better.  She will be missed in the “Valley”, but I have no doubt that she will continue to impact education ~ If not locally, then certainly globally.

Suzanne (Barr) Earl was also recognized last night. Suzanne and I met during my final practicum at St. George’s.  She was a brand new teacher, who was kind enough to take me under her wing.  I ended up getting my first contract position at St. Georges and within months we became known as SB2. As two new teachers, we busted our butts and did everything from school shows (completed with complex choreography), to coaching to concerts (complete with funky costumes).  We team taught from the get-go and spend many an evening and weekend planning.   Our worlds continue to intertwine as we both became pregnant at the same time.  Our daughters were born 2 weeks apart and our sons were born two year later, a few months apart. Motherhood allowed us to transition from team teaching into job sharing and we took our SB2 team on the road and became a part of the very first Wilfrid Jury staff.  Our planning sessions transitioned into “mom and baby” swimming lessons first, then lesson planning second, while the babies napped.   Having such a wonderful friend and colleague allowed me to find that all important balance between motherhood and teaching.  Suzanne taught me the importance of true collaboration.  I know that I would not be such a strong proponent of the power of collaboration, if I had not had the gift of working with Suzanne.

I spent the rest of the evening reminiscing about these women ~ the shared good memories, the antics, the tears, the highs and the challenging times ~ the impact that they both had on me as an educator, as a mother and as a learner. I reflected on how education has changed, but how the core beliefs that we shared 30 years ago are still at the center of so many of my decisions.

I admire their decision to take this next step in their journey, although I can’t even begin to imagine that next step in my own life.  They both “just knew” it was time and what a gift that must have been for them.

 

So, here’s to a few more laps…. But like most marathons, I have the power and stamina to make them count, because of the amazing impact of these two educators, who were there with me at the beginning of this race!

Under the Weather

The twinkle lights created a lovely ambiance, the ice was smooth and flawless, families were having a wonderful time looping through the trees and it felt great to have the blades back on.   Although I never competed, in my youth, I spent hours upon hours skating at local arenas and on backyard rinks.  As a teenager I taught figure skating for the local optimist club and as a parent I loved teaching my own children how to skate. My husband had wonderful patience as we tried our hand at several backyard rinks over the years.   So, it was with great excitement that we decided to spend the Saturday night of the Family Day weekend at Storybook Gardens.  The first few laps were a little rusty, but then the blades felt strong and natural.  Our conversation meandered through a variety of topics, just as the pathway meandered through the beautifully lit trees.

I recall feeling confident about turning the upcoming corner, but then within the blink of an eye, instead of catching the side of the blade, I caught my front pic and crashed to the ice ~ knee first.    Following any such tumble, one’s natural instinct is to get up and move on, without causing too much of a fuss.  But as my brain was sending a signal to my right knee to bend so that I could get up, it became instantly apparent that this injury was going to result in more than just a bruised knee.

Fast forward two weeks… Following the news that indeed I had fractured both my knee and my right femur, which required 24 hours of traction followed by surgery which left me with a lovely plate, a rod and several screws, I was home and on the road to recovery.

Life has certainly slowed down.  I fill my days with reading, writing, watching the beloved miniseries North and South (if anyone can inspire one to wellness, Patrick Swayze can), completing jigsaw puzzles (a past time that is usually only enjoyed at the cottage or over the Christmas holidays) and enjoying the company of friends who have been so wonderful about popping in ~ all from the comfort of my couch! I am determined to be the best patient ever, so that I can return to work as soon as possible.

As the beginning of this month came upon us, I shuffled (my new mode of mobility, with my ever so stylish walker) to the kitchen and switched the calendar page.  I have been a fan of Catherine Simpson’s work for years and each Christmas my daughter faithfully gives me one of her calendars.  I always get a sense of wonderment as I turn to a new piece of artwork.

March’s artwork took me aback as I couldn’t help but see the irony in the picture.  The caption was “Under the Weather” and the picture was that of two young children tending to a Teddy Bear, with an injured right leg.

 

Coincidence???? Serendipity????

I have suppressed the urge the check out what April’s artwork might be.   Here’s hoping it involves dancing, walking and jumping (without the stylish walker).

Come write with me….

 

Movies, Meryl and Me 2

I love going to the movies. I love watching movies at home ~ some of my favourites, I’ve watched so many times that I can recite each and every line (a major annoyance for anyone enjoying the movie alongside of me) and I love it when a good movie makes me stop and think.  Last night I enjoyed one of those “stop and think” movies.  I had the pleasure of seeing “The Post” which stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the Washington Post newspaper heiress (reluctantly as the helm of the paper following the death of her husband) and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, the paper’s editor-in-chief.

As the movie opens, Streep is almost unrecognizable as the unsure of herself, unorganized and unprepared to be in her current position of authority Graham.  Her character stumbles to present her case and defers decisions and actions to the male members of the board.  For those of us who have loved Meryl in so many “strong” roles it was indeed painful to watch.

But then at the pivotal moment when the decision to either go to press or bury the story occurs, her character’s strength shines through, ever so quietly, but ever so powerfully.  It was at that moment that I wanted to stand up and cheer, “Finally”.   As the story line draws to a conclusion there is a visible change in how Graham holds her head, stops fidgeting with her glasses and evolves into a less timid, less compliant woman.

And although it is Graham’s transformation during a time in our history when women weren’t invited to the “Big table” in business ~ every so beautifully portrayed in one scene following a dinner party, when the woman automatically retire to the drawing room to discuss decorating while the men (most of whom answer to Graham) engage in business dialogue ~ that was the central theme, it was the portrayal of Ben Bradlee’s 10 year old daughter that gave me cause to stop and think.

As with most historical fiction movies, one is never sure if the supporting cast members are portrayed as true to life or included for creative flair and effect. So the part of Ben’s daughter may have been an actual depiction or added for flair.  As the news crew transitions from the Washington Post head office to Ben’s home to work through the story, they are greeted by Ben’s daughter (Marina) who is selling lemonade (a well know past time for those of us who grew up in the ‘70s).  The audience giggles as there is a reference to adding something a stronger to the lemonade.   A few scenes later as the mood intensifies and the living room is strewn with piles and piles of notes, Marina flows in with a plastic jug of lemonade and starts to refresh glasses.  I’ll admit that my prediction skills kicked in and I anticipated spillage of lemonade and a room full of anxious newsman rushing for paper towels.  You’ll have to watch to movie to see what happens.

As the storyline nears the end, there is a shot of a stack of dollar bills ~ Marina’s earnings for the day.  Laughter from the audience followed, as Ben Bradlee’s wife places the money in a wooden box.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and was thrilled that Streep’s character came into her own by the final few scenes, it was the image of Marina’s earnings that stuck with me on the way home. It was almost as if director Spielberg was giving us hope in the next generation.  A generation where women could be entrepreneurial, ingenious and inventive.  A generation where women like Graham didn’t need the approval of the male dominated board of directors to make a decision. A generation where women no longer retired to the dining room while the men talk about business ~  they were there, in the thick of it ~ giving birth to their own business.

#oneword ~ 2018

As the final days of December descend upon us, I am once again reminded of the annual Twitter phenomenon of selecting #oneword which will become one’s mantra for the coming year.  In 2016, I selected “Unwritten” following a moving rendition of Natasha Bedingfield’s song of the same title, sung by a member of the worship team at church.  I challenged myself to be anything but unwritten.  As I continue to remind myself, writing is a muscle that needs to be flexed on a regular basis if one is ever expected to get better at it.  A great reminder for me, as that muscle has been less than flexed during the past four months. I will do better this coming year.

In 2017, my #oneword was “Imagine”. With my impending transition from a system role to leading a staff with the opening of a brand new school, I wanted 2017 to be filled with all of the possibilities of what such a gift could entail. As I reread that post, I am proud that the staff that was selected for our new school have already started to embrace many of those imaginings.  A year ago, I did not know 80% of these educators and in 4 short months they have taught me so much about effective pedagogy, creating a community of learners and they have embraced the ever-changing, ever-evolving world of SAC.  I could never have imagined being surrounded by such incredible, caring and dedicated educators and loving coming to work as much as I do now!

As I look forward to 2018, the word that I’m going to select is one that was planted in my spirit by my incoming Vice Principal, Matt Lynds. As we went through the process of selecting a mascot for our new school, he came up with the word, Courage ~ and although the school community eventually selected the SAC Coyotes, along with a design, beautifully crafted by one of our students, I haven’t been able to shake the power of that word.

Now that our world at SAC is starting to resemble a fully functional school, rather than a construction zone, we can begin to focus on those decisions which are a combination of exciting and challenging at the same time.

It will take Courage to challenge the status quo when it comes to recognizing students at assemblies and graduations.

It will take Courage to continue to support both educators and parents to embrace the power of digital portfolios.

It will take Courage to refuse to condone practices which do not challenge our students to reach their potential.  There is a reason why we call them “Courageous Conversations”.

It will take Courage to constantly ensure that I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

It will take Courage to stay true to the decision to purchase flexible furniture and to continue to ask those essential questions to our team.

It will take Courage to continually challenge an already highly motivated and exceptional staff to continue to learn more, inspire more, be more.

It will take Courage to intentionally mentor a new VP with a different mindset as to what the job could and should entail and to fight the urge to do things the way they have always been done, just because it’s easier.

Just like my two previous #oneword posts, I have no doubt that the upcoming year will bring many more opportunities for me to experience my #oneword mantra in ways that I have yet to imagine.

As you look forward to 2018, what will your #oneword be?

Come write with me….

A Remembrance Day to Remember

Our life at Sir Arthur Currie continues to be daily celebrations of “firsts”.  This past week was no exception as we finally opened our gymnasium and came together for the first time as a school community. Our charge custodian, Mrs. Comeau, did the honours as she cut the customary ribbon and officially deemed it “Open”.

We also conducted our first Remembrance Day Service, which came together beautifully as a result of a full team effort.  Our cross was built and painted, our choir filled the auditorium with beautiful music, our primary classes sang songs and recited poems and our junior students courageously shared poems they crafted themselves.  When your school’s namesake is a famous WW1 General, there is an unspoken expectation that Remembrance Day becomes more significant. Our service started with a slide show highlighting Sir Arthur Currie’s life and contributions.  Having Sir Arthur Currie’s great grandson in the audience made the service more meaningful for all of us.

As the last post was played, Corporal Arthur Currie (Sir Arthur’s great grandson) saluted the cross adorned with wreaths.  He was moved as many of our young students saluted him back.  Following the ceremony, we toured the classes and our students were thrilled to meet Sir Arthur Currie’s great grandson.  He was besieged with a number of students who wanted his autograph.  His daughter, Lucy, couldn’t quite understand why a group of school children would want her daddy’s autograph.  As the children inundated Corporal Currie with questions about his uniform and the Service, he spoke of men and women heading overseas to fight in wars ~ at which point, his daughter Lucy, spoke up and said,  “But not you, right, Daddy?”.   

It was at that moment that it hit me ~ the true meaning of why we ensure that each year, in each school, we take the time to teach our students about the importance of Remembrance Day.  We honour those who lost their lives in battles, who never had the chance to return to their children. We honour those who are currently fighting battles, who pray each day that they will be able to return to their children.  But more importantly we focus on Peace in the hopes that our children will never know the pain of loss of a parent as a result of war.

Neglect Nothing…Or so we thought!

“Thorough preparation must lead to success. Neglect nothing” is one of the famous quotes from our school’s namesake, Sir Arthur Currie.  One month ago, I would have embraced that quote and been quite confident that we, as a school team, had completed months of thorough preparation in anticipation of our school’s opening on September 5th 2017 ~ that we had neglected nothing. Furniture and equipment were purposefully and intentionally selected to allow for collaboration and teamwork in each learning environment. Resources and technology purchases reflected our idea of an innovative learning space where iPads and Chromebooks are as easy to access as pencils and pens.  Incoming staff were prepped for the upcoming journey. Conversations about student centered learning tasks and reimagining assigning homework beyond the instructional day occurred in June.  Paper planners were not forgotten on the order list, they were intentionally left off as we wanted to dive into electronic forms of communication between home and school.  Timetables, class lists and supervision schedules were prepared and distributed.

The idea of starting from scratch, building community and creating a school culture different from any other were the foundation of months of planning, the lens through which I did my summer reading and the focus of many of my Tweets to my PLN.

But it wasn’t until our opening day and the subsequent few days that followed that together we learned that our success was going to look different than first anticipated ~ regardless of the months of thorough preparation.  Delays in furniture deliveries, ongoing construction projects,  missing resource orders, partial pieces of this and that and an unprecedented additional 125 students created the conditions for our team to bond quickly and to be prepared to rethink our plans.   Within days, we needed to find a way to get 42 seating options and table tops into a grade 5 room.  Teachers who had planned to teach combined classes were now teaching different classes as we welcomed 5 new classes.  Staffroom furniture became classroom furniture and folding tables doubled as meeting tables. Subsequent days brought interviewing for 6 positions, continued management of daily deliveries; not to mention the regular start of the school year busyness.

Then the reality hit ~ although we had prepared ourselves for the lack of Learning Commons/Gym, the odd missed order and sharing our space with our construction crew, nothing could have prepared us for increasing our school population by 40% and the additional commitment that that increase was going to need on behalf of the whole team.

Yet through it all, the Currie Crew has flourished ~ active learning happening in classes, numeracy assessments, Terry Fox Run, soccer games, planting trees in our community and even a school wide event wherein we all painted a memory piece for future generations are just a few of the amazing first month accomplishments.  The success of these activities seems that much sweeter, knowing the challenges that were occurring in the background.

And although we still see the benefits of Sir Arthur’s quote, I’m wondering if a more appropriate quote for us might be:  You can’t spell challenge without change. If you’re going to rise to the challenge, you need to be prepared for change.

What has the first month of this school year brought you?  Any unanticipated changes that have led to deeper successes?

 

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