Dancing Queen

download As I write this post I’m getting excited about my plans for tomorrow night. I’m heading off to  the London Convention Center with a group of female family members to enjoy Jeans’ Classics ~ A Night of ABBA.  Knowing who I’ll be attending with, there will definitely be lots of singing  along and dancing in the aisles. Song and dance are an important part of my life. I can’t imagine  starting my day without the radio on, playing music as I make my way through my morning  routine; sometimes, dancing as I apply make-up or fine tune my locks.

This morning was no different and in fact the topic of Dance was part of my first meeting.   I always look forward to my meetings with our ETFO Vice President, a talented teacher whom I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside of in a school setting as well as our current working relationship. Today’s topic was the Provincial Report Card and more specifically expectations around the Arts comments.   As many of you know, we have four subjects within the Arts section of the report card ~ Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts.   We are striving to provide consistent messaging to our teachers about the most effective way to report on their assessment of these subjects, throughout the entire school year.  I’m confident that with continued discussions, we will be able to reach a shared understanding and consensus.  Our discussion encompassed a variety of hypothetical situations about the challenges of teaching dance, teacher knowledge on the subject etc.  We ended the meeting, with a shared desire to come back to the larger group next week and work through more negotiations.images

My day then continued on until about 1 pm when our ESL Coordinator came to my office and invited me to join her in the Thames Room (our large gymnasium at the Ed Center).  Today was the final afternoon for the Dance Festival and students from our LEARN (congregated ESL classroom) were performing.  At that moment, everything on my “to do list” became secondary and I headed downstairs.  The place was rockin’ with students from Early Years classes right up to Secondary School students.   Our board certainly knows how to put on a show and today was another fine example.  The performances were projected on the big screen and the bleachers were filled with proud parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators etc.  I was thoroughly enjoying the music and in awe of the performers, but it wasn’t until our group of students (most of them from Nepal) in their traditional dress took their places in the center of the gym that it hit me (tears and all). For many of those students, less than a year ago, they were in refugee camps and experiencing horrors that we would never wish on any child.  This group of children have had their challenges in entering our school system, understanding a new culture and making new friends.  We are blessed to have dedicated teachers, Natalee Wales and Peggy Dunham supporting them every step of the way. And yet here they were today, dancing, smiling and singing a song honouring their homeland and sharing a piece of their culture with a broader audience.

All of a sudden the hypothetical conversations from my morning meeting became a reality.  I wish I could have bottled the emotion from today and shared it with those few educators who find is challenging to see the benefits of teaching and assessing all of the Arts for our students. Our job as educators is to ensure that we are providing our students with every possible opportunity to shine.

For those of you who know me, you can probably guess that my favourite word popped into my head as I made my way back to the “busyness” of my office ~ Serendipity.   Was it fate that both my meeting and the dance festival were on the same day?  It certainly wasn’t a purposeful plan on my part. If it had been, I may have escorted my visitor down to the Thames room so that he could have experienced it for himself.

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Whatever it was, I was thankful for the bookends of “Dance” in my day!

A Musical Memory

signWhile on a recent trip, I had the pleasure of going to the Alabama Theatre in South Carolina to see the show entitled, ONE. For any of my readers who know me well, you know that I have been a huge fan of the country group Alabama for most of my adult life. Many of my most memorable moments are connected in some way to an Alabama song. My first “real” concert was in Buffalo, 30 years ago to see them, when they first started touring. So, as I walked into “their” theatre, I was smiling ear to ear, like a child walking into a candy store.  I am also a huge fan of live entertainment and that evening I couldn’t have hoped for a better mix of singing, dancing, acrobatics and comedy. The playlist of music encompassed selec2015-04-09_2255tions from country, to pop to gospel and everything in between. The musicians masterfully played instruments ranging from the banjo to bagpipes and the routines included a flying Mary Poppins and a talking dog.  The audience was mainly comprised of tourists, but I had the pleasure of sitting beside a gentleman (Gene) who attends the show 3 times a week. Our conversation evolved from pleasantries to insider information on the performers (brothers and sisters, married couples and newlyweds) to the reason behind his regular attendance.  Throughout the show, his wife sat quietly by his side, smiling and only speaking once as she asked to get up and stretch at the intermission.  Gene shared that his wife has experienced several medical setbacks in recent years and a significant part of her memory is quickly fading.  Some weeks she remembers attending the show and other times, it is all new and exciting for her.  He spoke of their shared love of music and as the music is playing, it is one of the rare times that he feels still connected to her.

Gene’s story is a beautiful love story as it speaks to the power of a musical connection, a shared experience that, in this case, can transcend the bounds illness and memory loss.


As I think of my own journey, I know that hearing a song can instantly transport me to a time and place with special memories.

If music has that power, are we as educators embracing it as much as we should?

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Capturing the Best….

Last weekend, I drove to Uxbridge to join the rest of the TMA (Teachers Mentoring Abroad) team as we planned for our excursion to the Dominican Republic in July.  This organization is celebrating its 10 year of supporting educator professional development in the Dominican Republic and I’m thrilled to be sharing strategies to support reading comprehension as my contribution to this year’s conference.  One of the newest members is Anita Watkins, who joins us as the team photographer. She captured a great team photo as well as a few shots of us working through our plans.  During lunch, Anita shared her passion for photography and the journey that she has been on as she has started to develop her business. As someone who is learning how to use my new camera to take effective pictures, I was listening intently for pointers about how to improve my new found photography skills.

TMAAnita is also an educator and I was impressed with her comparisons between photography and education.   She coined a phrase that is so powerful.  She shared that photography is like teaching, in that in both cases the photographer and educator are always trying to bring the best out in the subject/student.

Anita’s specialty is head shots and her work is impressive.  Your eye is drawn to the eyes and the smile of each subject.  Most of us are so self-conscious of what the camera captures.  We see flaws and imperfections, which are augmented in our eyes. But the right photographer, who knows the rules of lighting, the best angles and the positioning of the subject captures a masterpiece.  Anita provided us with direction as to when to smile, when to look at the camera and how to “turtle” to diminish signs of “maturity”.

It is in the same vein that the right educator, who knows his/her student, who knows what engages them and how to provide feedback for improvement will undoubted bring out the best in the student.  If we look at student improvement through the proper lens and ensure that we are focusing on what is important, we will caimagespture the best in our students.

Just as a photographer is needed to capture precious moments, a masterful teacher is needed to capture memorable learning experiences.  When was the last time you, as an educator, felt like an artist?

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