Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What are the ingredients of a Sullivan Star?

Bear with me - this may get a little long, but it's worth it.

I have the privilege of being the yearbook "teacher" at my school.  I use the term teacher loosely, as I really feel like it's more of a team leader or mentoring process.  I have done this job once before - and I have to be honest - it wasn't much fun.  It would be easy to blame it on a difficult group of kids or intensely steep learning curve of the management involved or software used, but the truth is that I was missing the point of why it is we make a yearbook at all.  I lacked vision.

On my way into the classroom back on that fateful day in 2009, a colleague stopped me in the hallway for conversion.  He argued that in an age of social media, maybe the yearbook was irrelevant.  It that moment I wondered if he was right.  I didn't really understand, as the teacher of the class, what it was I was trying to accomplish.  What was the point?  

But then last year I was forced to move schools.  I spent a year away from home.  And it was in this time away that I truly began to understand the idea of school culture.  And when I was lucky enough to get my dream job and return home again I was able to look at Sullivan with a new lens.  

So today, in my yearbook class, I asked my students "What are the ingredients of a Sullivan Star?"  What makes us "us"?  Why do you love being a part of this community?  What aspects of this school make you feel at home here?  What makes you belong?  If there were a recipe for Sullivan Heights, what would it be?  Because if we know this.  If we know who WE are as a community, then we can make a yearbook.  We can produce 192 glorious pages that reflects this world to which we all belong.

At first they were reluctant.  There were limited answers and kids wanted to move on.  But I pressed forward.  I asked them again.  and again.  and then it started.  The answers.  And they continued for an hour.  Pages and pages of things that made them proud to be part of this community.  People who made them feel valued.  Experiences that, to them, defined all the things they love about the school.  And I'd like to share them.  For the audience of readers to know this school - please read this and know how much you are loved by these students.  For those who do not know my school, take the time to think about your own school.  What makes you who you are?

Ingredients of the Sullivan Community (in the words of my students)
  • Quirky and Laid Back (students, teachers, environment)
  • Amazing Dance teams (that dominate) 
  • Setting records in all areas (ex. Field Hockey or History 12 Provincials)
  • Teachers who aren't afraid to have relationships with their students 
  • Teachers who aren't afraid to let their personalities show (ex. Neuf and Edwards)
  • Clubs - we could do anything.  We have the freedom
  • Amazing Artists
  • Everything related to Mr. Vaughan.  He's really inspiring.  Especially in how he cares about the environment and seeing us become good leaders
  • Our Co-ops are awesome.  And we love Mr. Hepting.  
  • There are so many opportunities.  More than I have time for
  • We get to go on great field trips, like visiting temples, grouse grind, or bard on the beach.  Teachers go out of their way for us
  • The athletic department.  everything about it.
  • The way teachers focus on student responsibility.
  • Our school has a lot of student leaders.  And a lot of them (and others) are selfless and give of their time for others
  • We care about our reputation.  We don't want to do anything to hurt the school name.
  • Our Janitors are the best.  Ian and Tony always go the extra mile for us.
  • We have big dreams.  We always aim to do the best we can.
  • Teachers encourage us to go above and beyond expectations.
  • Our VPs are the best.  They go out of the way to say hi to us and treat us with respect.  They are friendly and care about us.
  • Our school is inclusive of all people.  Students are respectful, considerate and friendly.
  • Band trips are some of the best memories from being here.  Mr. Williams goes out of his way to create amazing experiences for us
  • Mr. Mitchell's Physics class
  • The Grade 8 retreat was my standout high school experience.  Without it I wouldn't have made the great friends I have today.
  • Ms. Yahn's Dance class is my favourite place to be.  
  • Great Coaches
  • Mr. Neufeld as Taylor Swift will probably be one of my favorite high school memories. 
  • Mr. Neufeld in general
  • PE field trip to play Broomball was the BEST! (I followed this one up with what is broomball?)
  • Halloween Fashion show is the highlight of the year
  • Mr. Pederson's PE Class
  • Guitar Class
  • Being able to make amazing friends.
  • The Teachers.  
  • The Teachers.
  • The Teachers.
  • I agree.  The Teachers.
  • Totally.  The Teachers here care about us.  They want us to do our best and push us to go above and beyond.  (insert 20 nodding students).  We definitly have the best teachers of anywhere.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who has time to manage time?

I started my Masters program this past weekend.  For those of you who have been through this process I am confident you are nodding.  You can probably already see where this is going.

My course runs on weekends - 5 hours Friday nights and 8 hours on Saturdays.  After a long first week of school, getting the yearbook up and running, and navigating the waters of job action I left school (where I teach) to go to school (where I learn) [do not get too attached to the words teach/learn, as I think I do both simultaneously regardless of location].  By the end of class on Saturday I was sent out to read numerous articles, 30% of a book, write 2 critiques, prepare a written position paper for a debate and of course go through a 3 page bibliography to start thinking about topics for my essay.  At first I was slightly outraged. I mean, don't they know I have a JOB!?  How inconsiderate could they be?  I mean this is a masters in EDUCATION!  We are teachers.  WORKING TEACHERS!  Of course after my 2 minute mental temper tantrum I reminded myself that the reason I wanted to do this, and the respect I have for the school, program and level of education I was seeking would have expected no different.  So as I did my sleep deprived Zombie walk back to the car, I found myself wondering how I was going to learn to manage my time.

Fellow tweeps quickly responded to my stressful outcry's saying this was what it was like for them too.  Two years of exhaustion.  @erringreg said to me "the overwhelmed part is the uncomfortable feeling of your previous paradigms shifting :)"  And how can I argue with that - isn't it the reason I signed up for this in the first place?  So I have had to quickly accept this new state of existence - the one where I am once again busier than I thought was possible.  Balancing Science classes, a yearbook, student council, papers, readings, debates, critiques while trying to exercise, eat right, have time for my husband, friends and family.  So how do you do it?  All weekend I swore I was going to take the time to make a do to list for the week.  But one thing followed another, and it's now Tuesday.  And in between working with InDesign and ordering camera parts I have stopped, but only for a moment, to try and meet my Professional Development blogging goal (one more thing on the non-existent list).  The truth is - I don't have time.  I don't have TIME to make a LIST.  I don't have TIME to manage my TIME.  I don't have TIME to figure out how to prioritize.  For the past 10 days I feel like I have been triaging my life.  Dealing with the big things - the pressing engagements, the stuff that needs to be done for tomorrow.  Leaving the rest (you know, those "unimportant" things, like dishes and laundry).

So how do you do it?  What's the trick to managing your time?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Goal Setting Revisited

In April I was encouraged to consider setting goals. It was a first for me personally and professionally, and it took a lot to make the list found in the post below. I was worried that by setting goals, I may just be setting myself up for failure. And truthfully, who wants to do that?

Today was Pro-D at Sullivan Height; my first as a permanent member of the staff. It was run internally with teachers teaching teachers. Over a dozen staff members got up and shared their varied successes, allowing others to sample the vast array of ideas, technologies and communication tools available to the education world (and increasing at an exponential rate according to a math lesson from @bobneuf). The focus was on 21st century learners. There was a good deal on twitter, as well as the sharing of a variety of web 2.0 tools. And then there was a brief conversation about goals.

If you weren't paying attention you may have missed this part. It wasn't a lecture. It wasn't up on the screen with step by step instructions. There wasn't a long drawn out conversation. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that it quietly snuck up on us. First I didn't think must about it. As the day progressed I started to realize how significant it really was.

We were asked to fill out a sheet and set a goal. "A" goal. I mean, how difficult can that be? But as I started to go through the sheet I realized it was nothing like my experience this past April. To make things quick and painless I pulled up my blog with the intention of just pulling one from my already existing list. But this assignment wasn't just a list. I was asked about not just what my goal is, but what others could do to support it. What would success look like? How would I measure my progress? Why would i choose this particular goal? This lead to a few hours of staring at the questions broken up by moments of exploring a variety of web tools, designing a website and thinking about assessment practices.

And then it came to me. This. This blog. This dialogue and conversation. Looking at my previous list, I realized there is so much I want to do. Some of it is practical like helping out with a club. Some of it I've already done, like getting into a Masters program (start next week) and getting a permanent job (Sullivan Heights!!!). But MOST of it (maybe all of it?), I mean the REALLY IMPORTANT STUFF (and isn't it all), needs to be done in conversation. I don't have the right answers. Or the wrong answers. Or, as I am convinced some days, any answers. But I sure have a lot of questions and ideas and theories. I am ready to try new things. And succeed. And fail. And I am grateful to be in a school, community and PLN that supports and encourages all of the above.

So here it is! My goal for the 2011/2012 school year:

  • I'd like to blog, at least once a week. I am doing it because I have questions and ideas that I would like to share, and more importantly, I would like to hear from others. I know that growth often requires the willingness to make yourself vulnerable, so I am taking the leap here and now. I would measure success both by being consistent in my effort, and by the willingness of others to engage in the conversation (comments and questions). My colleagues (near and far) can support me in taking the time to read, and respond. And I hope that this blog isn't the professional development itself, but the catalyst for so much more to come.

So here I am: week one. check. Thanks to Jennifer Spain (@jennifer_spain) and Nicole Painchaud (@painchaud_n) for the idea and encouragement. Kudos to you both.