Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Over the last few weeks I have seen a number of blog posts that I could dub the "11 questions" posts.  It's rather simple.  Share 11 facts about myself, answer 11 questions posed for me by another, and then invite 11 more to answer 11 random questions I pose for them.  I have loved reading and learning things about others.  Often in my PLN I hear exclusively about what is happening in classrooms/schools and this "11s" project has put a real human face to every one of the people I converse with.
And so today I was challenged to do my homework and join the ranks of the 11s, thanks to the amazing Sheila Morissette (@sheilamoris) (who I have been lucky enough to work for - she was my first principal, and gave me so much support and so many opportunities in the early days of my career!)
So without further ado...
11 random things about me
1.  I am a geek.  Totally in love with science and Doctor Who and Disney, and all things Joss Whedon.  I love that it's okay to be a geek these days.  
2.  I am a total travel addict.  I am constantly planning my travel adventures one year (or more) down the road and looking for as many opportunities as I can to see or experience some place new.  Travel is such an amazing form of education.  I have tried to share this with my students as well - I took yearbook students to NYC in 2012, and am taking science students in London March 2014 and Student Council students to Disneyland for leadership training in May 2014.  I have a travel blog with all my adventures (Chasing Magnets). 
3.  I love photography.  I started taking photos on a Nikon 401X when I was 10 years old after our house was robbed and the insurance company replaced our crappy camera with this superior model.  I prefer to take photos of nature, landscapes and architecture - so travel photography is pretty much the perfect blend for me.  However, I do put these skills to use for the school yearbook, as well as shooting weddings, maternity, family and infant portraits.  I am also a bit of a photo snob.  For this reason I hate instagram.  For me there is a big difference between snapshots and the art of photography (and there is nothing wrong with snapshots - time and place for each though!)
4.  While I have always lived in the lower mainland, I have spent some portion of every summer in Osoyoos.  Being on the boat and watching the sunset behind the mountains is probably my favourite thing in the world.  I got my first job at the Supervalu on Main Street in Osoyoos, learned to wakeboard, developed my confidence, and met my husband on this lake.  
5.  I got engaged when I was 19, after 6 weeks of dating my husband.  We were married on reading break shortly after I turned 20.  Best decision ever.  I knew I wanted to share my life with him, and when you know, why wait?  Conversely, my wedding was one of the worst days of my life.  However, a wedding is not a marriage.  My husband is my best friend, my favourite travel companion, and also an inspiring educator.
6.  I love the fall and winter.  Mostly just the cold.  I love scarves and wool coats and toques and mittens and wandering in the snow.  I love the smell of the rain, and the sound it makes.  Even in the winter I generally sleep with my window open to I can enjoy the crisp air.  I hate being hot. 
7.  When I was in high school they offered Physics 12 and Band 12 in the same block and forced me to choose one.  This was a big decision to make at 15.  While I love science and am passionate about teaching Physics (and in no way regret my choice to take the Physics course), a small part of me is sad that I let my study of music fall away in the process.
8.  When I was in high school I saw Apollo 13 for the first time and instantly fell in love with space.  From that moment on I wanted to be an astronaut.  I read everything I could about NASA and started gathering information on the best Universities to go to in order to prepare for my career in aeronautics.  I had a stack of university calendars 2 feet tall.  I really wanted to go to the University of Hawaii to study astronomy.  I wrote my SAT and ACT in grade 10 so that I could go. But finally realized that I would never be able to afford it.  Also realized that becoming an astronaut was not as easy as one might think at 14.  But I do infuse my love of space in to my Science 9 and Physics 11 classes.  
9.  Both sets of my grandparents immigrated from Holland shortly after WWII.  And while my parents never lived there and I do not speak Dutch, when i visit Holland, it feels like I am going home.  If I was to move anywhere else in the world, it would be Holland.  Bikes, Vla, Gouda, Canals, Art, Water, Markets, and a generally slower pace of life.  It's pretty fantastic.
10.  I hate cilantro.  And rosemary.  And Feta.  And Curry.  And sushi.  Basically, I'm a pretty picky eater.  This drives my husband nuts, as he is a total foodie, and does all the cooking.  
11.  I am a terrible manager of my time.  This has to do with loving too many things and perseverating on too many things.  Combine this with my type-A, control-freak, workaholic, perfectionist personality and basically I'm forever throwing myself into a million and one things that I love equally, all the time.  This leaves me constantly on the verge of burnt out.  I'm working on balance.  I'm guessing it will be a life-long challenge.
11 questions posed to me by Sheila Morissette (@sheilamoris)
1. What are you reading now?
Currently into The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, working through Bounce by Matthew Syed, and about to embark on my fifth draft of a book-in-progress called Marbles and Wine by my colleague Margo Freeman.
2. How do you stay current in your field?
I just finished my Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction: Critical, Creative and Collaborative Inquiry.  The past two years I feel like I have been neck deep in educational thinking, movement and reform.  So that helps.  And of course I read a lot of articles, books and blogs.  And then there is twitter of course.  But most importantly I surround myself with good people (in person and electronically) who know me and challenge me.  I'm grateful to have so many avenues to push myself.
3. Are you a camper or a hotel person? 
If I had to choose, I would say camper.  Being connected with nature fills my soul.  I would take a campfire and a cold Montana night with pancakes or grilled cheese on a camp stove over a Best Western and restaurant food at almost any turn.  Unless it is ridiculously hot out (see above) in which case I will crave air conditioning.  In 2011 my husband and I completed a 23 state, 3 week, 13,000 km road trip across North America and the night we were in Atlanta we set up our tent and went to bed at 11:30pm - it was 38 degrees outside.  It was miserable.  But at the end of the day I am a traveler - I want to see everything - so whatever gets me to the most authentic experience of nature, history, culture etc - that's my choice!
4.  What is the next conference you plan to attend?
I wish I could say I had a plan to attend one.  We don't get a lot of Pro-D money at the teacher level and getting to most of the conferences that sound exciting costs $$.  I was just reading about Fuse14 and totally intrigued by that.  But if you have a conference you think is amazing - leave a comment and let me know!  Now that my time (and money) isn't being totally consumed by SFU, a conference may in in the future!
5.  What excites you about the new year ahead?
As I mentioned, in March I am taking (along with a few colleagues of mine) a group of 15 grade 10 - 12 students to London to study the history of science.  I'm so excited to walk in the footsteps of Newton, Darwin, Hawking and so many more.  I really have no idea what it is going to be like, as this is the first time I'm attempting this travel study.  But I'm confident it will be an amazing experience regardless.   
I am also working on a leadership training retreat for my Student Council students to Disneyland in May. Disney runs a program for high school students to teach them about leadership, focusing on communication, goal setting, creativity and collaboration.  I think it will be an amazing experience for my students, and I can't wait to see what they get out of it, and what they bring back and put into action at Sullivan Heights.  
6.  Who introduced you to twitter and blogging?
No one.  I was one of the early adopters.  When I first signed up for a twitter account I was looking to use it to replace my course website.  I found my students weren't accessing my website and updating it was too cumbersome for the benefits.  I found I could use my phone to send instant updates about what was happening in class for my students to see, and started using this with students my second year teaching.  Shortly after that I started connecting to some of the early tweeters (@bobneuf, @calebirks, @chriswejr, @chrkennedy) and it took off from there.  At that time I could read every single tweet by every single person I followed.  Oh how times have changed.  
As for blogging - again - there wasn't anyone.  I was moved schools between my second and third year of teaching.  I found myself very alone at my new school, and worked with many colleagues who had different (some may say "old school") philosophies from what I had been exposed to in PDP and at Sullivan Heights - which made it hard for me to dialogue with colleagues.  I started blogging to start a conversation with someone, any one, out there in my PLN.  This also grew out of a belief that I could only grow if I was willing to create, not only consume, ideas.
7.  Who would you most like to have dinner with?
The Doctor.  Or Josiah Bartlett.  
8. What inspires you?
My students.  Every single day.  They are capable of so much more than I imagine sometimes.  I often feel like we ask them to be brave, and trust who they are, and face their fears, and own the learning - we ask so much of them.  Maybe even more than we ourselves would be willing to do.  Watching them rise to these challenges every day inspires me.  They make me better.
9.  What do you do to relax?
Read.  Watch TV.  Travel.  Plan trips I will one day take.  Take my camera out and wander through a garden or along the bank of a river.  Sit by the camp fire.  
10. Name a couple of bloggers who inspire you.
On an education level, I really enjoy the ideas of John Spencer, the conversations on character from Vijay Manual, and Physics/Math stuff from Shawn Cornally
But as a human (and woman) I think Megan Gagan has some of the most beautiful, open, raw, real, honest posts out there.  I am inspired and touched with each one.  If I could only read one blog, it would be hers.
11. What are you working on that excites you?
Well, as I mentioned in #5, I'm working on developing some travel studies that I am excited about.  Outside of that, I am currently working on taking all that stuff I learned in my masters program and trying to bring it into my Physics classroom.  It's harder than it looks to take a topic as traditional as Physics (and with a demanding curriculum), and try and rework it to focus on inquiry and critical thinking.  I'm excited to change how Physics is being taught and to focus on critical thinking, creativity and collaboration in my classroom - but it's been (and continues to be) mentally consuming.  But when I get it "right" and I see students engaged and THINKING...ahhh...it's the greatest reward!
11 questions for others
1.  If you were stuck on a desert island with only one musical album, what would it be?
2.  If you were to pick up and move to another city or country to start your life there, where would it be and why?
3.  What one educational trend, catch phrase or fad do you think is overrated and why?
4.  What is one educational belief or desire you hold that you find hard(er) to put into practice?
5.  What is something that you are currently looking forward to?
6.  If you were to go back to school tomorrow to get a degree in any subject, what would you study?
7.  What is one moment or experience you had with colleagues or students in the last month (or so) that reinforced your call to be an educator (or reminded you of why you love what you do)? (I hope you have one!)
8.  If you had the power to change one thing about the current educational system that is out of your control, what would it be?
9.  What's your favourite course you have ever taken in your educational journey?
10.  What is one goal you have for the new year (personal or professional)?
11.  What does the perfect vacation look like to you?
11 People
@garr_s, @rwd01, @vicit, @msfree1, @vijaymanual34, @balranu, @jennifer_spain, @rayjbecker, @abbyelise, @teachertong, @Vendram1n

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