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A New Year. A New Word.

 It's my second year attempting to choose a new word each month in order to stay reflective about what was happening around me and in my life. I threw out the idea of #OneWordx12 last year in January with the hope I'd do it all year long. 

In retrospect, it might be one of the only goals I accomplished that I set for myself in January 2020. 

I did a 20 in 2020 list. 

Much of it involved visiting places. Obviously much of it didn't happen. 

I haven't even looked back at it. 

I am working on a 21 in 2021 list but with a different focus. I want to list habits to make and habits to break and then track if I do (or don't do them) 21 times. Things like yoga, not ordering takeout, walking a certain distance each week, hiking with the girls, a week without spending, etc. A few years ago I was seriously into fitness and healthy eating. I was as fit as I've ever been and then a knee injury. And then physio. And then I got nervous every time I felt a twinge. And then I got lazy.

And so,

NOURISH.

I want to nourish my body with healthy food and better fitness routines.

I also think it's a good word to apply to my professional personal life. In the last year, I have gotten much better at setting boundaries for my personal time and not feeling guilty about saying no. I have gotten better at turning off the computer and reading books of my choosing. I have gotten better at picking up my crochet and working on a project. 

I want to continue to nourish my time and use it to do things I want to do. 

I also want to nourish my professional learning and participate in opportunities that intrigue and interest me. I want to nourish my professional relationships with people who sustain me and push my thinking forward. I want to read books that open my eyes, create new questions and nourish my mind.

I am excited to see where this year's #OneWordx12 takes me and that others are along for the ride. 

I loved this tweet from my friend, Alanna King this week:



My goal for January is to nourish the old me with an eye towards a new me.




OneWordx12: Are you in?

It's almost here.

2021

So many people seem to be holding on to BIG hopes for the new year. 

I, personally, have always felt that New Year's Eve (much like prom and other big party-type events) are never as great as the build up. It's almost like the preparations hold all the fun and then actual event never lives up to the hype. I suspect this new year will be much the same. Call me a pessimist (I've never been called one before but there's not time like the present) but I can't imagine waking up on January 1st, 2021 feeling all that different than most of 2020.

We will still be in a pandemic. We will still be in a lockdown. We will still be watching the cases counts go up and the vaccination roll out being bungled.

But we can control how we react to our current reality.

After choosing to try out the One Word style resolution (is it a resolution??) for a few years, I wanted something different last year. I decided on trying to do one word each month for all 12 months. 

As Doug Peterson as mentioned a few times when my blogs were highlighted on This Week In Ontario EduBlogs I might be a genius! LOL! I can assure you that I am not. What I am is naturally reflective and I always found that my one word faded into the background and it didn't really fit a few months into the year.

This past year, my OneWordx12 was always in the back of my mind. I was constantly thinking about what my word might be and why it would fit. It took my natural reflections and ramped it up a notch. 

I am very much looking forward to completing OneWordx12 again this year. In 2020, I choose 13 words and wrote 11 blog posts. Most months my words were chosen last into the month and a few times I had them ready on the first. I do know what my word will be for January 2021 (at least I know right now! As I learning in 2020 my word can change multiple times in any given month and to be honest, I liked that part, too.). 

I'd love for others to join me this year. 

What words might you pick to reflect on your journey through 2021? How might picking 12 words help keep you focusing on moving forward with any goals you have and learning from your past experiences?

Here is a list of my 2020 words from OneWordx12 and each month is linked to the blog post (should you care to go back and see why I picked each word for the month. If you do join me and are one Twitter please use #OneWordx12 to help connect with others who are joining. It will be interesting to see and learn from the OneWordx12 choices of others. 












The Value Of

 


This year has brought a lot to our doorsteps and into our homes. 
The uncertainty and strain of job action and strike days. The constant attacks from the provincial government on the education system. 
The pandemic. 
The shift to emergency distance learning. The lockdown. The reopening plan that wasn't.
Increasing cases numbers. Increasing death rates. Multiple re-organization of classes and school assignments. The daily press conferences. Masks. 
Hand sanitizer. And so much more...

But I also think the year has brought some clarity. At least it has for me. 
I started the year by deciding to choose a new word each month instead a word for the whole year. 
What a year to pick.

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to reflect forward each month 
and be responsive to how I was feeling, the goals I wanted to achieve 
and the emotions I was having. 
I will be doing OneWordx12 again in 2021 
and I'd like to invite you to join me. 

In looking back over my blog posts and the words I picked 
I wanted to end the year focusing on the good things that 2020 brought into my life. 
I am an optimist by nature and usually look for the good in most situations. 

So what has this past year taught me?


The value of a hug. 

I am hugger. I hug my kids and my family a lot. I still hold hands with my mom when we go places together. I usually see my parents once a month (which doesn't sound like a lot until you know that we live 3.5 hours apart). I call my mom almost every day. Keeping distanced from my parents has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I've watched my children struggle because they miss Papa and Gram and talking through a screen is just not good enough. We are some of the lucky ones, though. COVID hasn't affected our family personally at this point but as I hugged my parents in a rest stop parking lot yesterday (while wearing a face shield and mask) I was struck by how important hugs are.

A hug says hello. A hug says goodbye. I missed you. I love you. You are important to me. I can't wait to see you again. I'm never letting go. I love you. I will never take the opportunity to hug people for granted again.

The value of a partner. 

A lot of people joked about being in lockdown with their partner. Driving each other up the wall. Never having space of their own. Small little habits that grate on their nerves. Being home with my husband from March until September when I returned to working in my school is by far the most amount of time I have ever spent with the man I married 13 years ago. I mean, we were in school and then had jobs for our entire relationship. The most time we'd ever spent together before this was our two week vacation to Disney with the girls in 2017. It's something to really think about- we marry people or commit to long term relationships with people we really only see on the weekends and for fleeting hours during the work week. The pandemic and the lockdown really showed me how much I have come to depend and rely on my husband. As my mom always says about my dad, "I'm not trading him for anything."

The value of a network.

As you get older and life gets busier and kids are thrown into the mix your friendships and networks shift. You only have so much time in the day. I am so grateful for the network that I have cultivated has an adult. Say what you will about social media but for many of us it was a lifeline this year. Being able to connect with friends and family at a distance through technology was necessary and vital. I'm thankful for friends who checked in on us. I'm thankful for #eduknitnight and the crafters I share my Tuesday nights with each week. I'm thankful for podcasting and the opportunity to speak with other people and learn their story. I'm thankful for Twitter and meeting educators who value the same things I do. 

The value of knowing your passion. 

I've written many times on this blog about my role as a teacher-librarian. I wrote in the spring that I wasn't sure I was still a librarian if I wasn't in the library. I wrote in the fall about whether I was still a teacher since I rarely see students these days. This year has taught me how much I love being an educator... in a role that gets to work with students. I have long been advised by many people what I should think about moving into admin, or a resource, or or or. I have long said it's not my path. I value the importance of good admin and resource roles. They are needed to drive change in a school. For me though, those role are too far away from students. I became a teacher because I love kids. Being a teacher-librarian, while I no longer have "my own" students I do get to interact with many, many students. I miss that more than I can explain. This year has taught me that being a teacher-librarian is the farthest role away from students that I want to have. 


The new year will be here in a few days. 2021. What will it bring?



The Journey Continues

 I have written this blog post a dozen times in my head already.

I'd say that's why I'm not writing my December OneWordx12 post until Dec 12th but upon looking back at the the last few months it would appear that most of my one word posts have been published this late into the month. I wonder if that's because it's 2020 and everything seems to be just a little bit harder (and somethings so very much harder) or the nature of trying to choose one word to represent an entire month 12 times through the year?

As this is my first time doing OneWordx12, I don't really have an answer.


I know that picking this word has been an uphill battle. Not in a bad way but due to the fact that I couldn't seem to settle on one word and the circumstances and emotions around the word kept changing.

The first word I wanted to pick was teacher.

The word teacher is such a big word. And it means so many things to so many people. In a recent conversation Chris Cluff posed a question about the idea of "if you take the idea of being a teacher out of your identity, who are you?" and it really stuck with me.

During the lock down last spring I wrote this blog about being (or not) a teacher-librarian  and I had been feeling similar feelings about my current role except now looking at the "teacher" part of the equation.

Many people have asked how this year is going and how I feel and for a lot of the time I answered that I no longer felt like a teacher. 

An instructional coach? Yes. A curator? Yes. A book deliverer? Yes. A storytime reader? Yes. But a teacher? No.

My access to working with students between September and now has been very limited. And I fully recognize that most educators are barely keeping their heads above water these days so inviting another educator into their space (virtual or otherwise) to co-plan and co-teach is an added layer that they can't handle. So I read a lot of books to a lot of classes. I asked some questions and discussed some ideas.

But was it teaching? I don't know. It didn't feel like it.

But then it was almost as if a light switch was turned on and all of a sudden people were looking for me to join them to teach. Perhaps they were feeling like they had a handle on this year a little more. Perhaps it was that they wanted to explore coding and had very little experience of their own. Whatever the reason, the word teacher didn't seem to quite fit in the same way for December. I had been hoping that by choosing it I would focus on the ways in which I was still teaching, even if it was small or with adults, but the sentiment didn't seem as necessary anymore.

The second word I wanted to pick was decenter.

As it always seems with December (and for the most part November) we are slapped in the face with Christmas as soon as Halloween is over. I am a big believer that all things Christmas should wait until at least November 12th in order to give space to Remembrance Day. This year it seems many people who celebrate Christmas needed the cheer and sparkle a little earlier than usual this year and started putting up their trees and decorations sooner than normal. We put ours up on American Thanksgiving which is a about a week early for us. And I get that desire.... at home. 

I understand why people might be feeling the need for more cheer and sparkle this year but as always, I struggle with the amount of Christmas that is brought into the schools.

Every activity in December doesn't need to have an element of Christmas in it. There's no need for reindeer math or Santa letters (That's a whole other blog post...). And there shouldn't be a tree or an elf on the shelf in any classroom. In my opinion.

While I hear people's reasoning that it's not the religious aspects of Christmas and that many of the children like it, I wonder what message we are sending when our classrooms continue to mimic the dominant culture of the wider society. Do these same educators who put up Christmas tree and center so many of their activities in December around Christmas do the same for every other holiday? Do they also do menorah math and dreidel writing prompts? Do they find a way to ensure that Diwali and Eid are the centre of all the activities in their classroom during the months in which they fall?

I think if we are devoted to being anti-racist educators who decolonize our teaching, our bookshelves, our assessments then we also need to be prepared to take a hard look at Christmas as ask how we can decenter it in our schools. 

So why didn't I pick decenter as my December word? 

Well, I think it goes back to my first choice in words- teacher.

I'm not with students all the time. I'm not creating a community classroom space for these discussions. I don't feel as those I have the leverage in which to enact direct change. I can discuss the ideas with my colleagues (I have). I can add ideas and link articles in my library weekly update (I have). I can join in with Twitter threads and post my thoughts (I have). 

But if I'm not a teacher in a classroom space can I actually create meaningful change? 

I don't know. 

I don't know how much or even if many of my colleagues are reading my library weekly updates. I don't know if they are looking at the articles I am linking and taking the time to reflect on their practice. I don't know if they are seeing it as another add-on and skimming past. I don't know. 

And so upon reflection it felt like journey would be a better word for the last month of 2020. Because what a journey this year has been. And what a journey we are still in. 

The pandemic is nowhere near over. The journey of dealing with that and the far-reaching affects on the education system will be something we are dealing with for many years to come. The cultural reckoning that has taken place this year as people grapple with ideas about white supremacy and being antiracist need to continue to be pushed to the forefront of our consciousness and confronted every day in all spaces. 

By choosing the word journey I can continue to reflect on both my roles as a teacher and as a librarian and how I use those roles to push forward the need to decenter the dominant culture in our school spaces.



 



Wellness- Time to Set Priorities


This month's word is WELLNESS.

As the end of 2020 approaches and yet we are just starting the school year, it has become clear to me that I need to shake off the pandemic feelings of worry and doom (as much as possible, when it's possible) and focus on me.

A week or so ago I went to bed with a sore throat and woke up with the same sore throat which meant I didn't pass the COVID self-assessment and couldn't go into work. I stayed home for the day and rested.
But I also still answered emails, worked on a choice board for the staff at school for an upcoming event, had a virtual meeting, and, and , and....

Then I slept for 11+ hours that night. 

Like many (ALL) educators out there this year I am burning the candle at both ends. Trying to cram everything in and still always feeling like there's more to do.

There's never enough time.
There will always be more to do.

So I decided that some things needed to change to better center myself, my health and my family.

I am trying to wake up most days around 5:30 to do yoga or another workout.

I am focusing on the amount of water I drink in a day.

I am finding spare moments to move and get my step count up, including walking laps on my morning duty since so few cars come to the Kiss n' Ride this year. Going for laps around the school after long stretches on the computer. Finding the time to take the dog for a longer walk in the morning and evening.

I am locking the social media apps on my phone every evening to focus on being present with my family.

I am spending more time reading books (I know that one seems strange... I already read so much!! But I am actively making sure I read for longer stretches each day.)

I am letting go of other things- like webinars and screen events. There's so much good stuff happening all the time but I constantly feel like I am checking my calendar to remember what comes next, what else I'm supposed to be logging in to see, etc. I need more free time and less programmed time. 

In some ways it's hard to believe that I am already at my 11th word of the year!
Where has the time gone? Will 2020 ever end?

I will say that I have really enjoyed picking a new word each month and highly recommend for others to consider trying it as we head into 2021. 

 

Impact/Moments

  I had my onewordx12 chosen for October.

I had it picked. I was ready.


Then I listened to Season 4 Episode 3 of Rolland Chidiac's and Chris Cluff's DeCodEd podcast
So many good gems. So much #thoughtfuel.

My original plan was to have my one word for October be impact as a follow up to 
September's one word which was connection. The return to school has been so different than any other year and I knew that having the library space closed to the students and
 educators would require an extra effort to build and maintain relationships. 
I have tried over the course of the first few weeks of the school year to reach out to all the educators, both in face-to-face and online school, at my school to find ways to support them and their learners.  

I wanted to keep moving forward with this idea and focus on how the programming from the library might be able to impact the learning of others and their journey. It's such a different experience being alone in the library all day compared the last three years where we have worked to create space that is open and available to all learners during the day. 

At the start of October I had a few days of feeling a little sorry for myself. 

I miss seeing kids and working with them on their learning on a regular basis. 
I love being able to do read alouds with classes and chatting about the books but it's not the same.
I know there are other educators feeling the same way that are in much tougher positions than me.
I am very privileged to be in my library role and to have to opportunity to be a support for the educators and learners in my school. I know I don't have to deal with the ups and downs of tech issues, reaching students who aren't engaged in this "new normal" of school. I know I don't need to worry about being in a cramped classroom without adequate distancing and trying to reimagine learning when so much of what educators are being asked to do goes against their knowledge of best practices and good pedagogy. I know I am fortunate that I was not reallocated from my library role. I know I am fortunate that I didn't have to wait to find out my assignment for the year and then still only have a few days in which to plan.

But I sometimes wonder if I should have volunteered to teach an online class and 
spend my day exploring and learning with a group of children.

All of this was swirling through my brain as September ended and October began. 
I could see how impact would be a good focus for the month.

How might I use my role in the library to 
impact the learning of others?

How might I be able to support educators and learners 
as they reimagined their own learning spaces 
and began to explore inquiries in this school year?

How might I begin to curate a rich collection of texts, 
both physically and virtually, to have an impact 
on the learning of our school community?  

And then I listened to Rolland and Chris' podcast over the course of two days as I drove to work. 

Perhaps a focus on moments would better serve me this month?
How can we seek out those moments of impact in our day to celebrate the 
connections we are making with learners?

How might we dive deep into those moments of doubt and create lasting impact from our learning?

What can I learn from my moments of sadness and loss? Because there is a lot of loss still to be processed about this school year and the end of the school year in the spring. How might that help be to become a better educator for my students and community?

And so I am choosing two words-

Impact.

Moments.

At this time, I see myself keeping these words through November and checking in with myself. 

What impact do I see my role in the library having on the education of those 
working and learning in my school community?
What moments will I embrace and use to drive learning forward?

How might I use these reflections to create more moments of impact?


A Dichotomy of Words

 Dichotomy.



This is the definition that appears on Google when you put dichotomy into the search bar. 

While I have loved this word for a long time, there isn't always much call to use it in daily life. Especially when you are teaching children who are all under ten years of age. Lately though, it's been an idea that has been bouncing around my head for some time. As "back to school" drew nearer (it never really felt like we left) and the talk of #SafeSeptember, #UnSafeSeptember, "the best plan", #NotMyPlan swirled around us and everything about education seemed to be a dicohotomy. 

Masks or no masks?

Physically distanced students or collapsed classes?

1m vs 2m?

Online learning or face-to-face?

Hand sanitizer or soap and water?

Google Classroom or Brightspace?

Also rattling around my head has been ideas about "ways of knowing". I read this blog post by Melanie White and it really stuck with me. If the pivot to emergency distance learning has taught us anything, I hope it is the importance of paying attention to multiple ways of knowing which at times can present a conflict of ideas.

A dichotomy of knowing. 

The idea of the loss of presence discussed by Melanie is huge. So much of teaching and learning is in the connection and presence of people being together. Now, I don't think that you can't build real relationships and engage students through remote learning. It's definitely possible as I've "met" many educators through Twitter and other digital platforms and feel as close to them as I do people I see face to face, and in some cases closer. But it comes back to ways of knowing. 

How might educators embrace the knowledge that stems from students' home life and culture as they build relationships in a virtual learning environment?

How might we open our teaching and own learning to the varied ways of knowing that our students bring to the learning environment, both face-to-face and virtually?

How might embracing a dichotomy of knowing help everyone's learning journey move forward?

It's interesting to me that Melanie's post stemmed from a conversation with Chris Cluff because if I remember correctly he tagged me in a Twitter post and drew my attention to Melanie's blog. He and I had also been chatting back and forth about the dichotomy of being supported and being supportive in our current educational situation.

I have been struggling with the balance of helping, supporting, listening and generally being open to taking in the pain and worries of others and helping them to feel more at ease in the unknowns of our educational climate (well as at ease as anyone can feel these days) and the idea of taking on too much from others. I've seen and heard the analogy of the airplane mask more than one time in recent weeks- you always put your mask on first, and then help others. It goes back to the idea that you can't pour from an empty cup.

How can we support each other as educators without depleting our own reserves?

Being kept in my role as a 1.0 teacher-librarian is a huge privilege that I do not take lightly. When so many other boards across Ontario have shuttered their school libraries and reassigned school library professionals I know I am one of the lucky ones. As I returned to the physical library space this past week, I began to put things back together and re-imagine what the library could be moving forward. And as many of you know, this re-imagining actually started weeks ago as I created a visual representation and document outlining the possible role of the school-library during this school year. 

Without the contact and connection of students in the school library how will I build meaningful connections to students? How can I support educators and build relevant library programming without educators feeling like I am adding to their already overflowing plate? 

As Chris and I spoke the idea emerged of how educators are usually focused on 'the who and the what" as they approach the start of school. What grade am I teaching? What subjects will I be planning for? What does the curriculum contain? Who are my students? Who might need extra support this year? Who will need to be challenged?

And while all those questions still exist and are still valid, the unknowing of who and what for many teachers as disrupted their usual routine of prepping for back to school. Many educators still don't know what grade they will be teaching. Many still don't know what subjects they will be responsible for. Many still don't know who will be in their classes.

And so we shift. 

As he always does, Chris laid out the thought fuel- we focus on the why and the how. 

Why do we teach children? Why do we love this job? How will we engage our students in learning? How will be show that we value and respect the knowledge and ways of knowing that students bring to our classes? 

As I look forward to what my role might be or will be this year, I can still see a dichotomy. There will still be a constant balancing act. There will still be the pull between supporting staff and helping them while striving to find ways to feel supported myself.  To reconfigure the why and the how of the library space when the who and the what remain a mystery. To learn to roll with the ever-present threat of change, and not change in a good way where you learn and you grow, but change in the form of re-organized classrooms, staff abruptly shifted into new roles, the ever unknowing nature of future days.  


There will always be the struggle to remember to put my own mask on first. 

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