Featured Slider

The one with all the questions.

 Reciprocity.

Courageous for whom...?

Prove. Improve.

Knowing. Not Knowing. 

It's been an interesting few weeks leading up to choosing my #onewordx12 for May. 

(And as I write this... without a title... I'm still not sure I have picked it. 

I guess we'll see what happens at the end of the post. )


My usual process involves starting towards the end of the previous month where I reflect on the word I picked, where I am at that point and what might my goals be for the coming month. I am often influenced by an event or a spark that gets my mind going. Leading into May, however, it seemed like sparks were all around. 

I have been listening to Robin Wall Kimmerer's book Braiding Sweetgrass on my twice daily walks with the dog. The word and idea of reciprocity is a very central theme in the book, especially how it relates to nature, the land and Indigenous knowledge of the land. This led me to listen to Chey and Pav's episode of The Staffroom Podcast where they discussed reciprocity. I knew they had also read Braiding Sweetgrass and were delving deeper into how reciprocity might be embedded into their classroom practice. 

I like this word and this concept a lot. I think my philosophy of the role of the school library and the practice and pedagogy of being a school librarian is neatly encapsulated in the word reciprocity. The school library is not mine. I curate it on behalf of the community. (Thanks to Jenn Brown for that learning early in my journey as a teacher-librarian). My role is to build a collection that represents the community it serves and provides an opportunity to stretch in their learning. The users of a school library and the text collection is a reciprocal relationship. The books and materials exist to support the learners and the learners decide on the books and materials that need to be in the space.  

So it really looked like reciprocity might be the word for May. 

Until...

A new word and a new idea sparked in my head. I was able to tune in and listen to Chris Cluff and Rolland Chidiac's podcast on YouTube last Saturday morning while I was crocheting and drinking my coffee. A rare Saturday morning treat. Sitting still. Creating. AND listening to something of my choosing. Chris and Rolland's convos are always a treat and an assignment. An assignment because they send my thoughts spinning. Chris often refers to things as "thought fuel" and that is a great term for their podcast. 

They were discussing issues around leadership in schools, diversity in leadership, opportunities for leadership, power imbalances, conflict that arises and more. Chris at one point said "collaboration is the room and conflict is the table" which is a metaphor I'd really like to sit down and discuss with him one day. But it was when the idea of courageous conversations came up (and reminded me that I still need to read Glenn Singleton's book) and the question of "courageous for whom..." that I really took notice.

As a white, cisgender woman in the education system are these conversations around diversity and anti-racism courageous for me? Am I risking anything when I am a part of the conversation? How might my presence make another educator less comfortable and less willing to be part of a courageous conversation?

Am I bringing reciprocity to courageous conversations? Am I part of a reciprocal cycle of learning?

What is my role as a teacher librarian to model courageous conversations? Is it my role to model courageous conversations? It is undeniable that the teacher librarian role is often a leadership role within a school community. As a white cisgender woman how should I approach the possibility of courageous conversations with my colleagues while being cognizant of the fact that I am not risking anything compared to their experience and their journey within the education system? 

How might reciprocity and courageous conversations be connected? 

To add to the thought fuel mix (because there wasn't enough swirling) I listened to an episode of Brene Brown's Dare to Lead podcast that featured Adam Grant called "The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know" . The phrase "I'm not here to prove myself, I'm here to improve myself" was repeated throughout the episode. And what a mantra that is. I truly believe in and having been trying to to centre the voices of the authors, podcasters and educators of the global majority that I have been privileged to hear speak, to read the works of and to follow on social media. But is that enough?

Is sharing and amplifying the voices of those I am learning from part of a reciprocal relationship? Is it enough action? Is it action at all? Am I sharing my learning on social media as a means to help others or as a way of saying"Hey, look at me! I'm doing the work. See how good I am"? Is being aware of what you don't know, seeking to read and learn about it and then share with others part of reciprocal learning? Is it courageous?  

So. 

All these questions. 

So many questions.

More questions than answers. To be sure. And maybe that's the point?

So what shall the word for May be... ?

Let's go with query and see where it takes us. 

Cultivating. Cultivation. Cultivate.

 I've been thinking a lot about words. Because that's definitely something librarians do. 

And probably many other educators as well. 

In the past I've described the act of choosing my one word each month as a struggle. Reflecting back on this I've decided that using the word struggle to describe the thinking, choosing and writing about a word that ultimately only affects me was a poor choice. So many others have real struggles that they are facing each day. Choosing a word to write about here on a blog does not qualify. 

Does that mean choosing my word each month is an easy task? No. Does it mean I should be more precise and deliberate with the language I choose. Yes.

I think our society would greatly benefit from more of us choosing our language carefully and deliberately. Really reflecting on the words we choose to use and the impact of those choices. 

The idea and concept of cultivating and cultivation has been popping up a lot in my sphere and in my silo. For we all do live in a silo to some extent. We seek out others like us, who agree with us, who bolster our beliefs. We cultivate relationships with those who make us feel good about our choices. 

In many ways this can be a good thing. 

The wonderful Lisa Noble created #EDUKnitNight in April 2020 and a group of crafters (knitters, crocheters, scrapbooks, weavers, and more) meet almost every Tuesday to talk about crafting, yarn, books, education, families and more. In between Tuesday meet-ups we have an ongoing Twitter group chat where we post about the ups and downs of our lives. We hold each other up. We commiserate and cry together. We laugh. We laugh a lot. 

Lisa posted the lyrics to Crowded Table by The Highway Women a few weeks ago and expressed her feelings about having all of us "at her table" this past year. So many of us echoed the same sentiment. Lisa started the group and together we cultivated the space. We look out for each other. We share book recommendations. We share yarn sales. We share the tales of our days. We share and cultivate a love that comes from friends who enjoy each other's company. 

The #EDUKnitNight group keeps me on the hunt for new crochet projects and new yarns/patterns. (And yes, we've decided that collecting yarn and collecting patterns are entirely separate hobbies from the act of creating with said yard and patterns. All hobbies are worthy of cultivation!) Starting, working on and finishing a new craft project cultivates my spirit. I have always been a crafty person and enjoy making things for my home and people in my life. Having "a reason" to find time each week to devote to this love has cultivated small moments of peace for me in an otherwise chaotic and noisy world. 

It's also important to seek out those who reside outside of your silo. For me that is educators of the global majority bravely sharing their stories. Bravely speaking out. Bravely educating the rest of when it is not their job to do so. It means reading books by authors who do not look like me. Reading books with characters who have a different lived experience than me. Buying books for my children to read from authors and with characters that are different than them. Sharing and reading those books with classes and my school community. 

Deliberately cultivating a habit of seeking out, listening to and amplifying the voices of others. 

I have been reading and discussing Cultivating Genius by Gholdy Muhammad as part of an ongoing series with other educators in my board and we recently started using it for a book talk with a group of educators in my school. I had the privilege of hearing Gholdy Muhammad speak a few weeks ago. This is one of those books that is pedagogical gold. It is practice-changing. You will not be the same educator after reading this book. 

This book, along with Tiffany Jewell's This Book Is Anti-Racist, has been forming so much of the lessons and discussions I have been engaging in with students. Just yesterday the Grade 4 class that has been reading Tiffany Jewell's book chapter by chapter all year together discussed using our voices and taking action as our superpower (Ch 12- This Book is Anti-Racist) and we read a few pages from The Power Book: What Is It, Who Has It, and Why?  The depth and complexity of the discussion was breathtaking. Once we started talking about social norms and unwritten rules the students couldn't share their ideas fast enough. The discussion even reached as far as "why is it that so many moms and women do the cooking at home but we mostly see men as chefs on TV?" 


So my word for April (a little late this month...) is Cultivate.

Cultivating.

Cultivation.


How might we continue to cultivate and seek out learning, loving and living in this ever changing and ongoing stressful pandemic life? 


Space for. Space from.

 We've almost hit the one year mark. 

One year ago things went sideways. One year ago we shut down schools for three weeks but never went back. One year ago we were all walking around maskless and hugging people. 

One year. 

While I did choose a word last year in March I didn't blog about until April 1st. In fact, I didn't blog at all in March. I know I wrote in bullet journal something I almost never do. I am not a traditional journal/diary writer but I felt compelled last year to document those first few weeks and the unknowns. I haven't gone back to read it. I don't need to. It's seared into my brain. 

My word for March 2020 was appreciate. I picked it "before". 

Before everything went sideways and upside down. 

I'm not sure how much appreciating I did in March of last year. That is a blur.  

So here we are. 

One year.

I am choosing the word space for March of 2021. 

I think this year has taught me (and many of us) to slow down and really notice the things that are important and the things that we value. The people we value. The ideals and beliefs that we value. The traditions that we value. The small daily things that we value.

The word space is somewhat in keeping with my theme so far this year. 

Nourish in January.

Permission in February.

For March (and beyond) I want to continue to notice. What am I making space for and what am I taking space from. Whether that is in my personal life or my professional life. This year, more than any other I think we have seen which educators are drawn to the ideals of serving children as the core of education. Who is making space for learning about racism in our society and in our schools? Who is making space to honour the lived experiences of our children and their community? Who is making space for their own learning and growth? Who is making space for new stories and lost histories in their classroom. 

Who is not?

As a teacher-librarian I have always felt that part of my role is having one foot in the role of an instructional coach. Pushing and challenging people to grow their pedagogy and understanding of best practices. As a now almost fully virtual librarian my role has shifted to almost entirely encompass curating and creating resources to help educators. I also read many books aloud to students but the bulk of my work is curating resources and inquiry sparks for educators.  

I see the educators striving to learn about becoming an anti-racist educator. I see those who are not. I see those teachers asking for books and resources that mirror their students and allow for greater representation in their work. I see those who are not. 

I know times are hard. I know teachers are burning out. I know they have a lot on their plate.

But children come first. Always. Forever.

And if you aren't making space for their identity in your classroom then you are taking space away from their learning. 

February. Enough Said.

     For once I had my word picked early for the month. I was ready with February's word about halfway through January. I could feel February coming. Normally, I love this time of year. The change over between terms 1 & 2 always felt fresh as a classroom teacher and when I moved into the library and discovered the OLA Super Conference it was like a much needed reset and recharge to face the last half of the school year.

    In a normal year, I would already be in Toronto, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. I would have attended a few sessions, had lunch with friends, perhaps even met an author or two. This year I have made a list of the sessions I hope to one day catch up that I missed through out the day today. I did catch half of one yesterday on my lunch and wrote down a few new book titles and authors to look into but it's not the same. 

    And I know that there are many, many people with much bigger problems than not attending a conference in person. 

    But it seems to me that as we approach (quite quickly) the one year mark of the pandemic and with what feels like very little light as the end of the tunnel that perhaps these feelings I am having are indicative of something bigger. The #EduKnitNight crew shared and discussed this article awhile back and I think it pretty accurately describes what so many of us are feeling. 

Depleted.

Struggle.

Exhausted.

Uncertain.

Hopeless. Helpless.

    Right now, as much as I want to attend sessions for the super conference and interact with friends, it feels like another add on. It feels like something else to feel guilty about.

    Being home with young children through this has been an experience and many people have asked how we are doing and how we are coping. For the post part, I'd say really well. We don't push our kids to turn on cameras or attend online school meets if they need a break. We get them outside. They have free time galore to craft, play, read, watch TV or play video games. I have described our parenting style as "free range". There are very few routines or rules- help others out, clean up your mess, brush your teeth.

    We have also worked hard to cultivate family evenings to cherish the time that we have together now. My husband isn't arriving home from a 1.5 hour commute late to dinner and just in time to help with bedtime. We aren't rushing out the door to an activity. We listen to music at dinner and eat at the table almost every night. The children set and clear the table. We take turns cooking. We play board games or Mario Kart after dinner. We colour or craft all together. We watch movies and stay up a little later because no one has to commute or get dropped off at a day care in the morning. 

    And I allow myself one evening a week to join in with #EduKnitNight or a webinar if I feel like it. The girls are very protective of our evening time and do not like when they see me on the computer. 

    But with the super conference here and started I do have certain obligations for some of the sessions. Others I want to be there to support friends or learn from other library sectors. But the entire time I will feel guilty or I will just skip the ones I can and tell myself I will catch up later with the recording.

But I won't. 

    Because I have playlists and links and recordings galore I need/want to go back to and watch... but they are just another thing on my to-do list that I can't seem to get to right now. (Or ever.)

    So what is my word for February then?

Permission.

I give myself permission so miss sessions that look amazing. I give myself permission to miss one evening with the girls and know it will be okay. I give myself permission to feel depleted. I give myself permission to go on long walks to listen to an audiobook or a podcast and not feel guilty. I give myself permission to watch movies on the couch with the girls and not finish my never ending to-do list. 

I give myself permission to grieve what feels like another loss in a year of losses.

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?



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.