Thanks Mom. I’m Learning From You.

Thanks Mom. I’m Learning From You.

I have a pretty awesome mom.  I spent the first 20 years of life pretending to be wildly independent, forming my own identity.  I spent the next 20 years slowly realizing we have a bit in common.  I’ve spent the last three years openly admitting I am what I like to call “a toned down version of my mother.”  For those that know my mom, you will likely agree: there isn’t a person out there with wilder ideas, a more creative spirit or a bigger heart.

Growing up I had no idea what I wanted to be.  I just knew what I did not want to be.  My mom was an elementary school principal, and since I was on my own quest of independence, I knew I would be anything but that.  At first I was convinced I would be an accountant.  I loved math so much that Continue reading

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Thankful.  This is a Good World.

Thankful. This is a Good World.

It’s Friday evening, and I’m settling into Thanksgiving weekend enjoying a few quiet moments while my children and husband are out running an errand.  As I savour this rare burst of silence, I find myself aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed.  I smile as I notice that teachers from our school are sharing an uplifting video clip with one another…

A clip from Ellen that reminds us that there is more good in this world than bad.  A timely clip after a week of natural and man-made disasters. Continue reading

Hello New Teacher!

Hello New Teacher!

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This is an exciting time in education.  With smaller class sizes returning to BC classrooms, most schools will be welcoming new teachers.  As a principal, it’s an exciting time as it’s one of the first years in a long time where staffing decisions get to be made based on interviews rather than a recall process.  (To translate, that means that instead of teachers who were laid off choosing from available jobs or merging a few part time jobs, principals and vice-principals get to interview and hire people that are best for their school).

This June I had the opportunity of interviewing over 30 teachers to be considered for the nine positions at our elementary school.  I love getting the opportunity to sit down and learn from teachers who have a vast array of experience from their practicums, other schools and other districts.

After 30 plus interviews – some good, and some not so good, I came up with some pointers for teachers heading to the interview.  There are still hundreds of teaching jobs available in BC for September.  Here are some tips I would recommend to job seekers.

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Top Ten Tips for Teachers

10.Love kids.  In some interviews, we could tell in an instant that the person just loved kids.  Others wanted a chance to escape a different situation.  Always tell your positive stories in the interview!

9. Ask questions.  At the end of the interview I always ask the applicant if they have questions.  Having one or two prepared shows you have put thought into the position and want to learn about the school.

8. Talk about the new curriculum. Show that your practice is current and explain how you hope to teach the competencies.

7 Tell me about your efforts beyond the classroom. How do you connect with other teachers? How to you communicate with parents? How do you bring the community in or take your kids out to the community?

6 Be a learner.  Maybe you are doing your masters, maybe you are in a book club, maybe you have something new you hope to explore.  Don’t just be an expert – show your growth mind set.

5. Be positive. Tell me what you are looking forward to.  I want to sense the vibe the kids will get from you when they step into your room each morning.

4 Be flexible.  Unfortunately schools are not built like hotels and often experience space issues when it comes to work spaces, storage etc.  Be ready to roll with it, share spaces, come up with creative solutions.

3. Teach all kids.  Tell me how you reach all learners.  Show evidence of differentiated instruction, personalized learning and share stories of the hard to reach child and how you made a connection. Remember that the kids who challenge us the most are the ones who need us the most.

2. Teach me something.  For a school to keep growing, we need to hire teachers who expand our thinking and move us forward.  Tell me something exciting you have learned that you would be willing to share.  Perhaps you have used certain technology, perhaps you had a great lesson that could be shared school wide or perhaps you have a passion outside of school that could be shared with kids.  Tell me about you!  

1. Be an interesting adult.  Above all, be interesting! We are looking or adults that kids will naturally connect with.  Just as our kids teach us about their lives through Identity day or passion projects, I want to work with teachers who have their own diverse interests that they can share with kids.  (One of our new teachers is a woodworker by craft and another just finished her black belt in karate!)  Be authentic, be genuine and be you! Be the teacher who kids look forward to spending 5 hours with each day!

Good luck new teachers – it’s an exciting time in education with smaller classes, job creation and improved learning conditions.  I can’t wait to learn together!

 

SEL in Schools:  Why I Want My Children to Learn More Than Academics

SEL in Schools: Why I Want My Children to Learn More Than Academics

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SEL – What is it? For parents, this may be a new acronym around school.  For educators, it is likely a familiar term but not necessarily understood. SEL or Social Emotional Learning has become a hot topic in schools, but has also faced some criticism. For some, it is viewed as a ‘buzzword’ or ‘bandwagon’ or something light and fluffy.

The new curriculum in BC focuses on much more than academic skills.  We now teach competencies rather than just curriculum. This means less memorizing, and more skill building.  Ideally students will develop the core competencies and transfer these skills into all aspects of their life.  These are the core competencies.

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So – why have schools made this shift? Why are SEL skills so important?  A child’s ability to self regulate in kindergarten is a better predictor of their success in adulthood than their academic achievement in grade school.  Schools that teach SEL see an improvement in social emotional skills AND an average of 11% increase in a student’s academic performance.  Basically, when we teach kids how to recognize and manage their emotions and care for themselves and others, they are happier children and end up doing better at school. Continue reading

Why Write, If Not to Put Pieces Together?

Unknown-3I love to write. There is nothing that soothes my soul more than a quiet hour with a chai tea latte and a notebook or a blank screen.  When I travel somewhere new, I look through the eyes of a writer and search for that peaceful place where I can turn my thoughts into words.  Finding solitude, with pen and paper grounds me.  It’s in these moments that I truly reflect. When I write I give myself time to question, to challenge my own thoughts and ultimately, I get to know myself better.  It’s how I put my pieces together.

When life gets busy, finding solitude to reflect and write often takes the shape of a very early morning or a very late night.  However, If I let too much time pass without writing I become antsy and crave solitude in a way an athlete craves a game (or so I imagine… embracing the idea of flying projectiles coming towards me is not something i will ever comprehend).  Like the athlete, I need these moments to feel truly alive.  For me, writing awakens my soul.

Last year, while attending a conference in Denver, I copied down this quote. Continue reading

Mid Life: Advice to My Younger Self

Mid Life: Advice to My Younger Self

Have you ever googled mid life? In search of an image to match this post, I googled the simple words ‘mid life’.  Nothing positive popped up.  Instead, 1000 images referring to a mid life crisis filled my screen.  But here’s the thing – I’m not having a crisis.  At least not today and hopefully not anytime soon. I am simply acknowledging that I am half way.

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Today is my birthday.  I’m 43. Not a notable number like 40 or 50, but significant in that this means I am statistically mid life.  According to the freely accessible life expectancy calculator found on Google, I am destined to live approximately 86 years.  This means that today is roughly my half way point.  Similarly, I began teaching in 1999 – 18 years ago.  According to my pension statement, a good time to retire with an unreduced pension would be 18 years from now in  2035.  This means that I am very likely half way through my career as well. Continue reading