Life can be defined by moments. Sometimes we plan for moments that matter. Maybe it’s the year long planning for a perfect wedding, or the nine month wait to celebrate a new life. There are certain moments we anticipate and weigh with significance: first steps, the first day of school, first job, first kiss, graduation, marriage, family or career events. These are the moments that we expect to shape our lives. And of course, they do. But not all of life’s biggest moments are scripted. Sometimes, the emotion of an unexpected moment takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Sometimes, life happens beyond our control, and our lives Continue reading
“Mrs. Blakeway… my dad says it’s weird that you are a woman and that you are the principal”. My heart sunk for this little grade one girl – not because her father’s comment had impact on me, but because he thought it was ok to say this to his daughter.
Growing up, I never felt disadvantaged for being female. I can’t say that I thought the boys had it any easier, and I didn’t notice any stereotypical expectations. My mother was a strong independent single mom so we didn’t really grow up observing ‘pink jobs’ or ‘blue jobs’. My mom did it all. Besides the occasional frustration that it wasn’t safe to run through trails alone, I never noticed a gender imbalance amongst my peers. After university, I worked in Human Resources, and then as a teacher and a school counsellor. Again, these positions were often filled by women and I was oblivious to any gender discrepancies.
I have to admit, I loved high school the first time round, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I had a fantastic time yesterday when I returned to grade 12! A few months ago, one of our VP’s, Karl Lindgren-Streicher suggested we participate in the Shadow A Student Challenge. A few tweets later, he had convinced a number of secondary admin around our district to register with http://shadowastudent.org/ and commit to one day each of evaluating school through the lens of a student. The idea was simple: we would each follow a student for a day, get some insight about our schools from a student perspective and then meet as a team to reflect and learn. Although I was eager to participate, I had no idea just how fun my day would be! Continue reading
I’m not one for a tattoo. But… if I could have a tattoo to wear at school, it may just say this:
Connection over Compliance
As a teacher, I began each class finding out about my students. We formed a community and developed a class contract based on our values and shared upon agreement. I remember one class that really didn’t want homework on weekends. They suggested I have marking free weekends and they have homework free weekends. It spoke to us as a group so it became part of our class contract. We worked on connections, and finding out what we could agree to – rather than beginning with rules that I expected them to comply to.
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
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
I am a big believer that happiness is one of the best measures of a school’s success. To some, this may sound simple, juvenile, or perhaps trite. After all, schools were designed to educate, not to increase happiness. And yet, I believe happiness matters most.
Let’s start with why: Continue reading
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.
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 – 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.
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
I 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