Calm, Alert and Ready for a New Year

Calm, Alert and Ready for a New Year

The first day for students is still one week away, but excitement is building at Harry Hooge Elementary in Maple Ridge, BC as our teachers prepare for a new year.  As a principal, I am so excited to see the changes our teachers are making as we continue working towards our two school goals: one focussed on inquiry and the other on self regulation.  These two topics blend seamlessly, as we are working to create learning centred spaces where students have all the tools they need to engage in meaningful exploration. As we teach students how to respond to stress, we help them understand their own emotions and Continue reading

Feedback From My Dog

Some dogs hate thunder storms.  From what I understand, they shake, whimper or hide somewhere safe.   Our puppy is 18 months old now and until today, loud noises like fireworks or thunder have not bothered him.  Tonight was different.  My 100 lb. golden doodle was doing everything he could to ‘be small’.  He tried to hide under the kitchen table, he shook, and he drooled all over the floor.  It wasn’t pretty.  photo[2]

But here’s the thing… there wasn’t a storm tonight.  No fireworks, no thunder.  Instead, just the not so pleasant sound of me learning to play the saxophone.  You see – I work at this incredibly cool self directed school called Thomas Haney, where the teachers are not afraid to live their learning.  Conversations about innovation and inquiry happen daily, and the idea of teachers joining in to learn with our students is not a foreign concept.

However, when eleven of us travelled together to the ‘CCSDL Above & Beyond Your Wildest Imagination Conference’ in Edmonton last month, some of our ideas truly fit the title.  Somewhere over the course of the four days, a conversation took place where we decided we would head back to school and we would all go well beyond our comfort level and learn something new.  Each of us would learn an instrument we had never touched before and together we would form a band.  To be honest, I don’t even think I was in the room for the conversation.  All I know is I left Edmonton with information that I was now in a band.  Ironically, I have not held an instrument since my grade nine music teacher asked me to drop out of band after a previous trip to Edmonton where I apparently broke too many band trip rules (his opinion at least).

Since returning to Thomas Haney, we have met once a week to practise.  And I would like to tell you we are starting to sound good.  But that’s not true.  To be honest – we are horrible.  The sound from the music room Tuesdays at lunch is enough to prompt a school evacuation.  Thank goodness for sound proof walls and a patient music teacher.  Together, we are learning the clarinet, flute, oboe, saxophone, piano, trumpet, trombone, drums and accordion.   I think we are all trying to play the same song – but from the sounds of it – I’m not quite sure.

But here’s what I do know.  We are taking risks.  We are learning and we are having fun. We are putting ourselves in a position that we ask our students to take each day.  We are starting with very little knowledge or ability, but we trust that with time and effort we will learn, and together we will get better.  What I love, is that we are trying something that doesn’t come naturally to us.  As teachers, we often discuss pedagogy, blending our own experiences with theory, yet in reality, many of us have not struggled as learners. We have each successfully navigated our way through high school and university so do we really know what it is like to fear learning?

I don’t know that I did.  Until now.  Every Tuesday at lunch, I know exactly what it is like to struggle.  I have watched youtube videos on the saxophone, read the music book and practiced (a bit), yet still, the sounds that escape the instrument ranges from a howling cat to a squeaking car brake.  And I’m glad.  I’m glad we are starting out like this – and I’m glad we are capturing it for our students to see.  Eventually we will be able to demonstrate the progress we made, and share our learning journey with our students.  We are laughing and we are working together.  Not only are we forming a band – we are experiencing what it is like to be vulnerable and learn something new.

And – here’s the thing:  I think we are getting better.  You see, last week when I was practicing, my husband opened the door to let the dog out.  The noise from my instrument caused a ripple effect and every dog for a mile was howling.  Tonight – it was just my dog, drooling all over the floor and hiding his head under the table.   I’d say that means I’m getting better. That’s some pretty authentic feedback, even if it’s coming from the dogs 🙂