Friday, 24 February 2017

The Value in Responding

Another of Doug Peterson's posts on Off The Record got me thinking this week - I love that about online connections!  He wrote about the power of commenting on blogs:

Most certainly, there are values and connections to be had with replies.  The original blogger extends her reach and makes new and important connections when people comment.  The blogger may realize that they absolutely have nailed a concept, they may find that there are other ways at looking at a topic, or they might be convinced that they were completely wrong.  Without that feedback, the blogger might just go through life thinking they know everything about everything.
Constructive thoughts continue and extend the conversation and can make new connections.  There are many folks who don’t blog for whatever reason and that’s their choice.  But, if they’re reading other blogs, they can do their own mini-blog by sharing their thoughts.
My first blog was a travel blog when I was living in Argentina.  I started it because my mom and dad weren't on Facebook and it was a way to connect with them and share my adventures.  It turned out to be a great way to deal with some of the stress of living in a country where I didn't speak the language and didn't always understand the culture.  I wasn't expecting any comments, but it was a bonus when they happened.
But this blog is different.  Writing is a way that I can get all the ideas and thoughts that are spinning around in my head down on 'paper' where I can see them and think about them.   And I wonder what other people are thinking about the same topics.  So when I started blogging here, I often ended each blog with a few prompting questions - hoping for a response.  But as Doug notes, people are busy and there is just so much content to read with Twitter and Facebook providing links to so many articles and blogs.  Or they would respond to the link on Twitter or Facebook, not on the blog itself.

For my part, I don't always respond to blogs that I read unless an idea really resonates with me or provokes my thinking.  Recently I responded to Bill Ferguson's Recommendations Follow Up Post where he said he thought every new teacher should be required to get a masters degree within five years of graduating from teachers' college.  By doing so, I could let him know just a few of the many reasons I disagree with that recommendation, and then he was able to respond and let me know his rationale for recommending this idea.  
What about you?  Do you comment on blogs? Twitter? Facebook?  Are you more comfortable commenting when you know the person 'in real life' as opposed to only virtually?  

Lisa Cranston

6 days ago  -  Shared publicly 

I disagree with the suggestion that every new teacher should have their masters degree in five years after beginning teaching. Many new teachers are still struggling with student loans, in addition to their extracurricular activities at school and starting young families. They may not have the time, energy or money to spend on a masters degree. I know many new teachers who have part time jobs on the weekend and after school to supplement their salary so graduate school is not feasible for everyone. However, I do think all teachers need to continue learning but that learning could be AQ courses, professional conferences or reading professional journals. Just like students learning through inquiry based on their interests, teachers should also be able to follow their professional curiosities.
In my own situation, I finished my masters degree in 2001, 16 years after teachers college.
I agree wholeheartedly with many of your other recommendations and have worked for many years supporting teachers in using a student-inquiry based approach to teaching. Once teachers see the engagement and motivation students have for inquiry, they never want to go back to the old 'sage on the stage' model again.
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Hi Lisa,
Thank you for your reply. In my research about what makes the countries at the top of the PISA list stay there I found that some require their staff to have a masters before they begin a teaching career. While explanations as to why varied the consensus was that as professionals and thought of as equal to doctors and lawyers that they need to be better qualified. These countries have a strong respect for teachers and the qualifications are justified to maintain this respect. There was also some thought given towards the idea that there was a stronger correlation between having a masters and being more committed towards education. In some of the countries they choose the students in high school from their interests and marks and give them all the support they need to be successful.
Personally I think the social work connections in schools is more important as issues that arise can be dealt with before they become full grown problems.
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Monday, 20 February 2017

20 Must Follow Twitter Feeds

I joined Twitter back in 2008 after attending a workshop where it was promoted as a tool for connecting with other educators. But I wasn't hooked.  I used it for a few weeks and mostly connected with a few other teachers in our board who were using it.  After a month or two, I had drifted away from twitter and didn't use it at all.

Fast forward to Spring 2016, and I decided Twitter another try.  Several colleagues had mentioned that they were finding it a useful tool for professional learning and networking.  I began to follow more educators, groups and organizations that were addressing issues that resonated with me.  And, after following others for awhile, I began posting interesting literacy and mathematics learning that I observed when I was in classrooms.

My big 'aha' moment came when I was live tweeting from the ETFO Learning Math in the Early Years conference in May 2016.  Educators from all over began retweeting and commenting on my posts.  I found myself thinking about which were the most salient 'nuggets' from each presentation to tweet?  What was a tidbit worth sharing that would spark conversation or inspire someone to try something new in their classroom?   It was a different way for me to process my learning at each session. 

This morning, I came across The Edadvocate's List of 20 Must-Follow K-12 Education Twitter Feeds.  Take a look - you might find some that pique your interest!

Then while exploring on their website, I found their List of 20 Must Follow Early Childhood Education Twitter Feeds.  I saw some familiar names, but also some new feeds to add to my list. 

I'm sure that there are lots of great people I could be following but I'm trying to keep it manageable.  How does it work for those of you who are following thousands of people?  How do you keep up with all the tweets? 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Building Connections

Stuart Shanker talks about how teachers and parents have to find a way build connections with your child or your students that works for you and that you and the child(ren) both enjoy.  He describes a father-son connection building program where parents and children sat on the floor singing and it was clear that no one was enjoying the experience - not the parents or the children.  Then they all moved next door to the swimming pool and the bonds that were forming between the dads and their children in the pool were so natural and warm.  That reinforces once again why self-reg is a process and not a program.  
I remember when my youngest daughter was about 18 months old and I signed us up for one of those mommy and me swimming classes.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I hate swimming, turns out she didn't like it either.  But I thought it was what I was supposed to do. The only bond it built was a mutual dislike of swimming.  (Don't worry.  She got over it and is an excellent swimmer now).
Both of my girls love reading stories and being read to, and I love books so that was a wonderful natural way that we built connections.  When they were little, story time after bath time was one of my favourite times of the day, and I continued to read aloud to them each night long after they were reading on their own.  
In my own classroom, I loved reading aloud to students, regardless what grade I was teaching. Sharing books that I love was a way to build connection with students - talking about characters, plot, favourite authors and illustrators.  I can remember a grade three girl who had her dad drive her to several public libraries to check out all the Jon Scieszka books and she brought them to school the next day after we read The Stinky Cheese Man.  Laughing over Shel Silverstein poems, discussing how JK Rowling fooled us all (Professor Quirrell? Not Snape?) and wondering why Robert Munsch has a different illustrator for some of his books - these were all connections and conversations with students that I still remember.  I hope they enjoyed them as much as I did.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Week without Wifi - Follow up

Doug Peterson included my recent blog post about a week without wifi in his round up of This Week In Ontario Edublogs:

What a scary thought.  Lisa Cranston elected to not spend the $80/week to get connected during a recent holiday.
When she left, the other guest turned the TV off. Until then, I didn’t realize how much extra stress the news about Trump and his various actions had been adding to my life. Pierre Elliot Trudeau said that living next to the US is like sleeping with an elephant – we are affected by every twitch and grunt.
This was the third time that Trudeau’s comment about the elephant crossed my path this week.
In my conversation with Stephen, he made the connection to his Unpluggdexperience a few years ago.
We both agreed that we would have paid the $80.

I responded to him that it was the best $80 I never spent. I wasn't completely without internet.   I still used my hubby's data plan on his phone to check in with my daughters once or twice a day, but that was it.  And it was so relaxing!!!!!

Since returning from vacation I've gotten back into the habit of waking up and going online - I check the headlines in the local newspaper, I check Twitter and Facebook, and before I know it the morning is almost done and I'm still in my pyjamas.  I don't want to go back to being completely unplugged, but I need to work at a better balance of plugged/unplugged time. 
I find that I wake up with my mind full of thoughts and ideas and I just have to write them down before they're gone.  Which leads to logging onto the computer and never leaving!  
I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'll keep searching for balance.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Self-Reg and the Kitchen Sink

Today was an exciting day - our new kitchen counter top was being installed this morning.  I had arranged for the installer to arrive at 8:30 am; he had estimated the job would take three hours which worked out perfectly.  He would be done by 11:30 am and I had a dentist appointment at 1 pm.  I had even built in some extra time in case something went wrong.

He arrived on time and got started promptly.  I settled onto the couch in the adjacent living room and started working on a writing project.  The writing was flowing.  It was going so well until about 11:00 am when I heard "Oh no, that's horrible" coming from Moe the installation guy.

Me: What's horrible?  I don't want to hear the word horrible!

Moe: It turns out this sink is an IKEA sink and they are so poorly made that when I tried to put it back in, the clamps all snapped. (Moe had asked me if it was an IKEA sink when he came to give me the estimate a few weeks ago.  I told him I had no idea because the sink was here when I moved in.  He thought it wasn't.  He was wrong).

Moe: I'm really sorry but you're going to have to go and get a sink.  It needs to be 20.5" x 20.5"  Don't buy it any deeper or it won't fit but it can be a bit wider.

I grabbed my coat and purse.  Did I mention it is absolutely pouring down sheets of rain and we have a flood advisory?  And it's cold?  Well, it is rainy and cold.  I head to Home Depot on the south side of town.  Salesperson directs me to the sinks but they have none the right size in stock.  Grab a sub for lunch at their counter and drive to Lowe's.

Arrive at Lowe's kitchen area.  Two sales people are chatting to one another.
Me:  Excuse me, where are the kitchen sinks?

Salesguy: In plumbing. (turns his back to me and returns to his conversation)

Me: Where is the plumbing department?  (Silently seething.  I want to say: No kidding!  I was going to look in flooring or maybe lighting but the sinks are in plumbing?  Good to know!  But I bite my sarcastic tongue.)

Salesguy: (points in the direction of the corner of the store while he continues conversation without turning to face me)

I head over to plumbing, silently giving Salesguy a piece of my mind. There are sinks that are 7" deep and sinks that are 8" deep.  I don't know how deep our sink is so I stick my arm in each sink trying to determine which sink is like ours at home.  No idea. I grab a 7" sink and head home.

Moe takes a look at the sink.  "This won't work. It's 20" x 20.5"   The hole's too big and you'll have this gap. The water will get in there and ruin your new counter."

I put my wet coat and boots back on and head to Home Hardware.  I'm in luck there is a sign on the sink that says 20.5" x 20.5"  It has three holes for the taps and faucet, not just one, and it's on sale.  Bonus!  Quickly pay for the sink and head home.

I start to inhale my sub and I hear "Oh no" from the kitchen.

Moe:  This sink is too small.

Me: No it's not.  I checked.  It's exactly 20.5" x 20.5".

Moe: No it's not.  I know this is a pain but we want to do this right otherwise your new counter won't last.  (as he shows me the label on the side of the box that clearly says 20 x 20.5)

I now have two sinks, neither of which are the right size. Put my sandwich back in the fridge.  Put on my wet coat and boots, grab the Home Hardware sink and return to Home Hardware.  I let them know that their sign is wrong.  They have no other single sinks so I return this one and now drive to Home Depot East while calling the dentist on my bluetooth to see if they can push back my dentist appointment as it is now 1 pm. They tell me if I get there by 1:20 they can squeeze me in.

Arrive at Home Depot East and they have no 20.5" x 20.5" sinks,  They have slightly larger sinks and they have single sinks that have a little prep sink next to it.  I don't know if these will fit.  I don't know if this is even what I want. I hate being rushed into a decision and decide to not buy a sink today.

I rush to the dentist but it's too late and so I reschedule for next week and head home one last time. I'm trying to breathe; I'm trying to remind myself that these are #firstworldproblems and the only reason I'm doing all this running around is because I'm getting a nice new countertop.  But it's not working.  I can feel the tension building in my chest from the rushing around and from the frustration of the salesguy at Lowe's and the person at Home Hardware who screwed up making a sign and the weather and why didn't Moe check the damn sink before he cut the hole and why didn't I change my dentist appointment to another day when I realized they were both on the same day and .........   BREATHE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me:  Moe, we're just going to have to wait.  I don't want to rush into picking out a sink and end up with a choice I'm going to regret later.

Moe: Sure, no problem.  I can put this old one back in for now and I'll just put silicone around the edge so it should keep the water out.

Me: Ok.  Sounds good.  I'm just going to make myself a cup of tea and try to stay out of your way.  I'll call you and let you know when I get a new sink so we can arrange to have it installed.  It should be by the end of this week unless I have to order one.

Moe:  Ok.  Just call me when you get it and I'll come and install it.


So let's look at this scenario from our self-reg lens, shall we?

Reframe the behaviour:
While I was ready to snap at the Lowe's guy, the Home Hardware lady and Moe I was able to keep my behaviour in control, however I'm sure they noticed my tone was getting a bit edgier.  This was stress behaviour not misbehaviour!

Recognize the stressors:
Cold, wet rainy day
Driving in the pouring rain
Trying to eat lunch on the run
Unable to find the sink that I need
Had to put away my writing that was going really well to go to hardware stores, which I don't enjoy
Pressure of the impending dentist appointment
All the contents of the lower kitchen cabinets are in boxes in the dining room during counter installation and clutter always increases my stress levels
Husband is away on business
Daughter is texting with issues at university during this whole scenario

Reduce the stress:
Rescheduled the dentist appointment
Postponed buying the sink
Helped myself to slow down my pace and my breathing with a nice hot cup of tea
I let daughter know that I could read her email in thirty minutes and she was fine with that

Reflect to enhance stress awareness:
I was dressed properly for the weather so that helped reduce stress
I could have brought Moe's cell number with me when shopping so I could call him with questions, like do I want a 7" or 8" deep sink?
Could have arranged to have hubby on-call for decisions like bigger sink? prep sink? no sink?  It helps to have someone to talk to.
Allow more time between events; being rushed always makes me stressed

Respond (develop personalize strategies to promote resilience and restoration): 
Remember the big picture: the sink will get installed and it doesn't have to be done today
It's okay to say no to people, for example telling Moe,  "No, I can't buy a sink today."
Build in time for exercise on these cold, rainy days
Not everything is urgent and has to be done instantly.
Not every question is urgent and has to be answered immediately.  People will wait if you let them know why.

Monday, 6 February 2017

A Week Without Wifi

Last week hubby and I were at the Occidental Cozumel Resort for vacation of sun, sand and snorkelling.  The only free wifi was on three laptop computers in the hotel lobby and, rather than pay over $80US for wifi for the week, I decided to have a week with (almost) no wifi.   I say almost because once or twice a day I took advantage of the international data plan on my husband's phone to check in with my girls at home using Messenger and do a quick Facebook check.  But no Twitter, no Facebook posts, no blogs, no online courses, not even email.

I didn't realize how much I was enjoying the break from online news until Wednesday when I decided to go to the gym instead of going for a run.  Another guest was there using the treadmill and she had the TV tuned into the National Prayer Breakfast in the US.  Trump was speaking about how Mark Burnett had been the producer of Apprentice and what wonderful ratings it had when he had been the host but now that Arnold Schwarzenegger was the host the ratings were terrible.  What????????   Then he recalled that when he was campaigning and people would tell him they were praying for him and how much he liked that.  How had Trump managed to make the National Prayer Breakfast about his TV ratings and his ego??????
(Read the White House transcripts of his speech here)

When she left, the other guest turned the TV off.  Until then, I didn't realize how much extra stress the news about Trump and his various actions had been adding to my life.  Pierre Elliot Trudeau said that living next to the US is like sleeping with an elephant - we are affected by every twitch and grunt.   We can't just ignore what is happening there; it has an impact on our lives.  And I knew that the election campaign and the results had definitely been a stressor for me.  But it wasn't until I shut the news off for a few days that I realized just how much of a stressor it was and still is.

Now that we're back home and back on wifi, I will remain an informed citizen but I will use self-reg to be cognizant of when my stress levels are rising.  I can choose to seek out positive and uplifting messages, go for a walk, head to the gym or find some other activity that returns me to a calmer state.  If only I could just live at the beach!

This little fish swam right up to my mask to say hello!