Who is there when you’re halfway to the finish?

A few weeks back I ran the Victoria 1/2 Marathon. It was a majestic day in Victoria with unseasonably warm temperatures and a festive summer vibe throughout the streets. I had been training for this event for three years and finally the day arrived.  I had never run such an event before I had no idea what to expect. Aside from the delirious puking and fainting fears that lingered in the final moments before I fell asleep the night before the race I was fairly confident I could finish the course.

When preparing for such an event I sometimes thought about the finish line. What would I  feel at the end?
Who would I see at the finish?

Such images fill the spaces between each strike along the chosen path during  early morning training runs.

As it was no one was there to greet me at the finish line.

I sprinted to the end, crossed the line, passed the line of cookies and doughnuts desperately searched for more water and drove home.

In decades to come I won’t remember the finish line.

Here’s what I will remember.

My friend Jean.

..cheering me on at the 10km mark
with a smile
a laugh
and a front page illustration of Justin Trudeau
(I have a slight Justin infatuation- that’s another post)

My Reaction?

And here’s the gem.

It doesn’t matter who meets you at the end of an accomplishment.
Who meets you in the middle?
Who makes you laugh so deep you regain perspective?

Who doesn’t care if you ever accomplish anything? But is just there because

you

are.

Out of the stock exchange into the climbing gym

Living most of my life on the West Coast has caused me to view our public education system with defensive dismay. Upon entering the teaching profession in the late 80′s no one warned me that I would experience negative perceptions from all levels of society- friends, strangers, media, government representatives and even fellow colleagues.

My first exposure to jaundiced public perception was in my first year of teaching when I listened to MLA’s publicly berate teachers with derogatory comments  such as, “Get your buns back to work” (Randy White, MP, Abbotsford) inferring we were delinquent malcontents who enjoyed celebrating  the disruption of the school year.

I stopped engaging in and defending the “teacher horror story” conversations that would spontaneously erupt at parties and filled numerous newspaper headlines aching for attention especially at the beginning of a new school year. I became numb to the numerous reminders of  how “lucky” I was to have a job that offers so much time off and short working days.

Anyone who lives with a teacher knows a different reality.

Some days I felt lucky to be a teacher.

Some days it felt like a curse…

This rant explains the mindset I arrived with when I attended The Seventeenth National Congress in Rural Education in Saskatoon last week.

Within minutes of being at this conference I immediately sensed a different connection among all levels of those who worked in the education system. The formal introductions at the beginning of the Conference included the Mayor of Saskatchewan, a MLA, the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Association President, the Dean of Education at The University of Saskatchewan-ALL OF THEM were actively involved in this conference.

I soon discovered that the conference was attended by many school board trustees, parents, and reps from the Ministry of Education as well as teachers. I had never attended a conference like this before.

It felt like I had lived most of my professional life in an environment that resembled the stock exchange floor and someone just opened the door to the climbing gym where everyone seemed to express their role primarily as a support for one another.

While sitting there I tried to remember:

When was the last time I saw a MLA or an MP at a public school conference? Never.

When was the last time I attended a conference in which there just as many trustees, parents as there were teachers?

Never.

When was the last time I saw a sense of pride for the school system and those who work in it?
I wish I could remember.

Which makes me wonder… Why?

Why don’t I see MLA’s MP’s and representatives from all levels of education attending the same conference and meeting one another to discuss the topics that inspire and challenge them in British Columbia?

Maybe if this happened we wouldn’t find ourselves in acrimonious positions that result in loss for everyone.

Lessons From The Cowboy Trail

To really get the vibe of this post, listen to Corb Lund singing,  Alberta Says Hello by clicking on the play button below

I had the privilege of spending time with a friend who I have known for a long time. And every time we get together I experience what I call the intersection of all things good coming together- comfort, perspective, challenge and just knowing that the person you are sitting with knows you. We live in different provinces and sometimes months go by without hearing from one another but when we do connect, no excuses, no pretension, we just chill out and let each other in. It’s at these times when I feel the most blessed and humbled. Blessed because despite my personal baggage perceived or otherwise I know I have a friend who gets it and gets me. Humbled because I feel like I’ve won the lottery  in life- good health, choices, freedom and a friend.

So if you haven’t chilled out with a friend for awhile I encourage you to call someone up right now, do it! Don’t listen to the negative reel, contact someone on a whim- the one who “fills your cup”  and gets you.

 

iPads and Playdough? The Use of Tablets in Kindergarten

Recently the school board in Auburn, Maine announced that it would be spending $200,000 to provide iPads for all their Kindergarten students. The District Superintendent, Tom Morrill
seem to inflame an already controversial decision by  suggesting that iPads in Kindergarten will provide “improved student proficiency scores” by sustaining student engagement with the curriculum. (Huffington Post). The parents of this community  have started a group called Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education and it is interesting to read their opinions and suggestions for iPad use in the classroom which includes a  “gradual thorough research based introduction of iPads with a select group of students to monitor effectiveness of the tool before proceeding with wide scale implementation.”

No kidding!

Were the school board officials drinking some kind of Steve Job’s martini when they decided on full scale iPad implementation without a modest pilot program?

Despite this clumsy decision making process I am cautiously celebrating this school board decision. It’s too early to determine what effect the iPad will have on student proficiency scores but there is evidence to suggest that computer tools provide students with extended, repeated, increasingly complex tasks that allow them to develop memory capacity and problem solving skills (Ray and Smith 2010). Environments that provide explicit, systematic and contextualized learning experiences can be enriched by computer assisted instruction because there is potential to foster increase of phonological awareness, vocabulary acquisition, and alphabetic knowledge in young learners (Macraruso and Walker, 2008) .

The key word here is  “potential” because there are too many other variables that determine the successful use of technology in a classroom environment not the least of which is  is the confidence of the teacher to use technical devices in creative and sometimes complex ways.

More often than not equipment such as iPads, Smartboards, laptops, iclickers are placed in classrooms and teachers are “strongly encouraged” to use these devices with little training and minimal time to learn, troubleshoot, and share their understandings and doubts about such tools. As a result, their unacknowledged investment of time and growing resentment forges a path of least resistance which can sometimes lead to mundane uses of the sophisticated tools that simply maintain a sense of order in a classroom and do not require a teacher’s undivided attention to troubleshoot unexpected technical issues. Do iPads belong in kindergarten classrooms? Given how diverse learning environments can be there is no conclusive answer- yet.

But despite the school board’s alienating decision making process  I hope this initiative is successful and that the teachers and students in Auburn discover imaginative, stimulating, connections and approaches to learning with the iPad.

More views about this topic:
Thinking about iPads in Kindergarten
The coolest Kindergarten ever

Digital Kindergarten

Teaching Kindergarten with iPads


Lessons learned from my Sheltie

1. Never give up the opportunity to chew a biscuit
2. Approach strangers with curious caution
3. When in doubt bark to get a second opinion
4. A walk renews all the senses
5. Make time to unwind in a comfortable sunbeam
6. Sometimes it’s better to herd than to lead
7. Supper is always a time to celebrate
8. Grooming is a necessary evil
9. Seeing loved ones no matter how often is always cause for excitement
10. Chewing a woman’s shoes is a desperate, pathetic act but will get her attention.

What is your fast? What is your feast?

This is a season of fasting for some and I have been taught that to fast is to abstain from something that brings me pleasure. I read these words last week and their irritating rhythm keeps unfurling throughout this day.

Sometimes I find the most challenging acts of fasting are intentionally moving away from those behaviors and thought processes that are shallow caves of false security and self preservation and moving towards riskier, less desirable precipices of tenderness and integrity.

Depending on my choices – feasting is more challenging than fasting.

The verses above mean the most to me but the rest of these verses written by Bishop Arthur Lichtenberger can also be found here.

Inspiring People

On Saturday night I attended a presentation by two young men, Duncan and Jonnie Penn who are two members of the team called The Buried Life. These are four young guys who for the last few years have been traveling in a purple bus called Penelope to complete their “bucket list” of 100 things. They are the latest MTV Reality Show Sensation after being plucked from YouTube a couple of years ago.  There is no doubt that these guys are definitely entertaining with their “never say never” motivation to fulfill dreams that may seem impossible.

I would have walked away from the presentation on Saturday amused and entertained by their refreshing tenacity if it ended as all traditional presentations end – with a famous quote, joke or montage of footage from their recent exploits.

Instead the Penn brothers invited any member of the 300 member+ audience  to approach a microphone and declare their dream that they wished to fulfill before they die.

When this invitation to declare a personal dream was announced there was a rush of a few young girls to the microphone who predictably declared their dream to kiss one of the brothers on stage. But after the initial hugs and kisses were over, there was an uncomfortable transition in the evening.

Several young men and women tentatively described their struggle with mental illness, lost loved ones, abandonment and their simple dream to be healthy, or to be reconnected with people.  As I listened to one vulnerable story after another I became uncomfortable  because I was concerned with how the MTV  “hot shots” on stage would respond. My worry subsided as I marveled at Jonnie and Duncan’s tender, sensitive and sincere response to every person. They gave each young man and woman time to speak, weep, and find the words to express their heart’s desire. They took time to reaffirm each speaker’s struggle, pain, loss with a profound sense of empathy. Occasionally a clarifying question was posed or an encouraging statement was shared. Their responses were neither glib or patronizing. The MTV superstars on stage seemed to know this wasn’t about them it was about the people who bravely voiced their dream and those of us in the audience who were privileged to hear it.

This experience could have easily been a slick presentation to perpetuate the MTV machine but it became a catalyst event for everyone to consider themselves worthy of dreaming. Duncan and Jonnie showed compassion, wisdom and insight in their public interactions with each of the audience members who spoke. Instead of the the token 5-10 minutes at the end of presentation that is typically allotted for comments, 30minutes was given for people to share their stories and their dreams. This was one third of the entire presentation.

Walking out of the auditorium that night was like riding  a tidal wave of conversations, questions, declarations and laughter. People were actually talking- to one another!

And I experienced something I haven’t felt in awhile.

Inspiration

I realized that’s what I want in a presentation.

I’m done with sitting through and creating presentations with no or little time to connect with the collective inspiration of  those around us.

I’m done with technology tools that reinforce solo performances.

I want to create and attend presentations that promote the insights of others. I want to inspire people to really talk to one another again- even while in the same room.

Kudos to the men of  The Buried Life for not selling out as  just entertainers and for chipping out space in this crusty world to share the struggle and to dream.

© The Buried Life