Friday, May 8, 2015

My Brother is All Grown Up!

It is the eve of my little brother is officially growing up! Tomorrow Matt will marry his beautiful girlfriend Erin on what is surely going to be the hottest day in May.  I can't believe it, my brother is getting MARRIED!  While I knew this day would come someday, I just can't full grasp that it is here.  I still see my brother as the skinny, blonde-haired kid who would drag me out to the garage in the late fall to be the stand in goalie for his one-on-one road hockey games or the kid that would call me up and invite me down to visit him just so that his hockey-buddy-filled apartment could be cleaned/sanitized. This can't be happening already!

Life is passing us all so fast, but I am not sure that it needed to go so fast that my LITTLE BROTHER is getting MARRIED!!  I can remember the first time I met Erin it was after one of Matt's games that he was coaching in Brockville.  We were in his (dungeon) apartment and at this he wasn't admitting to us that they were dating. Strangely enough, Erin knew what cupboard Matt kept the tea bags (which is strange in itself because Matt doesn't drink tea!) and there were two tooth brushes in the bathroom (which I discovered after doing my cleaning inspection!).  That night Erin was quiet as Matt & Marc rehashed the game and conversed like no one else was there. I didn't know anything about her so I was hard for me to strike up a conversation...I can't remember if I even did strike one up...

Fast forward about 6 months or so and I get a message from said brother asking me what I think of the house he & Erin bought...but wait a second I thought she wasn't your girlfriend but just a friend?!  And since when were you looking to buy a house, and when did you go to the bank and why didn't you ask me what I thought of the house BEFORE the sold sign went up?! This IS my brother though!

Matt & Erin have grown to be such a complete couple.  They brought Neumann into their lives (and coincidently ours) and they just make each other tick.  They find a way to be independent yet come together to spend quality time together (which makes me jealous!) and they are supportive of each other's passions.  I can totally sympathize with Erin what it's like to be all but officially single during hockey season, yet she seems so patient with Matt. (I on the other hand am not as patient with a never ending hockey schedule.)  They are both very hard working and determined to reach their goals.  This will lead them to amazing heights.

So as I go to bed tonight, I still can't believe that my brother is growing up and that I will have a new sister!

Erin, welcome to the family and we are so excited for you an Matt.  We are excited to see your relationship with Matt continue to blossom.  Thank you for making Matt so happy.  He has become so grounded and focused since meeting you.  Remember, take a deep breath and take it all in; tomorrow will pass by so fast that before you know it you'll be dying to get your dress off and into something lazy.  We love you and can't wait to see what's next for the both of you.

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie, Marc, #TeamAmelie & #TeamOlivier :)

The "must die" factor to progression

#AprilBlogADay Toping: What practice, tradition, instructional strategy or anything else "must die". What needs to stop in order for Education to move forward. 

As a considerably new teacher to the profession I am often faced with the saying "we've never done it that way" or "we've don't do that here" and I think that attitude is the one thing "must die" for education to move forward.  Great, you've never done it or it hasn't been done here before so think of how exciting it will be to try something new or different?!  Often this attitude is meet by those who are afraid of change in the wake of failure.  Failure isn't permanent and it certainly isn't fatal.

A practice that I would like to see die in education is the administering of formal written tests (i.e.: when everyone s completely silent for 1 hour so that you can scribble down what you know or maybe don't know about a subject).  I don't think it is a fair evaluation of what students know or can demonstrate.  Where else in life are you given a test that you have to scribble all of your knowledge down on a piece of paper to prove yourself?!  This idea also follows the provincial or state standards testing that students are punished to take.  It is not an equitable display of a students ability or knowledge, but rather robot like.

I like to consider my teaching on the edge of trendy and serving the needs of my students, so I am not too caught up in practices, traditions or instructional strategies that "must die" in order for education to move forward.  I am sure if I was to reflect on it for a longer period of time I could come up with quite a list of things I'd like to see die!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

A Moment of Humanity in the Classroom

In reading the description for today's #AprilBlogADay topic, I immediately thought of a powerful and poignant moment in my classroom this year.

Setting the stage: Every year in January, Bell Canada hosts or sponsors #BellLetsTalk day where they bring awareness to mental health.  This year marked the 5th year of #BellLetsTalk day and it has widely spread across social media and deep into todays youth.  Over the past few years I have taken the opportunity to incorporate the day and issues into my language and math lessons, but this year it provided a whole new lesson not just for me but for every single student in my class.  The morning of #BellLetsTalk day (January 28th, 2015) was just like any other.  I turned my classroom computer on and decided that whatever I had written in my daybook was no longer important to cover today. Bell rang, and I welcomed my students into class.  Of course I responded to the 27 requests for what we were going to do today and whether they needed any pencils or notebooks out.  I need to remember sometimes that my 5th graders are still young and innocent and see the world at face value.  How was I going to introduce such an important topic?  Twitter to the rescue! We have a class Twitter account (@mmeranger) and it had been a number of days since a student pulled it up on the screen for everyone to see.  I immediately pulled open our account and found the trending topics.  It was also helpful that an abundance of celebrities were talking about #BellLetsTalk and that immediately caught the attention of the kids.

We then went through the #BellLetsTalk website and watched the short youtube videos of the campaigns spokes people.  We talked about their feelings, their experiences and what all this could mean.  We came up with the common issue of mental heath. At this point the classroom was as serious as it could get.  I could tell the issue was very confusing for some, almost a taboo subject for others and for one student in particular it was her life.  Over the course of the year, I made sure my students felt that our classroom community was a safe place to share and ask questions and it shone so bright today.  I was privileged enough to have a child & youth worker student in my classroom so I had great support for the students.  As we worked though the website, students were forming their thoughts and ideas, asking questions where they felt necessary and for clarification. There was lots of discussion around what a mental illness is, how do we know if we have one, where we get help and how it affects not just the person suffering, but also their family and friends.  Open the most poignant part of this lesson.

Student A raises her hand and explains that she has a friend that has mental health issues and that it is sometimes hard for her to know what to say or do because she doesn't know how this friend is going to react.  I pose general questions about how this makes her feel & if there is anything she tries to help her friend with.  The conversation garners a few comments from other students & from our C&Y worker before Student A emotionally reveals that her friend is her big sister.  You could have heard a pin drop in the room.  I let the room sit silent for what felt like forever, but was more like 2 minutes.  I wanted students to be able to sit, reflect and compose themselves to pose questions or comments, but I also needed time to regain my composure too!

This moment in our classroom was THE moment that we all seemed to need.  It was the moment that sealed us as one classroom community; one that is safe, caring, non-judgemental and empathetic.  The revelation by Student A put a face to the numbers, made it real and tangible to the students who often think it doesn't happen to them or anyone around them.  I couldn't have asked for a better situation to come up to help solidify this important issue.

We went on to talk about #BellLetsTalk & mental health issues for a number of days after. We tracked how much money was raised via social media, we read articles and stories of overcoming mental health struggles.  Enter Moment of Humanity #2! At the end of the week I received an email from a parent thanking me for taking the time all week to introduce and discuss the many facets of mental health issues.  Her son had gone home after day 2 or 3 of our discussions and brought it up at the dinner table as to what we were talking about (read between the lines that this student NEVER does this).  He himself has mental health issues and is learning to manage them amongst his peers but didn't know how to explain his struggles to them.  I relieved this student from this pressure and was now able to open up and be himself just a little bit more.

These are "pay cheques" that you just can't put money on & this is why I teach.

For more information on #BellLetsTalk click here.

Go forward and be the sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

Do we have a professional responsibility outside the classroom?

In all professions, members are held up to professional standards while practicing in their domain, but the question always is, what professional responsibility do we have away from our domains that we should be expected to maintain?  As a teacher, for years our profession has not been seen as an equal "profession" or as professional as say a doctor or lawyer, but that does not mean we should not have a professional responsibility outside of our classroom.

I believe that we have a professional responsibility outside the classroom in a few capacities.  First, I think it is our responsibility to maintain current teaching practices and trends in student learning.  This means using our own time to research, read, participate and follow in professional development in the multitude of forms that are presented to us.  Too often I see fellow professionals out of current practices or reject an opportunity to further their learning because it is not presented to them during their paid work day.  How can we expect students to review work, complete homework or projects etc. outside of school hours if we ourselves are not willing to put in hours outside our designated "professional time"?

Secondly, I think we have a professional responsibility outside the classroom when it comes to socialization & relaxation.  Now I am not saying our employers or professional college designation should dictate what we can and cannot partake in outside of school hours, but I am saying that we have one of the most influential responsibilities in our communities.  I have seen a few fellow colleagues forget or disregard that members of our school community (parents and students), and have been less than professional.  I believe that this is a factor as to why we are not regarded sometimes as professionals in our domain.  Anytime the public can knock us for something (and we all know they love to do that), they will.  It takes just one colleague to paint us all with the same brush, but that colour is not representative of the teaching/teachers as a whole.  Thus, I think that we should have to uphold the standards of practice that are regulated upon us in the classroom outside of the classroom.  This might help our public image and the influence we have within our community.

Personally, I take my professional responsibility outside of the classroom as a privilege. I have been privileged enough to be granted an opportunity to engage as a professional within the classroom and I believe that without this same responsibility outside the classroom, it would seem redundant.  I thrive on taking professional development sessions at any opportunity even if it means #TeamAmelie gets a few more minutes if iPad time so that I can participate in a webinar or take an online course.  Staying current with trends and learning styles of our students (essentially our clients) is our responsibility no matter when or how it occurs.  We are letting our profession, our "clients" and essentially our futures down if we garnish our professional responsibility outside of the classroom.

What do you believe our professional responsibility outside the classroom is or should be?

Time to reflect with sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Are you where you thought you would be?

Nothing like starting off the month with a fastball right down the middle of the plate!

I don't know if I am where I thought I would be.  I mean, I'm currently on mat leave with #TeamOlivier so to say that I am where I thought I would be in that respect the answer would be yes.  I always knew I wanted to have a family and with more than one child.  That's where I am at now.

Professionally, I think I am ahead of where I always thought I would be.  I never imagined only supply teaching for one day before getting a long term replacement placement that would lead to a permanent contract opportunity.  Thus, all within 1 year.  Yes, I have worked hard and put lots of time into furthering my professional understanding, but I think it has paid off multi-fold.

When I look at the opportunities I have been given to further myself professionally, I sometimes think that I am ahead of my time.  I have only been in the profession 4 years, but been granted the chance to attend professional development sessions and presentations that have benefitted my teaching enormously.  I get giddy sometimes thinking of the opportunities that I have had (especially in the last 2 years) and who else has been in the PD with me and their average age or teaching experience (by far I have been the youngest).

Although I think I am where I want to be professionally and personally, I am not happy to stay status quo.  I am always looking for the latest workshop, seminar, webcast or book to help advance my understandings and ability to deliver the best program possible to my students.  Teaching is not my first career and one main reason I get into teaching was for the constant, every day challenge it brings.  No two days, two lessons or two classes are ever alike and that makes me thrive.  The challenge keeps the fire burning inside to want more.

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

Friday, April 24, 2015

#AprilBlogADay

I'm a little late to the game (yes, I know it's April 24th!), but I haven't had an uninterrupted time to sit down and write or I just haven't been in the mood to do so.

As most of you know I am quite active on Twitter both personally and professionally.  I spend a lot of time each day (mostly while feeding or rocking babies) scrolling through the posts and articles online.  Over the last 4 years I have certainly learnt a lot, and reflected even more.  I have found my favourite, go-to posters for when I'm looking for a good laugh, support or to add something meaningful to my day.  Around the second week of this month I was reading a variety of posts and came across the hash tag #AprilBlogADay.  I was instantly curious and had to look it up.  I will confess I haven't had time to read any of the posts any of the participants have made, but I'm more wanting to get my own writing into a routine.

So here's to me catching up on the #AprilBlogADay group.  Please bear with me as I post once, twice or maybe not at all over the next few days.  I'm hoping there's a #MayBlogADay group starting up so that I can give it an honest shot to stay on target each day.

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Boy vs Girl Toys. Does that still exist?

Today I experienced something for the first time that I wasn't quite prepared for that has left me with a few reactions.  It was a rainy, messy day out today so I packed the kids and some snacks up and headed off to the closest Chapters Indigo bookstore.  I have had a handful of gift cards from students sitting in the every trusty top drawer of my bedside table that I thought today was a good day to put them to good investment.  I have been taking note of the newest and trendiest books that have come out and making notes from what other teachers are doing as they post on their Twitter feeds or blogs.
With my list in hand, and two kids in tow we set off for a book adventure.  We were greeted by a few cheerful Chapters employees, who engaged #TeamAmelie in a one way conversation and found our way to the kids section.  #TeamAmelie wasn't short of excitement pointing out her favourite characters on the banners that welcomed us to the kids section, knowing pretty much all of them and turning the few heads of customers in ear shot.  We walked aisle by aisle picking up books, talking about the covers and what we thought and shortly were joined by a young employee who was helping what appeared to be a grandmother and her grandson find the Robert Munch section.  She eagerly pointed out the customer favourites, the newest stories and asked if there was one in particular they were looking for.  The grandmother responded that they had a few already and prompted her grandson to choose a book that he'd like.  This is where things went off the rails.

I am not sure exactly what book the little boy pulled off the shelf after a minute or so of looking, but the grandmother certainly didn't approve when she said, "that book is for girls, not for you." I was shocked...stunned...and just as heartbroken as the little boy was who now didn't have the book he carefully picked out.  The young employee fell silent and slowly slipped away from the grandmother and little boy.  I couldn't believe my ears.  My first reaction was to post on Twitter what I had just heard to see what kind of reaction others would have had. How could someone say this to a young child? She prompted him to choose a book from that section? How can there be a "boy book" and a "girl book" and why can't the opposite gender read them?

As a parent, I am of the firm belief that my children can play with and read anything they want, regardless of what gender it is marketed towards.  #TeamAmelie LOVES playing with her Hotwheel cards and trucks and tractors as much as she loves her Minnie Mouse and baby dolls.  We read any book that she grabs for off the bookshelf whether it is about princesses or hockey players.  Don't get me wrong, #TeamAmelie also loves the colours pink and purple, but she will not grow up with the understanding that she can't do or read something because she is a girl and it may be for a boy.

As a teacher, I am reflecting on how I present materials that I use to teach with.  Do I show a gender specificity or target? I chatted with a few colleagues tonight over my experience (they were appalled as well!), and asked how I/we could do a better job at changing the thinking or stereotype of gender specific toys/books.  I am also hurt that this young boy was engaged in a bookstore, excited to get to choose a book (that he may or may not know how to read on his own), and engage in literature to better himself going forward for it to be snatched away from him because of what may be tagged as "the old way of thinking".  As a teacher, I see the struggle we all face as educators to get boys to read and to enjoy engaging with the material.  Could this be the reason why? It certainly doesn't help.

So my questions to you are: does there still exist a gender division in toys/books on behalf of the consumer? How can we as educators help erase this figment of our imagination so that everyone can enjoy toys/books without thinking if they are for them or not? How do we present materials in order for our students and their parents to understand that there is no gender division?

I leave you with those thoughts and reflections & would love to hear your responses.  Until then, I'm off to tidy up Hotwheel cars and Minnie Mouse's clothes that #TeamAmelie blasted around the living room tonight.

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)