Monday, December 21, 2015

The Spirit of the Season

This year as I think I've mentioned I am at a different school in a very diverse neighbourhood.  I have been apprehensive at times about what is celebrated or recognized and to what extent.  This has been especially at the forefront this past month or so with Christmas.  One thing I knew I wanted to do was to have students write letters to Santa.  I knew I could pull my pedagogical hat on if I was approached as to why I had done this activity, but I knew the excitement with the end result was well worth it.

I found a template off and got everything ready.  We read "The Jolly Christmas Postman" and modelled our letter writing to preparation.  We sat down as a class and wrote our letters, even adding in a drawing or two.  I had explained to the students that I would drop them in the mail that very afternoon right after school.  I was worried that they wouldn't arrive at the North Pole in time for them to be returned before the holiday break.  We had worked right until the deadline! EEEKKK!

Jump forward to December 15th... the magical envelope had arrived!!!  I was giddy with excitement as I brought the envelope up to our classroom.  I had to find the perfect time to give them the letters...not before a lesson but not too late so that I didn't have to rush them out the door.  There was no perfect time that day.  Amidst practicing for the holiday concert and trying to keep a lid on the excitement, I decided to forgo a new art project and pull out the magical envelope.  At first they didn't know who could be writing us letter, but then it clicked.  SANTA!!!

I made sure to hand out all the letters before letting them open them and had our iPad ready to video their reactions.  I am so glad I captured the moment because it was unbelievable. (I am still trying to figure out how to post the video!)

**Note: Keep in mind 95% of my class does not celebrate Christmas in the commercial or religious sense, so this was a first time experience for them.  This is what made it even more magical!

Needless to say, if they remember nothing from this year except that Santa wrote them back, it won't bother me!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and as my students would say Mele Kalikimaka!

Stephanie :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Act That Changed Everything

I haven't been online a whole lot since school started two and a half weeks ago, but I took some time tonight to try and catch up what was happening on Facebook.  I was checking my "notifications" when it said I had "memories" from past posts or updates I had made from years past. I usually read them and think nothing more about what I felt or was expressing, but tonight one stuck out to me...

On this day 8 years ago I made the decision that would change my life and my family life forever.  I had left the only "professional" job I had ever known, my safe spot, and what I thought at the time was my dream job with the Ottawa 67's.  I remember September 22nd, 2007 like it was yesterday.  I had gone into the office, and was going to bite the bullet.  I walked into the president's office and week before the biggest night of the season, but I just had to leave.  I said that I was going to go back to school and see where that lead me.  Inside I was scared, afraid yet relieved.  My dream job was becoming work for me.  I had just recently gotten married and the life style of working for a sports franchise just wasn't what I could do for the rest of my life.  I had met some of the most amazing individuals and friends one could ever ask for. I was involved in so many incredible events that I felt there was nothing more to challenge me.  Going back to school was going to be the challenge I needed.

I registered at the University of Ottawa for the winter semester and started out on a career path that I never thought could be so rewarding.  Over the last 8 years I have met even more incredible people, experienced so many unbelievable opportunities and been challenged professionally and personally beyond my wildest imagination each and every day.

So thank you Facebook, for giving me the opportunity to reflect and be grateful for what the last 8 years has brought me.

Stephanie :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reflection of The Last 12 hours

***REPOST from June 6th, 2015

I have had a little less than 12 hours to digest the most shocking, devastating news a teacher could ever receive.  Last night a student that would cheerfully attend my classes week after week without missing a beat died.  I am not here to recount last night's events, but to reflect on the last 12 hours and the emotions that have filtered through my brain and house.

As a staff at HLES I am going out on a strong and sturdy limb and saying that we as a staff and community are very close knit.  Our school welcomes just shy of 400 students and over 35 staff members each morning and while we do not all have the same teaching philosophy or styles one things for sure, we care for each and every one of the other members of our school.  Today was a devastating day in learning that one of our grade 8 students passed away.  It was a call that I never imagined receiving on a beautiful Saturday afternoon from one of my administrators.

A colleague had alerted us to an emergency that was unfolding in the school yard last night & wondered if any of us in the community had heard as to what happened, but when I saw the missed called on my cellphone today just after lunch from the school's phone number I knew.  I just knew it couldn't be good.  I looked at the phone for a few seconds and recited the school number in my head to make sure that was really the number I was looking at and then took the courage to listen to the message that was sent.  My heart was racing as I listened and paced up & down the hallway between the front door & my kitchen as I tried to return the call.  Voicemail…and the mailbox was full.  Next, send a text message.  My heart was sinking farther & farther trying to prepare myself for the news on the other end.

I could picture my colleague sitting in his office, trying to be strong & stoic for all of us that he was calling all the while trying to comprehend & understand what went wrong.  I tried to break the ice a little by remarking on the beautiful weather & that I really hoped I didn't need to hear from him today but it was inevitable.  I was crushed…I was in shock…I had so many questions that couldn't be answered…I wanted to help in someway but didn't know how.  We chatted for a few minutes, sharing only sparse & scripted lines that at this point are the only words that can be said.  The conversation ended with "go hug your children extra tight today & everyday".  I cried.  How can this be? How can such an artistic, dedicated, polite, quick whited member of our school community be gone? Why him? How? How come? What can I do to help?

I can only imagine if I have all these questions running through my head, what are his classmates, friends, family and other colleagues might be feeling or asking.

I have sat and questioned, I have researched, I have talked with my closest colleagues over the last 12 hours and we are all at a loss.  Monday is going to come and I will admit it is going to be THE TOUGHEST day I will have ever had as a teacher, but I will be going to school to be with my school community.  It is there that I think I belong.  It is there that I think I need to go and just sit or just listen.  It is there that I will remember this young man who had so many great talents and still wonder.

I have one week left on my maternity leave and I will spend every minute needed loving my 400 day-time children because I know he would be there loving us too if he could.

My God wrap him & his family & friends in love at this time of great need.

I am in shock.


Classroom Clean Out/Up

It's that time of the year again when we realize how much paper we have been hoarding for the last 10 months and what student all of a sudden has months worth of gym clothes stuffed into their locker.

As with the past years, our chief custodian is right on top of things and strips and waxes classroom floors the the days leading up to the end of the year, and again my classroom was done at the beginning of this week.  I find this extremely helpful in making me clean out my room before the final days and forcing the students to take their belongings home.  I am also able to set my classroom back up for the following year saving me time at the end of the summer. However, instead of resetting my classroom I am packing it up in boxes to move to a new school for next year.  I have been declared surplus at my current school due to declining enrolment.  It has been quite the process of applying and interviewing for positions and then landing a new challenge.

As I cleaned out cupboards and filing cabinets, I couldn't help but relate to this article by Elizabeth Moore I read recently about how teachers hoard supplies and resources "just in case".  It has made me really think before loading my boxes if I'm going to use such item or notebook and if not, pass it along.  It never ceases to amaze me how much stuff we actually collect and then typically go buy again because we can't find it in our cupboard or closet.

I am going to be starting fresh at a new school, therefore I will be attempting to only keep what I actually see myself using.  Although I am changing grades (dramatically) I will be selective as to what I "pack" into my cupboards.

Here's to clearer, more organized cupboards!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever!

Stephanie :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

#TeamAmelie's Reading…sort of!

Just a quick post that I've been wanting to write but haven't had enough words to do a post, but too many to do in a Tweet!  When #TeamAmelie was born (and even before that) I was addimit that any gift she was going to receive from anyone it was to be a book.  I wanted her from a very young age to love looking at books, listening to stories and to be surrounded by literature.  And today I think it's paying off.

I was sitting in our loft this morning trying to balance #TeamOlivier in one hand and check my email in the other when behind me is a little voice reciting her current favourite book: Colours vs Shapes by Mike Boldt.  

We have read this book multiple times a day for the last couple of months and today #TeamAmelie was recounting her own version partially from memory and from looking at the pictures.  She was SOOOO proud of herself when she noticed that I had turned to listen to her.  She immediately wanted me to read her the story so that she could finish the sentences before I could and add in her own expressions.  She makes me laugh every. single. time. we read it.

What book gets read the most often in your house?

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Career vs Home Woman

When I was 8 years old if someone asked me if I was going to be a career woman or a stay at home mom I would have replied stay at home mom without a doubt.  I was always toting around my Baby Shivers doll that looked like (and smelt like) a real baby, dressing her and taking care of her as if she was real.  As I grew older, around the age of 15-17 if you had asked me the same question again I would have switched to career woman.  I had a vision in sight and I wasn't going to let anyone or anything get between it and me. It cost and/or didn't allow me to pursue personal relationships for so long because I was going to be a career woman and didn't have time for those distractions.

Fast-forward to 2013 and #TeamAmelie was born.  At the time I had just landed my first permanent teaching gig when I first found out I was pregnant.  I can remember sitting in the parking lot of the school before going into the interview and calling DH crying because I didn't think I could go in because I was afraid I'd throw up everywhere.  Morning, afternoon, night…ok ALL DAY & NIGHT sickness had me rethinking what I had just done a few weeks earlier.  I digress…Here I am pregnant with our first child, land my first permanent teaching position and I have to decide which I want more!? I was determined to work as long as I physically could because I'm not very good at sitting & waiting for something that doesn't have a definite arrival time.  I was also determined that I was going to get back in the classroom just six months after she was born.

See, I have heard of the horror stories of starting back into a classroom part way through the year because you can't make it your own.  The students refer back to their previous teacher (your replacement, but as far as their concerned their teacher), they are set in their routines, rolling with the replacement's expectations.  How could I break this in February? Also, how was I going to stay home and live the pace of a newborn/toddler after living the pace of a 10,000 person per game hockey career & the life of a university student for the last 10 years?  Thus it donned on me…I'm going to go back to the classroom after 6 months off and DH can stay home with #TeamAmelie.  I'm not leaving her with a stranger at daycare, I know DH will text me throughout the day, and worse case scenario they both end up at my inlaws and my mother in law saves the day.

So many people told me I was crazy, that I'd change my mind once I had the baby, why would I want to get back to work- there's only misery there.  You name it, I heard it.  I didn't let that sway me though.  I loved my job, my sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and I needed to feel like I did something each day.  Don't get me wrong, I did A LOT with #TeamAmelie and I wouldn't have traded that time for the world, but I also knew where I belonged and that was in the classroom.  I ran into who at the time I would call an acquaintance at the mall one day and we got chatting about being off on leave and the adjustment blah blah blah and then she asked me "so you'll go back to work in a year and then what?" I stopped her right there in her tracks and announced that I would be going back to work in the fall and DH was going to try his hand at parenting.  For the first time ever, she was the first person who agreed and applauded me for my decision.  I could have hugged her right there in the mall!  She too confessed to me that she didn't think she could stay home for the full year because so too is a busy body and is passionate for her career.  I instantly felt a connection: someone who understood my desire for a career and for being a parent.  I don't think I could have a full appreciation for either one without the other, but I had to be honest with myself and the world if I was going to make it work.

Fast-forward again- #TeamOlivier is born two years and four days after #TeamAmelie and I still had the same feeling as I did the first time.  I worked right up to the bitter end, but this time I decided that I was going to get back into the classroom before the end of the school year.  Yes, just 4 months after #TeamOlivier was born, I will be heading back to my place of passion & comfort.  Like a script written two years ago, people questioned my decision, my sanity and at times if I was a real person. Although our intentions are a little bit different this time (ie. we will get the whole summer off together in what otherwise would have only been 2 non-consecutive weeks), I still feel as determined and passionate about my job.

Having two kids is a whole new ball game, especially at the ages they are, so balancing the home/work scale is going to take some adjustment for everyone.  When I go back in just under two weeks I will be returning just half days, to try & meet a healthy balance of career vs home woman.

I understand there are financial constraints to sharing the parental leave, and that not every father is given the opportunity to stay at home with his children; however, I think we need to be honest with ourselves and our partners to find the right balance between all of our desires whether they be at home or at work.

What would you or did you do with having children and your career? Were you as definitive as I was in knowing where your passion lied and what you wanted?  I'd love to hear from you.

Sunshine & happiness today and forever.

Stephanie :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Post-pardom Shed

So the shed has begun! It was just a matter of time before reality was to set back in and it happened like a switch this week.

One of the glorious perks of being pregnant is having beautiful, full & shiny hair, but much like everything else you gain during pregnancy it too needs to be shed.  I have thin, fine, stick straight hair so when I get pregnant I was embracing the fullness I got because my hair would actually do something when styled.  It was an adjustment to the actual drying time it took, but that was just a minor con to what I was going to have for the next ten months.

But like everything else, all good things must come to a crashing halt and it was all halted this week when I kept picking hairs off of #TeamOlivier as if he had just rolled around with a beautiful dog (that we won't ever have).  At first it was one or two hairs and then it was constant.  I only realized they were my hairs when I was blow drying my hair one morning and they were falling out by the handful.  I knew it was a matter of time before my body realized the party was over & got back to normal business. Just wish I shed pounds as fast as hairs these days! ;)

I'm off to sweep, vacuum & pick hair off everything as if it was my full time job!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Change & Routines

In all my brilliance yesterday I decided to open up my calendar and see where we were at. BIG mistake! I am now crushed and full of anxiety because I only have 2 weeks left on maternity leave before I go back to the classroom part time. I don't like change and have a hard time getting back into routine after being out of them for so long.  I feel like I just started my leave and had all these weeks and months ahead of me to relax and not think about going back.

I am not good with change or transitions.  I am secretly thankful that both #TeamAmelie & #TeamOlivier came early and that I didn't have time to say "goodbye" to my students.  I wouldn't have been able to handle that.  Instead, I said "have a good weekend" to them at the end of the week and rode off into the sunset to deliver both babies.  With "TeamAmelie I didn't go back to the classroom before the end of the year, but this time (in order to take advantage of having the summer off together) I am going back for the last 10 days.  Both times are similar too in that I have to change schools for next year.

I have been declared surplus (that's for another post) and will be transferring to Elizabeth Park PS for next year to teach grade 1/2.  My students (or their families) don't know yet and I am dreading the moment I have to tell them.  Again, wishing I could just ride off into the sunset with my boxes and avoid the emotions of it all.

Today has really hit me with what I want to get done before I head back to the classroom and have been able to stroke a few things off my forever growing to do list.  #TeamOlivier finally has his name up on the wall and next up is dismantling the growing pile of tupperwear containers thrown in the drawer and making some sort of organized sense of it all.

While I am not all that excited to think of it as my maternity leave being over, I am extremely excited to think of the notion that DH will be home with the kids and therefore with the family each night instead of off coaching other people's children (that too for another post).

So until we are all reunited for 8 weeks of uninterrupted family time on June 28th, I will take full advantage of my last two weeks of my second maternity leave because I know I won't ever get this time back.

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Conquering The Fear- TORW 2015 Experience

With great anticipation that I was going to participate in the biggest race in Ottawa and be a minuscule in the figures that produce the largest running event in Canada, I came to terms that I was going to conquer this fear.  I was very open about my fear & spent hours meticulously planning  out how I was going to get there, where I was going to park, what time I wanted to be places and what was going to happen afterwards.  I watched the forecast for the 14 days that my weather app produces because that was going to be another factor that I couldn't control.  My training was sporadic over the last month, but I still felt confident that I could complete the race without wondering who's brilliant idea it was to sign up. Having a newborn & a toddler at home (during hockey school season at that) was not allowing me to get regular training in, but I felt physically capable and mentally prepared.

The morning before the race I packed up #TeamOlivier & headed downtown to the Congress Centre to pick up our race kits.  It was an inspiring yet intimidating experience that I'm not sure I was prepared for.  I got there right when it was opening and so were 10,000+ other people! I should have known from the parking lot what the actual pick up was going to be like…it was like going to the mall on December 24th and expecting to get that close parking spot right outside the door!  I lucked out that someone was pulling out of a spot as I came around the corner and it was big enough to park Marc's car easily.  Up the elevator we went to the first floor and what I saw I was not expecting from a race kit pick up…people were running as if it were Black Friday and there were only 10 big screen tv's! I just stepped back and really looked at where I had to go and made sure I wasn't going to cut anyone off who was in hot pursuit of their race bib.  The line up to get into the building snaked down the sidewalk.  Here I was thinking it would be nice & quiet because everyone else should be at work right?!

In watching the crowd I saw a lot of everything imaginable…the average person who was out to keep fit, the businessmen dressed to the nines who look like they forego lunch at the mall for a gym workout and a hot yoga class, blind or partially blind athletes with their guide dogs or chaperones helping them get where they need to be, new moms pushing strollers with wee ones and VERY pregnant ladies looking like they could give birth right then & there.  I was inspired yet intimidated by the shape & condition these runners were in.  I left there feeling a little down that I was "only running the 5km", but had to put things in perspective when I looked down at #TeamOlivier having a great time looking at everything.

Race Day Saturday:

It was a normal Saturday around our house with DH gone to coach in a hockey tournament and me & the kids playing with blocks, puzzles & baby dolls.  It was the first time I was going to run a race that wasn't first thing in the morning, so I wasn't sure what I should eat, if I should nap & it was a whole lot of time to sit & think about the race that I was already anxious about.

Much to my surprise, my plans were going off without a hitch…wardrobe worked when getting dressed, remembered all my race accessories, got downtown with good time (even ahead of expectations) and settled into the condo for a few minutes to relaxation.  About 45 minutes before the start time we made our way to the starting corals.  When we got there it was a manageable crowd…anxiety in check still.

Time was passing & the crowds got thicker…the first coral was off sharply at 4.  It was a waaaayyyyys before we even started shuffling along to move up to the starting line. With 10, 742 people registered in the 5km race, it was going to be a feat to get them all moving in the same direction.  At one point, the announcer at the start line informed us that the first runner had just crossed the finish line…and we were still 12 minutes before we were to start our coral!  YES…12 minutes!  The motivation tanked right then & there in the middle of Elgin street (not that I was expecting to win, more like just finish).  Before we knew it we were off.  I tried to keep my pace steady so that I could still have some gas in the tank to finish knowing that my training wasn't where I needed or wanted it to be.  

It was fun to run through the streets of Ottawa where I wouldn't have normally driven let alone been able to go out for a run.  The temperature turned out to be almost perfect and the decision to ditch the long sleeves before starting was a great decision.  There wasn't anything I'd change from the preparation pre race to running the race (other than my training).  Once we finished the "Runner Recovery Area" was a great size to be able to walk off the race.  Medals, food, & drinks were spaced out enough to keep the crowds moving and not all bunched up.

Overall, while my time was not a personal best (nor a personal worst) I will definitely be signing up again next year. From not thinking I could even manage the crowds to get to my starting position, to finishing the race with nothing to complain about I'd say #TORW2015 was a success.

I will be recommending the race to all my other 5km race friends just so that they can experience the crowds along the route, the armful of recovery food & drink & the sense of accomplishment that I  get to experience last night.

Well done Ottawa, well done!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.


New Year's Resolution 2014 - Take 2!

Roll back the clock to January 2014…the annual time of the year that we all talk about and set New Year's resolutions.  I have rarely set a resolution before because I think that change can always start and happen whatever the time of year, and we all know what happened to my blogging resolution. Somehow January 2014 was going to be different! Not sure about what we were chatting over or with in our hands, but good family friend Trish & I decided that our 2014 resolution was going to be to run a race a month together so that it kept us motivated to workout & committed to each other to actually do it.

We started off great in February running the Winterman 10 km race (yes, I had icicles on my eyelashes when I finished!) followed up by the St. Patrick's Day 10 km in March.  Each month we would show up, grumble at who's brilliant idea this was and then proceed to race.  Everything was great for the first 6 months of our resolution & then I was too sick to even think of putting my running shoes on (aka pregnant) for our next race.  I kept training when I could stomach the treadmill in hopes that I could do the next month's race, but my resolution was halted after just 4 months.

Fast forward to April 2015 and the resolution was not dead! Trish & I resurrected our unfinished business and (dragged ourselves to the finish) ran the 8km Manotick Miler to kick our race season off.  It was a MISERABLE result for me, but I have to think that 3 months prior I was delivering #TeamOlivier.  It's not an excuse I'm making, but something I have to consider when looking at the big picture.

Strike off April…but now what was I going to do for a May race? I have said since I started road races that I would never participate in the Ottawa Race Weekend simply because of the seer number of people.  I am not a lover of crowds at the best of time let alone when I have to run a race or have just finished one. Yet, enter co-worker, classroom neighbour & amazing friend Kim who texts me to say she just signed up for the 5km race weekend race & to let her know when I did so that we're in the same starting coral….Ummmmmm, haven't I said a million times over that I would never run in that race because of my anxiety over the crowd size?! OK, I guess I'm signing up!

Here's to another run and facing a fear at the same time. Can I bring my favourite blanket for comfort with me?!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.


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


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 :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Homecoming of Sorts

Yesterday was a typical Saturday with DH gone running the roads to the multitude of hockey tournaments and #TeamOlivier up at the crack of dawn.  The weather has FINALLY turned nice out so going to the park is more than just something to do in a few months.  This morning we were going to the park! As crazy as it might sound, I found the perfect moment to jump in the shower to get ready for the big outing, got everything & everyone lined up to walk out the door and it star to rain.  It's a good thing I didn't pre-warn #TeamAmelie that we were going to the park when I got her dressed because there would have been water falling from more than the sky. Let's pretend the plan is going as it should & pack everyone up in the truck for a road trip.  I knew that my mom was at a trade show of sorts so why not go check it out. #TeamOlivier slept the whole way there while #TeamAmelie sang me endless renditions of The Wheels on the Bus...this is going not too bad so far!

The trade show being in my hometown of which is fairly small I was prepared to know a few people, but I wasn't prepared for it to be like old homecoming week.  I felt like I knew every second person (good and bad)! It was great to see people that I haven't seen in YEARS and some decades ago.  I ran into an old elementary school classmate that I haven't seen in almost 20 years and we picked up like it had been mere months.  He has got two beautiful children himself (two girls) and a very energetic wife.  We chatted as long as our little people would let us and vowed to take care.  As I continued around the show I chatted with people from when I was younger, friends of my parents and anyone who gave compliments to #TeamAmelie and #TeamOlivier.  These encounters made me feel a little nostalgic and miss my hometown and wonder what people from my childhood were up too.  On my drive home (both kids sleeping because it was our normal nap time), I could help but think how cool it would be to have a class reunion soon since it would be 20 years next June that we all went to school together.  I don't know how we could pull it off...I'm not friends on Facebook with any of my classmates from elementary school and maybe I'm the only one curious about what everyone else is up to.

Until I can decide if it's something I want to try and coordinate, I am so happy I took the drive yesterday and ran into an old classmate.  Wish our children could have grown up together just like we did all those years ago!

Sunshine & happiness today & forever.

Stephanie :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ahhhh...Life has Changed!

Life. Has. Changed! 3 simple words that when put together in the same sentence have me shaking my head and wondering what I have got myself into!  Back in January I made my resolution to take the time to write a few times a week, however I didn't realize how life would change a few short weeks later!

Our family has grown by one, in welcoming #TeamOlivier to the clan and needless to say life as we knew it before is long gone.  We are over joyed now that he is here, but his non-sleeping routine and the constant need to be held has put me back.  When #TeamAmelie was born, she was the constant sleeper and amazing traveller that I didn't quite have to slow down at all.  Granted, I now have a 2 year old and a new born, but #TeamOlivier certainly doesn't have the same sleep patterns as the rest of the world.  He is also a grazer when he eats, so it feels like I am constantly feeding him and that he can never get enough.  Regardless, this little character is filling our hearts and our home with so much fun.

I have been making a list of posts and updates I need to get writing, so hopefully I'll be able to get back on top of things very shortly.

Until then, melt with these two little faces!

Sunshine & happiness today & everyday!

Stephanie :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How Do You Teach Reasonableness?!?

So as I laid in bed a few nights ago because I couldn't turn my brain off, I got thinking about the batch of marking that I had done earlier in the day.  It was a math formative assessment that followed a weeks worth of lessons on proportional reasoning and consequently the reasonableness of our answers.  What kept coming to my mind was "how do I go back and teach reasonableness again?" because it seemed every answer I read I wonder who would have submitted this if they had only re-read their answer to check if it made sense.  We've had a new vision in math these past few years in going to more of a problem solving approach (which I love by the way), so I try to keep an open mind when reading the work of my students.  I preach on a daily basis that we all take different routes to school in the morning and all end up at the same place, so we can do the same thing with a math problem.  However, I often make my students laugh when I ask if they think it's reasonable that I head to Montreal first before coming to school just to prove my point that sometimes our answers are not the best avenues to take.  But this isn't sticking with now what?!

As a part of our School Learning Team it was one of our focuses this year to get students to re-read their work before submitting it (regardless of the subject area) and I seem to be failing miserably with this focus.  I'm at a loss as to how to get this point across.  I've thought of giving them the whole "can't hand it in until you've read it over" or "you must take a minimum of 10 minutes to solve the problem before handing it in", but it isn't teaching the kids what to look for.  They are solving the problem to the best of their ability and if they knew the answer was not right then they wouldn't have written it in the first place.  I always consolidate answers to problems that have a high rate of inaccuracy and when I do the light clicks, but it doesn't always stay on for the next time.  So my big question is "now what?".  Please leave me any comments or suggestions here or on my twitter at @stephwardranger

Have a good week!

Stephanie :)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Commitment

WOW...I never knew I was so neglectful of my writing and reflection.  Life has certainly been taking a hold of my time and creating wonderful moments and memories, and now that I look back at them I wish I had taken the time to sit and write about them.  None the less, it's a new year so a new opportunity to make a commitment to take some time and write about life.

Over the past few years of my online absence I have established a wonderful teaching career and started a beautiful family.  Neither are in a stage of completeness, as I strive to improve my teaching each and every day, and I am in the final weeks of adding baby number 2 to the mix at home.

As 2015 is now here, I am making the world known of my "resolution" to make an effort to document our crazy, zoo like life a few times a week and to reflect on my teaching.

Now to gather my thoughts to know where to start writing & reflecting.

Stephanie :)