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 :)