SOL #9 (summer of learning 2021) trauma sensitive instruction by Tom Hierck & John F Eller @thierck @jellerthree

SOL #9 (summer of learning 2021) trauma sensitive instruction by Tom Hierck & John F Eller

A timely book. One of which I knew was coming (but not sure if I can share why…) thanks to a chat with one of the authors – my path has interwoven with Tom pretty much since I entered admin and was his gofer when he came to an event in Prince George. Last summer he zoomed in to our staff to give us a positive start to September (and we used his DNA activity share to better get to know our learners…

Anyways, as a firm believer in serendipity, I knew this book was coming out and during our schools June Day looking at school goals, I kept hearing statements around “needing to be more trauma informed…” and as I believe one of my jobs as principal is to be a synthesizer of ideas, I put them together and ordered a school set (teachers and support staff) of Trauma Sensitive Instruction and hoped they would arrive before the last day of school …. And thanks to serendipity, they did.

The book is going to be a tool to focus our lens on trauma sensitivity within our school community. Our school code of conduct for over a decade (long before I got here) has been lWe take care of Ourselves; Others; Our Place”. This book will lead us through monthly chapter focuses as I reinforce September being out making relationships and the conditions for learning to then get busy….later….

When I read the chapter headings I knew we would all benefit from refreshing our memories and refocusing our mission around being more trauma sensitive to be even more inclusive in ur practice…because as my soon to be hired vice principal (new position for our school) will learn – the number one job of the office is to get learners back into classrooms! (ready for learning of course).


Start with a welcome. Put strategies in place. Let them work for awhile – don’t quit on them too soon (I can’t remember who said it, but I recall being told a new class/personal intervention should take a minimum of 11 days – 2 weeks of practice and then the third week for everyone to buy into “this is the way”…) as the concepts aren’t new, though being mindful of trauma may be….

Both authors open their souls to their experiences around. Trauma and mental wellness – because honesty and transparency are helpful…

Empathy matters.

Chapter One: the impact of trauma on educators and students

September’s staff meeting think (knowing and. Hoping the book will have already be ready by everyone long before our gathering

How life impact the school experience – for the learner but also for the adults…

Make sure that the key words (trauma, and it’s descriptors) are understood by all to mean the same thing.

Be aware of the many varied points along the trauma spectrum – such as toxic stress or as those of us who use Zones of Regulation have called it: living in the yellow zone.

Love the review of the sections of the brain and “why” it may act in certain ways based on experiences ( I am working with a boy who always has an escape plan – which is part of why he is always last in/last out and often “patrolling” the halls checking in on key people). Sigh

Great reflection questions in the chapter… I am also mindful that this chapter may open some unpleasant reflections for many and there may be some disclosures that come to light…. But it’s going to open up some wonders about how we react to a student who suddenly leaves the classroom… acts unexpectedly (we are becoming big fans of reflecting on “expected vs unexpected behaviours” by individuals in and around classrooms and the school grounds)… and maybe paying a bit more attention to those students who are going out of their way to be helpful (appeasing)….

Chapter Two: the importance of attitude and mindset in working with trauma

October focus after a month focusing on building relationships…

I love the opening share that leads to the mindset of “get to” vs “have to”…it’s subtle but is a key mindshift – knowing when we have to do things and identifying when we get to “get to” moments! Trust me, a little survey showed more kids have to read rather than than get to….

Read Dweck’s Mindset book. My new VP will if they haven’t already… and Tom & John nicely highlight it again!

“Temporary suspension of opinion” is much nicer than my idea of being able to disassociate and compartmentalize to be unbiased in reaction to certain situations.

Focusing on trauma helps with both school outcomes and building student resilience for “the next time”. But also accepting students for who they are rather than who you wish they may be… not playing favourites… unconditionally accepting students. Researching expectations when necessary – even if it’s been gone over a thousand times…😜

Looking forward to more DNA shares next year: Dreams, Needs, & Abilities of individuals. Probably need to do one myself as well… then build on our gifts! Hmmm ties nicely into PBL…

Can you offer a clean slate/sea of forgetfulness to have a student leave an incident behind and then move forward? ( we are trying a restitution framework on paper so that multiple adults can be involved to get through and past a ‘big deal’).

This will be an interesting chapter to reflect on. It’s going to lead to good discussions around what should an office referral be? Result/Consequence? Restitution? Respite?

Chapter Three: classroom structures to support trauma-sensitive practices

November reflection time on how things are going

I’m pretty sure this will be the chapter most skim to right away. What’s the magic solution? No spoilers….just strategies…!

Check-ins are important. As I have said, I appreciate it when a kid has their hat on pulled low and a hoodie drawn so tight there isn’t space for a straw… they may need to chat with someone trusted…. But it’s less about the check in and more about predictable stable classrooms – something I was called out on when I was talking about my chaotic classroom and a teacher who got to work with me called BS that while there were many moving parts, everyone knew what (and why) was going on. Sidebar: this is also why I never spent too much time decorating my classroom – I preferred to cocreate it so that everyone knew where things were and could give input if it didn’t feel right. It was “our” classroom after all. Since proven a good thing by others spending more time exploring anxiety and regulation have noted… sometimes less is more even though there are many beautiful classrooms – just a thought….

Oooh – nice template to identify learning environment potential problem area… and glad I brought several copies of Tom’s book “7 keys” last year – I suspect this will get some re-reads for thinking about the classroom culture.

Great reminder to be mindful of movement…

I’m looking forward to the sharing time at this months staff meeting! Especially connecting strategies to earlier chapters (brain regions and behaviours…)

Chapter Four: positive relationships with students

December is not the happiest time for all, for many it can be a triggering time of year – so time to focus on the positive

Nature of trust. Focusing on strengths helps build trust… being mindful of tone… feedback.

Remember that children see their environment as normal… so if in trauma…how will they know (sidebar that this is an important share from Howard Stern producer Gary Del’Abate who shared he didn’t know what normal was until he brought serious girlfriends home -and visited their family- to learn that how his mom acted was not the way every mom acted…if you don’t know, you can’t know…)

It is also important to make “deposits” in emotional bank accounts (bucket filling) as giving to others does not deplete your account… withdrawals…are frequent with many adults who disappoint (I was working with a student who has been abandoned by every adult he has been in contact with. Three of us on staff are ready to “pop in” to the high school in September to show we are still watching out for him (and then we will remind each other to continue some pop ins until he walks the stage….)

Caring matters. So does humour – but I like the warning about sarcasm – it is okay to be self sarcastic but not to poke fun at the students – too often sarcasm weakens the relationship. Best not to use because it too easily goes wrong.

Feedback (verbal and through body language) matters. Descriptive and specific is better than generic. Nice shoes vs I love how the shoes light up with every step – bet they make you run fast! Be specific, share an example, provide a rationale fo a change, state desired behaviour, check for understanding, re-explain/clarify if necessary and then share your wish to follow up. (Then give time for ‘it’ to happen)

One of the monthly wonders will be: what may happen to the teacher-student relationship if it’s not the teacher but the pvp working with the student on their assets? How do we find time to work more collaboratively on this (I’m thinking our school restitution paper/plan may help with this…)

Identifying who is having a hard time making relationships.

What feedback successes do we have an opportunity for before winter break?

Chapter Five: trauma-sensitive classroom management strategies and techniques

January – back from the winter break and a good time to reflect on what has (and has not) worked so far and share ideas with each other

Focus on student learning needs (physical, social and emotional) aka establishing the conditions for learning knowing that some will have unmet needs in their home environment.

Identify teaching needs (stable environment, gauge students emotional states etc)

Have a variety of strategies but be consistent where needed (don’t give up on something too soon or try too many new things at the same time). Redirect off-task behaviours (I like the Dr Ross Greene idea of tell them, then give them time to do it – it may not be right away… but give them some processing time – I usually swing back in 5 mins thanks to the timer on my watch)

Good lists of ideas…as you provide choices… avoid power struggles (leave those for the pvps) with one point on the ‘broken record’ strategy which I have used but you gotta “know your client” as my repetition was triggering to a student – as our school counsellor debriefed with the idea that we put in place with more success – kstate it once and let it go’

Ooh: “real power and control come from your influence with a child, not your dominance over a child”.

I think the monthly reflection will be around the chapters reflection questions and debating if this should have been September’s read…. Thus why I like it for the new calendar year…!

Chapter Six: parent and family engagement

February – time for our student leds and planning for year end activities that can better(?) engage and reflect our learning community.

How to balance engagement as a positive interaction between the guardian, child and teacher. Especially in families that had a negative school experience themselves… engagement and involvement are different mindsets… and need an avoidance of judgement, listening skills, staying focused, and an awareness of family cultures. Being mindful of systemic discrimination, racism, traumas. And avoiding edu-talk (jargon and codes and abbreviations – take the time to use all the words)

I am looking forward to looking at ways to increase family engagement (especially as the pandemic continues to influence schooling…)


Looking forward to using this book this year- especially as I further encourage reframing the “p” in ptsd to mean “personalized” There are some great takeaways and a strong framework to help focus our attention to a “lens of trauma” as what works for students with trauma will work for all as well. Glad I got to see this book in time to share with staff for a summer read and school year retread!

Strongly recommended to others bookshelves! And as guides for their own schools and districts moving forward!

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SOL #8 (summer of learning 2021) Once more on boredom thanks @meeri_kim

SOL #8 (summer of learning 2021) Once more on boredom thanks @meeri_kim

Stumbled on a neat article:

Liked this part: “When things lose value or meaning, there’s a good chance that you will be bored by them”. Connection to when “kids are bored at school” perchance??

And I appreciated the reminder that “not all boredom is bad” – sometimes it is a signal that something ‘different’ is needed rather than more of the same… and at time ‘boredom’ helps the brain have time to synthesize information (as my daughter likes to point out when I point out she’s likely due for a break from her studies…. ‘That’s what sleep is for’…) and I started putting 5 minute “boredom breaks” into my class schedule x randomly but of a “set time duration”. No doodling. No reading. Just spending time with the brain….

to help show that boredom is uncomfortable… and ponder… “why?”

As the experiment found – ten minutes can be… uncomfortable…. When I’ve mentioned this in workshops, I’ve provided a lone minute to try this and love to see the antsy behaviours spread…. 5 minutes…. Well, I know the kids I’ve worked with have even made requests for a “bored break” because it was a nice change in the day…

I also appreciate the share that “boredom” isn’t a new thing… though we like to blame the negatives on the current context… the over abundance of screen distractions was the monotony and fatigue of ‘modern industry’ which was the ‘noonday demon’ in the 4th century…

And I don’t help things as when my kids (home & school) say they’re bored, I don’t retort with the too-common “I’ll find something for you to do” (unpleasant of course) but rather a sighed “you’re so lucky… I wish I was bored….enjoy it while you can….”

Knowing too much ‘boredom’ leads to alcohol, drug experimentation, dangerous behaviours…. and then links the brain to anxiety and depression (worst part in anxiety is the time the brain likes to ponder the few “unanswerable questions” that the brain ‘normally’ can only spend a few minutes on – mortality and the scope of the universe). This leads to ‘state boredom’ — which isn’t good or bad,” said psychologist James Danckert at the University of Waterloo. “If you’re high in boredom proneness, however, there really aren’t any positives to be associated with that. It’s not good for your mental health to have this sort of chronic sense of being disengaged or disconnected with the world.”

And a significant takeaway for me as our school is doing a serious dive into using a “trauma informed lens” next year (using Trauma Sensitive Instruction by Tom Hierck & John F Eller) is how the article pointed out a connection between (head) trauma and increased boredom… gonna keep an eye on this!

I like the summation of the article where boredom in moderation can lead to creativity… exploration… pursuit of meaning… all good things. 5 minutes at a time?

In the meantime I am hopeful for some mindful boredom opportunities during this summer break.

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SOL #7 (summer of learning 2021) early thinking towards school opening

I know – it’s supposed to be summer, but my ‘break’ has been delayed, and since I have been doing extra ‘work’ (prepping to welcome a new position to our school: a vice-principal!!) I have also been ‘looking forward’ to September – timely as the US CDC has come out with some guidelines as many schools in the US open well before the traditional opening for Canada (after labour day): article:

This is a systematic strategy involving multiple interventions to reduce risk, such as including the use of indoor masks for unvaccinated students and teachers. As much as people are expecting a ‘return to normal’ this is a good reminder that ‘normal’ will have a lot of elements of September 2020 rather than 2019. In BC we opened (and stayed) with face to face instruction – albeit with masks (eventually) and as it is currently on a few people under the age of 12 eligible for a vaccine… that means most elementary students will be unvaccinated and I kinda anticipate masks will continue to be commonly worn inside schools.

And there are other mitigation measures, too, such as an investment in improved ventilation using federal Covid relief funds and keeping students at home when they are having any possible symptoms of Covid-19. All these measures added together will substantially reduce transmission risk in schools. Ventilation is tricky because while many schools and classrooms have ‘good’ ventilation setups, many could still be ‘better’. Which means is good, good enough? And when it comes to keepings students at home when they are having symptoms…. the ‘school as daycare’ comes with the regular “sorry, I can’t pick them up just now” phone calls…. who determines ‘stay at home when sick’ criteria?

For many schools, it wouldn’t be possible to have all children back full time and still keep 6-foot distancing. That’s why the CDC says to try to keep 3-foot distancing, and to employ other mitigation measures to make up the difference if needed. 3-foot distancing? hahahahahahahaha 😂

the CDC is not offering any guidance for how to verify vaccination status. honour code?

If your child is not vaccinated, though, he should be wearing a mask in indoor spaces. Back to my first point in bold.

Even if a vaccine were authorized right now for younger children, it would take several weeks to complete the two-dose inoculations and wait two weeks beyond that to be deemed fully vaccinated. Thus September….. I’m actually okay with the asynchronous assemblies via YouTube though the cohort recesses (2 classes at a time) were a strain on scheduling.

Our children have lost so much during the pandemic. This I do disagree with – in the sense that many children learned that there are multiple ways to demonstrate learning. There has likewise been a greater emphasis on the conditions for learning – adding/including mental wellness.

And the final takeaway that is still of wonder: I’d definitely make sure that you monitor what your child is doing after school. It would be a shame to follow strict Covid-19 protocols during school, only to engage in high-risk activities outside of the classroom that add unnecessary risk to your child and your family. After school programs and daycares mix the cohorts that we worked so hard to keep isolated from 9-3… so it makes a bit more of a wonder….if communities are enabling ‘high risk activities’ outside of classrooms, what is the point of those strategies in-school… such as cohorts; this may very well better connect with the idea that school infections reflect the community.

If the CDC is thinking this way, I’m guessing more will think these ways as well… and once again, we can see how things work out as schools start re-opening and once again we can learn from their experiences to plan our own opening!

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SOL #6 (summer of learning 2021) @bcpvpa ENSL/Shortcourse final reflections

SOL #6 (summer of learning 2021) @bcpvpa ENSL/Shortcourse final reflections

Being grateful for the people who have come into my sphere – specifically though shortcourse/ENSL

The “new” PvPs I have been able to share a table with – even though I am usually a table facilitator, I’d be lying if I did t say I didn’t get a lot of learning each day… each time I have had the opportunity to be part of this annual event (still prefer the on site version to the virtual attendance…) This year, more than any other, my table showed a willingness and understanding of the importance of decolonizing our systemic structure. Even with a pause to consider the order of a land acknowledgement vs the playing of our national anthem in assemblies…. And why I am redefining our gathering as not-assemblies, because I will be “taking a knee” until we get a key visual change: the renaming of the horrific “Indian Act” of Canada. We need a systemic shakeup.

To some leaders (but certainly not all)

Dr Mark Edwards – his calm wisdom and reflective demeanour models mindful leadership. It is not just what we do, but what we think and what we reflect on. Every wind up is inspiring and empowering. Every conversation is a treasure.

Terry Beaudry – “be the best warrior for the human spirit you can be”… first got to know Auntie Terry via shortcourse and is one of the few reasons I would consider relocating to kelowna…. Her wisdom and challenges are always empowering and remind me that I can always do more… and do better… and still be a dad and be at home, not always being at the school…

Jessica Antosz – first my table leader… then recruited me to be a table leader… it feels weird that she’s about to retire – but her leading and doing has impacted a generation of educators in BC. It will be … different… not seeing her at the varied BCPVPA events and activities… but her fingerprints are everywhere, and as with all areas of education, she has provided amazing shoulders upon which the rest of us can stand on to do more…

Thank you everyone – this is not a paid event, we are all here because we know how important it is to give back as others provided their time and experience for us previously….

And now, ironically, I get to go for a chat with our superintendent because it looks like our school is gaining a vice principal…. Can’t wait to summarize the week with them!!

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SOL #5a (Summer of learning 2021) Listening Leadership – @ShaneShafir as referenced in @bcpvpa ENSL/Shortcourse

SOL #5a (Summer of learning 2021) Listening Leadership – @ShaneShafir as referenced in @bcpvpa ENSL/Shortcourse

Love the direct connection to Carol Dweck and her work on mindsets as we explore a “listening mindset”

Listening mindset reminds us to:

• slow down

• Use a thoughtful process to get an outcome

• Listen before making decisions

• Harness the wisdom of the group

• Distribute leadership to others

In contest, a Telling mindset instruct us to:

• Move fast; be efficient

• Drive toward outcome; ignore process

• Use authority to make decisions

• Be the expert in the room

• Hold on to positional power

this book focus: equity (and book was mentioned during a session looking at de-colonizing our education system.

The reflection at every school should be: would I send my children here?

Emphasis of Safirs reflection: I was unprepared for the social emotional complexity of the job (of pvp)

The importance of being a listening leader by: using stories – to share out and learn in; through rigorous intellect – grapple with complex ideas; practical tools – strategies & skills; via inquiry – good questions leading to more (better) questions

Three key sections. Awareness; Relational Capital; and Complex Change

1. Awareness

There is transformational power in listening – people and cultures have stories – the more we learn the more we know and the better we can do! Integrity can be hard – as CS Lewis put it: doing the right thing even when no one is watching; Brené Brown says: choosing courage over comfort.

Taking action for good reasons because there is no point waiting any longer… a great example showing education activism taking on systemic and racial discrimination.

And taking a look at my schools lens for 2021/22+, dealing with trauma…. The importance of emotional intelligence – self awareness, self management, social awareness (empathy), and relationship management. Trauma – an “emotional response to a terrible event” is why I like to redefine the “P” in ptsd to ‘personalized’ rather than ‘post’ because often the event live on longer than others would like to admit… but love that Safir points out it does not have to be a specific incident – living in poverty (or as we have termed “living in the yellow zone and never in the green” as we use Zones of Regulation…). Because along side poverty are other intangibles such as feeling powerless; disillusionment; witnessing events – and that even includes secondary trauma for people (educators) who work in communities with many living with trauma. Hard truths that we need to listen to.

We (students and teachers) can’t check our emotions at the door and not need to deal with them from 9-3(ish) – we won’t solve all the problems either, but as we create the conditions for learning… listening can help…

And love the reminder that data needs perspective as well, including knowing if the data gives the info needed – sometimes we want to know what… but more often how and why…


Most of our learning comes via listening but we don’t spend as much time fine tuning how to listen (I’m sure I’ve blogged on this before but a quick search didn’t find any – and Safir has already teased “deep listening” in a later chapter…

Ooh – love some of the core tenets of listening leadership- the teasers include: feed the lizard, calm the amygdala, reimagine rewards, water for deep roots, and embrace at orientation.. pg 75. You gotta check it out!

And the descriptions of the brain parts is very accessible: stem = survival; limbic = emotions; neocortex = synthesis. But she writes or better!

So address basic needs first. Consider “joy” as a need as well…. Connects well why the Finnish mode includes breaks after 45 mins of work – yes we focus on the “play” time, but that is also a time to rehydrate and refuel the body and brain…

We need to better consider the cultural conditions that are perceived as threats – even when not intended as such…

Listening facilitates alliances across difference. Now that’s a takeaway.

Love the SCRF model of threats as well…with the reminder of how triggering “can I give you some feedback…” can be…. So slow down and detect social threats….

S tatus- do there value me here?

C ertainty – do I know what’s expected and what’s next?

A utonomy – do I have a sense of agency and will my actions make a difference?

R elatedness – do I belong & am I safe?

F airness- am I advantaged or disadvantaged?

How do we listen for equity… hearing and looking for racial bias and cultural insensitivity… being aware of structural racism, unconscious bias, cultural differences, gender… for me this includes no longer requiring someone to “look me in the eyes” as I’ve learned how this ‘value’ is not a universal check in for respect and confirmation of understanding as some wish it were…ooh and indeed this was mentioned a little later in the book!

But as good news… if biases have been learned, they can be unlearned…

and new strategies mindfully used…

2. Relational capital

Deep listening…. vs Strategic listening… Deep: the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person..

Strategic: supports us to influence a persons thinking or behaviour. Still requires care and compassion, but focused towards thoughtful action…

Deep: attention to nonverbal cues, mature empathy and affirmation

Strategic: orientation to vision, reflective inquiry and a bias towards action

Principles of Deep listening:

Power lies in relationship

Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be

Emotional distress interferes with caring behaviour and clear thinking

Everyone is a potential ally

Love the idea of micro affirmations – little positives…

And a nice reminder that “bias” is not inherently bad – you may have a bias to take action and do different(iated). But also that there is structured and unintended bias that is in existence and does marginalize learners and families and make them…. outliers…. because ‘expectations’ and ‘respect’ can look very different based on cultural… and familial… experiences, and again most North American schools are set up with a framework that makes ‘good culture’ appear very euro-centric and middle class in terms of “values”. Not that they’re bad values… heck I used to be criticized that I wanted to see a Starbucks on every corner around the world – to which I agreed – I wish that the biggest problem in the world for everyone were ‘first world problems’ and that waiting for a doppio was the biggest problem in anyones day…

Great reminder to see parents as allies and to not be afraid to ask them questions. Or visit them (something I do with all my kindys in the summer leading up to the return/start of school!) I make it clear there are no expectations but a reminder of who I am after meeting them once at our welcome to kindergarten…I ask questions but don’t ask them to show me the inside of the house because for some that is a tad too intrusive… and it’s nice to see how far/close they are to the school…

And when it comes to listening to the students…. Sometimes it’s hard – this year I had a couple boys say “my teacher doesn’t like me….” and that’s hard – but I need to validate their experience, because interpretation trumps intention…

We can’t disregard what students are thinking and feeling… if we want them to have ownership in their learning community…

Even harder can be the post it’s with “I wish my teacher knew….” prompts… but it gives voice… and then you can expand to things like a “one word check in” or talking circles… restorative circles… inquiries… questions that lead to more questions… providing time to think…

But… shouldn’t children be seen and not heard? Will it undermine authority? Or clarify it…?

3. Complex change

There is not a clear map to follow on the road of school transformation – and yes there may be times you feel (or are) lost… because leaders may be in charge, but they’re not in control… we/you can’t tell people what to do… they have to discover certain things themselves… with some guidance… probably why I hate pro-d and programs that are too “list like” and like lego instructions (or ikea furniture….) and of course there are many inequities… but there are some things to expect:

The path is full of detours…

Your initial conditions matter.

Patterns will emerge snd guide you…across all levels…

You need to leverage self organizing behaviours.

New unexpected patterns will emerge….

It’s very non linear.

Complex challenges have no known solutions… complicated problems are important, multi faceted and have known solutions to explore…

Six steps:

1. Tell the current state story

2. Name an equity imperative

3. Identify a few simple rules

4. Create a “skinny” plan

5. Establish a few clear metrics

6. Distribute leadership; build capacity

“What are we afraid of? For 15 years, and in some ways since the invention of public schools, we have suffered under an industrial model that essentially ignored the human element of education.”

Leverage listening skills:

Kids and adults feel validated I’d you repeat back what they said – even if you don’t agree with it…

Every team has its own culture… and non verbal cues matter in groups as much as individuals… and everyone can be triggered… so be mindful!

Get to “why”…

Remember a metaphor: the host sets the table…

Or the metaphor of four seasons… in winter trust is low, anxiety high; in spring trust is building and anxiety decreases; by summer the group has coalesced around its mission; finally in autumn, team members harvest the fruits of their labour snd celebrate successes.

Key routines: annual/biannual retreats (offsite); listening campaigns; learning leader chats; team one-on-ones; safe-to-learn inquiry cycles.

Do: memory maps (what has shaped who we are); fishbowl discussions;

I really like the idea of safe to learn plans and instead of getting g year plans, only having teachers focus on what their plans are for the first 4-6 weeks.

The future comes from where we are now…so we need to look thoughtfully at our present… “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for”

And then the appendices – Safir lots of useable strategies and examples to build from! Im thankful this book was brought up in our BCPVPA ENSL/Shortcourse session this first full week of July. Got some great ideas to percolate on over summer! Definitely worth a read to explore some positive listening strategies

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SOL #5 (summer of learning 2021) @bcpvpa ENSL/Shortcourse day 3 – Relational Leadership

SOL #5 (summer of learning 2021) @bcpvpa ENSL/Shortcourse day 3 – Relational Leadership

(Can’t believe I forgot my Apple Pencil at home… so notes are more rambly than intended…)

Cultural Leadership Panel

Wendell Hiltz Crystal Larsen Christine Byrd

Culture: takes the group to change the group…

Gotta get to know your people

What defines a “positive culture”? Strictly a euro-centric middle class POV?

Equity: we understand systemic barriers are in place.

Cultural humility – humility is the foundation of everything.

When fish are not doing well, we focus on fixing the aquarium… if a garden is unhealthy, do we only focus on the plants…?

James Baldwin: lI can’t be,unevenly what you say, because I see what you do.”

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Always better to call people “in” than call people “out”.

We don’t know what we don’t know. It is hard work because it is heart work.

Knowing when not to make assumptions – I welcomed a family who appeared to be of a particular religion but I opened up with questions rather than assumptions (chose not to open with Salaam….) because we can’t, shouldn’t make assumptions based on outer coverings…

Know your own biases. And know when (like on equity scans) to admit “I don’t know”. If inequities are easy to see, they’re easy to remedy – it’s when they are systemic/embedded that they become more challenging. But creating communities of respect means we will allow mistakes being made.

Take care of yourself…. Get to know new things by doing new things… can’t serve people if we are not strong…

Becoming…. Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, so better. We are always becoming better educators… better leaders of education. Remembering the 6 key tenets (not in order of priority…)







Book suggestions! Cultivating Genius – Gholdy Muhammad

Onward: cultivating emotional resilience in educators – Elena Aguilar

Nuance – Michael Fullan (I did a big reflection on this for one of last years Principled magazine!

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SOL #4 (summer of learning 2020) burned out still?

SOL #4 (summer of learning 2020) burned out still?

“Summers off” – sure…

I mindfully say, unless I’m panicking, there’s no reason to panic. But the past year has been the longest stretch where I count down the days to a break… summer 2020, winter 2020, spring 2021 and now summer 2021. I like to say “we make the days count rather than count them down”…. But not so much over the past 13 months. I also know the year has been challenging when a person at the board office who works 12 months and usually is likewise indifferent to the “breaks” – knew how many days there were left a month out.

So knowing there has been extra pressure on many of us who usually aren’t much affected by the year end pressures, it is not a surprise that the toll on wellness of many…

Heck it was noted in our BCPVPA ENSL/Shortcourse by our observers how tired everyone looked. Usually there is some tired people in attendance but the excitement usually perks people up sooner than we have seen this year. We are even taking a day “off” mid week rather than 4 consecutive days. And while some are griping that they’d prefer to be done Thursday, I’m thinking that the day off might be well needed. At least for me it’s a day I can get a couple more things done on our outdoor school garden… something I’d prefer to put off….

But 4/5 teachers self declaring their mental health declining…. Not gonna contradict that – just gives us more reason to do some positive self care (not necessarily doing nothing – sometimes “more” is helpful here… more walks and books helps me…)

Summers are always “not paid time” for teachers, but for our teachers and support staff, a break from the grind and an increase in self care is a must. But we can’t confuse some of the escapes we seek that “feel good” with those that are actually “good for us”. Binge a series. Have drinks with friends. Escape. Just not for too long…. A balance is always important and essential to be mindful that we all experienced stressful times trying to minimize the risk for exposures at school – and it’s not over yet and will not be completely over by September either. This is the “new way” of education or eduAction with a slight mis-spelling! A time to decompress relax and make positive actions to keep ourselves ready for what’s next in Ed!

Stay healthy in both mind and body!

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SOL #3a (summer of learning 2021) Storientation from @bcpvpa ensl/shortcourse on instructional leadership

SOL #3a (summer of learning 2021) Storientation from @bcpvpa ensl/shortcourse on instructional leadership

I was reintroduced to a beloved term today during our @bcpvpa @unbceduc ENSL/Shortcourse: Storientation

Using the power of stories (both perusal and narrative) to deepen understanding and empathy. From Shane Safir – The Listening Leader

Because we all learn through stories….

Example from presentation: Student chooses a book for a school read aloud was The Name Jar – picked because of the importance of names; student then shared the importance of their name. And this led to a discussion with students asking if instead of their ‘English name’ if their cultural name could be on their leaving certificate. Tangible and actionable based on the sharing of stories.

People want to be heard – so they will listen to stories so that their story will likewise be heard.

It made me reconnect with an edutopia article I read:

(Glad I was able to find it!)

It also led to a good discussion in our bcpvpa table group about cultural awareness – how everyone has personal, family and cultural stories that are all important. Much like I believe ‘names’ are important, and pronouncing a name is something I always work on – I don’t like it when people use ‘English names’ to make things ‘easier’. Similarly concepts such as ‘making eye contact’ and ‘small talk’ can be problematic for some cultures – and if we are being collaborative, to make a connection we have to be humble and meet people where they are, and where they are from.

Stories matter. I regularly use stories and metaphors to help learners of all ages – and I love listening to stories from others. Heck, I became a librarian because of my love of stories – both fiction and non-fiction. Weird that the one I struggle with remains ‘books on mp3’ – I love listening to podcasts and radio shows, but for some reason the long format ‘story’ on tape/cd/mp3 doesn’t give me joy in the same way that other stories do… Gonna do a quick read of the Listening Leader and see how this impacts me before our ENSL/Shortcourse group gets back together on Thursday!

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SOL #3 (summer of learning 2021) @bcpvpa day 2: instructional leadership

SOL #3 (summer of learning 2021) @bcpvpa day 2: instructional leadership

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SOL #2a (summer of learning 2021) Change

SOL #2a (summer of learning 2021) Change

Change is uncomfortable.

I wasn’t happy to learn that Howard Stern was taking ‘summer off’ (really just missing a couple of weeks, but each of his shows is usually around 4 hours of content… so even one show is a lot…)

I wasn’t happy to learn that Mo Amir put out his last @Vancolour podcast … for now at least – I was getting used to my Mo-nday kickoff podcast.

Reframing the role of colonization… we need to change the ‘we didn’t know that history’…. In BC we have a rich tradition of exploring ‘ancient cultures’ with a focus on Rome and Egypt… sometimes China and South America… why the absence of North American reflection…. because of the lack of textbook? Is there (as one of my favourite podcasts says) “something they don’t want us to know”? We need to change our mindsets… significantly…

Name changes will remain key in the media – from the Edmonton Football team changing its name to Elks (though the plural of elk is…. elk) and other sports teams…. Many sports teams – professional to college to high school.. are likewise doing a rethink… (one schools team names were Sinners and Saints – care to guess which gender got each name….?) But also communities – my own hometown of Powell River is rethinking “Powell” because of his association with Residential School expansion at the dawn of the 20th century… and changes are hard, but they do happen – from Berlin Ontario becoming Kitchener…. The Queen Charlotte Islands becoming Haida Gwaii. 

The impact of colonization also needs to be re-examined. We have long focused on ‘benefits’ rather than take a holistic approach to it’s impact on lands around the world. And how colonization continues to impact many in subtle ways – a recent one that I was reminded of was the misspelling of my last name: the addition of an “R” to turn Landy to LandRy – and recently learned that even our family last name is a colonized ‘adaption’ from the original(ish) spelling in anglicized alphabet: Landij – admittedly the ij combo looks very much like a y, so…. is pronouncing names is ‘close’ close enough?

Changing roles in education also makes a difference – there all to many stories of what happens when a teacher ‘joins the dark side’ and becomes a pvp (principal/vice principal) with many literally losing friendships over the days and weeks of the transition. And likewise, the importance of ‘relationships’ likewise shifts from a focus solely on ‘the kids’ to the kids, parents, other teachers, other staff members, and the people at the board office… the board itself… including a fiduciary responsibility to act in a way to reflect the board as a positive example of public education. At all times. Essentially rather than being part of the provincial teachers union collective, we are on personal service contracts as “representatives of the board” in education matters. 

Change happens. It always has…. it’s why schools should be very different now compared to “then” (whenever you choose ‘then’ to be… because we know so much ‘more’ each year). And priorities change – for ourselves and for others. Sometimes people need a break and can’t continue the radio/podcast you’ve become dependent on…. But it’s not about everyone liking decisions, it’s about trust – and trusting that change happens for reasons that are usually good… or should at least be ‘better’ and when change doesn’t feel that way (cough cough voting changes in some states) it needs to be called out… 

As Kidder said when creating an Ethical Decision Making Process (SOL #2 part 3) 

A way of looking at the world… it is a process…. It is a compromise… it is a lens… 

Change is good.

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