Day 9 (of 189) Terry Fox and Teacher Wellness (a prethink to Sunday’s 7pm pst #bcedchat )

Day 9 (of 189) Terry Fox and Teacher Wellness (a prethink to Sunday’s 7pm pst #bcedchat )

Friday the 13th and a Terry Fox Run. And a full moon. And the end of the first full week of school. A lot to be tired about…and worried about – even though the statistics show the full moon has no impact on behaviours and Paraskevidekatriaphobia is just a superstition. It is a good time to make sure the adults on the building are looking after ourselves as well as everybody else.

My connection to the annual Terry Fox Run that has been happening for 37 years is that we help others by helping ourselves. Staying healthy is important. So is supporting others whose health needs more support. Terry proved how one person can start a movement – one that has officially spanned generations. Little did he know how his work would inspire so many for so many years after his run!

The mindshift from me to we; when we help each other, we help each other as well.

Healthy competition- we wanted to have our school run before the community event and thereby before pretty much every other school.

Sometimes more is less – sometimes having those “extras” help us – I know the long hours of coaching has always made me feel better; as a mentor said (regarding chronic pain) rest is rust – sometimes we need to be involved in more in order to feel better (even though – maybe especially because – it is counter intuitive)

The Terry Fox Run leads me nicely into the #walkingcurriculum 30 day walk challenge which I will be doing by walking to school for the next month-worth of days (though I am worried about the liquid sunshine of the Sunshine Coast… maybe I’ll have a free pass for days with extra meeting complications….or i’ll just level up on my Apple Watchs monthly challenge and reach my goal 5 days early – that works too.

Teachers need to watch our own mental and physical wellness s we are always in the bar mindset to work with our students and each other. I probably should’ve stayed home one day this week, but this is an area that I am a better supporter than modeller. I’ve been fortunate that most of my sick days in my career have been for specialist appointments and I know that sometimes it is easier to have an off-day than to prep for another adult (and prep who they will be working with!).

Wellness is tricky. It’s why we need to do things like e Terry Fox Run for our own ongoing health. We can also learn from Terry who showed one person can indeed make a difference. And when we work together, in sickness and in health, we can achieve more than the sum of our individual parts. Yet each part needs to take care of itself. So indulge in that extra nap, but also go for a walk…even if it’s raining – just avoid bears like the one that came towards my son and I on Thursday night as we went to stretch our legs. Yes, it was scary. Yes we both wanted to run. No I did not get a picture…

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Day 8 (of 189) value of pro-d days

Day 8 (of 189) value of pro-d days

Had my sister-in-law ask me an equestion:

I’m having a disagreement with my co-workers, who think professional days are a joke. They are saying that the teachers don’t have to go to whatever the development day is each time and some don’t ever go. I said that wasn’t true and that I thought they had to do most and could maybe miss one or two a year. What’s the rule?

Now, the first reminder is that (in BC) teachers gave up “days” at the end of the school year in order to spread days for professional development throughout the year to encourage ongoing learning. So, “getting rid of Pro-D days” would just mean summer vacation starts a week earlier. And we would be having a tougher time aligning tomes for teachers to get together and learn with/from each other; our “October day” is tremendous as it allows specialty associations to hold events that professionals from around (and beyond) can attend. There is a date in February that neighbouring districts sometimes try to align so they can hold “bigger events”, but is not the same date across the province. The other days are also dispersed as wanted by each district.

Is every Pro-D fully attended? While I wish otherwise, there are some events that are not taken as seriously because of other looming concerns. The dates provided are important opportunities for collaborative learning, though there are some that don’t find value in it…and a few that actively find ways to disengage on these days. There is also an option for “self directed” pro-d where individuals can start or continue some learning that is personally relevant (not skiing or shopping) and the union (bctf) monitors that – principals are to know that an individual is doing self-directed pro-d and where they are, but then we trust to professional practice.

And of course, there are also events that educators take part in above and beyond the scheduled pro-d days. For example, next Friday is our districts pro-d day and our school is doing some work on our school goal on outdoor learning. After that I am catching a ferry so I can go to another district in order to (finally!) meet one of my twitter favourites and a Saturday workshop on Passionate Learners (and get a selfie – first world goals!)

Are pro-d days throughout the year valuable? Absolutely. Do they create some child care issues? Sure – as do winter spring and summer vacations. But school is not a daycare service and ongoing learning does remain important – as my sister-in-law also said, you wouldn’t want your child taught by a teacher who graduated university 20 years ago and hasn’t looked at anything about learning/education since – so much has changed around what we know about the brain; how it learns, how it responds to trauma (yep, even infants can experience long term impacts) how there are differences so there is no one best way (even my beloved PBL works for most, but not 100% but.. PBL is flexible as even a test can be a project 😜) and how rote memorization often doesn’t create long lasting impressions and new ideas about how educators use programs/tools/etc as our system continues to better personaliZe learning.

After all, schools are different today, and we need to keep talking about how and why they are different. More anxiety? Yep. More disruptive students? Sure. Why? Easy: we (as a school and society) are no longer as ‘ready’ to give up on people. I like to point out that my grade 8 class was (approx) 120 students (of around 135 grade 7s) and about 60 of us walked across the stage. Those numbers are no longer acceptable -not that people were happy about them back in the day, but education is doing a lot of different ideations and thinking around how to keep students engaged in their learning journeys and a lot of this comes via those pro-d days.

So the rule? Find professional learning that is meaningful to you. If a scheduled conference doesn’t seem to be a good fit, explore what else is available. But also take chances – sometimes going to an unrelated conference sparks the brain and makes new connections and generates original ideas. UDL (universal design for learning) came from the school of architecture. And some of the “general” conference/seminars/talks on assessment and behaviours and neurology can link to every classroom because they deal with people – and education is a “people business”. And while even I have done self-directed days, I know that they have always led me to collaborative endeavours (sometimes crossing all sorts of borders thanks to the twitter machine). Professional Development is essential for educators and education – the days aren’t just valuable, they are invaluable!

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Day 7 (of 189) meet the teacher nights….waining in popularity/usefulness?

Day 7 (of 189) meet the teacher nights….waining in popularity/usefulness?

Each year we have talked about doing something different to get more parents out to our “open house” for a “meet the teacher” night. We have used more incentives; everything from desserts to this year’s corn roast… and yet numbers of attendees continue to decline. At one school we even shifted to try a “morning meet the creature…er…teacher 😇 because of the flow of our community commutes.

As we communicate more frequently (via efolios) does that lessen the “need” to visit a classroom?

Is there so much angst that coming to school remains anxiety-inducing on our parents? This week I had a dad comment about how different…better…school felt compared to what he remembered. A nice reminder that “the good old days”…weren’t.

Are lives too busy? I know we balanced soccer and pathfinders with prepping the corn…glad my wife is so fabulous…

But with so many events parents are here for (our Tuesday bike club, upcoming Terry Fox Run and many more) is “Meet the teacher evening” becoming an anachronism?

Thought and ideas welcome!

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Day 6 (of 189) on #workdsuicidepreventionday #sicknotweak @sicknotweak @hattiegladwell

Day 6 (of 189) on #workdsuicidepreventionday #sicknotweak @sicknotweak @hattiegladwell

Even in elementary it is a topic worth reflection and consideration. As much as we would like suicide to remain a taboo topic in school, the more we talk about it, the less isolated those thinking of it will be.

The stereotype has been that suicides are teenage girls dealing with angst. The reality is much different. There is self harm (we dealt with too much of that last year) and then there is suicide (haven’t had to deal with this recently). There is a connection with mental wellness – especially anxiety depression and ptsd (I call the “p” personalized as I am thinking more and more that not many actually get to the “post” part of trauma….)

It can be heightened by misuse of drugs (even legal ones) and through chronic diseases.

Males are most at-risk.

In Canada, males from Nunavut are uncomfortably most at risk.

Are these surprising? Most of the people I know who have been suicidal have been indigenous. And male. I’ll admit I am including some “accidents” that we were never fully sure were actually accidental.

It’s tough in schools because there is a worry that “if we talk about it, it may make some people try it” – I still remember the worry that was in our university after the Curt Cobain suicide. If anything, it started some conversations about mental wellness but there was not a rush of 911 calls to our university emergency services.

Do people think about death? Absolutely! Most brains can only contemplate this for a few minutes – those with mental wellness concerns can tend to go a bit longer…some a lot longer; because it is the ultimate question that cannot be answered – what happens? Is it better? Worse? Different?

It’s one thing to wonder. It’s another to “actualize” – and despite social media, people don’t “snap” – but “time” is relative and sometimes moves faster or slower for those working inside their heads – so what can be “out of nowhere” for us may be a series of action-responses that may not be able to be “seen” and responded to.

One of the key questions is “is this a change in baseline” because sometimes people say they want to die a lot and don’t mean it – but when language changes we need to pay attention. The second key question is “is there a plan”. It’s one thing to want to die. It’s another to know how it will/could happen – but even then it can range from the implausible (a serial killer will pick me up as I hitchike and….” to the concerning “very detailed ideation”.

But I know “not talking about it” has never worked. It has been isolating and confirms to those vulnerable that indeed it is “just them”.

Blaming suicides has not been good either. Referring to suicides as cowards or weak does not address the underlying issues. Using these terms further fuels the sense that if someone is thinking suicidal thoughts then indeed they are worthless weak cowards. Why go on…..?

The more we can talk proactively and take advantage of people sharing their experiences and their mindsets (follow @heylandsberg & @hattiegladwell ) the easier it is to have empathy. It’s not easy. I have not experienced a suicidal thought – though I have wondered what is next…. I have not practiced self harm…. but I can understand why others would.

My advise for schools. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Don’t disregard a cry for help but also don’t over-estimate what might be going on. The picture I used above was a child who has been thinking about his brain (autism) and thought about it (“but that was then, why do you want me to talk about it now”? He wondered) because he has questions and at the time (and from time to time) was curious. It’s not easy, but his plan was when he was 90. So….

But the conversation confirmed there was not an immediate risk. That we could continue some conversations. And a reminder that if he’s thinking about it – so are others….so we need to keep the conversations going. Not just on world suicide prevention day, this is just a starting point for alignment and working together to work towards better mental health for all (and ensuring that talking about it is not something to feel shame about).

Thank you to those who share their journeys. It helps us understand how we can better empathize with others who need help before “the worst that can happen” actually happens.

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Day 5 (of 189) what to do…what to do…what “extras” to choose from? Look to @pernilleripp @globalreadaloud @hadip @codeorg @scotteach @tbed63 @gsplayday @bedleybros @perfinker

Day 5 (of 189) what to do…what to do…what “extras” to choose from? Look to @pernilleripp @globalreadaloud @hadip @codeorg @scotteach @tbed63 @gsplayday @bedleybros @perfinker

There are always interesting offers made each year; from performances to motivational speakers, there is no end to the “extras” available to schools. From autism groups such as the @canucks Fins Friends to coding ideations such as

There are many rabbit holes to follow when planning some “add-ones” to the year. Here are the ones I continue to love year after year (in order of appearance).

October: originated by the amazing @pernilleripp – as much as I don’t always like “whole class novel studies”, I still like communal read alongs. Pernille is one of the ‘most connected to new literature’ educators that I have come across. Her recommendations have always been well received, and I still enjoy sometimes tying it in with “read Dahl loud” (sounds like read aloud but with a Ronald Dahl book – the hungry alligator fits nicely in under an hour and allows for some great voices!)

October: shakeoutbc is a great starting point for talking about why we do the drills we do in schools – too many fire drills, at least “a” lockdown/hold and secure drill (I have rang the three bells to lock doors but so far only because of wildlife) and what the day is named for: earthquake preparation. And even when I did not live in an active fault line area, I always explained that we need practice in this because we do travel and many of our travels take us to a place where earthquakes do happen (and according to many geologists, we may be overdue for a notable one!)

December: Hour of Code via started by thinker Hadi Partovi, a little project to get people thinking about the benefits of coding, it has become a more global presence and really helped people see the subject as something that can be embedded in practice, though I still continue to do a December “hour of code” event – though I also promote that not all coding needs electronics – I love seeing the coding mindset emerge and seeing students connect the skills needed for coding into all subject areas! My “coding stations” from my time as principal-librarian continue to be used and evolve, but my go-to remains checkins with

February: on February 5 (the first wednesday of February) a challenge is issued: let kids play. Free play. It may seem that kids have all the time in the world to play, but as I have seen as an educator and parent, too often “play” is too often too well organized. I laughed when my kids talked about “play dates” until I realized how much play was organized (and supervised) by adults. Want to discuss why we see more anxiety? I start with this discussion before blaming tech (many many things before tech). The Bedley Brothers @scotteach and @tbed63 have done amazing work taking an idea started on twitter (I think I involved myself in year one, but it may be wishful thinking) and have seen it flourish to over half a million participants…or as Tim would say: “a good start”.

Those are my “big 3” that I encourage my staff and #PLN to consider – there are others I like, such as Music Monday (this year on May 4 so hello Star Wars everywhere… may the fourth be with you…) Autism sunglasses day, Orange Shirt Day (a big one for me as it acknowledges the truth and reconciliation report on the injustices done to Canadian indigenous peoples – that still have ripples in the Canadian school system today), Pink Shirt Day to talk about Bullying, – even Bell Let’s Talk Day is great to help more normalize mental wellness and it’s place in our society. But most of these don’t need a sign up, just active participation to show that you are thinking about it (which is why I wear pieces of orange week long for orange shirt thinking – in part because schools I’ve been part of have embraced orange and Phyllis’s story before it was an official thing), and pink ties not just on pink shirt day…)

Another recent fun one has been the addition of the walking curriculum by a Gillian Judson @perfinker (my favourite is still the “slow walk” challenge – and a 30 Day Walking Challenge starts on September 16!

And we have local events such as literacy week, a grade 7 coding day, and our local music fest – much like so many communities do. Find them and take part and expand your learning community where it can!

Definitely not the “only” add-one to connect with, but these are some of the ones I was an early adopter of… or really, one of the first followers to some fabulous “lone nuts”:

Thank you for your leadership Pernille, Hadi, Scott & Tim!

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T3D season two: education thinkers – Pestalozzi

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Day 4 (of 189) prethink for #bcedchat after “week one”

Day 4 (of 189) prethink for #bcedchat after “week one”

Week one. It is when summer theories start going into prescribe. It is when debates start about how long until “real work” starts and my bias is the relationships building IS the hard work and once you have those the curricular pieces are much easier. One of my mentors said: spend the first month on relationships and you’ll always make up the “learning time”. And that got me thinking about my “week one” question for our chat. Who inspires your work this year?

There is a multitude of inspirations we can look at. There are the educators who inspired us that the profession is something special. There are family members who may encourage us. In my case, my dad was both (though sadly passed before I finished high school) as he focused on personalizing education and saw how technology was an amazing tool to help so this.

There are also the “big theorists”








Dweck – who leads into some of the current researchers whose work influences education:

Jo Boaler

Brené Brown

Dan Pink

Todd L Rose

All have had an influence on me. But I’ve also been exploring some others who are less known but likewise influential. My new season of my T3D video thingy is going to focus on 3 things about key education influencers – including some you may not have known of. My first is about Pestalozzi – not a name I knew but after reading Walter Isaacsons bio on Einstein, if it weren’t for the schools and methodology (which tried to not use rote memorization) Albert may have just been a patent clerk, but likely not even that.

Here’s the link:

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