Day 154 (of 185) read to lead @firstbookcanada #ownabookgiveabook

Day 154 (of 185) read to lead @firstbookcanada #ownabookgiveabook

Today turned out to be #ownabookgiveabook Day via @firstbookcanada & McDonalds Canada. Take a “Shelfie” and @McD_Canada will donate a book to kids (and a book is the current happy meal ‘toy’. 
So, my Shelfie:

I used to have more books on my professional reading shelf….but I’ve been developing a habit of ‘sharing them’ – and because I’m a librarian I am mindful that I don’t want to record who has which book because:

A) I’d rather they share them forward to others who may have a need for the book

B) if I keep looking for a particular title, it must be for a reason!
So my in-print books that I keep being drawn back to include:
Ken O’Connors 15 fixes

Ken Robinsons Creative Schools

Tony Wagners Creating Innovators

But I have also defaulted to reading more books-on-device; while I like having a pile next to my bed, I think my wife prefers to have them weigh down my phone instead. 

While I enjoy having an array of books to link back to, digital books can’t be shared as easily…..while a second hand market is ‘expected’ to occur, the same transfer of ownership cannot occur with digital formats. So it’s not as fun to swap books & search for notes written in the margins to uncover someone else’s thinkings!

But it is good to get ideas from others – coincidently, education guru @gcouros had a blog today also connected to reading-as-an-education-leader, but using non-education focused books: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/7363

Reading matters. Even if it’s periodicals, blogs or something you StumbleUpon (great randomized site) – it will influence and encourage you as a lead-learner.
So:

– be proud of your reading

– share your thinking about what you read

– ask others what they are reading

– don’t be afraid to read “outside of education” books

– model reading…..and strategies such as: re-reading!

– and when you’ve finished a book (unless it’s autographed 😜) try passing it on…with the catch that they must do the same with it. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 153 (of 185) the beauty (and the beast) of live theatre thanks to @dufflebagThtre

Day 153 (of 185) the beauty (and the beast) of live theatre thanks to @dufflebagThtre

When I was on supervision this morning, a student asked about our message board: “Today we welcome Dufflebag Theatre – show starts shortly after first bell”

She wondered if it was going to be a film or…….?

I got to explain that it was a live performance. That the audience would be able to see live actors doing performances in front of us – no screens…no editing….no cameras (except mine to record some clips for our Month in Review video) and likely audience participation…!

But I took this cue to remind me that I may want to do a bit of pre-teaching prior to the actors taking to the “stage” (really just one end of our gym, but they put together a very nice backdrop! This created a nice framework for the prethinking needed for a live audience…..knowing that there would be audience participation AND that the audience was made up of students in kindergarten through grade 8 <– a wide range of viewing interests and “viewing/sitting” endurances. 

And it’s amazing what happens when there is an engaging and entertaining peformance – rigor happens. It helps to see that “kids today” can sit patiently and act appropriately – they did today, they did during our Read Aloud Day and I suspect we will again on the Day of the Honeybee in two weeks. Had great chats through the day of how well our students behaved and how engaged they were in the performance.

– They loved seeing their peers performing as part of the cast

– The student identified as being on her phone was doing so because she was recording something she was enjoying so much 

– Teachers commented on the pacing and how the humour used was appropriate (and up to date!) to entertain the entire audience. 

….so the Beast: why don’t ‘kids today’ behave this way all the time?

–> because they do. 

When reading/viewing/composing/creating is engaging and relevant, rigorous/perseverance/drive is ‘easy’ – and we can’t pretend that compliance is engagement…which is why I get nervous when classrooms are too quiet too often. 

So…..It’s a tale as old as time 😉 – it can be easy to critique “kids today” (as Socrates proved a couple millennia ago….that’s now frequently used for millennial…)

But along the lines of: “whether you believe you can or cannot, you’re right”….. there is another reality to be aware of:

I am happy for the future with what I see both at home and in my school. More thoughts on pressures & opportunities for our learners coming soon…

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Day 152 (of 185) one solution does not fix all #blog4MH #anxiety

Day 152 (of 185) one solution does not fix all #blog4MH #anxiety
It was a tough day for my son. And with me being at a BCPVPA chapter council, it was tough being extra-further from him than I usually am when I’m at my school. It made me think about the various strategies that can be used to enhance mental wellness…and there are a lot:
http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/pages/tip-99-coping-skills.aspx
But I also know and want to remember and remind: there is no one strategy that will work for all people….as my son would say:

It’s not about finding ‘the solution’ but about helping identify strategies for daily (hourly…minutely…) intervention/distraction. So, even though the link shows 99 solutions…the “right strategy” may not be in that list. Happy Mental Health month!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Day 151 (of 185) quick thinking about ‘the future’ of education

Day 151 (of 185) quick thinking about ‘the future’ of education

Our yearbook team had a couple of big thinking questions for me. I could’ve gone on for many pages, but….I tried to keep it focused….!
School in 10 years
a question for you: what do you see education looking like 10 years from now? 

Education will continue to be more personalized. I think we will shift further away from letter-grades connected to how well you did on tasks, and move towards a badge/certificate/”level up” method of celebrating what learning has been mastered and setting a target for “whats next”.
Will there be more online, at home education going on? 

I think there will be more “asynchronous” learning being done. This means that there may be more learning taking advantage of online methods, including video and virtual/augmented reality. Imagine being in the middle of a historical event to see what it was like! It may also help students who can’t get into a school still be involved in the learning community (FaceTime into a classroom!)
Will schools have as many students?

I still believe schools will be full of students. A central hub for collaboration (student-student, student-teacher) will continue to be invaluable. It’s just likely that students won’t necessarily all be doing the same things at the same times. I believe the partnership between students-teachers-parents will continue as we spend more time focused on ongoing-descriptive-feedback-loops which focus on individual learning growth, and schools will be a great location for that to happen!
——

As an additional part, our staff is also exploring what our schedule might be evolving to….less bells and more breaks….influenced by the work done in Finland (60 minute periods: 45 work, 15 break) so our early draft (still to be vetted by unions, senior leaders, and our learning community) looks like:

We are intrigued – and this came up as we need to adjust our grade 8 schedule to accommodate more minutes of instruction, so we are looking at this as an opportunity to acknowledge a lot of what primary classes do that research says can benefit learners of all ages!
Thoughts? Feel free to “poke some holes” in this possible ‘schedule of the future’!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Day 150 (of 185) My Anxiety Rant Edited & Continued #Blog4MH #anxiety

Day 150 (of 188) My anxiety rant edited & continued

This is my third rant on anxiety and mental wellness. I have worked with these learners for years and even have one at home! It’s not ever easy, but I have had many successes. It’s not new, but at the same time, our anxious learners have always been at school – just not always stayed at school (sick absences, self medication, runaway etc that led to lower graduation rates than we have today). 

It led to an amazing experience where I got to synthesize my thinking at a 4 minute TEDx Talk: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=V-JpBJal3F8

Here is my ‘list for success’ – odds are you’ll find somethings you will hate (I don’t like everything). It’s not about you, it’s about the learner. I have b een using these strategies for years – a long time with my students, and recently with my own son. Not everybody ‘gets it’ …….. yet….but we need to as we work to keep learners with mental wellness concerns connected to a supportive learning community. 

The key points of the list are in bold if you just want to skim read.


The anxious learner needs to be at school. Every day. Even when ‘sick’ – unless you actually see the vomit hit the floor. Seriously. Very common: “I threw up” “Let me see it” “I already cleaned it up – I did a great job – you’d never knew I was sick – but I did. Let me go home!” – be aware this is very tough and very exhausting – for everyone. Sometimes there needs to be a blend of environments – this can be challenging but the key is to establish a schedule and stick with it until ‘success’ is achieved at which time the goals of the schedule need to adjust – a moving target with a built in feedback loop. 
I also agree and emphasize that inclusion doesn’t mean all the time but it does involve whenever the learner is ready – even if they don’t think they may be ready, but not just when it’s convenient for the adults….a tricky balance, but it also can’t be ‘throw them in the deep end’ (the use a swimming metaphor) and just watch what happens – gotta have tools -life jackets


Being at school does not always mean being in the classroom. Step 1: Be in school. Being in the classroom comes later. It might be step 2 or step 22. This is not something that has a set time: some can be ‘pushed’ to get into the classroom quickly – many need time: time to walk/pace; time to find a ‘safe zone’; time to find a ‘safe person’ (it might not be you – it’s nothing personal).


Being in the classroom does not mean doing the same work as everyone else. Sometimes parallel play/learning is key to develop the relationships that are needed to then ‘get work’ out of the student. But when dealing with anxiety, written output becomes a low priority.


You will need to push them – but be mindful when you do. Eventually. When you have some deposits (okay, a LOT of deposits) in the ‘positive relationships’ department, then you can play ‘good cop bad cop’. “Mr. L says you have to be in the classroom for safety! Grrr.” -when they know that there is support for them they will respond positively – but it takes time (think in months but be ready for years) we identify in grade 4 (hopefully) for independence in grade 10…
If anxiety takes place in one environment but not another – say meltdowns are at home but not at school – it is STILL a school issue. I have more and more conversations about learners who hold it together in many places, but not all….and when it’s ignited, the list of anxious spaces/times continues to grow. 


There is a fine balancing act between providing support for, and enabling the anxiety. It’s very different for each person.



Anxious kids are smart. Usually super smart. Often gifted smart. They will manipulate – but not always – and despite their ‘smartness’ , they don’t always know when they are manipulating situations and when they are in states of panic. That’s the way anxiety works – it is a monster that is brutal to identify and deal with.


Anxiety can be overwhelming – for both the sufferer and the key person working with them – but others in age group are accepting. You may think you’re anxious at times. You’re not compared to those in dire states. Here’s a link to a movie scene that had my son (and a few others) go ‘thats how I feel’: http://www.sor.sd83.bc.ca/man%20of%20steel%20anxiety%20clip.mov

General Anxiety has ‘unclear triggers’ where the ‘starting’ point can be very difficult to identify – overall it usually occurring around grade 4 (earlier if there is a family connection to the anxiety monster) – but also comes up during ‘clear triggers’ (death, divorce, major surgery) – it gets worse if it is ‘ignored’ or put off as ‘something that will be outgrown’. No it won’t.

Anxiety needs to be countered using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – often requiring a counsellor who uses this approach (programs such as BC’s Friends For Life have great success as well – if you have access to it, use it for whole-classes of grade 4/5 students to create a common language for understanding self-regulation)



Sometimes medicine is needed (that being said, CBT has ‘equivalent’ results to medication) But, if anxious kids don’t/can’t sleep: use melatonin or something (with doctors support/knowledge). Sometimes before CBT can even take place, an anxious learner needs ‘the edge taken off’ before CBT can be effective – that may require extra medications – work closely with a paediatrician or YOUTH psychologist/psychiatrist. Watch for/anticipate appetite issues and other side effects. Be very aware of ‘sadness/depression’ and that there may be some periods of this – if on medicine, don’t ‘just stop’ the medicine until you’ve talked with the prescribing doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask for 2nd (or 3rd) opinions. Find someone you trust – then trust the process, if they say ‘take the medicine for 8 weeks’ take it for 8 weeks. Don’t ‘give them a break’ from the medicines unless your paediatrician is on board with that



If you’re using medicine, week 6 sucks. This is the time families usually ‘quit’. As a teacher I always was frustrated with the parents when they ‘stopped because it still wasn’t working and the side effects are bad’. As a parent at week 6 I was frustrated because the medicine wasn’t working and the side effects were bad. AHA moment: week 6 sucks. Week 8 is MUCH better – or at least improvement occurs – and then you get frustrated with others who ‘got focused right away’



Expect ‘self-soothing’ strategies to annoy you: video games, book reading, pacing, and other ‘alone’ activities. It’s not about you. Find strategies that will work. Then work on introducing other activities – especially slow breathing. Strategies will evolve over time – as confidence (and trust in strategies) increases, isolating into ‘devices’ does decrease (on its own if you let it). And new ones (like spinners and fidget cubes) will continue to fight immediate bans to differentiate if ‘all’ can use them, ‘some’ can use them, or none at all…..

When anxiety kicks in and the child is greatly frustrating you – you HAVE to be that much calmer and relaxed. Even if you’re tired. Even if you’re sick of it. Stay calm. Always. When they are exhibiting ‘high’ behaviour, you need to stay ‘low’ and calm to maintain a balance…..and this is not always easy. 



Transitions (and new things) suck. Going to a new restaurant is a cool experience. Or not. Anticipate and predict as much as possible. Going ‘new’ – expect a tough experience – I was proud of my mom when she took my son out for lunch to a fast food place. It wasn’t in his schema. His brain stopped working. They just left, went to a more familiar restaurant and things went better.



Outside family members and friends will be critical. Until you live with anxiety, you won’t appreciate it. “Suck it up”, “Whats wrong with them” “Why are they so rude” and “You’re using medicine… really? Isn’t there something better/different” are common. This is not a ‘weekend fix’ – it takes months and years and really doesn’t ‘go away’, it just takes that much time to find strategies to ‘self-regulate’.  “Sucking it up” also leads too often to self-diagnosed “cures” to maintain calm (and narcotics whose side effects are paranoia….mixed with anxiety? avoid avoid avoid)



It’s a marathon not a sprint. I try to work with anxious learners ASAP (and I do focus my attention on the grade 4 crowd) and work on a variety of interventions – with the intention that they will be doing well……in grade 10. Maybe sooner, but….. The earlier it is recognized, acknowledged and supported, the ‘easier’ it is to cope with. 



Communication is key. Especially between the adults. Back and forth books. Emails. Assessments. Texts. No secrets. Sometimes we use a ‘back & forth book’ to chart everything from ‘meltdown (1)’ to ‘stayed in class and did class work (5)’ other times it’s check-ins along the way to find out more information about ‘changes in what we are seeing’ <– both positive and negative because any change helps us understand that something is going on. 



Anxiety is very different in each person specific & while some anxieties (due to divorce separation et al) are easier to find some ‘commonalities’ with but don’t ignore it & don’t think there is ‘one’ plan. It’s even why I am not opposed to hats and hoodies in class/school – nothing tells you help is needed like a hat pulled over a face WITH a hoodie over that!
Check out anxietybc.com & selfregulation.ca

Don’t try to ‘fix’ it on your own. Make use of an extended professional learning network. Feel free to tweet @technolandy or email ilandy@sd83.bc.ca Trying to work on your own is exhausting. It didn’t work decades ago when it wasn’t as fully understood. The work by luminaries like Linda Miller and Stuart Shanker are helping – but keeping this work secret or to yourself won’t be as successful as having a team of supporters. 

Anxiety sucks – but WE can help it!!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 149 (of 185) BC Election & Student Learning

Day 149 (of 185) BC Election & Student Learning

 

Elections are always fun…….except that the government always wins 😉

 

 

It’s always interesting to see student involvement during these events. Especially recent discussions around Polls and Predictions. Internationally there have been big “surprises” in Canada and the United States on the national level. Britain and their involvement in the EU did not go as predicted. Recently the election in Alberta did not go as predicted…..so on this side of the Rockies? Well, “normal” is not a word usually associated to BC politics (or even BC Education <– in admittedly an often good way!)

 

 

Our school had good involvement by our Middle Years students to become informed on what the parties stand for and how the political system works: our province mirrors our confederation by electing regional representation that then has the leader of the “winning party” become the leader of the province! Which has led to some interesting classroom discussions:

 

  • don’t vote for a party because you like the colour of their signs
  • just because you like “–” who spoke about a political party, doesn’t mean you actually like what the party stands for
  • you can only vote once
  • you don’t get to vote for the Premier, just the candidates in our region
  • sorry, once you cast your ballot you can’t change your mind

 

 

I know it’s also led to some interesting conversations at homes:

  • what if you like your candidate but not their party?
  • what makes a party an “official party” (4 seat in the legislature)
  • are teachers allowed allowed to wear campaign buttons?
  • (to me) Dad, I know you won’t put a sign on the lawn for you who support, but what about putting signs for all the candidates on the lawn to inform people of all the candidates running? (I actually considered this)
  • why can’t the voter age be reduced because in the school, there are many who are interested in voting now….not necessarily in 4-ish years

 

I really appreciate it when schools/teachers keep the focus on the process and not the people. Elections can be fascinating events to watch….and great discussion starters about why they are important (compared to countries that do not have elections). And interestingly, the Student Vote has been interestingly accurate (more so that the before-mentioned pollsters) about what the results will be http://studentvote.ca

 

And this years predicted results:

NDP 60 seats
Greens 14
Liberals 12
Independent 1

 

an update with final results to follow…..as a few of my kids at home are quite intrigued by the early returns….!
After election night, for the first time in over 50 years, BC has a minority government (which may lead to two of the parties forming a coalition)……at least until some recounts happen and advanced polls are counted:
Liberals 43 seats

NDP 41 seats

Greens: 3 seats
More updates if they happen!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day 148 (of 185) Taking care of the basics #blog4MH

 

Day 148 (of 185) Taking care of the basics #blog4MH

 

 

Our counsellor sent us a good reminder at this time of year: Maslows Hierarchy of Needs:

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/addressing-our-needs-maslow-hierarchy-lori-desautels?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

 

 

This becomes paramount when:

  • our disrtict-learning-community is struggling with water. Boil advisories, water-quality alerts are everywhere
  • sleep is being more challenged than ever because of the glow of video screens (and I do want to thank the tech companies that are creating ‘night screen settings’ to help decrease the “wake up” lights that are impacting the nights…..now to take on youtube and stumbleupon….

 

It’s also important to be aware that:

  • while “end of year traditions” are important….they also symbolize the end to many feeling a sense of love/belonging to the classroom or school (and a reminder that summer vacation doesn’t have positive memories for all….)
  • suicide is on the rise. No-one likes to talk about it, but it is:

 

So it’s important to:

  • have water
  • move…..outdoors if/when possible
  • acknowledge music has power (both good and bad)
  • work hard to identify if you are doing something you NEED to do, or just WANT to do
  • reflect. what was, what is your mindset
  • know that it’s okay that others have different thinkings than you (and at different times) – that exciting field trip may be very fear-inducing!
  • sometimes people just need to talk….and letting them talk doesn’t mean you have to solve their problems
  • be mindful….take (and use) time as a tool (I never rush problem solving in my office)

 

Its always good to stop and reflect on why Maslow created the pyramid the way he did….it helps with self-care which enables the care for others.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment