It’s Been A While – 30 Day Challenge

So it’s ironic that I open up my WordPress account and the first post in my reader is that from George Couros entitled “3 Ideas to Help You Blog”. George writes about how he forces himself to write three times a week for his blog and provides useful strategies for posting regularly. This gave me a little boost to write a little ditty for my lovely readers, you. Thank you, George 😉

This year, I gave myself the gift of time by taking a self-funded leave for an entire school year. What I had envisioned for this year drastically changed when my life drastically changed. So this time that I have given myself has become a very self-reflective moment in this life journey of mine, which can sometimes make for writing a blog post difficult.

I have spent my time finishing things that I never thought I would finish, reading books that have little to do with education, renovating my house and spending quality time with people I adore and love. I am full of gratitude and have no regrets about giving myself this precious time.

The one thing I truly wanted to share this evening that has come into my life, thanks to Austin Kleon, is the 30 Day Challenge. I know we have all heard of this idea to challenge ourselves, but I decided to commit to it.  What I liked about his approach, when I first started, is the lovely gift we give to ourselves if we nail the challenge.

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Austin Kleon – 30 Day Challenge

My commitments were simple:

  • Workout everyday – no excuses.
  • Meditate everyday.

I am writing this to let you know how this commitment has made me understand its brilliance. “They” say it takes 21 days to form a habit and I would like to argue that 30 days worked for me. My commitments are now something I look forward to the night before and make me feel good about me. It’s no longer a chore, but a lifestyle change that is helping me in more ways than this blog, and your time will allow. My days are more productive and have more clarity because of my commitments. I even got myself a cool running jacket that I have been eyeing for 6 months. I would also like to say that I am 36 days and counting!

I then did the mathematics of my commitment:

  • 24 hours a day = 720 hours for the month of November
  • I work out only 30 minutes a day, sometimes 1 hour = approximately 18 hours of my month.
  • I meditate 10 minutes every day = 5 hours of my month.
  • 23 hours of my month!!!

When I calculated the time I allocated to my commitments, it seemed silly that this wasn’t a commitment to myself sooner.

Maybe before the New Year’s resolution of 2018 comes and goes, like it does for most of us, we should all make a commitment to do something that is good for our soul, mind, and/or body. Pick up that book everyday, go for a walk, have dinner as a family, write! Maybe you and your students could do this too??! The best part of my new commitment is that I don’t need the gift to inspire me to keep going every month:)

And remember to check out Austin Kleon for creative inspiration! I love his work!

Yours in living,

Laural

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Dear Giorgia, Stefanie, and Maria :)

fb_thumbnailI have this ritual every morning and it begins with a velvety, homemade cappuccino that warms my soul and makes for simple pleasure. Once my cappuccinos are made, I sit in front of my computer and open the weekly emails from Maria Popova (@brainpicker) BrainPickings. This cerebral experience has exposed me to authors and ideas that I have never known and directed me to books I am happy to have crossed paths with; in fact, have fallen in love with. If you haven’t checked it out, it is a must.

IMG_3987One such book is Dear Data that was written by Giorgia Lupi (@giorgialupi ‏)and Stefanie Posavec (@stefpos). (Read Maria Popova’s BrainPickings about the book here). As you read the book or skim the pages, you can watch the friendship of two women change and grow as they share postcards with data from their week. I cannot tell you how enjoyable this book is and how it will be skimmed, scanned and read many times over.

As someone who loves visual data, I couldn’t help but stare and compare each sets of data and how two people represented ideas so vastly different. You can also see how they evolved as data collectors and how their visual representations and legends changed. LOVE IT!

 

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What do you wonder? What do you notice? What could the data be?

 

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What do you wonder? What do you notice? What could the data be?

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I just couldn’t help but think of all the wonderful ways in which you could use this text with students and how you could simulate an experience similar to what Giorgia and Stefanie had! Thank you to Maria and Giorgia and Stefanie for bringing such an enjoyable read to my life and library. You need to add this to your must have list of books educators!

Yours in reading,

Laural

 

Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez

1551526778I haven’t reviewed a book in a while and it was only by chance I happened to be listening to CBC Radio where they were discussing this book: Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez. Fast forward a month or so, and by another chance, I was perusing the shelves of the Calvin Park Public Library and was excited to come across, and remember this title, so I picked it up.

As an educator, it’s hard not to draw similarities to novels or be inspired and this novel is a must-read for all educators.

Without giving too much away, Hernandez tells the story of various characters who live in the Scarborough area who are struggling with poverty, racism, mental illness, and a lack of resources, among other things. The way in which each chapter speaks from each characters’ perspective is captivating. I was especially drawn to the emails sent by Hina Hissani who is the program facilitator for the Ontario Reads Literacy Program at a local school; I looked forward to the different font and layout of these pages.The obstacles she faces and continues to throw in her superiors face, is sometimes all it takes, or doesn’t, for people to understand the struggles of their community and profession.

It is this character, Hina, who reminds me that in our profession all it takes is one person, champion, or advocate, to change the trajectory of a child’s life for good or bad. We are in such a challenging career, and we must remember that we do not know what goes on in a child’s life outside of the school walls and that how we treat each of our students is of the utmost importance. Or maybe, we need to get to know our students better and figure out how to connect with the community members outside of the classroom?

There are so many quotes that I would want to include in this post, but I settled on one that I reread a number of times:

“If you were to ask me exactly where I feel things when a cop is around, I would tell you I feel it between my ears, on the flat of my chest, the centre of my palms, and on the back of my tongue. Between my ears because I am thinking, stay calm. On the flat of my chest because I’m reminding myself to breathe. The centre of my palms because, in truth, I really wish I could slap somebody each time I’m stopped by a cop.  And on the back of my tongue because I’m trying to strategize what to say when they ask me what I am doing.” ~ Victor from Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez

If you are an educator in a high school looking for book club titles or need a novel that will hit an array of issues, this book is for you and your students. It is also lovely that it is about Canadian people and written by Catherine Hernandez (@theloudlady) who is also captivating! I would love to see and/or hear the discussions of our teenagers while reading this novel.

Yours in reading,

Laural

 

 

Clearing the Mind with Nature

My brother and I hiked a popular mountain in Banff on Friday, Tunnel Mountain, and it was breathtaking. The simple act of walking and needing a bit more oxygen to fuel the body makes me joyful, optimistic and hopeful. Once you get over the body awakening from the sloth-like activities we tend to engage in, you start to smell nature and notice things. You start to really notice things. It may be as simple as a rock that has beautiful moss or a magpie flying overhead, but it is like you are seeing for the first time. Then this lovely thing happens where time and space slow down.

I am known to overthink and reflect on life in a way that can disrupt my sleep and create worry, but out in nature, I find peace from my thoughts. Oddly, they disappear for long periods of time and I feel as if I get a break from the day-to-day. This occurs within minutes of beginning a hike and, almost always, the emotions I feel (anxiety, anger, loneliness, depression, confusion) dissipate. Hiking – therapy for my soul.

Not only does this happens while hiking, but also when I run along Lake Ontario Park. There was a moment early last week where I was alone for a portion of the trail and geese flew 10 feet over my head and I couldn’t help but smile. It is that simple and that beautiful. These tiny moments in our lives that imprint on our soul.

The other aspect of hiking that brings joy is a sense of community. My brother and I talked, shared and laughed or simply heard our steps and our breathing. Being with someone in nature and reaching places that can only be reached by foot, gives you a sense of how insignificant and small we really are. When you are surrounded by monstrous mountains, lush valleys and silence, you realize how big and beautiful this world truly is and it is lovely to share with someone.

I even got to experience the joy of Littlefoot,a pet that belongs to my brother’s friend, who took us to Elbow Pass. It’s this amazing hike through a valley where there is no cell reception and you can disconnect on all levels. Watching the dog bounce through the brush, run ahead with a smile, only to come back seconds later, brought another layer of joy to the hike. Simplicity at its finest. Even an animal knows what is good for us.

Seven years ago, nature was introduced to me in a way I had never known and I am forever grateful. I feel privileged for what I have seen in the world; it is where I feel connected to the Earth in a spiritual way.

This isn’t something new, getting out in nature, but I wanted to share my experiences of hiking in the Rocky Mountains and what it does for my soul in the hopes that it provides you with inspiration to get outside with your students, family, or simply by yourself.

What would happen if you decided that our Daily Physical Activity minutes were an opportunity to take your students outside to connect with nature? To show them the possibilities.

  • Teach them how to notice the simple things.
  • Teach them that a 20 minute walk can change your mood for the better.
  • Teach them how to connect with each other in a real way.

Let’s start a Twitter movement, just like our #myreadinglife, and name it #mynaturelife. The world is out there for all of us to experience and love!

Yours in nature, Laural

*A few cool resources to inspire:

Technology in the Early Years

grownups_faqs_generic_iStock_000016281514_16_9As I was out with a friend of mine, ironically to watch a movie, we had a brief, yet intriguing conversation about the effects of technology and its use on children in their primary years. She has a child, not yet in school, and is starting to wonder what concerns she should have as a parent and what precautions she should instil when the time comes for her daughter to enter kindergarten.

This percolated in my head… I must first say that I am an advocate for technology; it is an integral part of life, whether we like it or not, and most likely will be a part of our students’ professions in the future. On the other hand, I dislike devices as much as I love them.

My brain first went to how devices effect my life negatively:

  1. Addicting – constantly checking email, texts, waiting for communication from people.
  2. Ultimate Procrastinator – I am sure there is some research out there that will prove I am less productive and waste time on my device. I sometimes wonder where an hour has disappeared to!
  3. Lose Sleep – I know for a fact, that when I watch a device in bed, I see a bright white light when closing my eyes for minute after shutting it off, which makes it hard to sleep. I also know that I do not have a nurturing sleep when I do decide to watch my device in bed.
  4. Wrecks my creativity – I cannot prove this, but I spend hours watching and looking at other individuals on the internet sharing their creative adventures, only to never get around to having my own.
  5. Less social – thankfully, I have a wonderful group of people in my life and I also have the wherewithal to limit my use and know when I have had too much, but I do know that, when looking at the teenagers in my life, there are certain skills that are not as prevalent when it comes to interacting with others.

With all ideas, you can find research to prove or disprove your theory. There is an inundation of research and articles to state why technology is important; this is a fact. You could spend weeks reading about its benefits and I agree with most, from an educational perspective, so I decided to think and learn about the costs of having children using a device in the early years.

I went on my handy device, and Googled “cons of technology to children” and found it hard to locate what I had hoped to find. The first article, in the Huffington Post from March 2017 is where I began my learning and thinking: 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned.

What I found fascinating was the table of how many hours children of a certain age should be exposed or use a device that was developed by Cris Rowan:Technology-Use-Guidelines-for-Children-and-Youth2

“Children and youth use 4-5 times the recommended amount of technology, with serious and often life threatening consequences (Kaiser Foundation 2010, Active Healthy Kids Canada 2012).” ~ Taken from 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned

The article then proceeds to elaborate on the 10 reasons of why devices should be banned, which I will state simply here:

  1. Overexposure to technology can affect brain growth
  2. Developmental delay 
  3. Obesity
  4. Sleep deprivation
  5. Mental illness
  6. Aggression
  7. Concentration and memory issues
  8. Addictions
  9. Radiation emission
  10. Current overuse is unsustainable

Just reading the list should make us all think about how and why we are using the devices in our classrooms for prolonged periods.  Add on to that their usage at home, it could amount to too much.

I am not advocating for a ban of devices, but I am advocating for those who have children or those who educate them to inform yourself of how the brain grows for the age-group that you teach or have and what the impacts of devices can be on our children. Educate yourself on the issue and it may open you to a new understanding or different perspective. I am sure as the years progress and research continues, we will find out more about the benefits and costs of our devices, but it is never too early to monitor how and why we use them, especially in the classroom.

A few resources I plan on reading on the topic:

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherrry Turkle

Virtual Child by Cris Rowan

Yours in learning,

Laural

What I Learned This Summer – 2017

Last summer, I wrote a little ditty about what I learned during the summer and I thought I would continue the tradition as the new school year approaches in a few days.

I just read over my What I Learned This Summer and couldn’t help but remember how lovely and passionate those two months were; total bliss and relaxation.  Today, I wish that I could go back in time and relive those experiences because if you were to put last summer and this summer side-by-side, they would be on opposite ends of the spectrum.

This summer has taught me a lot about myself, my family and life in general and, put simply, life can be really hard and the hardness is all relative to those that are living it. So here goes…

What I learned this summer:

  1. Family is of the utmost importance and you need to lay your resentments down, put your stressful life aside, and savour what little time we have on this Earth. @NeilPasricha always tweets out great quotes or ideas: “The average world lifespan is around 25,000 days. Tell someone you love them.” If I am to do my math, I have lived approximately 14,275 days, so far – deep sigh.
  2. In a heartbeat, your life can change. Change can really suck. Change can bring you down and/or lift you up; that is ultimately up to us.
  3. I have an undeniable, unbelievable support network that envelopes me at just the right moments when I need them. Much love to you all 😉
  4. Saying “No, I am unable to that” literally gives you space and room to spend time on commitments that really matter. Do this more often.
  5. Books can save your life and provide a wonderful distraction, make you see the world differently with a new perspective, teach you empathy and slow down time.
  6. You never really know what is going on in someone’s head – and maybe we shouldn’t.
  7. Silence and being alone is necessary. Together is better. Engage in both whenever you need to, with no regrets, because we cannot do it all.
  8. Grief is all encompassing. Loss of anyone, in any way, is heartbreaking and changes you.
  9. Turning 40 isn’t that bad.
  10. My parents are rockstars.

So as you embark on the next learning journey this school year, take time to remember all of the experiences and people you spent time with because life can and will change when you least expect it; this is inevitable.

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Remember that getting to know your students is of the utmost importance because they could be anywhere on that spectrum of life between easy and hard. How will you teach them the coping strategies to manage this thing we call life?

I have the pleasure of entering a year off this school year where I can really dig deep, or not, into my mantra of slowing down. My posts may be obscure or unrelated to education/learning, but I hope and appreciate all of you who read my rants!

I wish you all a lovely year of learning!

Breathe. Slow down. Connect. Learn.

Happy Start to a New School Year!

Yours in learning,

Laural

What Is Your WHY?

51fRj1bsD5L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_As the school year nears and the summer begins to fade, the appropriateness of what I just finished reading got me thinking about “Why” I do what I do within education. Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) wrote Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and if finding your WHY interests you, it is definitely worth your time to read.

I am going to take a risk and start to unravel my WHY through this blog post. I decided to approach my WHY of teaching with what came to mind first. It was and is a difficult process. Sinek states, “Finding why is a process of discovery, not invention.” So my WHY may change as I discover more.

Why do I teach?

First and foremost, I have an underlying passion for learning. There is something beautiful about feeding my brain with information and ideas, creating ideas, and learning from or with others.

Just recently I was in a car with two of my lovely friends and colleagues and we were discussing education. I was sitting in the backseat lapping up the discourse related to education and a smile generated within. I love being around individuals who are driven to foster a love of learning among all of their students and who love to talk about it.

Secondly, I genuinely want to see all of my students and colleagues succeed and be engaged with the process. I want them to walk away having a passion for learning, just as I do. Or to simply reignite a passion for learning and/or teaching. I am constantly trying to navigate what intrinsically motivates each individual I am with to learn and to improve.

Lastly, I teach because it is hard. I have learned that I am not an individual who can do the same thing over and over. Challenges ignite something within me; motivates me. Education is not for those who want consistent control, or for each day to look the same. Education is for those who understand that it never gets easier, it just gets better. If you understand that everyday will present you with a new challenge, you understand education. It is hard, overwhelming, exhausting, and inconsistent. This is what makes going back into the classroom, everyday, worth it.

golden-circle-why-simon-sinekSimon Sinek discusses how most businesses start with WHAT (I teach students subjects) and then move to HOW (I create lesson plans and assess) and then determine the WHY. So what if we started each year with our WHY? How do we articulate a clear WHY and remember to build upon this WHY all year long? How do we get our students to understand and buy-in to our WHY? If everyone understood our WHY, would the success within our classrooms be achievable?

“If it’s not clear on the inside, it will never be clear on the outside.” ~ Simon Sinek

For all educators who have begun their school year and to those that are about to begin, take a few moments to begin your discovery process of WHY you do what you do. Hold on to that WHY and create a system, school or a classroom that radiates your WHY and see what transpires;)

Yours in learning,

Laural

*Check out Simon Sinek’s website  and try his Friends Exercise to get the process of WHY rolling.