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:

Advertisements

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.

容易或艰苦?-47088109

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.

 

 

A Quick YouCubed Plug

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 10.44.25 AM

The last thing anyone wants to see are the back-to-school commercials that create back-to-work anxiety.  Nor do we want have to start thinking about our classrooms that will begin in 5 weeks, give or take, but whose kidding whom? We all do and the thoughts are hard to stop!

I just want to take a few moments of your time to think about joining, if you haven’t already, the Jo Boaler mathematics website called YouCubed. It is an amazing way to be51E6t49pzEL._SX399_BO1,204,203,200_gin your school year, especially when you are developing mathematical mindsets and collaborative learning within your space.

Check out the “Week of Inspirational Maths” and spend a bit of time reading some of her articles and the inspirational maths lesson plans so you feel confident about your first few weeks of math within your classroom. Try the math questions out with your family members or friends this summer and look at the many different ways to solve problems. There are so many great resources that need your attention!

Happy August to all of you and savour the relaxation moments while learning a little along the way.

Yours in learning,

Laural

 

Disrupting and Challenging My Thinking

Upon the recommendation of my fellow book lover and colleague, I decided to join The Book Love Foundation Summer Reading Club. There are four books for this club: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst, Revolution by Deborah Wiles and A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. So far, I have been enjoying my reading journey with the texts chosen and want to spend a few moments of your time discussing the professional resource, Disrupting Thinking – Why How We Read Matters.

51VK2PHg7rL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I always seem to gravitate to literacy professional resources. They tend to confirm my beliefs about how our students are not reading enough and what we have always done, does not necessarily work with today’s children.

I thought I would approach this blog post answering the questions that are at the root of Disrupting Thinking, so here goes…

What changed, challenged or confirmed your thinking?

  • Simply extracting information from a text is not enough
  • Students/adults need to read more for pleasure to connect on an emotional/personal level
  • We must disrupt our students thinking; make our students challenge what they read and see ideas from multiple perspectives
  • Relevance is not determined by the educator
  • “When a right answer is most important, students come to believe their thoughts don’t matter.”
  • “New ideas rarely work the first time, so if we are to make changes, we have to accept the probability that our first efforts won’t go quite as well as we want them to.”
  • “Don’t choose a book that will take four weeks to read aloud, you want to finish a book in a week” – Yikes! I am not sure I agree, but do know that reading a book too long can be painful.
  • Would I read a novel over the course of eight weeks on a schedule that is determined by someone else and read by everyone in a classroom as an adult? Nope. Highly unlikely.

“The more capable readers are of compassion, the more likely it is that they will be able to read well.”

What assumptions make that change hard?

  • Educators preconceived beliefs and ideas about what works
  • “What we find confusing is that sometimes we all want to say we’re doing research-based best practices, but other times too many of us are willing to ignore what we know from research.”

What surprised you?

Percentage of Children Who Read Books for Fun 5-7 Days a Week

decline-in-time-spent-reading.png

A few thought provoking questions from the text:

  • “How do you define best practices? what about your colleagues? Are there practices you follow that cannot be supported by research? Why do you use them? Should you reconsider?”
  • “Why do some teachers change on to what’s been done in the past?”
  • Who determines relevance in your classroom?
  • “Do you find yourself asking your lower-performing students more monologic questions than dialogic questions?”

Disrupting Thinking Why How We Read Matters was a read that I do not regret and will recommend to others. The questions Beers and Probst asked I will continue to ponder and pose to other educators. This text supports much of what I believe when it comes to literacy – that reading for pleasure matters.

 

GIVING KIDS TIME TO READ IS NECESSARY, NOT OPTIONAL. ~Beers and Probst

Yours in reading,

Laural

 

A Leap Into Recording Coaching Sessions

focus-on-teachingA few months ago I read a book by Jim Knight called Focus on Teaching and it inspired me to think about recording my coaching and teaching sessions with other educators. As I read the book, it made total sense. How else can we improve if we never truly now how we interact with our students or how we facilitate learning? Video recording can leverage learning as well as our teaching abilities. It sounded like a brilliant idea and I was motivated from Knight’s words to try it, but I won’t lie, it took a lot for me to even contemplate the idea and give it a go.

I couldn’t help but remember an educator I worked with (@misskflood) who videotaped herself facilitating a Number Talk. How she used this recording was for her eyes and what she learned from it, we have yet to discuss. As I thought and was inspired by @misskflood, months flew by. I had every intention at the time I had read the book to video record, but it never transpired. Maybe I was avoiding it?

There is a high level of vulnerability when recording ourselves teaching. You first have to look past how you sound and how you look to get at the power of how video recording your teaching can improve your practice. You may, ultimately, find something that crushes your confidence as an educator, but what if it moves you?

I then decided to take my first leap during my last coaching session for the year. Why not take a risk on the last round of collaboration before heading into the summer?! If I never try it, I will never know.

It was a soft entry where I simply audio recorded two pre-conferences with two different educators. I explained to the educators that I was looking to improve myself as a coach and that I wanted to get feedback from my colleagues about my level of questioning and reducing the amount of time I spoke. I really want to listen to those that I collaborate with and this recording would give me a window into whether or not I was doing just that. The funny thing is that after explaining to them why I wanted to record there was no hesitation on either of their parts! I thought it would discourage the educators from opening up, but what I learned was that may have been my excuse for not recording prior to this 😉

 

“I think that there is a difference for teachers between the abstract of how we see our practice and then the concrete reality of it.”

Having the pre-conference recorded was a no brainer. My phone sat on the table and it was like it didn’t exist; but what came out of listening to the meeting after was brilliant. I thought I heard all that was said while in the moment, but the ideas and things mentioned that I had missed was more than I could have ever thought. Not only did I have the documentation from the meeting, but now I could add to the thinking and ideas that the educators and I were going to work towards during our 5 week collaboration.

I took this recording and went one step forward and shared with my colleague and mentor when it comes to coaching. What I had thought I needed to work on was not listening, but from her feedback it was evident that I needed to work on honing in on the goals for the collaborative experience. We discussed possible questions I could use to improve the student and educator goals and, in the future, where I could ask these questions during the pre-conference.

Having taken the leap into recording coaching sessions, it is now a strategy that I will continue to use and leverage when it comes to improving my coaching abilities. I highly recommend you take some time to think about how this could be used within your classroom to improve yourself as an educator. It was an amazing experience and I will never hesitate to do again!

Yours in learning,

Laural

Great video to get you thinking about recording:

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/improve-teaching-with-video

Bill Gates Ted Talk on “Teachers Need Real Feedback”