Mosaic Memories

39d4236182ea56b4e02602f1f2ef88aa Last Wednesday morning started with the same typical  feverish pace as most of my days have had recently ~ as  we race towards the finish line of this school year. I  arrived at the Education Center with my head spinning  with fragmented thoughts of budgets, reflections,  staffing within a number of portfolios, welcoming new  staff members, honouring and saying goodbye to staff members who are moving on to other assignments, transferring technology, system messages about report cards, new coaching assignments, delivering books to grade 2 students in a number of our schools and my most recent challenge of supporting new Native Language classes in a new school location this fall (one of those unexpected opportunities to challenge my problem-solving skills). In my haste to get my day started I had almost forgotten about an Opening ceremony which was happening in the central atrium. Staff at the Education Center were being invited to take part in the creation of a mosaic designed by Brenda Collins and to hear an opening address from our Director and from Liz Akiwenzie, a First Nations storyteller and educator. The Thames Valley FNMI team had effectively transformed the atrium into a space honouring First Nations artwork, crafts, print resources and inquiry work completed at various elementary schools.

In an effort to capture the reflections of those who were about to take part in the events of the next two days,  postcards and markers were provided, along with clothes pins to attach our “words” to potted branches which were artistically displayed.

Taking in the visual experience of the transformed space was but one of the “stop you in your tracks” moments of the morning.

And just like the mosaic in which we were all about to take part in creating, Liz’s Opening was a collection of colourful thoughts, emotions and lessons when all placed together created a story in which every member of the audience felt some connection.  Within minutes, my morning “bureaucratic” challenge of how to provide staffing for additional Native Language instruction quickly dissolved into a moral imperative to ensure that no matter what it would happen for those students, as Liz shared her appreciation for the education system and the opportunities that it provided her own children.

Her story of the power of identity connected seamlessly to the work that our team did this year as we supported educators in knowing themselves and their students as learners and readers, through a common thread of identity.

As Liz spoke about her own children and referred to them as “babies” and her trust in us as an education system to love, to educate and to care for her children whom she entrusted to our care, I glanced over to our team members and smiled as we, too, refer to students as “babies” for that very same reason.  We continue to remind ourselves that each child that we are blessed to interact with is someone’s baby ~ they arrived in this world with their parents’ hope and desire for unlimited possibilities and their parents are counting on us to ensure that those possibilities are afforded to their “babies”.

As Liz ended her opening and the first group started to create the mosaic, we dispersed and moved on to the other tasks of the day.  I was meeting with members of another one of our teams and the Kleenex immediately  came out as emotions and personal connections to Liz’s words were still resonating.

As the day went on and each tiny piece of coloured glass was added, the mosaic started to take shape, life and form.  On Thursday, I joined a few of our team members and took the opportunity to add several pieces (the blue of eagle’s tail) and to pen my reflections. The physical act of adding to the creation was enhanced by the emotional moments experienced during the opening the day before.


A mosaic is not only the multi-coloured pieces of glass, it  is the glue which holds them in place and the mortar  which solidifies the final product. All three parts are needed.

It is those small individual colourful stories which when  placed together create a beautiful narrative. As I walk  past this mosaic, when it is displayed in the building, I will recall Liz’s words which will continue to remind me about the importance of our work with our First Nations families.

More than just a pouch of Tobacco

tobaccoties Do you have someone in your life who pushes your  thinking beyond what you could ever imagine? Two  years ago, as I transitioned into my current role, I was  introduced to someone who had a product that I  needed.  At that time, our board’s work with the FNMI  community was a part of my portfolio and I knew that I  would need access to tobacco in order to make pouches as thank you offerings. The principal at Antler River helped facilitate a meeting whereby I was going to receive some freshly harvested tobacco and my only “cost” was the exchange of a something meaningful ~ I had chosen a friendship bracelet given to me by a former student.  In my mind this meeting would be a quick “thank –you” and I would be on my way.  Little did I know that this would become the first of many meaningful exchanges?

So, when I received an email last week stating “Hello my friend. I hope you’re well. Do you have some time…?”  I quickly found my first open time slot, picked up a coffee and drove to Antler River.  During the last two years, I have stopped asking or expecting an agenda for these meetings. The conversation naturally flows to the intent and today was no different. The intent was to share a new idea (which shall remain nameless for the purpose of this post, as I need to respect that it is not mine to share) which once it goes through the proper channels and filters will be profound and have a significant impact. The idea is still in its infancy, needing more time to develop fully before it is ready to be released. This man’s thinking and the ways in which he pushes the boundaries continue to impress and inspire me.  Although I believe that he invites me for a chat in order to get my perspective on his work (as I listen so intently and respectfully craft questions which provide me with clarity and provide him with affirmation) it is my perspective, on so many other levels, which is always illuminated. Connections that I would never have made become clearer and I find myself walking away from our meeting and looking at something as simple and yet complex as a component of nature with a different lens.  I find these conversations both mystical and magical in that the only outcome for me is deeper thought.

Most of my day to day interactions (conversations) end with a plan of action, one more thing on the “to do” list or the delegating of a task.  Today’s meeting has me reflecting on my conversations with my team members.  How often do we have conversations about the inception of an idea and truly take the time to let that idea grow and mature before rushing to action?

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Who pushes your thinking?  Whose thinking do you  push?

Come write with me….

Reflections on Reflection!

6-9-2015 6-47-24 PM Sabrina Tyrer is new to the world of blogging and this is her second post as she explores the  value in making her thinking visible through this format.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet  Sabrina, only a few times in person, but I feel that through her presence on social media, she values  the role of the educator and deeply understands the power of documenting and sharing not only  her learning, but the learning of her students and her colleagues.  As she ventures into the role  of an Instructional Coach for the upcoming school year, I hope that she continues to add her  blog, with posts about the transition into the role, the role itself and the impact that system leadership can have at a school level.


Link to Sabrina’s latest post ~ End of the Year Reflections


My Comment:

Sabrina, you definitely have so much to be reflecting on which in and of itself speaks volumes to the learning opportunities that you afforded your students. When you think about it, how much reflection is going to occur as a result of a word search or a fill in the blank activity sheet. Not only do you value reflection for yourself, but you’ve built in opportunities for your students to also reflect on their learning ~ such a powerful strategy and tool for gathering assessment information.  That assessment not only informs you about student comprehension and next steps, it also informs you about your next steps as an educator.  What I enjoyed reading most, was the vast number of experiences which extended beyond the four walls of your classroom, as a result of using various technology applications.  Thanks so much for including the links. I hope that others take the opportunity to explore them and how they may impact learning in their classrooms for the upcoming school year.  I have yet to read, Pure Genius, so I’ll be interested in your take-away from that book.  Thanks so much for sharing your reflections with others!

Does Bolding counter the Blah, Blahs?

6-9-2015 8-24-19 AM One of my favourite authors and bloggers is Seth Godin. It is a rare occasion when I don’t start  my day by reading his blog and then continue to make connections throughout the remainder of  my day to my morning “nudge”.  I admire his brevity and the way in which his topics (although  not specifically written for education) have many applications to educational leadership. I’ve  also enjoyed his books, Linchpin and Poke the Box and used examples from them in my  everyday work.  If you aren’t a follower of Seth’s, you may want to add him to your list!

Seth Godin’s Post ~ Blah, Blah, Blah

My Comments:

No writer wants to be known as boring or banal, nor do we want our words to go unnoticed or worse, ignored. You’ve challenged us to say something unexpected in order to push not only our thinking but the thinking of our readers.  I wonder sometimes, though, if writers feel that by bolding or adding colour to their font that the message will be heard more effectively.  My first administrative partner shared an important lesson that to this day I’ve tried to follow.  Her theory was that by bolding/colouring messages you were actually “belittling” your readers and assuming that they cannot discern on their own what is important within your message.  You are training your readers to count on you for the important stuff.  I like your suggestion better ~ effectively craft your message so that it creates the conditions for readers to read something unexpected, something that makes us think and something that is undeniable personal.

Is it really Innovation or Just Effective Leadership?

9ob36ijk4926indjjs9y_400x400George Couros is a Division Principal for Parkland School Division and an Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership consultant.  I had the pleasure of attending one of his sessions last fall at ECCO in Niagara Falls, where he effectively gathered information from his audience and then tailored his presentation to meet our needs.  He was a plethora of knowledge about social media and it’s impact on education.  His latest post from his “The Principal of Change” blog, certainly sparked some discussion on the topic of Innovation.


George’s Post ~ Innovation does not happen in a school if a child does not feel loved.

My Comments

Innovation has recently become one of the most commonly used terms in our world of education. Within our board, we have a newly created Innovation portfolio, led by one of our Superintendents of Student Achievement.   Last week, I retweeted this ISTE quote, “Leadership, not technology is the key to Innovation”.  In reading your post, I’m reminded once again, that a culture needs to be created for both students and educators to feel safe to explore, to challenge and to be innovative.   It is those relationships (you talk about love, but it could just as easily be respect or appreciation) which will set the stage for authentic innovation to occur. If someone knows that you believe in them, trust them and will support them no matter what, they will undoubtedly try new strategies, explore new technologies and look for unique ways to engage students.  Linda Cliatt-Wayman effectively set the stage for change to occur in her school.  What an inspiration!

How do you want to be remembered?

JULGBoPV_400x400 I met Jen Aston 2 years ago, when she joined  our  team of 38 Instructional Coaches. Following  a  session on Blogging, she started posting about  a year ago.  Jen reflects on a consistent basis and  has posted to her blog at least once a month.  In  conjunction with her current role of supporting the educators in her schools, she also provides a great deal of technology leadership for her coaching team.  This past year, Jen and a colleague Dawn Telfer started hosting a weekly FSL Twitter chat and they are about to embark on a TLLP project focusing on using technology to support FSL instruction.  Jen’s work with the Literacy team has most recently involved collecting information on what our Grade 7 students classify as “Hot Reads”.

I love Jen’s passion for all things technology, knowing that she bases her real passion on solid pedagogy, which engages both educators and students. This is but one of her blogs, which has forced me to stop and consider my role as a leader in the field of education.

Jen’s Post ~ Significant Events and Identity

My Comments

Your last line “how do you want to be remembered?” is one that I’ve been thinking a great deal about lately. Probably because we are once again coming to the end of another school year. As a classroom teacher, I would imagine that we want to know, how will this year’s group of students remember me? Will they remember a specific unit of study, a special event, an activity or a trip? As a school principal, I would imagine that we want to know how, not only our students, but our broader parent community and staff will remember this past year? Did we host an event that lead to real change in our community? As a staff did we truly come together and make a difference in the lives of our students? As a leader, what impact did I have on the career of a new teacher or an experienced educator? As a system principal, I am asking myself the same question ~ how will I be remembered by our Languages team and by our Instructional coaches? If I were to pen a narrative about this last year, I can’t help but wonder which components I would include and would those items of importance to me be similar through the lens’ of others?

Do the significant events of the last year directly connect to my identity as an educator? Great post, Jen! As always you’ve given your readers lots to think about!

Sparked by Sparks

dennis-sparks To say that Dennis Sparks, sparks my thinking (yes….. I know how corny that sounds) is an  understatement.  Although I’ve never had the opportunity to be an audience member at a session  or hear him speak via a livestream, many of my colleagues have shared their respect for him  and his messages. He was a significant contributor to our Thames Valley leadership program for many years and the Literacy team has highlighted his quotes in our work with school teams.  What I do know about Dennis is that he is generous with his social media readers, always demonstrating appreciation for their retweets and comments. His responses to their comments are well crafted and demonstrate a respect for their thinking. I have also come to learn that he does not shy away from controversy.  He challenges his readers to reflect on their current situation and then brainstorm ways to improve.  Many of his posts are about professional learning ~ my current world!   As I read his blogs, what I love is that his topics can have an impact at both the school and the system level.  Teachers can easily see themselves reflected in his posts, when he talks about “leaders” and really, we need more people in the organization to see themselves as leaders (students and parents as well).

My Comments:

Let’s hope that we’re not having this conversation 40 years from now. And yet history tells us that if we don’t take the time to uncover the reasons why professional learning is not having the impact that we feel it needs to have, then we are poised to repeat the mistakes of the past. As you’ve reminded your readers on many occasions, learning (at any level of the organization ~ from student to Director) is complex. The factors involved in true learning, whereby we can no longer go back to where we once were, are multi-layered. In the professional learning that we offered through our Languages portfolio, we’ve captured a few non-negotiables which are starting to have an impact. No longer do we offer “one-ofs” (we build a year long relationship with our school teams), we want our participants to volunteer (because they see a need in their classroom), we want school teams to be a part of it, so that we can infiltrate the school culture and provide them with a common language and we require administrators to be “at the table” and learn alongside of their teachers. It is that last condition which speaks to your “four deeper explanations”. In our work, we have certainly had the vantage point of seeing the power of having a strong instructional leader at the table. And in knowing that we would be welcoming administrators, we needed to tailor the learning to meet their needs as well. We started sessions by looking at ourselves as “learners”, even before we dove into exploring ourselves as “readers”. We wanted our administrators to see themselves in the learning process (knowing that they weren’t returning to a classroom to experiment with the strategies). We also took every opportunity to model powerful presentation strategies (beyond the actual reading strategies), such as the use of social media.
I agree that leaders (classroom, school, system) are all on a continuum when it comes to igniting a passion for others to learn. I’m wondering if more of us modeled our own openness to learning and vulnerability when it comes to embracing something new, then more of our staff (students) would be open to professional learning opportunities.



From Fear to Fearless

sVZrRZVa_400x400 Erin Mutch is the Environmental Education and Management Learning Coordinator for  Thames Valley District School Board.  She is just about to complete her first year in the role and  her passion for her work is evident; whether in face to face conversations or in the ways in  which she documents the learning in her portfolio via social media.  Erin consistently highlights  the great work that teachers and students are embarking on as they weave environmental  responsibility into various content areas.  I have so much to learn from her  and her  commitment to ensuring that our world is preserved and respected.

I can’t wait to read more of her posts!


Link to Erin’s Blog:  A Caveat

My Comments:

Erin, I couldn’t agree with you more! Learning is the furthest thing from static and a true learner is always open to thoughts and ideas which may slightly or radically change their perspective. By sharing our thinking in such a public place, we do open ourselves up to feedback from others. Some may agree with us, which leads to validation and some may disagree with us which forces us to either modify our thinking or articulate more strongly our original idea.

Regardless of the reaction, our learning can’t help but change and evolve. Learners love those speeding trains!

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I would imagine that a number of new bloggers can relate to Erin’s feelings about those first few  posts.  In chatting with her yesterday at work, it was so exciting to hear her say that the fear of  hitting the Publish  button is diminishing with each post.  I wonder how much more  understanding and empathetic we become as educators when we place ourselves in similar  situations as our students.  We have all encountered students who were reluctant to write for a  variety of reasons ~ fear of someone else reading their work is one of those reasons!


Modeling  how to overcome that fear, by jumping in and writing is a wonderful way of making our own learning (and all the emotions that accompany it) visible!



sue.dunlop_1422816248_19 Sue Dunlop is a Superintendent with the Hamilton Wentworth School Board.  I initially  connected with Sue via Twitter and then had the opportunity to meet her in person at various  EdCamps (Hamilton, London and Philadelphia).  As a member of a Senior Administrator team,  I truly admire her dedication to making her thinking and learning visible, using various social  media platforms.  There is such a sense of approachability and openness to learning as she  connects with educators within her Board and beyond. How cool for teachers to start or end  their day, chatting about an article or an event with their SO!!  It was Sue’s daily blog post in April which inspired my “One a Day in the month of May”.

Link to her Blog:  Living in the Tension


My Comments:

As a system principal who has the opportunity to work alongside of the educators within the Language Portfolio, uncertainty has become a new reality for us ~ not only in light of the current labour situation, but also in light of the Provincial and Board emphasis on mathematics. At the present time, our work, which is to support educator learning, is on “hold” as a result of current labour conditions. And although the team is certainly maintaining a strong sense of work ethic and professionalism, I can tell that their hearts are not as invested as they usually are. When one is passionate about learning and sharing that learning, little else can take its place. As we reflect on this past year and begin to plan for the fall, there is a great sense of uncertainty as to whether or not we will be able to move forward or not. But I’m proud of them, as we plan with the best scenario in mind, knowing that our flexibility will be called into greater demand if the labour situation is not resolved.
Aside from the current labour situation is the new reality of the spotlight on mathematics. School teams, who once were required to have a literacy goal, are now shifting their focus and hence their selection of professional learning opportunities to mathematics. In a few short years, we have gone from a greater demand for our services than we could provide to a world where we now need to market ourselves. Again, I’m so very proud of the team for evolving their thinking in terms of professional learning in order to meet the needs of our “new” educators ~ those who are juggling the demands of new ways of supporting students in the area of mathematics along with the knowledge that if our students can’t read or write, they will never be able to effectively communicate their learning (new or otherwise) in the area of mathematics ~ or science or social studies or……..
And just as you stated, in times of uncertainty, the objective is to hold fast to your values and beliefs.


images (4) Dave Fife has been a colleague and friend for many years ~ I first met him as I started in my  role as a school administrator and he started his role as an Information Technologies Learning  Coordinator. We have collaborated on a number of projects and presented together on the topic  of social media at both a board and provincial level.  Dave has been blogging for a number of  years and he regularly posts “Tweets of the Week”.  For the month of June, he is taking the  “one a day” challenge.

Here is his first blog for the month of June ~ Inspiration

Here are my comments

I have no doubt that you will have many travellers in your blogging journey this month. You have an incredible “following” already and I’m sure that they are anxiously awaiting to see what resonates with you and what you find inspiring enough to blog about. Many of us already look forward to your Tweets of the Week.
The fear of not knowing what to write about is one that I experienced a couple of times last month. Just like you, I started the month with a number of skeleton ideas which needed a body and an accessory of poignant questions or controversy. At times I suffered from not writer’s block but writer’s barrage… Too many ideas and not enough patience to let them germinate into well developed posts. At other times, I suffered from watching the clock hit midnight and still having nothing in the “can” for the next morning. Thank goodness for my late night buddies who would engage me in a conversation which helped to solidify an idea. I also started my annual spring “let’s get outside and walk” routine, but this year I added my iPhone as an accessory, instead of a water bottle. I found myself dictating ideas and sometimes almost completed posts, which just needed some tweaking and then posting.
You have hit the nail on the head when you said that now you have a reason to be more “present” and “observant”. Just like your wonderfully trained photographer’s eye, your writer’s eye will constantly be on the lookout for the next post idea.

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I can’t wait for my daily dose of Perspectives.