Dare to Dream

As another busy day drew to a close, with my belongings slung over my shoulder, I made my way through the front doors of the school as the evening sunlight immediately warmed my face. For a brief moment, I closed my eyes and drew in a deep, cleansing breath.  Suddenly, a neighbour’s car slowly approached their driveway with their windows down and sunroof open; blaring from their sound system was, Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and I could not help but think, “How perfect.”

We had just finished our Kindergarten Open House and welcomed incoming students and their families. For the past two years, COVID restrictions had forced us to shift these invitations to a virtual format, which although provided some information could never compare to an actual visit to the school. For many of our families, this was their first time in the school, and they were wide-eyed and so enthusiastic as they made their way to the Family Center/Childcare table, visited our Speech and Language Pathologist, and met members of our School Council.

This year’s Kindergarten team decided to structure the Open House tour based on the Four Frames of the Kindergarten Communication of Learning Document. Each stop along the tour represented examples of Belonging and Contributing, Self-Regulation and Well-Being, Demonstrating Literacy and Mathematics Behaviours, and Problem Solving and Innovating.

Incoming students and their family members had the opportunity to identify their name and then colour it for their book bag for next year, as they wandered through the LLC. In the classrooms, families had the opportunity to see early literacy and numeracy activities and complete them with their children. Students were encouraged to print their name on one side of a wooden circle and families printed a wish for their child on the other side. The laughter and interaction were amazing to witness. In the hallway we had our “Newest Coyote” photo booth set up, so families could capture this visit. It also served as an effective way for the Kindergarten team to capture pictures and associated names as we look towards class placement meetings this week.

The other parts of the tour included a snack and an opportunity to create a coyote headband. As the weather beautifully cooperated families were able to visit the Forest of Learning and see how programming in that location supports Problem Solving and Innovating. I had to giggle when I overhead an older sibling share, “Now Charlotte, when you hear Mrs. M. blow the whistle, you need to get to the front of the forest as fast as you can and line up along this fence.”  Oh, the joys of having older siblings who have already experienced the fantastic Kindergarten program share their favourite memories.

This year, the sibling piece will be integral and one that we will explore deeply to ensure the best possible transition for our students, as the only ones who will be welcomed to our program will be younger siblings of current students. With the Board of Trustee motion last fall, which addressed our over significant crowding by transporting any new families to Knollwood, we have the pleasure of knowing all our incoming K1’s families. That was very evident tonight as older siblings proudly took the lead on the tour and, with great smiles, introduced their younger siblings to our team members. As our school is going into its sixth year, for many of these wee ones, we recall when they were first born. We watched them graduate from parents’ arms, to strollers, to toddling on the tarmac and now ready to take on their first year of school.

Following our raffle draws, we invited our newest Coyotes to join our Kindergarten team for a group photo. We ended the Open House with a cheer for the class of 2022-2023. I hope that tonight’s picture will somehow be safely stored and then shared in June 2031, as this group of amazing children enter the gym once again, but this time as Grade 8 graduates.

Oh, to be able to get inside the minds of these newest Coyotes. They have heard stories from their siblings, their parents are now pros, as they have been through this routine at least once before and so many of them seem already to start school. We even had some tears as children did not want to leave last night.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

May we create a school experience for them where the skies are blue (sometimes that shade of blue may vary) and we foster such confidence that they dare to dream big dreams!

What is most important as we welcome our newest students?

Come write with me….

Act 3 ~ The Ripple Effect

Just after nine, on the day after the Switch, a very confident grade 2 student marched into our welcome center (main office) and handed me a handmade envelope.   She proudly stated, “I want to be principal for a day” and Miss Carla ~ one of our amazing Student support “angels” ~ said that I needed to write you a letter.  I immediately opened the envelope, which exposed a very neatly, well constructed persuasive letter.  I had to giggle when, within the body of the letter, she assured me that the morning announcement about late busses and checking the hallway before finally completing attendance would continue to be completed during her time in the position. For those of us navigating school buses, we know too well that, not unlike the rest of the employee groups that we support (teachers, EAs, ECEs, Noon Hour supervisors and custodians) there is a shortage of bus drivers.  Each morning, after we check TVARRIS for staff absences, we check the BP Delay App to figure out which busses will be late and which students will be with us until after 4 pm each night as the drivers complete 2 runs.   I think in the last 5 months, we have managed to have only a handful of evenings when all buses were there at 3:30 pm to take our student home. But I digress…. lol

As I read her assurance about the announcement, I thought, “It’s really Ms. Cleaver ~ our attendance secretary’s job that she wants.”   The author went on to assure me that she is very smart, because she knows that 100 divided by 100 = 1 and that outdoor routines about sunscreen and warm clothing would be addressed, as needed.  But it was her final closing sentence that hooked me.  “I know if an 8th grader can be principal, so can I”.    Such confidence, such passion, and such drive!  My wish for her is that she never loses those attributes.

As we are in the throws of EQAO assessments, I could not help but think, “Man oh man, here is a level 4 persuasive letter and this wee one is only in grade 2.  I am so excited to see what her future holds.   This is an example of when students have an authentic reason for communicating their rationale, they meet/exceed the criteria.

Needless to say, we’re definitely going to create the opportunity for her to use the PA system and make one of those morning announcements about the bus late/attendance/hallway checks.

As the day proceeded, in each class that I visited, I was peppered with questions about the Switch.  Students were interested in how Kareem was selected if they could “apply” and how I did on my math test.  In one class, I shared that I got 92% and I was disappointed that I used the wrong formula on one question.  One astute, reflective grade six student piped up and said, “Mrs. Bruyns, we learn from our mistakes. I bet next time you will remember to use the right formula”.

My heart sings when I hear students, without prompting and with absolutely no agenda, share those lessons that we have been teaching them.  Again ~ an authenticity at its very best!

The day ended with a voice message from a wonderful colleague who called and requested to speak with Principal Kareem.

I popped up to excuse him from class and shared that he had a call!  As we made our way to my office, we chatted about the math test (he had to complete his during first nutrition break). I loved hearing his thinking as he worked through some of the questions, and we compared our strategies for tackling them. Another reminder about the importance of educators completing the assignments, the tests, the activities prior to giving them to students.  Think about the rich conversations/feedback/assessment gems that would emerge during those chats.

When we arrived at my office, we used Teams and reached out to Principal Purvis via video call and the two of them chatted about an issue with two students.  Principal Purvis wanted his input.  Kareem methodically asked good questions before sharing his direction.  The two of them went on to talk about Kareem’s future aspirations.   We both smiled, as he shared that he is thinking about going into Real Estate.  Thanks to Principal Purvis for taking the time to reach out and add to the authenticity of Kareem’s day as principal.  Just one of the reasons that I adore and respect him!

What started out as an incidental conversation 3 years ago has led to an amazing ripple effect.  It has created connections, inspired new dreams, and reinforced pedagogical strategies in the most authentic way.

Thanks to all my readers who have shared in this “Principal for a Day” three act narrative!  Your encouragement has given me the strength and confidence to continue my Post a Day for the Month of May goal.

Would love to hear some authentic writing opportunities that you have provided for students.

Come write with me….

Day 18 ~ Act 2 ~ Student for a Day!

Act 2

Yesterday I crafted and shared Act 1 which represented the background story to “Principal for a Day”. Act 2 shifts the action from the office to the classroom. While Kareem took on my role and responsibilities as the principal, the other half of the promise was that I would take on his role as a grade 8 student. Step one was to ensure that the teacher, Sarah Moore was onboard with having me sit in on her class for the first half of the day. Knowing how excited Kareem was about this opportunity, she was all in! Adding to the flavour of this tale, one needs to appreciate that Sarah is a former student of mine. In the late 90s, she was member of my grade 5 class at M.B. McEachren. We have often reflected on how our paths have intersected. Daily, I get to watch in pure pride as she continues to evolve as a masterful educator.

Back to the story…

Just as Kareem learned about his day, I needed to ensure that I knew what was expected of me. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I was starting my day by writing a math test focusing on metric conversions, surface area and volume. I will confess I spent time studying last night. I did not want to embarrass myself…smile. Years later I am still wondering when I will ever use deca/decimeters as a unit of measurement.  But I digress. Next on my list of things to do ~ figure out appropriate attire and find a backpack, knowing that showing up with my laptop bag was not going to cut it. As the first bell of the morning echoed in the halls, I slung my backpack on my shoulder and headed outside to join my grade eight peers. I was actually nervous that I would be standing there alone. A feeling that may be all too familiar for students. But our wonderful students came to my rescue. “Are you ready for the math test, Mrs. Bruyns? Do you have any questions?”  I admitted that I was worried about recalling the order for the metric conversions. They were quick to share the pneumonic, “King Henry Died by Drinking Chocolate Milk.”   As I made my way up the stairs, they were kind enough to show me where to sit and to help me secure a calculator. I listened intently as Sarah went through the test questions. I love that the first question was, “How are you feeling? How did you prepare?”   Then for the next hour I diligently went through each question, ensuring that I included each necessary step and the correct units. As other students finished before me and submitted their test to the teacher, I could once again feel some anxiety creeping in. I cannot help but wonder if that is a normal reaction for a number of students and how can we alleviate those emotions. As I completed my test and submitted it, I was able to take out a book and sit there quietly and read. Oh, my goodness ~ to read a book for pleasure in the light of day!!! Once the math tests were all submitted it was on to Literacy. A soft entry point of “This or That” which included justification for a selection of visuals, was a perfect primer for tackling a persuasive thesis. It did not take long for me to break my silence and engage in conversation with the group of students surrounding me. That depth of conversation was an authentic reminder about the importance of providing students with talk time to enrich and enhance their eventual writing. Their reflections and rationale were so well developed and passionate, for a moment it felt as if I was having a conversation with adult peers and not student “peers”.  I was actually disappointed when the bell rang, and it was time to head outside for the first nutrition break.  As we made our way to the yard, there was lots of chatter about the test. I found myself wondering how I did and when I would get my results. Once again, I found myself reflecting on current assessment practices and the importance of timely feedback to students. Sarah, being an effective and responsive educator, had the tests marked by the end of the day. I was thrilled with my 92%. I had used the incorrect formula within one of the questions, so I knew exactly what to do, to correct it.

By the middle of the day, Kareem and I shifted back to our traditional roles as I had some PDT and parent meetings to attend.

Although today’s “Freaky Friday” switch was initiated and implemented to grant a student’s long-awaited wish, it became clear that it was I who was given a true gift today. To be able to experience school through the eyes of a student provides us with insights and reflections that cannot be garnered any other way.

My wish for each educator who is reading this post is to find a way to gain an authentic lens into what it looks like, feels like to be a student in their class. Then share your reflections!

Come write with me….

Principal for a Day

Let me set the stage:

Act 1 ~ One day, three years ago, when Kareem was in grade 5, he engaged me in a conversation about wanting to be “Principal For a Day”. He was intrigued with the role and wanted to be in charge. He talked about promoting his favourite teacher and extending outdoor nutrition break times for himself and his peers. My response was, “As soon as you are as tall as me, you can be Principal for a Day.”  Throughout the next 2 years, we revisited that conversation numerous times and each exchange included new predictions about the role of the principal and how I spend my days. He was always so respectful, polite, and playful. To this day, I remember when he joined us in 2017, the year we opened. His family had been traveling overseas and they arrived the second week of school. I recall accompanying him and his mom to the door of his classroom. He seemed apprehensive and a bit nervous, but by the end of the day, when I checked in, he had already made some friends and was looking forward to day two. Throughout his time at our school, he was always the first to volunteer to help when needed, he is the type of learner who always acknowledges adults when he sees them in the hallway, on the stairs or on the yard. He is quick to share what he is doing in class as I pop in for a visit. He is one of those students whose absence next year will be significantly felt.

Fast forward to September 2021. Within weeks of being back to school, Kareem found me on the yard, stood back-to-back and low and behold he had considerably sprouted in height. Now, standing at 6 feet tall, he had indeed met the criteria of being as tall (or in this case, taller) as me and therefore I needed to make good on my promise.

Well, today was the day. Yesterday we met and reviewed what our respective mornings were going to look like. You see, the other half of the deal was that I would be a grade 8 student ~ we were switching roles! When I shared what today was going to look like, his former grade 5 teacher found me in the hall and remembered that initial exchange 3 years ago.

Here was his schedule:

8:30 ~ meet with the leadership team to ensure that all assignments were covered
8:45 ~ roam and say hi to staff/students on yard
8:55 ~ be ready to greet primary students at the top of the South Stairwell
9:00 – 9:45 ~ visit classes, collect artefacts for display case
9:45 ~ Read Aloud with K class
10:15 ~ ELITE (Early Literacy Intervention  Team Effort) reading group ~ 3 grade one students
10:40 – 11:40 on the yard for all three outdoor breaks.

At noon, we needed to switch back to our regular roles as he needed to help with Track and Field, and I needed to attend some PDT meetings.

My schedule:

8:45 am ~ wait outside with the grade 8s until the bell rang at 9:00
9:00 ~ Math test (Surface area, volume, metric conversions)
10 ~ Literacy class ~ Persuasive paragraph with the prompt, “Should Sam be granted full custody of Lucy?” based on the movie, “Sam, I am”.
10:40 ~ on the yard with the students, as a student


The staff were amazing and embraced him as a team member. He was provided with a walkie-talkie and used it to send positive messages to the staff and to find a student on the yard who needed to make his way to the office for a pick-up. He was escorted to the staff room where he got a coffee (not sure he really consumed it ~ when I got back to my office, there was water in his mug). He used the PA system to share that it was going to be an outdoor nutrition break and for students to use, “Care, Caution, Common Sense and Kindness” while on the yard. He was provided with some e-purchasing paper copies which he checked to ensure that there were appropriate consumables listed. He did a beautiful job with the Read Aloud ~ we had talked about some strategies to use, and he took those strategies and personalized them. My ELITE group loved spending time with him. I understand that a number of staff inquired about raises, days off, crazy purchases and he handled all of them with professionalism and a sense of humour.

When we debriefed at the end of the day, I inquired as to what he enjoyed the most. With enthusiasm and passion, hands down it was the Read Aloud. He talked about how surprised he was with their responses and how good they were at predicting the morale of the story.

He was also pleasantly surprised that during nutrition break, although he went looking for it, there were no issues on the yard. “Everyone was playing so nicely.”  In classic Kareem style, he did not let the day end without revisiting his desire to promote his favourite teacher ~ who just happened to be the same Grade 5 teacher who inspired him 3 years ago.

Our days are crazy busy. It is easy to lose ourselves in endless emails. As I craft this blog, I know that I have a number of emails to get to before calling it day. It is easy to lose ourselves in planning. I know that timetables are weighing heavy on my mind. It is easy to lose ourselves in reports. I know that HR is awaiting a report for a former educator. It is easy to lose ourselves in meetings. I know how necessary they are to support student learning.

Today was a tangible reminder to find ourselves in what is most important ~ relationships with our students, creating memories and following through on promises.

Stay tuned for Act 2….

Debate Debacle

Like many Ontarians I tuned into tonight’s Provincial Leaders’ debate to gain a deeper understanding of the various Party’s platforms to make an informed decision as I venture to the polls on June 2nd.   I will begin by sharing my admiration and respect for the moderators, Steve Paikin and Althia Raj, who worked tirelessly to maintain a level of decorum and respect as the candidates did their best to push the boundaries of the specified time limits, dodge and weave their way around the questions and verbally attack each other with colourful accusations.  As the candidates took to the microphone, their responses fluctuated from boastful recounts of past accomplishments to unrealistic promises of future plans. They accused each other of a multitude of indiscretions, including but not limited to broken election promises, increased taxes, cuts to education and extensive wait lists for mental health supports.   Each time one of the candidates took to the microphone, I wanted to hear a clear, well-developed plan for the future of this province as we make our way out of a pandemic certainly as a citizen, but even more predominantly as an educator.  As education is a provincial responsibility, it is one of these four individuals who will be leading the decisions that will impact our most vulnerable precious resources ~ our students. Education was significantly impacted during the pandemic, as was every other facet of our day to day lives. The current government needed to make decisions based on information that was in constant flux.  Did they make unpopular decisions? They sure did! But in their defence, none of the other parties have had to lead a Province through a pandemic.   The Liberal’s promise of reducing all class sizes to 20 and bringing back grade 13 may sound good to a voter who is at arm’s length from today’s education challenges, but the reality is with so many schools already over capacity, I am not sure it could ever become a reality.  If I take our school as an example ~ with 1000 students that would mean 50 classes in a school with 23 classrooms.  We already have 17 portables on our playground.  So, if the Liberal promise came into effect that would bring us to 10 more portables on site.  There is not even a remote possibility that this could ever be entertained.   As far as bring back Grade 13, with our current mode of operation, any student can return for a “victory” lap and take credits within a fifth year.  I am not sure of the rationale for mandating Grade 13.

After 90 minutes of listening, I can honestly say that I am nowhere closer to making an informed decision which will impact my vote on June 2.  I did however appreciate learning about Bill 86, Our London Family Act which will aim to combat Islamophobia and Hatred.  With the upcoming June 6th anniversary of the attack on the Afzaal, this bill is timely and important.

We teach our students about the importance of debates, how to craft meaningful arguments to support a position within a debate, how to deliver an effective debate and how to react appropriately during the rebuttal component of a debate.   I recall when I was in grade 8 and we were asked to debate the impact of watching television.  I was given the “pros” of watching television.  We used the argument of the importance of educational TV shows such as Sesame Street and David Suzuki’s, The Nature of Things.  At no point were we allowed to accuse, to demean or to disgrace our opponents.  The learning objective was to inform our audience with facts and then let them make an informed decision.

I cannot help but wonder if tonight’s candidates could have learned a thing or two from an elementary school debate.

Thoughts on tonight’s debate?

Come write with me….

The Great Equalizer

I have recently discovered Channel 77 on Sirius XM ~ On Broadway! Depending on the timing of my scanning/searching I have landed on hits from the classics of Camelot to the recent additions of Hamilton and everything in between. In amongst the songs there are rich conversations between the hosts and their guests. Yesterday I happened upon one such conversation. The host was recounting a childhood memory of arriving in New York City to see a live performance. Her family had been traveling during the summer in a motor home and on this occasion, they landed tickets to a Broadway show and decided to go. Her initial concern (even though she was just six) was that all she had in her travel wardrobe was a pair of cut-off jeans and a T-shirt. Even at a young age she had made the connection between going to the theatre and formal attire. But it was her reflection that, “As soon as the house lights went down and the show started, it didn’t matter what I was wearing as the Arts are the great equalizer” which resonated so deeply with me. The phrase reminded me about a recent episode of, This is Us, where Rebecca reminisces about visiting the Metropolitan Art Gallery as a child and watching in awe as this woman spent hours looking at this one painting.  The emotions evoked by the painting are reflective of the experiences and emotions of the viewer.
That is what is so magical about the Arts ~ whether it is a song, a painting, a dance routine, or a live performance ~ each person who interacts with it is going to experience something personal, something unique and something poignant. No two reactions will ever be the same. The artist never discriminates against their audience. You do not need a tuxedo, a sequined gown, or a degree to be moved to tears, to be provoked or even disturbed by a composition, a collage or a choregraphed routine. There is no magical bank account balance, shade of skin colour or cultural background that prevents spectators from losing themselves or alternatively finding themselves within the Arts.

So, in knowing that, as we reflect on the important work of Equity in our schools, it is more important than ever that we ensure that our students are provided with as many opportunities as possible to not only experience all forms of the Arts, but to be encouraged to explore their connections and reactions.

There are so many ways to include the Arts into all of the curriculum areas.  When you reflect on your programming and the experiences that you are offering your students, how often do you infuse the Arts?

Come write with me….

Dandelions as a Learning Tool

Each spring, as the world is reborn, lawns that have lay snow covered and dormant for the past six months begin to morph into lush meadows; deepening in shades of green as the days lengthen and the sun strengthens.  Yet to the chagrin of most green thumbed gardeners, those flourishing fields more often than not become infused with the most commonly identified plant, the bright sunshine yellow petalled dandelion.  As the spring season shifts into summer, the yellow petals transform into wispy puff balls which attract the daydreamers who softly close their eyes, inhale, make a wish and with a concerted effort send the delicate seeds into the air in search of new lands where the cycle begins once again.

Like many of our current gardening practices, our desire to eradicate our lawns of dandelions is a relatively new practice.  Our ancestors understood and appreciated both their medicinal nutritional value.  Ironically, they are actually quite good for our lawn’s health and yet we pluck, pull and chemically treat them.  For more information about dandelions, check out this website.


This past week, a number of classes took to our field and decided to use dandelions as a learning tool.   Our kindergarten students practiced patience and fine motor control by creating 3D lion heads and a variety of crowns and bracelets.   Our grade 8s deepened the crown creation activity by determining the circumference of their dandelion designs. And of course, as I enjoyed the sunshine and connections during our nutrition breaks, I was gifted a number of dandelion bouquets.

Upon reflection of this activities, I was reminded that sometimes the best learning tool is right there in our own backyard ~ in this case literally!  Blossoming, changing and tempting us to pick it. In our quest to ensure that we are doing what is in our students’ best interest, we forget that our students don’t always need the pre-packaged set of numbered fraction tiles, needle and thread activites or multi-coloured linking cubes in order to meet the curriculum expectations.  We know the value and power of student voice and choice and yet sometimes we look past the simple tools, those that students naturally gravitate towards when selecting materials to create authentic learning experiences.


Have you had similar experiences with simple tools?

Come write with me….

Desk Set

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are my favourite screen couple of all time. To this day, I’ve yet to find a cinematic couple with such chemistry and relatability.  Most of their movies I have watched over and over again.  Even though I’ve seen “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” over a dozen times, I still tear up as Tracy delivers his final monologue.  Now, Mr. Prentice, clearly a most reasonable man, says he has no wish to offend me, but wants to know if I’m some kind of a nut. And Mrs. Prentice says that like her husband, I’m a burnt-out old shell of a man who cannot even remember what it’s like to love a woman the way her son loves my daughter. And strange as it seems, that’s the first statement made to me all day with which I am prepared to take issue. Because I think you’re wrong. You’re as wrong as you can be.

I admit that I hadn’t considered it, hadn’t even thought about it, but I know exactly how he feels about her. And there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that your son feels for my daughter that I didn’t feel for Christina. Old? Yes. Burnt out? Certainly. But I can tell you the memories are still there – clear, intact, indestructible. And they’ll be there if I live to be 110.” 

Knowing that Tracy and Hepburn were together for 26 years and Tracy died shortly after filming this movie makes his description of mature love not only relevant but truly authentic.  I can’t help but imagine that the tears in Hepburn’s eyes were very real and not artificially produced.

So, imagine my delight when tonight, as I was clicking through the channels, I landed upon TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and a new to me Tracy/Hepburn collaboration ~ Desk Set was about to start.    It was the movie they made in 1957 just prior to their final production, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?  In amongst the zany Rom-Com components (mismatched lovers, and quick witted dialogue), these two lead actors seamlessly play off of each other line by line.  Hepburn continues to be a woman for all decades ~ strong, stylish and sophisticated.  Tracy beautifully plays the bristly, yet loveable mature leading man. Beyond the Rom-Com components, the plot dabbles in the concept of man vs. machine and machine taking the place of man ~ or in this case women.   Hepburn leads a group of women who are responsible for the reference department for a broadcasting network. They confidently answer queries from historical events, to specific stanzas in poems to a player’s batting average. Tracy’s character is responsible for introducing an early iteration of the computer to the network. As one can predict, it turns out that the women are far more efficient and effective than the computer, which becomes overwhelmed with complex questions. The plot concludes with the realization that the best course of action is for the computer to complement the knowledge base of the women, not replace it.

Fast forward 65 years and unfortunately the playful plot in Desk Set with the happy ending, actually foreshadows what has come true in so many industries.

According to my Google rabbit hole search, “The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that the increased use of technology and automation is expected to displace 85 million jobs by 2025. Technology is currently performing 30% of overall tasks, while humans are doing the remaining 70%, a ratio that is expected to shift to 50:50 in the next few years.”

I continue to wonder what this means for education.  We know that as a result of the pandemic, technology has certainly played an increased role in the last two years as we shifted to online learning as a way to support students while schools were closed.   But I’m firm believer that there is absolutely no form of technology that can ever replace a masterful educator.


Come write with me…


Makeshift Hummingbird Hospital

So, how was your day?” As I unpacked my lunch bag and kicked off my heels, I anticipated a typical response about hitting the driving range, making some deliveries, and tackling some gardening. What I did not expect was, “I’m nursing a hummingbird back to health.”  But then again, this day had already been infused with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, so by 6:30 pm, nothing was going to phase me. Sure enough, on the back deck there was this colourful, little hummingbird, perched on the corner of the table along with a small box filled with grass clippings and a mug of sugar water with a makeshift syringe/straw contraption balancing on the rim. My husband was quick to demonstrate the method with which he had been feeding this bird for the past hour. The story goes that the bird had flown into the warehouse at some point in the day and was unable to find its way out. Through sheer exhaustion and dehydration, the bird had landed, and my son was able to bring it to the house which led to veterinarian Bruyns to the rescue.

The tiny creature seemed calm, eager to drink and amenable to me trying to capture a picture with my phone. I have been fascinated by hummingbirds for the longest time. We have a feeder at the cottage and there have been days that I have waited patiently just trying to capture one in flight ~ never anticipating that I would be able to capture one in a complete resting pose. This one had a brilliant red breast that resembled a sequined necklace and a combination of green/turquoise feathers that changed shades depending on the angle of the sun. Its pointed beak was long and slightly curved ~ perfect for draining flowers of their sweet nectar. With a quick Google search, I learned that it is called a Ruby Throated Hummingbird and can beat it’s wings 53 times per second.

As I finished capturing some photos, I noticed the wings begin to flutter; slowly at first and then revving up to full speed. Within minutes the bird took to flight and soared out of sight.

For any of us in education, we often refer to the final three months of the school year as “AprilMayJune” as they fly by so quickly. We have one foot in this year as we plan graduation, craft final reports, and implement year end excursions and one foot in next year as we navigate staffing, create timetables and plan Kindergarten Open Houses (just to mention a few activities). There is little, if any, opportunity to stop the clock, to come to a complete resting point and to be nurtured by a caring (albeit mysterious) individual. Today was a beautiful reminder about, not only the sheer beauty of nature, but the importance of stopping and refueling in order to recharge and then soar.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ’til It’s Gone

Covid (and the accompanying health and safety protocols) created the conditions for components of our school day to be compromised ~ but none so significantly as The Arts. The last time our students came together to see a live performance was Friday, March 13, 2020, as a part of the 100 Schools Grand Theatre initiative and it is only recently that we have started to hear the sound of wind instruments drift from the music portable. Today must have been a grade 4 day, as it was the sound of recorders filling the air with that familiar sound.

To give credit where it is due, our team of educators found unique ways to incorporate the Arts through the increased use of percussion instruments, string options (ukuleles) and teaching our students sign language as an alternative to singing. But there is nothing that compares to the sound of children harmonizing or bringing students together to perform for a live audience.

This week, as we were meeting potential new team members for both an instrumental music and grade 7 position, there were a number of candidates who focused on the Arts for their artefact. Our most recent applicant for a grade 7 position, shared a “Minecraft” inspired online Art Gallery, where she presented and gave life to passion projects that her students created. There were beautiful works of art, cooking websites and even a crocketed cactus, which became their classroom pet. We have had such rich conversations with candidates about the performances they have supported in their current schools over the years and their vision of what the music program could look like if they were selected.

As we look towards the upcoming 2022-2023 school year there is this incredible excitement about the possibility of not only celebrating but bringing the Arts to the forefront of all that we do. The research continues to support the important role that the Arts play in building community, supporting regulation, and maintaining social and emotional well-being for both staff and students.  Staff are already looking towards booking live theatre for their classes. Just today, I had a passionate conversation with an educator about the role that dance plays in not only supporting curriculum expectations but in providing an authentic platform for applying those expectations. Teaching students the necessary French vocabulary to support a dance routine is magical to watch and listen to. Talk about acknowledging and celebrating all learning styles!!

We have reached out the company that installed our complicated and yet high-quality sound and light system, as a number of staff are excited about receiving training. I just know that a school show is somewhere in our near future, and I am bubbling with anticipation. There is something magical about watching and listening to a group of educators who are thirsty for the opportunity to collaborate on such a project. I know that our caregiver community will be the first to step up and say, “How can we help?”

We have learned so much in the past 2 years as we have navigated life in a school (or online) during a global pandemic. Some of the those lessons we will take forward and incorporate into this new post- pandemic world. Others we will gladly toss aside and refer to only in our old age, when we reminisce about the 2020/2021/2022 pandemic years.
When I think about how the Arts were compromised in schools, my mind will drift to the lyric, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t what you got ‘til it’s gone.”

If I have learned anything along this journey, it is that schools are meant to be filled with music, dancing, singing, performing, and embracing all forms of the Arts.

What are you most looking forward to as we ease into a post-pandemic world?

Come write with me….