Let It Go...

As I've entered into this new profession of teaching I have really connected with a lot of people and made some great new friends... It's really nice to have so much in common with people around you. But on the flip side I have noticed a striking common ground with a lot of teachers - Perfectionism! I'm sure it's in other professions as well but holy smokes there are a lot of perfectionist teachers out there!

Now perfectionism isn't something new to me (as you may remember from this post) but rarely have I been surrounded by so many other people striving for the impossible right alongside me! Unfortunately this has made my goal of allowing more imperfection in my life infinitely harder...

This summer has been eye opening for me when I realized just how much of a perfectionist I can be. From planning a friend's wedding shower to writing compositions for French class, I have realized how hard it is for me to chill out and relax (even on my summer break!)

Enter in my new mantra...


I'm really working on just letting it go. Instead of stressing about not getting an A+ in the course that has been challenging from day one, I'm going to try to acknowledge that everything I have learned is vastly more important than the letter grade at the end.

Instead of stressing about the job I may or may not have in September, I'm going to remember that things happen for a reason and I will be able to find joy in whatever I may end up doing.

Instead of stressing over whether or not my new apartment is put together enough to have people over, I'm going to invite them anyways and enjoy what is set up here.

And the biggest stressor of all for me - I'm going to work to become okay with missing out on some things because it really is impossible to try to be at every social event with every friend all the time (most people probably know this already but it's new news for me!)

I feel that life was somehow passing me by while I was try to make all the pieces fit in a row. I think learning how to let things go and live in the moment will help me become more of the teacher I want to be.

Next school year I hope that I will not miss out on as many of the little conversations or moments with my students. I hope that I will be more relaxed and able to focus on the beauty in my daily life.


Girl Rising - Go See This Film!

Last night I had the incredible opportunity to attend a special viewing of "Girl Rising" with one of the most inspirational, generous and "game changing" teachers I know (she also happens to be my former practicum teacher - lucky me!)  Take a moment to watch the trailer for the film before reading the rest of this post.

I've watched the trailer about ten times since yesterday and each time my entire body crawls with goosebumps, my eyes fill with tears and my bottom lip trembles while I try to hold back those tears.  10x10 has created a magnificent film with the help of World Vision and other NGOs.  The stories the nine girls have to share are, unfortunately, not unique portrayals of everyday life for women in the developing world.  Despite this fact, these stories bring hope, power and perseverance to the forefront of my mind.

Human rights has always been one of my "extracurricular" passions.  I cannot remember a time when I wasn't curious about civilian lives during a war, genocide or local uprising.  I've used this passion to help drive my teaching and my learning for many, many years.  I could talk at length about human rights and the phenomenal worldwide initiatives that inspire me, but for now I'll leave you with "Girl Rising".

For more information about "Girl Rising", its directors and producers, its writers, World Vision and the nine girls presented in this film, click HERE.

PS - The writer for Sokha's segment (the young girl from Cambodia) is Loung Ung.  Read more about Loung Ung at our newest "Book Tale" here.


Setting & Achieving Intentions

Meaghan posted a beautiful, metaphorical running and teaching post the other day, so I told her I was going to write a running post today (not entirely teaching related, unless you include summer work/life balance as part of teaching...which I do).

This weekend I ran my first 10k race ever! The route was a gorgeous, flat 10k around the seawall in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC.

6.30am Race Day view at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.
6.30am Race Day view at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.


Back in early June I wrote a post about the 5k Goddess Run my good teacher friend, Jess, and I did with 16 of our middle school students.  Since then I've set some running and fitness intentions for my summer break.  This first year of teaching took a toll on my personal fitness level; I struggled quite a bit with work/life balance, gained a few pounds and did not have an ideal diet or fitness routine (possibly one of the reasons I was so sick since January?!)  Since the Goddess 5k I've grown to love running more and more; I feel proud of this new passion because until recently I have loathed running.  My cousin, Ali, and I were planning to do some kind of race together this summer and we finally decided on the Summerfast 10k in Vancouver.  Ali managed to convince her mom (my auntie) and her sister (my cousin) to do the run too and before we knew it, we had a solid training plan set! We only trained for 7 weeks (two of which I was so sick I couldn't run at all) and we all ran personal bests.  My time was 1.04, one full minute faster than my 10k training time!

Ali and I getting started.  We ran the first 3k together and then she took off and finished in 57mins! So great for her first 10k!
Ali and I getting started. We ran the first 3k together and then she took off and finished in 57mins! So great for her first 10k!

I worked pretty hard for this 10k race considering I just finished a year of minimal physical activity.  I know I can work and run even harder and I'm prepared to take on my next intention: run a sub50 minute 8k race in October.  I've already registered for my next race, found a sub55 10k program on my running app, and purchased new runners.  Time to work toward some new intentions and find a way to include this new passion of mine into my work/teaching life!!

Post-race, happy 10k finishers!
Post-race, happy 10k finishers!

I'm open to any and all ideas you may have about work/life balance when personal fitness is at stake.  Please share your thoughts with me about this topic! I have several more weeks of summer vacation before the insanity of the new school year begins, but I am determined to create new fitness habits this summer and have them carry over into the new year (and by new year I mean September through June, because let's be honest, don't all teachers function on this type of calendar? Who does New Year in January anyhow? ;) )


It's the hills that make us stronger...

This is just a quick post of some rambling thoughts...

Right now I'm training for my second half marathon so, besides school, running is taking a lot of my time! Tonight I went out to search for the "perfect hill" to run my hill repeats.

As I was running up this "perfect hill" I found myself feeling a little angry with my pre-run self who seemed to think that a super steep hill was what I needed.

When I get tired during hill runs I try to keep reminding myself that the hills are what make me stronger and a better runner. Tonight though my mind wasn't as much on the hill as it was on my French test tomorrow and that assignment I didn't do great on the other day and how overwhelmed I feel sometimes in my class and on and on and on...

It was at this point that I reminded myself that the hills are what make me stronger and better. My hill tonight is that studying I need to do while my friends are all at a barbecue. My hill tomorrow will be working hard to think through what I've learned this week and apply it on my test. And next week I will have to do it again.


And just like I feel great right now after my run...

When this course is done the "hills" that I've had will make me a better teacher and a better French speaker. In the end those hills are worth every second of pain we may feel!



WOAH. We have been busy and we apologize for the lack of posts lately (although, maybe no one cares? But we do! We care so much!)  We are both experiencing extremely humbling encounters in our French Immersion classrooms.  We are overwhelmed French students drowning in a sea of verb conjugation (Karley) and language fluency (Meaghan).  The start of our third week of school has caught us off guard...

Our frantic, stress case text message conversation we had pre-study sesh tonight.
Our frantic, stress case text message conversation we had pre-study sesh tonight.

Basically, French school has hit us in the face in a large way.  Now, in case you all haven't figured this out yet...Meaghan and I are what the world calls "perfectionists".  We push ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, academically to be our very best ALL the time.  We have always been this way (I think it's a common trait among teachers).  Needless to say, French school has been a humbling experience for us so far, especially in the past few days, because we are both not the best in our class.  We're both struggling (just a tiny bit!) with this fact.  We don't mean to sound snobby, but very often school is not "hard" for us.  I mean to say, we have generally breezed through all forms of education with top grades and extra-curricular involvement with minimal struggle.  We know we are among the fortunate individuals; school is not easy for many people, our own students included.

This is my concentration face.  Gettin' my learn on as I conjugate, conjugate, conjugate.
This is my concentration face. Gettin' my learn on as I conjugate, conjugate, conjugate.

Again, French school has shown us a valuable lesson while we continue to play the student role.  A few things we've noticed as observant teachers in the student's chair:

K: I love my teacher.  She is hilarious, to the point where my class is laughing every five minutes.  I love how my teacher does not directly translate a word for us - instead, she provides additional description (en Francais!) to help us find the French word we are looking for.  For example: The word "cerise" came up in conversation today.  Someone didn't know what it meant, so instead of saying, "cherry", my teacher explained: "Rouge, fruits, petite, rond..." and eventually the questioning student understood without having to hear an English word.  I'm definitely filing this strategy away for a future FSL class!

M: Wow! It's so hard to push yourself to do something that is so intimidating! I've ended up in a situation where I feel insecure about my own level of French and my fluency to the point of not wanting to participate in discussions some day. This is so not like me - typically the one in the front row with my hand up for every question! What's happened? The tables have turned and I am not the star student, I'm the one struggling to keep up with what is going on in the class. I'm now the one who has to spend lunch hours making vocabulary lists and my before read reading has turned into a last minute study session. Is this a bad thing? Not at all! Although I'm almost always patient and empathetic with my students I have come to the realization that I really did not know what it was like to struggle so much with a class. Next time one of my students seem withdrawn from a class discussion I'm hoping that I will remember what I am going through this summer. Live and learn, hey?


Book Tale: First They Killed My Father

In 2007, while traveling through South East Asia with my husband, I discovered an amazing woman called Loung Ung.  Loung was born in Cambodia and survived Pol Pot's regime and the Khmer Rouge's genocide.  Many members of Loung's family did not survive the Khmer Rouge's atrocities, but Loung was able to make her way (with her eldest brother and sister-in-law) to a refugee camp in Thailand, and later was sponsored to move to the USA.  I got my hands on a photocopied version (the only version I could find!) of Loung's first book, "First They Killed My Father", when we were traveling through her native country, Cambodia.  I actually bought and read her second book, "Lucky Child", while in Cambodia, too.  Reading Loung's life stories while traveling through her home country was a powerful, life changing experience for me.  Because I was in Cambodia (specifically Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Battambang) while reading Loung's recollections of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide, her experiences were literally at my fingertips.  Talk about bringing the (true) story to life!

LoungUng This book is an emotionally taxing read, but it's well worth it.  Loung describes her experiences living in and surviving Pol Pot's regime.  She also tells of memories with her family and the struggles they endured to try and stay together during the Khmer Rouge invasion.  Since "First They Killed My Father", Loung Ung has written several more books about her experiences (including moving to the USA and meeting and marrying her American born husband).  Loung is a renowned human rights activist and lecturer and has worked for various organizations such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She is changing the world with every word she speaks. If you enjoy learning and reading about human rights related issues and stories, you will love Loung Ung's work!


Role Reversal

So as you probably know by now this summer we are back in school! Since we've spent a week in role reversal of the rest of the year we thought we would share our thoughts about being back in the desks and what it helps to remind us about for our teaching.

Meaghan: This first week has reminded me of a couple important things... 1. I really love learning new things 2. It takes a lot of effort to push myself past my initial shyness in a group 3. I really really really HATE sitting in a desk for more than... Um.... 10 minutes?!
I think it's been really important for me to be reminded what it's like to be the one sitting in the desk instead of up front.

Karley: Like Meaghan said, the tiny little desks at UVic are brutal.  How did I sit still in one of those for seven years? HOW!? I first noticed my new found inability to sit still at a staff meeting this year; I could not get comfortable and had the hardest time focusing, whereas one short year ago I had no problem sitting and listening for hours and hours.  My LMF class has had limited opportunity to get up and move around during lessons and I'm finding this to be the greatest challenge so far.  As Meaghan mentioned, it's easy to forget the element of comfort when teaching - this role reversal has been an excellent reminder about what it feels like to be a student in a tiny desk sitting and listening for hours on end.

*note: how do Meaghan and I cope with all this sitting still for the whole day business? We run.  Yesterday Meaghan ran 10km and I ran 8km. Check out one of our favourite running blogs (by Hungry Runner Girl) here!

Speedy new run shorts (and an excess of in class sitting time) helped me finish my 8k run last night!
Speedy new run shorts (and an excess of in class sitting time) helped me finish my 8k run last night!

Meaghan: So far we have been given a variety of opportunities to increase our French knowledge. Some of the best have been a hip hop workshop in French, a movie (subtitled), and the opportunity to explore some websites with music videos/news clips all in French. All of this is in addition to the regular lessons and classroom discussion and it definitely keeps it interesting! I think I want to try a once a month movie when I teach French next time I get to teach it. Also, Karley and I have already discussed doing a French teacher movie night so if you're in the area and want to join let us know!

Karley: I agree that the 'ip 'op en Francaise was a fantastic experience.  As you all know, I taught middle school dance for six months this year, and I have an extensive dance/gymnastics history, so my enthusiasm for this Atelier (workshop) was already through the roof before we even started! Experiencing hip hop choreography in French reminded me that learning can happen in many different ways.  Learning kinesthetically in a different language is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn a new language because the learner is moving, listening, copying, questioning, confirming and perhaps even speaking a little bit.  The brain AND body is extremely active during the kinesthetic learning process which, for some learners (like me!), solidifies the entire educational experience. Check out our Facebook page here to see the video of our dance!

Meaghan: I've really enjoyed the opportunity to be in the immersion environment (I didn't do French immersion myself so it's brand new). I can see the benefit to speaking French all the time and I am already starting to think in French more often. I would really like to find more ways to create an immersion environment in the FSL or Core French classroom. I like to keep the French class a place to really enjoy and explore French together but I need some suggestions to make the experience more immersive. Any ideas?

Karley: Like Meaghan, I also did not do French immersion in school. In fact, I didn't do ANY French in school, so this whole French thing is very new to me.  I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I understand (about 80% of what's being said).  That being said, my ability to reply to a question is lacking.  I am looking forward to improving my oral French in the weeks to come!

We would love to hear from you about your experiences being back on the "student" side of things.


A Little Inspiration...

As you may know, I am currently a research assistant at our local university. We are working on a project about a type of self-directed inquiry called "Transformative Inquiry." I joined this project in the summer before my final year of university and it has been an influential part of my teaching ever since. In our final year we take the Transformative Inquiry course and it is one of the first opportunities where we are able to really look at our place in this education system: what we bring in as a teacher, what we want to change, etc. Through this process I have really begun to understand who I am as a teacher and what I am going to bring to my students that I feel this world needs.

My "Path with Heart" from my TI Project
My "Path with Heart" from my TI Project

The freedom of being able to look a topic of interest was a turning point for me when it came to the delivery of curriculum in my own classroom. When I took my contract this year I knew I wanted to incorporate some of this style of learning but I wasn't sure how.

After Christmas, I ventured into the personal inquiry project with my students and it began to take shape. Each student looked at a topic they were interested in and had to research it, talk to friends/family members about it, conduct an interview with someone, etc. And then we looked at their topics with a global lens to see how connections could be made worldwide. The students then had to do a personal, community, and global connections piece and a presentation for the class.

The project was far from perfect... We needed more time on a few parts that I tried to rush through and much less time on other areas. It ran too late into the end of the year and not everyone had the opportunity to present. Some students were confused about the process and very focused on an end result. Some lessons went off the rails pretty quickly and we had to switch gears... But in the end there was a lot of great connections and learning that came from the project and I am so happy that I ventured into the unknown with this one.

My subject connection was to language arts, although I believe you can connect personal projects to most, if not all, subjects. I think writing and sharing about their interests was some of the most effective learning this year. When the students were talking about something they were passionate about they seemed to get lost in their topic and speak from their heart. Their writing was deep and moving - well written and again, from the heart.

I learned a lot from doing this project but the thing that was most astounding to me was watching the students talk about their topics and share the information with each other. In June, when some of the students were presenting, I saw something come alive in the class. There were students sharing very personal information and the rest of the class appeared to be truly listening to their peers. I saw connection and understanding grow between many students. It was amazing to watch and I felt so inspired.

The beautiful words from a student...
The beautiful words from a student...

I received a note from one of my students on the last day of class that thanked me for the opportunity to present to the class about a topic that she did not feel she had been able to talk about otherwise. In this note she said that I had inspired in her a love for English and expressing herself through writing and then she said that she only wished I had found the same inspiration this year. Well all I can say is that I truly did... I am inspired to continue to have students complete personal projects and I am inspired by the passions and ideas that the students have. I have found more inspiration in watching these students share than I ever could while reading or researching anything on my own.

Do you do any personal projects or inquiry in your classroom?

Would you like to hear more about the specifics of my project?

Also, please share some of your inspiration from your students!


La Maison Francaise...Day 2

Our French school experience so far in three photos:

Our first day of LMF, pre-placement test.  Happy teachers back in the classroom after three days off, but this time as students!  Meaghan is in level 6 and I am in level 2 :)
Our first day of LMF, pre-placement test. Happy teachers back in the classroom after three days off, but this time as students! Meaghan is in level 6 and I am in level 2 :)
Meaghan, on Day 2, getting ready to sing some French songs with everyone in our program. What you can't see is the lead singer - he had a guitar and harmonica, awesome!
As soon as I got home I put my feet up on the wall (I biked 25kms today and on Monday = shredded quads) and had a sweaty snuggle with Franklin (his choice, definitely not mine). I'm exhausted from listening to French all day long, but also impressed that I actually know more than I thought I did!

Thoughts after our first full day of LMF?

Karley: My German brain is struggling to make space for new French vocab and grammar and I'm constantly thinking in German...so annoying!  I'm impressed with myself because I actually understand a lot more French than I thought I would...that being said, my writing and speaking is atrocious.  LOTS to learn!   Grateful for our "Atelier" today - Hip Hop (or, 'Ip 'Op, en Francais!) I basically told Meaghan we had to do Hip Hop because I needed to feel like I was good at something this week.  Meaghan has the French skills (she's in Level 6!) so I figured we'd make a good French Hip Hop team ;)  We rocked it.

Meaghan: I love speaking French again; however, I'm a little nervous about being in Level 6 (high intermediate to advanced).  Very happy to have sunshine and the time to eat lunch outside and soak in that sunshine!  Hip Hop was great today; I am more than happy to get additional exercise than additional French lessons :) So far all the participants and teachers in LMF have been great!

Day 3, here we come! Bedtime, 7pm tonight?