The Dance Current - September/October issue feature

Several months ago I interviewed for the September/October issue of "The Dance Current", a Canadian dance magazine focusing on all aspects of dance (from dancer friendly recipes to various types of choreography).  I stumbled across the opportunity to be involved in this interview via social media and I am so grateful to have been selected as one of the featured dance teachers in this issue.

I am looking forward to another year of high school dance, while adding elementary dance and music to my teaching repertoire! I have many creative plans and thoughts and ideas bubbling constantly...I almost can't keep up with myself. More to come on the blog soon concerning my plans for the year!

You can purchase an online subscription of The Dance Current HERE.

Thank you to The Dance Current for featuring me, to Sarah Lochhead, for the interview and careful fact checking/follow up, and my former VP, Michelle Haidar, for immediately offering to proofread my writing. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to participate in this issue! This post is not sponsored.


Teachers on the Run

In November 2016 we were both lucky enough to snag an August 2017 entrance into SeaWheeze, lululemon's super fun  and scenic half-marathon.  While we co-write a blog and furiously text back and forth on the daily, we rarely get to spend quality one-on-one friend time together.  Thanks to SeaWheeze we had a full 24 hours (and 21.1 kilometers) to catch up in person!  Here are a few fun shots that weekend's adventure.

 

The SeaWheeze backdrops this year were gorgeous.

Meaghan contributing to the community fibre art project.
The very cool mandala tent over the meditation/foam roller station in Jack Poole Plaza.

 

Community yoga with 600+ people! Amazing!
Around the 16k mark at Lion's Gate Bridge (connecting Stanley Park and North Vancouver). I always get emotional when I first spot the bridge along this route because just across the water is where my high-risk baby was born. Thanks to Meaghan for capturing this memory for me.

 

We did it! Both of us were undertrained and slightly injured so we decided our mantra was, "just run, don't race".  We ran slowly, stuck to our run/walk intervals and adjusted them at 11k as our bodies started to fatigue.  We took care of ourselves during the run and we finished super strong! What a fantastic friend-date weekend - can't wait for next year!  Thanks lululemon and SeaWheeze.


A.W.E. - Awaken Wellbeing of Educators Retreat

Hello everyone!

We are breaking the summer silence on the blog to share an incredible upcoming event with you.

Are you an educator who recognizes the value of self-care?  Do you work tirelessly to create a positive classroom learning environment?  Yet do you often feel exhausted at the end of the day/week/month? 

Now more than ever, our world needs educators who model compassion, mindfulness, and self-care for the health of our children.  

This is an invitation to all educators to attend a purposeful day of nourishment and stillness.  The one-day retreat will help you find ways to place wellbeing at the forefront of your life.

What: AWEsome Wellbeing Retreat for Educators.

When: Saturday, September 30th 2017, 9.30am-4pm.

Where: Roundhouse Farm in Victoria, BC.

Who:  Anyone who identifies as an educator in any field.

About Lisa: Lisa Baylis is a well respected high school counselor and educator in our district here in Victoria.  Lisa's passion lies in cultivating wellness and teaching wellbeing practices to both educators and students.  The AWEsome Wellbeing Retreat for Educators has been a work in progress for many months and we are very excited to share a day of stillness and wellness with educators this fall. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!

Check out Lisa's website HERE.


Sucker Punch

Teaching is relationship.

This is what we believe. This is why we do this job.
This is what we work at day in and day out from the moment those students walk in the door in September.

And then it's June.

And you feel like you've been hit from behind.

Emotions are running wild.
You're happy and sad at the same time.
You're longing for break but the thought of saying goodbye seems so hard.

You are forced to look ahead to the next year and start thinking about new schools, new classrooms, new students, but you are also trying to soak up every last minute with your students. Your students are starting to push the limits a little more, listen a little less, and sometimes they appear to be intentionally driving you crazy. But these are the students that you have tirelessly worked to understand and respect and get to know.

Karley's Thoughts

Nothing can prepare me for June. The month of June always seems to drag along slowly, but then suddenly the entire school year is over in the blink of an eye.  Ten months of the year are full on with school, students, relationships, shared struggles and triumphs and then suddenly...they're done, all because the month of June ends.  The end of a school year is, for me, a grieving process. The goodbyes, the transition, the mental/physical/emotional/spiritual sheer exhaustion takes a toll on me. And then the fact that this year I am moving schools again is a whole different reason to grieve (although this move was my choice, and not just because my contract ended). So I sit here tonight on the last day of June entirely depleted.  I have cried so hard today and my heart has been full of love and sadness all at the same time.  June sucks, in more ways than one. Soldier on, warrior educators.

Meaghan's Thoughts

Every year this is the hardest part of the job. Saying goodbye. Forever, really. Besides the occasional run in at the mall or an email years later, this is the last time I will get to really see and connect with these kids of mine. It seems so unfair when you have put so much heart and soul into every relationship you have built. It's the time of year when I start to question everything - Did I do enough? Did I try enough? Did I notice enough?

It's heartbreaking on so many levels. And yet this is it. We do it every year because with that heartbreak comes a pretty incredible experience to have an influence on the life of a child for ten months. It is worth it, I know it is. We are so lucky to have a job that makes goodbyes hard.

But it sure does sneak up on me every year -

An Emotional Sucker Punch!


Favourite Things This Year

As promised here are 8 of my favourite things from this school year: some new and some old, but all wonderful in different ways.
*I would love to hear more about things you tried out this year - Please let us know in the comments!

TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling)

This has been one of the most drastic and successful changes I’ve made to my teaching practice. It was a totally new and different approach to teaching French that I was introduced to by a few colleagues at a workshop. I love it and can’t wait to explore more with this starting at the beginning of the year next year. More info here.

Reading Groups

I was fortunate enough to have my class be part of a grant for guided reading/reading groups in middle school. For those elementary teachers you will know exactly what I mean, but guided reading isn't common in middle school. I was provided release time to benchmark all of my students and then we formed groups based on reading level and interest. Students started off with some high interest readers and nonfiction texts and then we moved into at level novels. Not only did 25 of my 27 students go up at least one grade level (or remain at grade 6 level) but it also had my whole class discussing books and wanting to read the books others were doing. Amazing! Plus small group instruction is a dream, right?

FreshGrade

I have used FreshGrade before but this was the first year that I used it for reporting. I really loved the way it forced me to be more flexible in my thinking of assessment and it was a great communication tool with parents. There are definitely ways I want to tweak it next year and I really need to step up my organization game!

Human Body Case Studies

This year I taught our human body systems through a case study model where students were presented a case study of a patient and had to play doctor to research, diagnosis, and treat the patient. There were a few things I need to change before I do it again but all in all it was really interesting and a lot of fun! I even had my friend who is an emergency room doctor come in for a Q&A with both classes. Real world science!

Close Reading Passages

This was one of those goldmine TPT finds from The Sweetest Thing (TeachersPayTeachers) At level reading passages with good thinking questions and all of the info you need to put together an effective guided reading or close reading program in your classroom. PLUS they are content relevant - Seriously amazing! I think this is the best product I've ever purchased on TPT and they really enhanced my science curriculum this year.

Global Read Aloud

First of all, Pax is such an amazing story! I absolutely loved the book and so did my class. I also really loved being a part of this bigger community and the Mystery Skype’s were really fun. I’m hoping to continue with this project next year and to be more intentional with my planning and how I participate. I haven't decided which book yet for grade 6 but I'm leaning towards "A Long Walk To Water." More info here

Pigs Fly Day

This is a classroom favourite every year and I was so excited to bring it back. One of the BEST activities that students suggested this year was a singing competition. I read that and thought, "No way will this work.” It was honestly one of the best things we did all year! The way they listened to each other and complimented everyone after was amazing. Such a great community building activity in my class.

Collaborative Math Teams

I talked about this one at the beginning of the year but dove into it in January. It is the number one thing my students talk about at the end of the year when they discuss math and it really improved not only their math talk but also their communication and collaboration skills. I will definitely be doing it again. (I highly recommend the Educating Now course if you are going to jump into this one).

Those are the highlights that I can remember right now - I'm sure there were more that I'm forgetting though!

Please let me know what worked well for you this year - I would love to see this post become a resource of awesome things to try out.


Next Year News

Well if you are in our district you already know this but this week was all about JOBS!

Our round of open postings closed last Thursday and it has been a fury of phone calls, texts, emails, and Facebook posts ever since. And in the wake of it we each have some news for you!

Meaghan's Job News

Since I have one more year of my Masters degree my goal with my job applications was a grade 6 job. (Teach the same grade two years in a row?! Is that a thing people do?) Well I ended up with a full time continuing grade 6 job at one of my top picks for schools. I know quite a few of the staff I will be working with and I just know it is the perfect fit for me next year. I am feeling so lucky and I really just can't believe it! I have some big goals for my class next year and all of the things I'll be able to do since I've already had a crack at the grade 6 curriculum. There has been a lot of dreaming in my head of the changes I want to make in my teaching practice based on some of the experiences I've had this year. Stay tuned for an end of year post of my favourite things from this year!

The one downside being that I really, really love the school I'm at this year and saying goodbye is hard... But that's just life isn't it?

Karley's Job News

My plan for the 2017/2018 school year was to stay in the current contracts I have.  One of my contracts this year was a temporary job, but it was posted as a continuing contract this round so I applied for it and I got it! I am so happy to be the official dance teacher at the high school I work at and I am really looking forward to developing our small, but amazing, program.  The high school students I worked with this year were such dedicated individuals and I can't wait to carry on teaching them in September!

The plot twist in my plan came into place on June 1st, when I noticed a dance/music job was posted at an elementary school very close to my house.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to leave my middle school to dive into the elementary world, but I decided to apply for the posting anyhow.  I ended up being the most senior/qualified applicant, so I also got that continuing contract! Now I am an elementary (K-5) and high school (9-12) dance (and elementary music) teacher in a .92 continuing contract! I can't believe it's only been five years since I graduated from university and now I am in an almost full time continuing job that I LOVE.  Life is good.

 

Congratulations to all the teachers out their landing in new roles and receiving that official continuing job! It's exciting times in this province and we are so grateful to be a part of it.


Cult of Pedagogy's Book Club

Exciting news!

One of our favourite teacher leaders, Jen, who blogs at Cult of Pedagogy, has launched her summer 2017 online book club and we are so excited to be participating this year! We decided to divide and conquer this online book club because even though we will be on our summer break soon, we still have a Masters happening (Meaghan) and a toddler to chase (Karley). We love how Jen chose the books for this summer's study via Facebook voting and we are intrigued by the relaxed approach this study will take. 

The first book up on the reading list is "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas.  Karley will read this one and partake in the online discussion because she has had her eye on it for a few weeks already.  Read the book and be ready to join the discussion, which starts June 14th! Click HERE and head on over to Cult of Pedagogy for more information on this summer's book club.

Happy reading everyone!

 


Lion King Jr. Musical

Hi everyone (specifically those of you in SD61),

This is a promotional post for my school's Jr. Musical, The Lion King.  I just got home from opening night and felt I should share on the blog about the show.  First of all, I got teary eyed several times.  Yep - seriously.  There is nothing like seeing "your kids" shine up on stage and truly own their role.  Because I teach the entire student population I got the "extra" gift of knowing every single student in the show! It was so neat to see each performer come to life in a way I sometimes don't necessarily get to see in the day to day life at school.  The performing arts are such a unique and important part of a school culture because students get the opportunity to become part of a tightly knit school community in a way they may not have experienced before.  Every single student I saw perform tonight put hours and hours into the preparation of this show and, as one of their teachers, it is so gratifying to see their hard work pay off in such an enjoyable and authentic manner.

Of course the staff and parents involved in the show's creation, from start to finish, also work super hard! 

Some of my favourite parts of the show include:

-the giraffe costumes (long necks and legs!)
-the background dancers/singers (such beautiful and subtle choreography and voices)
-Pumba and Timone (so well cast, these two individuals are the same characters in real life)
-the lead roles' singing! Amazing!
-the antelope (antelope?) in the stampede...incredible mask artwork and interesting stampede choreography for such a small stage space
-the hyenas (also brilliantly cast) were hilariously on point
-simple props on stage really allowed for the acting, singing and dancing to light up the theatre

I felt I should let you all know to go see The Lion King at Spectrum's theatre on Friday or Saturday evening (May 26th and 27th). Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students.  This middle school production is pretty fantastic!

Well done, Shoreline! You are all so wonderful!


The Golden Shoes

It has been a quiet four months on this blog; the unintended break was necessary, though. Since January Meaghan and I have both been working through some deeply personal "stuff".  We are willing to share some of it on the internet because our "stuff" has informed and impacted our teaching in various ways.

Early 2017 found me seeking professional counseling (for the first time) after a term of crying in my principal/vice principal's office every two weeks.  I thought I was going to counseling for birth trauma related issues and, while that is partially true, it turns out I had decades worth of other issues to work out as well. Funny how that works, hey?  After so much reflection, conversation with a trusted small circle and meditation I finally feel like I've got a slight handle on my head and my heart.

One of the reasons I haven't been blogging very much at all is because since September I've honestly felt like I don't have very much to contribute to this blog; I "just" teach dance, after all.  Self-worth and self-love were a hot topic of my counseling sessions this past winter. Also, my life is very busy; I have an active toddler, a house and a garden to keep, a husband who works full time and who just finished a 1.5 year renovation on our house, it's half marathon season again (how?!) and I work .7 FTE between two schools.  I'll be honest and say that when I do have those rare free hours of time I am actively choosing to not blog.  But then a funny thing happened to me tonight and I felt the familiar bubbling of a blog post idea surface and I quickly realized that maybe it was time to log back on to Wordpress.  So here I am and here are the Golden Shoes:

How awesome are those shoes? They belong to my sister; she wears them casually like how I wear TOMS, but her cool status is so far off the charts that she actually pulls those golden beauties off like she's Beyoncé.

Tonight my sister and I met for our weekly Monday spin at our gym and as soon as I set up my bike I realized I'd forgotten my runners in my kitchen. Since my daughter was born I engage in these "I'm getting dumber every day" moments all the time. It's a minor miracle if I know where my wallet is at any given moment and I am not even kidding. This newfound forgetfulness is frustrating for me because I never used to be this dumb.  In fact, I used to be so smart.  Part of this struggle seeps into my belief that maybe I'm just not smart enough (or good enough) to teach in a "regular" classroom or do a Masters degree.  Maybe I "just" teach dance because I'm too dumb to teach anything else right now.  I've been turning that idea over since September when I decided to go back into the school studio as a dance teacher.

So, I left my runners at home, but my sister had the Golden Shoes in her bag.  She offered me her sweet golden kicks and at first I thought, "No way! I can't spin in these!", but my other option was to spin in eight year old Birkenstocks so I tried the Golden Shoes on.  They fit, kind of. I decided to stick it out for as long as I could because I love my Monday spin class and I was already at the gym. After thirty minutes of spinning in golden high tops my feet started to blister and I decided to ditch the class early because, as I mentioned above, it's early in half marathon training season and I didn't want to waste my feet that much. I left my spin class early (I quit!), but I did my best with what I had for as long as I could. I quit.  Am I a quitter? I totally could have pushed harder. If only I wasn't so dumb then maybe I'd get a real workout in.  Was this spin class even worth it? Does the fact that I "just" teach dance mean that I'm a quitter in my career, too? What if I quit on my big dreams for my dance program? Can I do this alone?

Next year some big changes are happening at my middle school and I'm not sure yet if I'll be teaching at the high school again.  It's May, which interestingly is a season of major (impending) transition in BC schools. The unknown is both heart breaking and terrifying for me; I'll be the first to admit, I do not like change from what is already "a good thing".  I feel like doing my best with what I have for as long as I can is slowly becoming my teaching mantra.  I am so lucky to have this random skill set that allows me to teach school dance, which is something I truly love. I really do work hard at my job, despite the fact that it is, dare I say, easy for me.  And my dance teaching job is a real job, despite what many people might think.  One day the time will come to quit the studio and go back into the classroom, just like how I quit the classroom to go in to the studio. I'm learning that life's seasons will wisely guide me if I just slow down and lean in to the guidance. Thank you, counseling sessions and meditation.

Thanks to my sister's Golden Shoes for serving as an inspiration to me tonight.  It looks like I'm back on the blog!


Life Lately...

Can you hear my sigh of relief? I feel like I have come out of my tunnel at the end of a long couple of months. There has been a lot going on in my life, some to share publicly and some to keep safe.

To really get the picture I need to return all the way to January 7th. I had just returned from the first weekend of the second course of my Masters. Within minutes of arriving home, I fell to my knees in the corner of my bedroom in uncontrollable tears. I felt as if I was watching my life crumble. This seems a bit dramatic looking back but at the time life felt so out of control I felt like I was collapsing under it's weight.

On December 30th my husband awoke having what we now know was a panic attack, at the time we thought it was heart related. He went to the hospital in an ambulance and I followed shortly after. That day we were given very few answers but over the next weeks things started to become more clear as the panic continued. This is his story to share so I will not go into further detail, just know that if you haven't dealt with panic or anxiety attacks it is a very real and scary thing.

The next week was spent trying to figure out what care and treatment was needed. On Friday January 6th I headed up to Nanaimo for my Masters course. I was in a bit of a daze, not knowing how to leave my husband when he needed my support but needing to be there for the course I had committed to. That was also the weekend I was introduced to every single assignment and paper I would need to be working on for that term. On a good day, the work load would have seemed overwhelming.

On January 7th, after the tears, I stood up and made the choice that I needed to reach out to anyone who could support us through this time. I needed to figure out how to be a supportive wife, a dedicated teacher, and a Masters student. This I could not have done without help.

Since that week I feel like I've lived a year... I have written what will become the first three chapters of my Masters thesis. I have learned more than I ever thought I would about what it means to be a loving partner.I have dealt with being evicted in a city with a 0.5% vacancy rate. I have chosen to dedicate my days at school to my students with my whole heart, while being able to leave at the end of the day and return to the other parts of my life. I have been a volleyball and track coach. I have given presentations. I have written report cards. I have been a mentor teacher to two practicum students.

I have survived and laughed and cried and loved.

When I say this has been one of the toughest periods of my life it is not without hesitation and thought. I know that many people struggle with things that seem far more enormous than my daily struggles lately. However other people's mountains don't diminish my own.

Today I feel strong and proud. There are many things that I let slip over the past few months but I held on to the things that matter.

As we head into these last two months of the school year I am confident that I have put as much into my classroom as was possible. I have no regrets about the things that matter. Yes, I hope to start working out and eating healthier again but there is a season for all things in this life. Yes, I am still on the hunt for a new home but whatever happens will be okay since we are lucky enough to be surrounded by family. Yes, there are uncertainties and struggles that lie ahead but there is strength and beauty there too.

Thank you for reading.
Our blog continues to hold a special place in my heart and I have many things that I want to continue to share.