Whatcha Doing?

Pssst…Hey you…Ya…YOU…Whatcha doing?

Like right now? Hang on a sec…I’m…just…gonna…grab this…step…stool..ok, so I’m vertically challenged…and have old knees…and now #WolfPackEdChat is mocking me…

Again…

Whew…MUCH better!

That wall was a bit high.

I mean I get it. Gotta keep those inquisitive interlopers out right?

Doesn’t it get a bit stuffy in here? And hey, there’s not a ton of light…how do you actually..ouch! What was that? And ewww, I just touched…seriously…some light? You need to breathe right?

Hmm…if I just move….no, no, I got it…and fix that…seriously, work with me on this…shift this piece…good thing I brought my drill…YA IT’S A BIT NOISY!!! ALL GOOD!!! What do you mean you don’t own your own blow torch????Honestly, I haven’t set anything on fire in years…ok, just that once…but it was teensy…almost there…why are you sweating??? Here, sit down before you faint!

TADA!!!!

Feel that? It’s called fresh air.

I know, right! Look at all the space around you…beautiful isn’t it?

What? Oh, that.

You’ll get used to it. I promise.

Fresh air, and a brand new light on everything! Hmm, ok well, yes I could have warned you, and no, no one is going to notice few cobwebs. Honestly, relaaaaax!

People come to visit the people not to judge their houses sigh…

I never said anything about visitors? Are you sure? Hmmm..oops…

Well, maybe a few. Like a class or tw0…or three… or more…

Seriously. Ok, no you’re not going to have hordes and busloads at your door. No you don’t have to supervise recess for 200…really, you do not have to monitor snacks for them all…well, if you would stop looking at me like that…here…have a tissue…

You sit with your cup of tea (blech) and I’ll explain.

We were chatting on #WolfPackEdChat and were expressing our frustrations about working in vacuums, silos, with walls. Yes, yes, I know I took yours down. Pretty view no? Try putting your head there, and take nice deep breaths dear…

There are so many phenomenal educators out there, so many amazing things going on. We edu-speak about a lot of things like Creativity and Innovation and Global Competencies… yes, I did put capitals on them this time…what has this got to do with you? Yes, I was getting to that bit.

If we are to roll model these things, create the spaces and places where they can be nurtured, foster the mindset so that engagement and natural curiosity takes over, that is when the magic will happen.

No, I did not bring my wand…broom? Now that’s just…you’re going to love it!

It’s going to be collaboration and sharing and mentoring and pairing, littles and bigs, and whoever wants to show up and share.

Yes, I know I took down the walls. Told you I was going to walk my talk and blow the stale air out of the vacuum. You weren’t part of that proclamation? Apologies.

In the realm of the virtual everything, there’s no reason why a class in Alaska can’t share with a class in Florida, or a class in Ontario. With as many or as few as you choose!

It can be different grades, elementary with high school, or middles with littles, a maker and a tinker or some STEAM for that STEM. It might look like a show and share for some, but how cool would it be if some bigs and some littles, and maybe some middles took a project to pursue then peruse! How fantastically fabulous would the sharing and pairing be when bigs mentored littles and littles reminded bigs how much fun it is to learn and explore and share with delight all the ways it went right!

Do you “have” to?

Of course not! Each to their own comfort lane as they say. We’ve already got some teachers who want to play. To live stream between classes (this is not for the masses), to show and share, and maybe enter on a journey together with students from all over the world.

Sky is the limit. Full STEAM ahead…we’re taking the lid off the box, pulling down the walls, rolling out the welcome mat, inflating the bouncy castles and loading the tables up with makery things, and experiments and projects and more…

Stronger together. Because we’re awesome that’s why.

Um, no, I am not putting the walls back up.

#PebbleRippleOcean


Advertisements

Hold That Thought…

Feel that for moment. Sit with it.

Insert annoying elevator music here please and read the fine print.

Now, take a little detour with me if you will.

Hold that thought.

Someone once said to me, “Annie, you’re their ‘jack o all trades’ and you’re gonna have to decide if you’re gonna keep taking all they decide to toss at you”. Interesting phrasing. I hadn’t considered things in that light before. I genuinely like doing new things. I am curious by nature and passionate about exploring, learning and play. Whether dogsledding, composing, catering or comedic routines, I’m always looking for new things to learn, like coding and welding.

I’m blessed to wear a lot of hats.

I’m a mom (of two legged and four legged fascinating beings).

I’m an artist, an explorer of colour and movement. I squish paint.

I’m a maker and a creator.

I’m an educator and advocate. I teach stuff. Sometimes. Other times, I’m an explorer in a new world, a co-conspirator on an adventure and I learn as much as my students. More often than not, they will teach this dinosaur new tricks. And it’s magical.

There has been a lot of talk in edu-world, about competencies, mindsets, outcomes, how we get there, and what we should be “producing”. So many laudable minds with amazing ideas about facilitating engaged learners who approach challenges fearlessly, who think creatively and with dogged determination problem solve, fail, reevaluate, reattempt until success is found such that they are set up for success in the ever changing global market. Innovators with more STEAM than the little engine who could!

Hold that thought.

Flow. I’ll let you do your own digging into the research behind it all, both the psychology and its applications to education, but for now, consider flow to be that state of mind where your mind is so engaged that it’s almost not engaged, because you can lose track of time and one thing moves on to the next thing and there is just…this..flow. I’ve called it “the zone” when painting, or “stream of consciousness” or “intuitive” painting, because you’re not necessarily thinking, you are just doing. And I mean that in an actively engaged sense, not as a passive automaton.

Flow. The zone. It’s a pretty amazing space. Sometimes, it’s this synergy of ideas where you can build from one to the next, leap frog dancing, ever expanding, creating and innovating and…

Hold that thought.

Seriously? But I just want to try…

Hold that thought.

But what if we…

Hold

I could do this if I…

That

Can we just go and see if they have…

Thought

Feel that? The energy, the confidence, the drive, the joy, the pride, the curiosity…wind from the sails, momentum is gone, and it grinds down, dust and ashes, leaden, suffocating the essence of creativity, innovation, dreams.

Why? Because our systems are not designed for flow. In short bursts, micro tasks, I will concede. But for those magical, gravity defying leaps of imagination and courage? Where learning is a cross curricular fluid meld and colleagues collaborate such that my student’s journey becomes your student’s journey because you can facilitate this where I can facilitate that? Where my skills support this piece and your knowledge provides the key to the next lock, and a student can go from lock to lock and work the tumblers until the whole puzzle is solved and the adventure complete because we never had to tell them…

Hold that thought…

We say we want kids who take risks, who are resilient, Innovators and Makers and Creative Collaborators. But we are inherently supporting the very systems that take that natural curiosity and creativity and squeeze it out of them, breaking it down bit by bit with every pedantic worksheet, every standardized test, every time they’re given the message when the “right” answer is rewarded. Colour within the lines. There is only one way. That’s not my department. I have curriculum to teach. We don’t have time.

Creativity, mindful inquiry, project based learning and problem solving is “messy”. It is non-linear, takes time and isn’t quantifiably measured within the confines of the ministry dictated outcomes, the perfect assessment rubric you’ve been slaving over for hours that tick off those perfectly precise little boxes of creative confinement. When the system is constructed such that the expectation for educators is to teach the same materials, with the same assessments, and in some cases, at the exact same time, day by day marching in step to the beat of the drum that plays only for the convenience of covering curriculum, so that “standards” are the same, which by no means means equitable, there is no room in that perfect race of pedantic pedagogy for ” I don’t know. Let’s find out”.

I sometimes discuss things that have come up in Edu-Twitter, to get some insights, see what rings true. On creativity, one of my students said, “Miss, they crush the creativity out of us, then turn around and expect us to be creative”. And how, pray tell do you respond to that when you know, in your heart of hearts, that there is truth resonating like an alarm, a call to action? I thought of when my youngest came home from school one day with a piece of artwork he had created. It was awesome, and no, not a “mom”moment”. I was fascinated when he explained each little detail, because it was well thought out, this little magical universe. On the back? The rubric with its precise, crisp checks letting him know it was valued at a 3 (B for my southern colleagues). Why? Because the sky was purple. Because he had coloured outside his own lines. Now some will say that we have to assess things, and fair enough. However, our assessments denote value and construct systems and imbue meaning. No one asked to find out that the sky was purple at twilight with fireflies dancing over a grassy hill. Lesson learned? How confident would you have to be to risk thinking creatively the next time?

We need to start dialogues.

We need to stop asking “Why?”and start saying “Why not?”

Hold that thought.

Simplistic? Perhaps. How many boxes does it take before we stop asking, stop daring, play it safe?

Creative spark. Flow. Fluidity.

Take an idea, a jump off point and run with it.

Flow.

In the Zone.

If I do this and move that, and how about I attach this…”TICK”…but no that doesn’t works so maybe that, but…” TICK”… Got it!!!! Now, just to take it there and …”TOCK”…why can’t we go to the shop? …why…

Because when we don’t have the answers and we learn together, the adventures begin. and when I don’t have the answers but I know someone who does, then why can’t we refer to the masters of that key?

Ah, yes…silos. Or boxes. Or walls. We may have lowered them to the state of a lovely partitioned office space with neatly defined cubicles, but sunshine, a wall…is a wall…is a wall. We peek covertly over the tops, checking out what our colleagues are up to, but we work in independently isolate vacuums of protectionist profundity and guard our spaces from inconvenient, inquisitive interlopers because there is no time, priorities by assessments to scale, curriculum to deliver and a myriad of other rationales to keep our corners sharp, our test scores high, lines clean.

Hold that thought.

Two days. That was how long took them to fix my brand new cable winch which they had over cranked and jammed. I could have easily taken it back to the store. Student choice. Student voice. Success. Which builds confidence for bigger leaps. And that leads to…

Hold that thought.

Waterfalls hanging two stories high, with specifications and materials and costs…a student who was pulling 50s last year…his “flow”, his initiative. Now, he wants to build a prototype, custom make the anchors, which means welding, which means…

Hold that thought.

And that’s the message we’re giving our kids. We blast it on our announcements, create catchy mottos and slogans, and write pedagogical articles and wax poetic on podcasts. Heck, I’ll even design the t-shirts. Be INNOVATIVE. Be CREATIVE. Be daring. Grit! Don’t Quit!

But…hold that thought… We talk a phenomenal talk, but we need to get real about catch phrases and buzzwords like “Creativity” and “Innovative”, because given the assessment models and system parameters we’ve designed and are now stuck working within, given the implicit value messaging students are receiving on a daily basis, what we really mean is “creativity” and “innovative”. Little “c” creative lends itself to our system of walls with its constraints on time and the priority of curriculum download and test scores. Creative process, at the highest level, which we purport to want, takes time, is not neat linear little boxes, so the system cannot truly support it. Innovation and problem solving, true “I” Innovation while highly desired and much appreciated, often leads a student out of your course’s boundaries, to needing to be able to access the guidance and expertise of a different department, but our systems of cubicles and silos aren’t wired to facilitate that. We keep conveniently forgetting to put in the qualifier clause in fine print, “Be innovative. Be creative. BUT please keep it tidy; clean up is 10 minutes before the end of class. Keep your skies blue. Colour within the lines. Innovation stops at the end of period3. Yes, I know you want to, but hold that thought.

And it’s time to be clear and transparent about that, or change the system. Period. Paradigm switch. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk your talk. Or else, stop edu-speaking about goals we have no intention of truly supporting. Once again, we’re holding up the bright shiny object and simultaneously shackling them, boxing them in but asking them to think inside and outside the box. How about, as the adults in the room, the system generators, paradigm constructors, we get rid of the damned box?

I teach art.

I am going to build that damn waterfall. Because for a student to show that level of initiative, to dare, to risk, to be vulnerable, to dream…that student deserves to have a teacher who supports them, believes in them, who walks the talk and will make it happen. I asked them to Innovate and Create. Sky’s the limit. Show me what you got. Bring it. Now the onus is on me to be creative and innovative, to risk and think outside the box, to lean on the relationships I’ve built with colleagues to support me and help facilitate.

And while I figure out this one amazing project which brought to the forefront all the limitations and impediments to Creativity and Innovation, I’ll be looking at ways to advocate for fluidity, to allow for flow, and free range learning as opposed to the coops.

I urge you, take a closer look at the systems you’re working within. Can you truly say C and I, or is it truly c and i? Be honest. Be clear. Let’s find a way to nullify the need for that boring “hold please” music…Put your money where your mouth is. Walk your talk #PebbleRippleOcean.

I Will Not Tell You To Grit

I don’t like the word “grit”.

Yep. I said it.

Sue me. Unfriend me. Unfollow me.

It’s not that I’m intent on being a pariah or a rebel. I’m fully aware that my thoughts don’t necessarily align with the current state of the universe.

So be it.

Before you write me off as one of the ” uninformed”, the “bleeding heart who hasn’t a clue”, I’ve actually thought quite a bit about the whole “grit” phenomena. I’ve engaged in dialogues with numerous people with varying beliefs, refining and defining what my thoughts on “grit” are exactly. I’ve read a plethora of publications that look at things like “grit”, the repackaging and repurposing of classifications, SEL and the need for it, being trauma informed, expectations, outcomes, initiatives, strategies and their respective efficacies and impact, mental health issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, how childhood trauma survivors present and their needs and …

And yep, I don’t like “grit”.

At least, not as the term is being currently brandished about as a magical panacea for anything that ails anyone, the secret to all of society’s defects and conundrums. The term has almost become weaponized in its usage and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to it, relegated to the unpopular table at the party.

If one was to believe the narrative, the only thing wrong with kids (or adults in some cases) today is that they have no “grit”. If they would only find and utilize their “grit”, then they would become successful, fulfilled adults. To prove the point, we hold up exemplars, shiny, successful examples of “grit” to show kids that “you too could achieve this if you want it badly enough, if you only dig deep and ‘grit'”.

Yep. This is where I really don’t like “grit”.

What if…you’re an art teacher (I know cool job eh!?). Unit is sculpture. You just happened to have a Pieta hanging around, and a David. You hold them aloft, bestowing the virtues of such magnificent works, and let the students know they too could achieve this…if they truly wanted it…they just had to dig deep and voila…magical piece de la resistance!

Except.

They have no clue how to get the clay out of the damned package.

We didn’t show them that trick.

We’re showing them NBA playoff highlights, when they’ve never seen a basketball. Or the trophy walleye when they’re living in a desert.

And when they can’t get to that end point? It gets turned round back at them….if you “wanted”…”you just have to”…”I did it”. And that leads to…

“What’s wrong with me?”

It’s a one two punch. First, hold up shiny object. Then, blame them for not wanting the shiny object enough when they have no clue they need the step ladder that’s off to the side that we didn’t bother to tell them about.

Don’t get me wrong, I honour everyone’s journey, the stories of resilience and fortitude, the will to not only survive but thrive. I think these stories are wonderful examples of journeys and can make such meaningful connections with students. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that stories are powerful things.

But.

I will not tell you to “grit”.

I will not insult or shame someone for where they are on their journey. I will not dangle the shiny effigy in front of you and then blame you when your tools and materials are somewhere hidden in basement.

If not “grit”, then what?

Heart song. Heart work. Call it as you will.

THAT is what I will do.

I. See. You.

As you are. Where you are. How you are.

I honour wherever you are on the journey.

I will meet you where you are, with guiding hand, when you’re ready as you’re ready. I will teach you how to find the end of the package, where the seams are, and how to use the scissors to open that package, to discover the wondrous clay hidden inside. I will show you where that step ladder is, teach you how to identify it, and how to use it until you can use it on your own.

When you’re ready. As you can. Whatever that looks like.

I know that somedays we’ll go forward, or backward, or sideways, summersaults, cartwheels and backflips. Some days, you heart and head are so heavy with other things and that’s where the heart song work begins.

And it is indeed work. We cannot show an end goal without creating a base to work from. We talk about authentic, genuine selves, and we need to model that by accepting students as they present to us, in all their messy glory, without preconceived notions of who they “should” be, how we “want” them to be.

We need to teach students ways to connect to themselves. We don’t expect babies to run a marathon before they can take their first solo steps so why do we show them this outcome without teaching them the skills to get there? SEL (SEAL) should be an integral part of the work we do, such that it becomes ingrained, easily accessible to them. Mindfulness, meditation, breathing, art therapy, are crucial tools, the “step ladders” that they need to access that which is within them, to cope with both the positive and the challenges.

To tell anyone who is struggling, but especially a child, that they just have to buck up, find grit and move forward at a time when they are struggling, whether academically or emotionally is phenomenally cruel, because if they are not in the right space-head/heart/place, if they are not in a position of power such that they have power of choice to act, if they do not know how, then there is an implied judgement, a criticism which leads to compounding feelings of self doubt, lack of self worth, shame.

In her blog “Three Words Childhood Trauma Survivors Need to Hear”, Vicky Peterson tells us “I believe you”. I would add one word, “in”. I believe in you. Many survivors of childhood trauma, domestic abuse, and similar journeys will tell you that they don’t need someone to tell them they need to “just…”(fill in your own blank here). They just need. Period. Telling someone who is drowning that if they just dug deep enough and did the butterfly stroke like Michael Phelps they could cross the English Channel is counter intuitive, counter productive and the quickest way to have the some throw up yet another wall, dig that much further into themselves. Then, the trust and connection you might have had is gone. What they needed was a life jacket and some swimming lessons, not platitudes and slogans, shiny Olympic medals reminding them of their lack of ability at the moment in time. What they need is for others to meet them where they are, accept them for how they present and respect and honour where they are on their journey. What they need are strategies and tools.

Tools and strategies.

Strategies and tools

More and more…over and over…heart work…for without it all the initiatives and slogans and whatevers in the world will come to naught.

Start with the base, hold their hand as you traverse, together. Whatever that looks like, for it is their journey, not yours. We can facilitate, educate, provide a safety net and a gentle hand, but this is not about us.

And because of that, I normally do not share my full story. Ironically, theoretically, accordingly to all the latest and greatest, my journey has been full of “grit”. On many levels, I could be a poster child for “grit”. I could fill pages and pages and pod cast series with my stories of “grit”. Stories are powerful things. I need to ask myself why am I sharing? Is it for me? Or for the person in front of me? The stories, the journey, I share in bits in pieces, on an individual basis, depending on the need in front of me. It is mindful. It is intentional. To show the spirit in front of me. I. See. You. Because I’ve been there, because I taught myself how to swim, not because I was “gritting” it, but for survival.

If I could, would I look back and tell that me on her journey that she just has to dig deep and “grit”?

Nope.

I. See. You.

You are loved. You are accepted. As you are, where you are.

Hand out, toolbox of strategies and a road map to that stupid stepladder…

Drop a pebble. Watch the ripples. Move an ocean.

One child. Every day.

If some day, they can look back and say, “Damn, I had ‘grit'”, awesome!

That is for them to determine, their journey and story to tell.

My place is to provide the safety net, help them access the tools, give them the skills, to survive and thrive.

I am a survivor, an advocate and a facilitator of voice.

Very Fine Words

Talk.

A lot of it.

We say a lot of things.

We have words.

Very good words.

And initiatives, and programs, and directives, and strategic plans, and goals, and outcomes, and professional learning directions, and slogans, and charts, and top sellers, and mission statements, and buzz words, and acronyms for our acronyms to explain the acronyms, and budgets and baselines, and testing and assessments and pedagogy.

Sometimes, I get impatient with words. I have a Specialist Degree in words, from a very fine University known for many words. I know we need words, and plans, and ideas. Chaos and no direction isn’t particularly pleasant either, even though I will manipulate words to fit who presents in front of me such that it is about heart songs and not just letters.

A very wise professor gave me the one set of words that has served me well in over 20 years as an educator, werewolf whisperer, facilitator and master of the three ringed circus.

“Process over product Annie”.

That’s it. That is the lens through which I work, whether an Academic level course, Alternative program, English, Drama, Culinary, or Art. If you stay true to that philosophy, you have to meet the students where they are, as they are. You have to “see” them. And in truly “seeing’ them, the connections are established, and then the process can begin.

In that process, there is a multi-faceted approach, one that considers not just the academic component, but also the social-emotional, the psychological, the physical and mental well being of the person with whom you are on this journey of discovery. Within the framework of the journey, your curiosity, your creativity, your own personal growth mindset, innovators’ mindset, global competencies and other fine words will translate such that it is authentic and intentional. The connections that you make on the journey will create the foundations for SEL, nurture it and allow it to flourish.

The journey, the process isn’t all smooth sailing. It’s just like a road trip with family. You plan for a destination, but along the way, oh the adventures you have. There are bends and turns, and someone always forgets to go before you leave. So, you wait and reload the car, then someone get carsick. Someone needs to stop at THAT McDonalds right there, but another insists on Starbucks at the next exit. The detours and spontaneous pitstops along the way are what makes memories.

Laughter, tears, squabbles, curiosity=heart song=memories=magic.

Words. Lots of words. Very fine words. Meh.

When the latest acronym’s acronym, initiative, focus group, assessment, PLN for your PLC so you BIPSA doesn’t get confused with the SIPSA and your scores and ratings and tweets and checkmates, the dizzying head spinning bandwagon jumping positivity pumping affirmation soundbite threatens to take over with words upon words upon words built on air, scribed in the ethernet in insubstantial visible ink…

Breathe.

Seriously.

Stop.

Remember.

I. See. You.

Heart song. Magic.

Walk your talk.

In The Mists

There are many beings in the #WolfPackEdChat world, wolves and werewolves, vampires and chameleons, but there is one above all who causes every #WolfPackEdChat pack leader to lose sleep at night.

The Mist Dwellers.

You can see them, except that you can’t. Not really. And when you think you can see them, they shift back into the mists, until you forget what you were looking for. Out of the corner of your eye, you might catch a flash, an image, but only for an instant. They have learned to keep their secrets close, how to avoid detection. Not a chameleon, for they never change, they exist to hide, and their protective walls are many layers of mistrust and defence.

They scare even the mightiest werewolf whisperer.

They keep me up at night.

Werewolves are mere overgrown puppies compared to Mist Dwellers. Werewolves and the wolves will do anything to attract attention- Mist Dwellers anything to avoid it. “Out of sight; Out of mind” is the code they swear by, a security system devised out of necessity.

The fundamental key to working with the pack is to fully “see” who is in front of you, as they are, where they are. The problem with Mist Dwellers is their desire to remain hidden. They calculatingly craft themselves specifically to deflect and avoid unwanted attention. They get good grades-maybe not stellar, but definitely not cause for concern. They draw no attention to themselves in class. This is not the werewolf who set firecrackers off in a desk, had you scrolling through Urban Dictionary furthering your own education in a manner you didn’t envision in teacher’s college. Substance abuse, self medicating, mental health challenges, the group they hang out with, lack of social skills, identifiable learning exceptionalities. None of these present on your finely tuned radar. If someone was to ask you to describe this student, your answer would run along the lines of, “good kid, no issues, could maybe work on their leadership skills, be a little it more vocal in class”, and other rather vague terms…because…in essence…you just don’t know.

Now, my intent wasn’t to make you feel judged or guilty. My intent was to make a point. How can we see what doesn’t want to be seen. In our #WolfPackEdChat, we had quite the discussion about Mist Dwellers, and our experiences with Mist Dwellers. We all agreed that the Mist Dweller was one of the most challenging because these are the ones whose walls we can’t reach, the ones who don’t trust, the ones who keep secrets. These are the ones that when you read the headline your heart sinks and you wonder how the hell you could have missed it. The questions of why you didn’t see it, why didn’t anyone see it.

Time. It takes time. To make the connections. To let Mist Dwellers know the “I see you”, even when they shift yet agin. But. That initial connection, however just a flicker, a spark, that my friend, may make the difference at some point. You may never know how, or when, but unless we take the tie to make that connection with each and every one of our kids, Mist Dwellers will remain a legend, a mystical being or fairytales or ghost stories.

There are some amazing educators, mentors and workers who have valuable insights, strategies, dreams and goals with respect to these topics. I would highly recommend that if you’re over in Twitter world, check out #WolfPackEdChat and follow people like @Crazedladychron @PMcPeake1 @shirky17 @mrterborg @fablefy @mkolligris @tracyscottkelly and so many others.

Heart Song

“Seriously? Why would anyone “choose” “those kids”?

Yep.

I don’t think I can count how many times someone has said that to me over the course of the years. The whole “if I had a nickel for every time, I’d be rich” holds true.

Once I’ve dealt with the fact that people keep referring to them as “those” kids (pardon?) and the implication that I’ve somehow lost all my faculties (never been one for much of those anyhow), I started to realize that I needed to think, to truly define a response better than just a simplistic witty repartee. Before I let you into my “heart song”, I’m going to suggest that if you want a really good read about labels, “those” kids and another amazing perspective from someone else who has her own wolf pack, please go check out Candace Boehm at crazedladychronicles.com or look her up on Twitter under @CrazedladychronShe puts into words my feelings about labels better than I could and her journey is remarkable.

Why would anyone want to work with werewolves and other mystical beings? Good question. The work is messy. While some have magical classes of lovely rows of dedicated learners dutifully absorbing each precious drop of nectar that is the knowledge and wisdom you are imparting, and others have those which exemplify student engagement with active learning centres, the likes of which is every PLC gold star dream, the dens of the wolf packs are not built on lofty goals of academia awards and shining medals of glory. For those of us in the packs, our lives, our careers, are dedicated to moments.

Yes, I see your face. The slightly puzzled, mildly incredulous look. Or the blank stare as you remember that you need to copy next month’s minute to minute curricular outcomes to post on your latest student driven web site for those truly high achievers who want to prepare ahead of time. I know what you’re thinking. And that’s ok. I don’t think at this stage of my journey, I’d know what to do with the students you work with (ok, maybe that’s a bit of a fib). We are each on journeys and paths that call to us. At some point, I followed the call of the wolves, the fae, the mystical.

My day is not your day. My goals are not your goals. My goals change minute by minute depending on what I am presented with. Don’t misunderstand. I have “goals”. I have a curriculum, lessons, expectations, co-constructed outcomes, identifiers, differentiated instruction and assessments, anchor charts, and all the other bells and whistles. These are fabulous tools. Could I rigidly adhere to what is defined in black and white on a page, on a flowchart, such that at the end of every day I could tick off every box, and I suppose make my life easier in some ways? Definitely.

I choose not to.

Deliberately. Considered. Intentionally. With purpose.

In conversations with other brilliant minds in the Twitter Ed world, in groups like #WolfPackEdChat #k12ArtChat #TheManyVoicesofGrit and #STEAMmakers, I realized I’ve been making choices…every day, every minute, over and over.

I choose to meet my kids where they are as they are, to let them know that ” I see you”. My day is “messy”, because life is messy, human connections are messy, and like any creative project, it’s about the process, not the product. It’s the lessons on the journey, not the destination. It’s not about “lowering standards” or “expectations”. It’s all about seeing, validating, and meeting, then facilitating.

We can talk about learning strategies, goals, charts, whatever, until the cows come home (still haven’t figured out whose cows those are), but unless we face the core of it all, the “heart song’, those cows ain’t moving.

I see you.

As you are. Wherever you are on your journey. Not what you should be. Not as I’d like you to be because it’s easier or safer for me. As. You. Are.

You are valued. Where you are on your journey is valued. You are not me, nor are you any else and neither is your journey, and that’s ok.

I will meet you. Where you are, as you are, in that moment. Because I know that you’re maybe not ready to move to meet me. Because I am the adult in the room, I will take those first steps. I will move to meet you and build that bridge.

I will facilitate. What that means is anyone’s guess at the time. It means me being vulnerable, because I can’t hide in bureaucracy, behind my desk, in Power Points, or under the esteemed title of TEACHER (insert echo chamber effect please). I will show you who I am as a human being to facilitate you being able to be real with me. I will take the risks and go first. Be silly. Me learning Snap Chat with filters. Dreams. I’ll help build them. Together. Teamwork. A quiet place because someone’s having an emotionally draining day, or they’re angry and need space. Food. Lots of it. Because someone hasn’t eaten yet today or they were so busy in the smoke pit they didn’t have time. Listening. To your stories, your problems, your fears, your hopes, things that make my heart ache or pound with fears for you. Breathing. I will hold your hands, look into your eyes and breathe for you, with you, until you can get your breath back on your own. Safety net. I will stop everything I am doing and put into place a safety net of my “wingmen” for you-my “go to’s” who I trust with your care and safety, because I have faith in my teams. I will give you a canvas, paper feathers, supplies, so you can “take your brain off the train and put the pain” onto the canvas instead of onto your body, the smoky haze, or the aggression to others. I will make my place a safe space for all such that it is home and is welcome to all no matter the when, the what, the why.

It is in the seeing, validating, meeting and facilitating that “moments” are created. Someone made it to class before noon. Had a shower. Didn’t use today. Stopped before blowing up and instigating a fight. Had one smoke instead of three to be on time. Stopped before telling another teacher off. Wrote that test they’d been avoiding. Found their own breath during panic attack. Made me a painting. Wrote me a letter. Stood proud and tall after an event we put together, proud of the class, the school, himself, me. Learned from our work as a team that when faced with challenges, we work together. If we don’t get it the first time, who cares, we hit it until we do. The teamwork. Together. Supporting others. Being themselves. Learned that we are family. Smiled. Truly laughed.

My days are messy, non-linear, a roller coaster of emotions, highs and lows. I’ve become the master of the three ringed circus, a werewolf whisperer, lover of werewolves and other mystical beings, and a facilitator with a core belief in the truth that is magic in moments.

Teaching is my job description, education my career path.

The Wolf Pack is my passion, and my choice.

Every day. All day.

Heart Song.


There are amazing conversations happening…follow me on Twitter @aweninspiration

A What????

You’re probably wondering exactly why this is called Wolf Pack Ed chat and where on earth did the werewolves come from, because you came to talk about challenging students, not a book review on the latest YA fantasy series.

Werewolves.

Yep.

One of the many things they don’t tell you about in teacher’s college. You remember the beginning of your journey, don’t you? You showed up for first day (super early with your decaf bevvie), loaded up wth every classroom management plan, differentiated instructions streaming in the back of your brain, seating plan compete with colour coded sticky labels, a beautifully organized rainbow of desks, pencils sharpened, Chrome books charged…the bell rings… you do your most awesome, cheerful, giddy up let’s go team smile!

Among all the excited, cheery faces, the polite “good mornings”, you knew this was just as it should be, like they told you in teacher’s college-set the tone and the rest will follow. If you have a plan (and you have yours broken down into subsections with neon post its, tied down to the nanosecond….ice breaker, puzzles, read, co-constructed exactly as you envisioned learning outcomes, think pair share, jigsaw, doodles, whoodles, whizzles and whambuzzles, exit cards whew!) the day will run like a well oiled machine with oh so much learning! Fantabulous, you think to yourself! This is why you became a teacher! Your ice breakers are sizzling and you are on top of the world envisioning “teacher of the year” trophies and awards, and then the door crashes open.

Enter, the werewolf.

Hmmm. They didn’t mention these during your role playing exercises in classroom management 101.

Werewolves will enter a room using a variety of techniques. There is the “Slam and Scowl”, the “Hyena Hilarity”, and the “Scurry and Scramble”, each which is disruptive to your magical flow, because invariably your carefully orchestrated rhythm has flown out the window where your patience will shortly follow, and without some research, you’ll be flying in at the bell, XL triple espresso in one hand Tylenol in the other with visions of summer break competing with thoughts of alternative career choices, and didn’t your mom tell you to be a vet?

How did I get to this point? During a discussion about a delayed addition to my class , someone told me, ” Weiler, they could put a werewolf in your room and you would say he’s just misunderstood. You’re like the werewolf whisperer”. I chuckled at the time, but then I thought about it. For some, they really were werewolves-the behavioural, the unwanted, the “holy shit you got who in your class?”, the fragile, the broken. These were “my kids”, “my crew”, “my pet monsters”. All of them. Gray hair inducing or not, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

You see, over 20 years ago, no one told me about werewolves. I was tossed into an alt program 8 months into my career, partnered with the true master mentor who taught me the core values I carry with me today. It was a journey and a half from the naive, trying to find her style, her tone,her balance, to the werewolf whisperer today.

I don’t know everything. Heck, on some days, even with the xl coffee on tap I can’t find my glasses, and my pet monsters are howling laughing at me taking snap chat videos of it all. Other days, storms are brewing and we have issues. They have given me moments of great joy and extreme sadness, and I’ve cried on both accounts.

This is the home for those who teach and /or love werewolves. It’s the wolf pack, because together we are stronger. We support our kids and each other. Our journeys are all different, our placements and our challenges, but each is valued.

So, welcome. Pull up a chair, grab glass of wine, or a mug of your favourite, some snacks and relax. We’ll share some laughs, and maybe some tears, some jokes and hardcore strategies. This is where we can be real. Because the struggle is real. Because our kids are real.

Hugs to you all and positive universe vibes. If you’re on this journey, you’re already amazing!

Breathe. We got this. Wolf pack unite.

Annie