Thanks Langley Edcamp35!

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It has to be something pretty good for me to give up a Saturday. But Langley Edcamp35 was worth experiencing. I am one of those teachers/admin that was brought up on what Chris Wejr calls the “Sit and Git” professional development model. I admit, there are times when I do not mind being “spoon-fed.” However, what I liked about Langley Edcamp35 was the opportunity to interact, meet and discuss with “friends” from twitter, other folks in my district, folks from other districts and student teachers.

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I was amazed at the variety of topics that people wished to discuss. It gave me an opportunity to “shop” for what Interests me as well as to contribute to the conversation. It was enlightening to learn more about “connecting through student strengths” as well as “Freshgrade” “e-portfolios” and the new curriculum. Just having a thoughtful discussion on content and competencies in the BCedplan has spurred me on to continue those discussions with my team at school.

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I very much enjoyed the thoughtful contributions from student teachers as well as people new to education. The valuable contributions from parents and students were welcomed and appreciated. As I near the end of my career, I realize that even with some of the difficulties we face in education these days, there are also some exciting opportunities. It would be great to explore alternative education models such as outdoor ed, or a total inquiry approach. I would love to begin e-portfolios, better mental health education and revised report cards that do not include numbers and letter grades.

I look forward to continuing the conversation at future edcamps, even if I have to sacrifice a Saturday. Thanks to the committee from Langley Edcamp35. By the way, the food was amazing proving once again that it really is all about the food!

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The Top Reasons Why TEDxLangleyEd Was Exhilarating !

IMG_1369On Saturday January 19th, 2015, it all came together. Months of planning with an amazing committee, a fearless leader and overwhelming support from SD35 it really was “show-time.”   Mugs, bags were stuffed the night before. Tables were prepared, name tags sorted, coffee urns filled. I was so impressed by the team from professional services.  It has taken a few days to reflect on the experience. I think we are all still going through TEDxLangleyEd withdrawal. But here is my list of the top reasons why the whole experience was worthwhile:

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  • Got to work with a dream team (for many hours)
  • Laughed, worked, planned and worked some more
  • Saw the TEDx sign go up on stage
  • Saw people from my PLN (wish I could have connected more!)
  • Actually spoke with Speakers who I admire and read about
  • Worked hard to include the community of Fort Langley
  • The anticipation was amazing and exhilarating
  • The topics resonated and are pertinent to what I do daily
  • The experience touched so many people (and they let me know!)
  • Loved the student performances (it’s all about the kids.)
  • So proud of Ida!
  • Loved the student volunteers (awesome enthusiasm)
  • Personal satisfaction of seeing the event from start to finish
  • Creating the urgency that education must change…now!
  • Committing to doing something on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. Thanks Karl!
  • Reading the comments on twitter, face-book and e-mail
  • Loved the opportunity to work with folks from our District Leadership Team
  • Honoured to host the speakers’ dinner
  • Want to do it again next year
  • Going through TEDx withdrawal!
  • Thanks to all for the experience.

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“Lest We Forget.”

imgres          “Lest We Forget” 

I have a hard time at Remembrance Day. At school as a Principal it is the one assembly that must be held. Over the years I have organized over a dozen Remembrance day assemblies. However, they became harder to produce after my father and brother passed away October 15th and November 15th in 2003. I remember them at this time of year.

IMG_0700 My father served in the Dutch Navy from 1946-1950 and was stationed in Indonesia. During the war (which broke out when he was 12 years old) he assisted in the Dutch underground. Listening to him speak of that time with a catch in his throat made me realize years later as an adult how traumatic it must have been for him.

My mother was also 12 when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Her stories were about a lack of food, heat and her brothers forced to go and work in factories in Germany. In 1945 when she was 17 years old, she and my grandmother spent time in a concentration camp. I remember her talking about scurvy and lice, but there were places and memories that she could not and would not share. Now I understand, why both parents immigrated to Canada.

IMG_0871  This Remembrance day at Richard Bulpitt Elementary school we had the privilege to have Sgt. RS Rowan from the Canadian Military join us at our assembly. His daughter is in grade two and his son attends our daycare. It was poignant to see the little boy recognize the tall, serious soldier at the door of our gym. With a cry of “daddy” he ran over and held his hand during the first moments of the assembly. His daughter joined him at the end of the assembly.

It reminded me that all the soldiers: Canadian, Dutch and, yes German and others have sons and daughters. They, like me, miss their fathers and mothers. I am grateful to the men and women who protect our country and our freedoms. I know the sacrifices they make in order to enable us to live and work relatively normal lives. I am hopeful I can teach our youngsters to solve their conflicts in peaceful ways so that when they are adults they will remember.

IMG_0864   While it is difficult to teach 300 youngsters under the age of 8 about freedoms, peace, war and sacrifice, it is important that we the adults model the respect and admiration for the men and women who serve our country. I hope to continue the “culture of kindness.” This Remembrance Day I will remember not only my family, but the other families whose sons, daughters, fathers and mothers continue to protect us. “Lest We Forget.”

Stand Up and Be Counted and Heard.

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This past month, the  folks and I at Richard Bulpitt Elementary School in Langley discussed the school district vision. The core values of Integrity, Courage, Excellence and Community are the building blocks that resonated the most with me. I am beginning to realize that my own experiences are what has shaped me as an educator and school leader.

I came to Canada when I was nine years old, back in the sixties. (Yes I am that old!) Vancouver in 1965 was as beautiful as it is now. We arrived in October. Crisp, sunny days, sharp mountains and daisies in the grass at Stanley Park were my first memories.

We stayed in an old Motel on Kingsway Ave. It was cheap, close to a school and had a kitchen. While my dad pounded the pavement looking for work, my brother and I went to the neigbourhood  school. Mom was home with the baby.

I was tall, smart, nine years old and placed in grade one with six year olds. I was devastated. One month later when we moved to North Vancouver, I was again placed in a grade one class. I remember standing at the school fence at recess with tears streaming down my face and not having the English words to explain how I felt.

After a year we moved again. This time the new school placed me in grade 4, I was a year behind my peers but it was an improvement from grade one. It was hard, learning the language, dealing with my Mothers’ depression and homesickness, looking after two younger brothers and often being accused of being bossy by my younger peers. I often wonder what my teachers thought of me. Especially when I was strapped twice in grade seven for physically fighting with boys who were taunting me.

I learned to find comfort and escape in the books I loved. The public library was a treasure where I eagerly read everything and my English language skills improved. My school library at that time consisted of a van that travelled from school to school.

I was fortunate that learning came easy to me. It was not so for my brothers. Looking back I realize that one brother was impulsive and the other had a learning disability. In time one ended up on the streets and the other died from complications associated with MS.

Education as a career was not my first choice. But it was inevitable. I had always loved younger children and I had always been someone who looked after and cared for others. I still “fight” for the underdog and have little patience for those who feel they are entitled.

After I had failed my first year at University and my father had said in his heavy Dutch accent “why are you wasting your money? You will just get married and it will be wasted.” I dug in my heels.  Four years later with a degree and teaching certificate I left UBC. My concentration was in Special Education and English Literature. I was fortunate to complete my Master’s degree through part-time studies a few years later, only six months before our daughter was born.

Currently I know it is essential to look at the students entering our new school community  with kindness, compassion, understanding and acceptance. I understand the importance of building the relationships because it was the relationships with caring adults that assisted me at school. I also know the value of second chances, the opportunities to try again, and the power of adults who believe in you. I was fortunate to have all of that in my life.

My experiences with special needs students taught me to be patient, and inclusive. It also forced me to look outside of the box and to look for solutions that were kid centered, “fair is not equal” became my motto.

I try to never treat a child unfairly or unkindly. I realized that in my own situation, adults were making decisions based on their best knowledge, experience and current knowledge. It just may not have been the right decision for me at that time. To this day I try to see all the sides and nuances of the story. That takes time and patience, a willingness to “talk” to everyone. I don’t always get it “right.”

We need to stand up and be counted and heard. Why are you advocating changes in education? How will you have the conversations with the adults who are in your schools? Can you have the empathy, the patience, the courage and the willingness to truly make a difference? How do your own experiences impact the educational system of today? How can we build community and relationships with our families, staff and students? Will the building of a strong community affect achievement and excellence in our students.

I Always Procrastinate When It Comes To Homework!

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Recently, actually almost a month ago, my “friend” Shawn Davids (@sdavids51)  invited me to do some homework about myself that he posted on his blog.

http://www.leadershipwithpurpose.net/1/post/2013/12/my-homework-is-done-can-i-play-outside-now.html

Sharing information about myself in a public forum always makes me feel uncomfortable, but since I believe in “transparency” here goes. (Still not happy with you Shawn!)

          images   11 Random Facts About Myself

1. I was the tallest person in grade 10 at 5’10”. (Since then, people are a lot bigger!) Currently I am the shortest person in my family.

2. I was born in Schiedam, The Netherlands and I speak and read fluent Dutch.

3. My family and friends come first even though I love my work.

4. One of my proudest moments was working for “Habitat” the United Nations conference in 1976.

5. I have been a waitress, a camp supervisor, a part-time night school teacher for mentally handicapped adults, a cleaner, a nanny, an interpreter and a college instructor.

6. I failed my first year at UBC, but finished my Master’s at 29.

7. I am afraid of heights and flying but force myself to travel because you can not live your life in fear.

8. I love to cook and have an almost “gourmet kitchen.”

9. I love to read fantasy and science fiction and reread the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy every summer.

10. My favourite food is fish and seafood. This summer I had raw, green herring in Hellesloetsluis.

11. I am an extroverted introvert. Basically I am shy, but like to pretend otherwise.

                               imgres-1Shawn’s Questions for me:

1. Always smooth peanut butter.

2. My “happy place” is anywhere there is sun. Lately that has been Palm dessert in the Spring time.

3. “White Christmas” was my favourite movie growing up as a child.

4. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

5.  If I could sit down with any person for an hour…..right now it is Richard Bulpitt, because the more I learn about him, the more I wish I could have worked and learned with him. It truly has been a privilege to open up a school in his name.

6.The scariest thing I have ever done is  zip-trekking in Costa Rica. (Remember I am afraid of heights! No safety harnesses there!) The rain forests there are extremely tall and the tree canopy is spectacular!

7. My friends would describe me as  having a great sense of humour,  my colleagues would say dedicated.

8. My best decision was to marry my husband of over 30 years.

9. On my 16th birthday I went for dinner at the Whitespot Dining room on Granville Street in Vancouver.

10. Usually the inside jokes are the funniest, but I like knock knock jokes.

                       imgres-2My 11 Bloggers are:

1. Karm Connolly: @karmconnolly

2. Shelley Rolston: @shelleyrolston1

3. Lara Lacroix: @llacro1x

4. Kirk Weiss: @weiss_sd35

5.Barry Kroeker

6. Sarban Sangha: @Sarblangley

7. Derek Mccracken:

8. Marcello Moino: @m_moino

9. Vanessa Jaggi: @vjaggi40

10. Carol Perry: CLPerry55

11. Deb Cowland: @DebCowland

                         imgres-311 Questions for 11 bloggers:

1. Favorite TV show and why.

2. Favorite sport in high school

3. Who has made a difference in your life and why?

4. Best family holiday ever and why?

5. Where do you hope to be ten years from now?

6. What is the nicest thing you have ever done for someone else?

7. Who is your hero?

8. Why do you do what you do?

9. Your favourite restaurant and why.

10. What are you most thankful for.

Now it is your turn, here’s how it works:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

Post back here with a link after you write this. Go on, you have homework to do.

 

 

We Are Ready to Learn!

ImageThese are our grade 5 leaders in our “Learning Commons” of Richard Bulpitt Elementary School. We met with them on the Thursday before school started. They are our leaders in our new community.  A short 9 months ago, this building and community did not exist.

What an amazing past 9 months! I have been privileged to participate in the “birth” of a new school community. In January when I started this adventure there was a cement pad and a few walls. Snow, ice and rain surrounded my office.

ImageI visited the school site every two weeks, slowly watching the changes taking place. At the same time, I was reaching out to the community. Drawing families back to their home catchment area as well as welcoming new arrivals. It was important to connect with the children, I visited classrooms in the school where some of my population would come from. I tried to be on the playground as often as possible.

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After spring break, it was time to assemble the team within the new school; teachers, support staff, custodians and others. While the physical building was built, other building was happening. Relationships, connections, friendships, common ideals, sharing, collaboration, a common vision, and including everyone in the community became a common theme or “thread” that knitted us together. A PAC was formed overnight and parents were an important piece of the “tapestry.”

ImageOur community bar b que, the week before school started proved that students and parents were excited to be a part of our new community. Over 300 people came even though the rain tried to dampen spirits. Families eagerly lined up for tours of the new school and children tried out their playground for the first time. Our dedicated staff, many of whom had come to school during their holidays, had prepared,  with the help of family members, classrooms for students.

ImageThe week ended with our grade 5 leadership team, with the assistance of teachers and “Country Bumkins” staff,   to prepare for the first day of school. They will be the leaders and ambassadors  of our brand new school. They will set the direction of our Learning. It has been a once in a life-time experience to be a part of this “birth” of a new school and community. “We Are Ready to Learn!” Children and Adults alike!

Are We Building or Weaving?

ImageFor the past six months, everyone has asked, “How’s construction going?” “Will the building be finished in time?” What I’ve learned, is that it’s not just about the building. There are many other factors or threads that make up a new school community. I think of it as threads in a tapestry.

I have been at Willoughby in a temporary office since January. Many Willoughby students live in the RBES catchment area. Parents and students came to meet me in my office, on the playground, in the parking lot. Relationships were started. 

During parent meetings in February and March, a parent advisory council and executive were formed. Active participation in planning for the new school began to happen. New families came to join existing families. Friendships, relationships and neighbours developed. The threads were weaving together.

Teachers joined us in April and May. Some from Willoughby, many from other parts of the districts. For some teachers the relationships were in place, others I felt like we had known each other for years. The common “thread” was the children, change and an opportunity to “weave” a new community. 

Other strands are now “weaving” in and out of the tapestry. Our preschool/daycare and before and after school care is a “thread”, our support staff, custodians are entering the “fabric”. The Township programs are a new colour entering the picture in September. 

The fabric of the school community is becoming visible, it is no longer just a building waiting to be constructed, it is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of children, community, parents and staff eager to start the pattern of education. Just like a piece of fabric, we will have broken threads and some unravelling, but the threads are strong and we know how to mend and how to continue the weaving.