2013- a picture is worth a 1000 words.

Kinderchat has started a blogging challenge. Today is Wordless Wednesday: choose a photo to represent 2013

I received this from a little girl named Lilee, in her short time on Earth she taught people more than I ever will. 2013 was about #LoveforLilee and this gift is one I will treasure for eternity. I am honoured to have “danced in the rain” with this little girl and to have witnessed the movement of love, hope and togetherness that she instilled in people everywhere.



Are you listening???

Listening…..are you listening? You would think that this question is being asked to a student. But in reality how many people feel that they are not heard when they are talking to adults. Listening is a skill and an important one at that. You cannot be truly listening to someone if you are thinking of your own response while they are still talking. At that point your mind has wandered and you are no longer an active listener. Throughout the last couple of years I have made an active effort to ensure that I truly listen to others and it has made such a difference. Not only have I benefited from hearing what someone else has to offer insight to, the people who I am conversing with are aware that they have my undivided attention. This in turn strengthens relationships because people feel validated during a conversation, and we all know that you cannot go wrong with this. I challenge each and everyone of you to take the time to be an active listener, you will reap the benefits.

Introverted Is Not Shy

It was well over 7 years ago when I sat in the school office and took part in a meeting that was not only pertinent at the time but would become one of those “aha!” moments in my teaching career.

There was a student in the school who was rather quiet and, although well liked by her peers, she was often by herself. Her parents came in for a meeting with her teacher, the principal and me (I was the school counselor at the time). When they arrived they shared their concerns and requested some assistance in helping their daughter make friends. They did not like that she was often alone and when she was with others it was always the same people. She seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable with groups of more than three.

The teacher immediately sympathized with the parents and offered to assist with this in the classroom by providing more opportunity for group play and work. I started racking my brain thinking of ways I could help this little girl feel more at ease with her peers because, after al,l don’t all kids love to be with lots of other kids, playing, and… well… for lack of a better term: “being kids”? My principal, at the time, stopped and looked at everyone and said she failed to see the problem. She went on to discuss how it is adults who immediately think there is something that needs to be done when children are quiet and prefer to work and play on their own. She went on to ask us all: “If the child does not have a problem with it, why does everyone else?”

We all stopped and looked at my principal, but none of us had much of an answer for her. After a lengthy discussion, we left the meeting, and I think everyone was satisfied with the outcome. I started observing *Mallory after that. There were times when she played with 2 of the girls in her class and there were many times where she played on her own. The key was, though, that she PLAYED on her own. She was not sitting and watching others; she was fully involved in something that completely interested her. She was never unhappy when playing on her own and was not looking to find another student to join her. Mallory was, by definition, an introvert. She actually seemed more energized after spending some time on her own; she did not like having any sort of small talk with people she vaguely knew, and her emotions were not always easy to read.

I started to do some reading, I thoroughly enjoyed the books written by Susan Cain and found some great things to do to meet Mallory’s needs:

  1. Give her the time that she needs to play on her own.
  2. Provide her with an opportunity to release emotions (journaling, drawing, art, free play).
  3. Never put her in a large group if I expect her to contribute.
  4. Whenever necessary, be the connector between the child and the friend, help out when necessary.

Mallory taught me so much that year. I learned to step back and observe for longer periods of time, to truly understand that there are children who are most in their element when playing on their own, and that those who are more reserved often have contributions that will knock my socks off.

Since I met and worked with Mallory I have had other introverted children in my own classroom. In fact, this year a parent started our individual meet and greet with “My family really does keep to themselves, we don’t socialize in large groups and my child does not fall far from the tree. I am a bit worried about how the large group environment will effect my child”. In my head I said a little thanks to Mallory as I felt much better equipped to say: “Not only do I think your child will be great, as a class we will embrace and respect the time your child needs to be alone and play quietly.”

I will leave you with something Susan Cain wrote that really sums up some of the children that we have all taught in our careers.

“Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is the preference for environments that are not over stimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.”

It’s Not Just a Card.

He is the child that is rough and tumble, likes to push the limits and at times is very misunderstood. He is the child that is sensitive, cares about others and truly does have the best of intentions. He is the child who stops in to check on his younger siblings in their classrooms on a daily basis. He is the child that doesn’t trust easy, has a rough exterior and says what he thinks – sometimes without thinking.

He was having a rough day and I was asked to go and see him. I put my hand on his shoulder and asked him if he would like to talk or would he prefer silence. He pulled a card out of his pocket and played with it and looked at the ground. He suddenly started talkind, he told me he missed his Dad and asked me if I knew him. I knew his Dad, he was a man who loved his family. I was here at the school 5 years ago when the phone call came in and I was asked to get his older siblings from class with their things and wait at the office for someone to come and pick them up. We talked about the memories he has of his Dad and the special box of trinkets he has at home, things that his Dad gave him. We spoke of his favourite times and the things he can share with his younger siblings to help them remember their incredible Dad.

We laughed, we cried and at the end he passed me the card. He looked at me and said this is the last thing my Dad ever gave me. He told me how he carries it in his pocket every day and somehow it helps him feel connected to the man that he misses and longs to talk to. I felt honoured that he would allow me to touch his most precious belonging. I looked at it as we talked for a while longer and then passed it back to him. He carefully took that card and put it in-between two others for safe keeping. He told me he thinks he will always be a fan of Pokemon cards. To which I replied me too.

Dear Shawna

Dear Shawna,

I am not sure how to even begin writing something like this. For as long as I can remember you have been faced with challenges that most people have not. Yet throughout all of this you have been strong. I remember when you were in your early teens and developed a tumor on your neck, you had surgery, went through chemo and braved it all with a smile. I still have envy of you sitting on the couch with Kirk Cameron on the set of Growing Pains, your smile larger than life!

Life carried on, treatments stopped and you seemed to have beaten the disease. You eventually sent out graduation pictures and headed off to Queens, I bragged that I had a cousin at Queens and still think you are one of the smartest people I know.

Your wedding pictures were beautiful, so glad that you met someone like Will to share your life with ~ true love really does bring happiness doesn’t it?

Not long after that you were faced with a bout of breast cancer, again like a trooper you looked at the situation and decided what you needed to do. You had surgery, you had chemo and you beat it. You were told that having a child would not be something in your future based on all of your radiation.

In 2002 you had a beautiful child, Alexis. Shawna, she is a spitting image of you and Will. Her smile is radiant and I truly believe that she is destined for something incredible. She was after all, the child that was considered a miracle, one that you were never supposed to carry.

Somehow cancer seemed to find you a third time. You told everyone of your situation and again dealt with everything with strength that would put most to shame. You carried on and lived your life like everyone else. Often the diagnosis that you received at your doctor visits were not overly positive but you always found something to report to others that was positive. Last summer Will suffered a very shocking stroke while running on the Island. You flew to his side and stayed with him while he started what was to be over a year-long recovery. During his recovery you decided that if he could battle you were going to battle.

You flew to Vienna numerous times for different treatments and on one trip the whole family went. Since Will was unable to work while recovering from his stroke the three of you were able to have some much deserved family time. When you came back you didn’t know if the treatments were effective internally but you felt better and that was all that really mattered. You received some quality of life from the treatments and that was enough for you to go back a few times to receive them. During this time Wil continued to receive physiotherapy and fight his battle.

Your family remained upbeat through all of this, really this is more than numerous families deal with collectively in a lifetime and they were all happening within your four walls. Despite your fight, you started to feel ill and began to experience pain. A stay in the hospital confirmed what nobody wanted to hear. The doctors felt there was nothing more that they could do and the new approach was a palliative one. You stated that you were at peace with what you were told.

As I read your blog which is being updated by your friend I know that you are slipping from us and I know that it is probably difficult for you to stop fighting since that is what you have done for your entire life. Will’s surgery to replace the part of his skull was successful this morning and I know that news has brought you comfort and probably allowed you to be at further peace.

I want you to know Shawna:

When I think of bravery….I see you
When I think of courage….I see you
When I think of humble…..I see you
When I think of strength…I see you
When I think of beauty…..I see you

Shawna, you are one of the most selfless people I know, you have been concerned with others throughout everything. Please know that your daughter will be loved and embraced by all and that both she and Will will have all the support that friends and family are able to provide for them. I want to shout out and scream that this is not fair, everything was supposed to work and you are supposed to grow old and rock your grandchildren. But if you are at peace, then I need to be too.

May you and Will and Alexis find strength and comfort in the love that you have for one another in the forthcoming days. You are an inspiration Shawna, I am thankful for time we have spent together even if it has not been in abundance due to distance and I thank you for all you have taught me my beautiful cousin.

#kinderblog2012 ~ Take a Picture ~

#kinderblog2012 Challenge – Question #5

Choose 5 objects from around your home (NOT your classroom!) that tell us something about you: as a teacher or as a person. Take pictures of the objects and post them with captions. The real challenge here: the captions should be no longer than a regular tweet– that is, 140 characters.

After some thought I have decided to choose some pictures that need very little explaining but they are the best way to describe how I see myself and my passions if I am not to include being a teacher.

My boys, I ADORE them! Their passion for hockey makes me a hockey Mom ~ I schedule ice times for the association and run tournaments. Happy that I get to suport them in their journey.

My husband, he supports me and pushes me to challenge myself. I am so thankful that he has joined me for this roller coaster we call life!

My fur babies ~ Crosby and Snowball (the pure black gal – named by my youngest) We love a sense of humour in our house.

Outside of my house I love to run, bike, hike, cross train and challenge myself physically. Events are a bit of an addiction for me.

One of four disorganized but well used book shelves in the house. The kindles are helping in this area. The whole family loves to read.

#edcampkinder ~ My experiences

I have just returned from Las Vegas. Most people go there for the lights, the shows and the gambling. I went there to connect with #kinderchat, a group of incredible Early Childhood Educators. I am not saying that I did not enjoy all that the big city had to offer but my highlight was meeting people who I had been connecting with on-line since I joined twitter.

Ten of us made the trek to the desert to meet, although I know that many others wanted to join us and were unable to do so face to face so we skyped some in and even facetimed a few. Before I arrived at #edcampkinder I had met one person who would be attending and I had only met her twice before we boarded the plane together.

Fellow PLAY lovers @Matt_Gomez @happycampergirl @tashacowdy @mauimickey @Mr_Fines @hechternacht @Havalah @learningmurd @LirenmanLearns and myself, @garrioch had travelled from all over to meet, there was representation from Japan, Canada and the United States. When I first saw these people face to face it was like I already knew them. We greeted one another with hugs and immediately it felt like I was with a group of old friends.

We discussed projects that had taken place throughout the year, educational issues and things that would be beneficial to explore for the upcoming school year. But most importantly we deepened our relationships with one another. We learned from all the people there, we learned about them. We truly listened to one another, questioned each other and provided a safe environment for discussion. The group dynamic was incredible during our large group discussions we remained as a whole and collaborated, there were no side discussions, everyone wanted to hear what each person was saying.

Although we had scheduled times to meet, we spent most of our time in Vegas together. We did pro-d during meals, walking the strip, in lounge chairs and even in the pool. It was incredible to spend time with people who are so passionate about education. I don’t think that words can ever describe how beneficial this trip was to me. These people have helped me through a grade transition, encouraged me, guided me and have made me feel that I am not alone. Online relations are important and real. Matt Gomez shared a saying earlier today “we’re addicted to our friends, not our computers ~ Danah Boyd”. I am proud to be addicted to these people who I am lucky enough to call friends. I am proud to say my classroom and my practices as an educator are influenced by them. And most of all I am so thankful that I had the chance to meet them face to face and strengthen our relationships, because that is key in life ~ relationships.

I know in the future I will be attempting to go to every #edcampkinder that takes place. I also know that my friend and principal @ChrisWejr will do all in his power to help me get there. Thanks for the push Chris, it is always appreciated.