Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Feeling down? You need to laugh!

School has not been a lot of fun lately for me. There has been too many stress causing things at school and I've been feeling myself getting sucked into a low energy phase in the school year at a time when I really need to pick things up. December and the Christmas stuff is a high energy time. The pressures of work have been compounded by the pressures of getting class work done and the frustration of trying to work on my project only to find my time slipping away on me. I'm struggling with getting the time to spend with the students who have signed up for online classes. I guess it is one of the realities of action research; time will always be a problem. However, I digress from what I wanted to write about and that is the need to laugh. Because laughter has been lacking in my life lately I sought out a video that would give me a laugh about homework. I found one that really tickled my funny bone, but it really isn't appropriate here as it has some rather offensive language. That video is called the homework song and I laughed at it because I was struggling with getting to my own paper. Anyway, happily enough that hit lead to me finding this video. The video is a prank where walkers unexpectedly end up in a pool of water. I'm not sure what this says about me as I laugh at the misfortune of others, but maybe that's the point. My job puts me in the position of trying to be a people pleaser at times, and I have to be the straight guy when sometimes I really just want to laugh. Maybe, I need to let myself be me and not a school administrator! Anyway, I still have work to do and I need to get to it. Suffice it to say that this video brought laughs to me and I was able to share it with my family. The joy that comes from laughing with your teenaged children is special especially when times have been a little less joyful than ordinary. Laugh out loud when you watch it and you will feel a sense of renewed vigor in your soul. I feel much more relaxed right now and it is likely that I will be more focused on my work for the rest of the evening. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Household Pet? Member of the Family!

Well my dog forced me out of the closet this weekend! I have to admit that her life has an importance in my family life. I have always been a little irreverant about her place in our home since she chewed up my favourite sandals as a pup! I affectionately call her 'dumb dog' and I was not ashamed to use guilt to make the kids pay attention to her. Seemed liked I was the only one who fed her and gave her water and I was the one that never wanted a dog.
Well she has been a part of our lives for 9 years now and on Saturday we nearly lost her. She went under the back wheel of a Ford F150 and came out of the situation crying like I'd never heard her cry before and dragging herself across the road in a fashion that left me thinking I'd have to finish her off with the shovel I was holding. Fortunately, a police officer neighbour came out and told me he thought she would be okay judging by her legs. Well I picked her up and brought her inside and me and my daughter began a vigilance that lasted all evening Saturday and into Sunday. She wouldn't eat or drink and at one point made an effort to get outside. We helped her because we thought she wanted to pee, but it was like she wanted to go and hide. It took us an hour to coax her out from under the deck. Anyway, she finally drank a little just before bed on Saturday and she ate a little on Sunday as well drank some. It wasn't until Monday that we knew she could still pee; my poor wife had a huge mess to clean up.
Anyway, I bundled her up on Monday afternoon and pulled my daughter out of school and headed for the vet in Meadow Lake. The trip passed uneventfully and the vet took a quick look at her and concluded that she would heal. Her pelvis is broken but that will fuse together again in a matter of days or weeks. His biggest concern is that her diaphram may be broken and she will need surgery for that. He set her up with an IV and some pain killer and placed her in a kennel until x-rays can be done in the morning. We had to leave her there, but we left with lighter hearts knowing she was being helped and confident that she will make a recovery if we give her the time.
I have to confess I'm glad the dumb dog is going to make it even though it is going to cost me $$$. My kids have had to deal with enough tragedy lately; a miraculous recovery from their dog will ease their worries and make life seem more forgiving. And hopefully, my wife's long distance running companion will be able to enjoy more runs in the future. Rest well tonight Scooter; you may be home in a day or two.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Are you getting enough sleep?

I know I'm one of those people who cheats on sleep. I sometimes literally go until I can't stay awake. You know the micro sleeps that you can have when you are driving; I've actually experienced those while working on my computer and of course just doing leisurely things like a Soduku puzzle. One thing for sure, when I finally give in to sleep, I'm not having trouble getting to sleep.

The experts are talking about how the electric light bulb and electricity have changed people's sleep patterns and how unhealthy that can be. I found this clip on Youtube and boy am I bad! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxrMLD5Uwdk I'm not doing much right when it comes to sleeping. I do cheat my sleep during the week and then try to catch up on the weekends. I wonder if I developed good habits if that would change how productive I am by the end of the week.

I was exhausted last night and spent most of the evening either napping or watching World War stories during Remembrance Week on the History Channel. Great programs but it was not what I should have been doing. I had planned to work on my classwork last night but just didn't have the energy. The strange thing though is I woke up this morning dreaming about my project. I had a brainwave and even though I'm tired I felt compelled to get up and write down my thoughts about my project; I feel cheated because it was supposed to be a catch up morning for me. A chance for me to rest so that I could put in a good day's work on my project. I guess taking care of me will have to be a higher priority; I cannot keep functioning this way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day Guilt

I'm feeling guilty tonight. Our school held its annual Remembrance Day assembly as I believe we should do, but our ceremony included God Save the Queen. I never really thought about the song before, but today the words were like a dagger in my heart. I couldn't wait for the song to end; all I could think of was how contradictory it was to being respectful of the Dene culture. I know it is a song that is traditionally used in Remembrance Day ceremonies but it is one I will want to seriously discuss before it is played again in our school.

As it is I started a conversation about how can we do something equally meaningful on National Aboriginal Day? I've planted the notion with some staff already. I'm even thinking we should have a Remembrance type ceremony for aboriginal people who essentially faced genocide with the introduction of small pox in the 1800's. Nevertheless, I will continue to observe remembrance day as I am greatful for the sacrifices made by previous generations in the belief that they were creating a better world for those who would follow them.

If you want to see a powerful song about Remembrance Day check out the Edcentre.ca blog @ http://edcentre.blogspot.com/

Just for the record, I've attached the lyrics to God save the Queen - I couldn't believe the second and third verse.

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter thine enemies,
And make them fall:
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Into the Wild

I recall the t.v. sitcom M.A.S.H. and the song suicide is painless that was the show's theme song. I didn't think about it much back then, but with the recent rash of suicides and attempted suicides in my town I can assure you that suicide is not painless. There are so many kids in this community who are hurting and crying for attention. It is an educator's nightmare. We seem to be focused on the bureaucracy of our jobs and continuous improvement when kids need help; I'm struggling with the idea that administrative tasks may be interfering with my ability to be a hallway presence and make a difference in a kid's life. On Wednesday last week, I spent over an hour listening to and talking with a grade 12 student; the bureaucracy did not triumph in this situation and it felt rewarding although it was also an emotional session. However, it was what the student needed. She didn't need a crisis hotline, she didn't need a therapist; she needed a compassionate listener to make sense of her own emotions over the most recent suicide.

I'm at the point now where news of another suicide or attempt is not all that surprising. I think I expect to hear of more; the surprise is who tried or succeeded. I wish I had the ability to wave a magic wand and heal those who hurt, but I don't. I try to make a difference for those I reach and I will continue to stress to people that life is a joy. I watched the movie "Into the Wild" on Friday night and was so touched by the story. The young man's awareness of the beauty of nature was inspiring, yet his final realization that happiness is nothing if it is not shared pointed out what I believe about life. The purpose of life is to make the world a better place for those around you; it is a joyful mission when you reflect on the connections you make with others. For those in despair and wanting to end their own lives, the challenge is how to move their perspective from one of having too many problems to one of having challenges to overcome. I embrace each day I am given; today's snow was a visual reminder of the changing season and I took a minute to notice the path of snowflakes, the coldness in the wind, and the joy of a warm home with people in it that I love.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tell the Truth! All the time!

I had a really nice visit from one of the adults taking classes through the online school. She was struggling and came in because she needed encouragement. This is on of the problems I anticipated with the online students; staying motivated is an issue. She just feels disconnected and she knew she needed some encouragement. In the end we agreed to establish e-mail contact with each other and I invited her to come to the school to work on her classes in times when she felt she needed the human element (particularly the adult element) in her life. She left feeling better and I have to send her a note to see how the rest of her day went.

I got involved in a complicated relationship thing today where a young man came in to discuss a problem he was having with his girl friend. She didn't trust him and was believing someone else who was apparently telling lies about him and another girl. I was quit sympathetic and told him if necessary we could show his girlfriend the video of the hallway where this incident was alleged to have taken place and straighten the whole thing out. He didn't think it was necessary but he nodded when I told him the offer would stand if he needed it.

Well the next hour his girlfriend was in the office in tears and she asked me to see the video. I had a meeting to go to but I trusted the young man and I thought it would help him to show her the video. Turns out he was lying to me and his girlfriend saw something he never would have wanted her to see. I don't know how it all will play out. I feel really bad for the young lady he was lying to though and when I saw him that afternoon and discussed it I asked him about an assembly we'd had where our principal had asked the students to remember a couple of little things: the first was "TELL THE TRUTH" and the second was "ALL THE TIME." He could have saved a lot of people a lot of time if he had been honest to begin with! It was an interesting couple of hours. Unfortunately, the rest of my day was spent with the bureaucracy the Minstry of Education has created around special education. I'm really feeling like administration is getting to be too much responsibility and instead of giving us time to be educational leaders the demands on our time is taking us away from the classrooms. Today I missed a class visit because of the longer than expected meeting with our special education consultant. Tomorrow is a new day though and I'm going to continue to make students my first priority!

Monday, October 27, 2008


Well October continues to deliver awesome weather. I think its been better than the summer. I continue to not get to my project and I continue to feel like I'm not doing enough. To make matters worse Icreated a binder which had a lot of what I had done together that I cannot find now. It had phone #s and addresses along with consent forms for participation in my project. I've searched everywhere I can think of and it still has not turned up - I am concerned. I wanted to investigate e-mailing the students involved in the project and now I've lost their e-mail addresses. Aarrrghh!!!!! I keep thinking to myself stop looking and you will find it; the harder I look the worse it seems.

Today was another day of working on paper work and wondering what really is important. I found out just before lunch that another one of our young students had attempted suicide the night before and had hurt herself. She is a really likeable kid and I get along with her very well; I didn't see anything that worried me of her and I can't help but wonder if all the administrivia in our lives is keeping us from the important people we work with - the students. I will be praying for her tonight but I wonder if the bureaucrats even realize what the impact is of the paper machine they are creating. I could rant on this but it is not productive nor healthy. I will do what I can to fill out forms the way they want, but I will continue to make the kids my first priority. We've been talking about the need for fun in our lives and we can't help but think our jobs are more stressful than they used to be because we don't have the time to plan for fun. I know I want to be more spontaneous in school and I want to see more laughter amongst the students. Today the Student Council proclaimed as 80's day; I didn't dress up but I did bring in a CD with 80's music on it. I don't know if the kids liked it but the teachers did and there were a lot of smiles from those that heard it.

I spent most of the night working on assignments for my Ed 870AR 383 Culturally Relevant Pedagogy class. I actually felt in the groove and I credit it to not working myself until I was exhausted today. I made it home before 5:00 p.m. and I relaxed to the point of having a nap before 6 which left me feeling strong this evening. Maybe this is the answer to my grad work - be selfish and do it for yourself. I hope my director doesn't read this!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Scraping Hide

I should have brought my camera to school today as I had my first opportunity to try scraping a moose hide! I know for many people this is a strange thing to write about but for me it was an amazing experience. For one, it looks a lot easier than it is to do; it also has a smell to it that once on you seems almost impossible to get away from. I washed my hands 3 or 4 times and I could still smell the flesh I was scraping on my hands despite spending only 10 minutes working on it. I really developed an appreciation for the skill involved in scraping a hide. I imagined what life was like for aboriginal people who depended on hides for clothing and shelter and I thought about the work involved and I gained a small but new insight into what life must have been like for aboriginal people. Thanks to the elders for their sharing!

It was a glorioius day today with a wind blowing, blue sky overhead, and mild temperatures especially for this time of year. There is something to be said for outdoor learning opportunities.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes I think the Luddites had it right!

Today was one of those days when I was reminded how frustrating technology can be. It began innocently enough; my printer which had been away since June was finally returned to me yesterday and I decided it was time to put it to action again. I proudly switched printer on my first attempt at printing smug in my knowledge that I wouldn't have to risk printing to our constantly jamming photocopier! Well I hit print and nothing. No happy wirring from the printer, no sign that it had even received my order to print; I checked the printer and everything seemed to be right but nothing happened. I thought about this for a minute and then I remembered I hadn't hooked up the usb cable to the printer - that would be the problem. Sure enough after a brief look for the cable and then a long wait to get back into my office because my phone had been borrowed I had the printer working beautifully!

Well then I had a student transfer back to our school and so I did the paper work and went to print her schedule - for some reason the two printers I have available to me were not available to me to print from and so I had to find a secretary to print it for me. Well during this time a tutor got on our copier which is also the secretary's printer; guess who had to wait! Then the darn thing jammed and I waited some more; finally it printed and I picked it up and went to make the student a copy and the copier jammed. At this point, I could have been converted to Ludditism! Nevertheless, I persevered and finally sent the student on her way.

It was then that I remembered I had a memo to produce for the bus drivers. This time my computer was able to connect to my printer and I quickly finished and printed the memo. I grabbed it and went to photocopy it and... well check out the video ... it wasn't as bad but it was a jammed copier I gave up on as I handed the task to our secretary and went outside to supervise buses and cool off!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Benefits of Journaling

I'm still new at this blogging thing and I wanted to see if I had the know-how to post a video. This became a priority for me today when a teacher I talked to about her class and using visuals confessed that she had never heard of Teachertube. I hadn't either until this past spring. I want to spread the good word and so I went searching. I found this video on teachertube but I couldn't download it from teachertube; however, I found the same thing on youtube and it worked!

Half full or half empty?

Today was punctuated with a talk with a student that centered on the idea that there are two ways of viewing a cup half filled. You can look at it and see it as half full or as half empty - its the same thing but not quite. One view - its half empty - is deficit based; the other - its half full - is strength based. Our principal, often says, "If you want things to change, change the way you look at it."

Today, it occurred to me that these two bits of wisdom are connected. It also drove home the point to me that the way I use language is changing the way I think and it can be powerful when speaking to students. The student I spoke to today nodded as I explained the half full cup story and a smile crossed his face as he said, "Mr. King you got me thinking totally different than I was 40 minutes ago." However, he hadn't quite got it as he started speaking about his problems again. I stopped him and asked him if he could look at his problems differently; I asked him if instead of calling them problems, he called them challenges did that make things different. Again he smiled as he realized it changed the way he looked at things. I can't promise that his life will be better forever because of the conversation; but his mood lightened and left my office smiling. It made a difference for one day anyway.

Another student today who had spoken to me on Monday about struggling with his online class confessed that things were a little better than they had been. He was looking at one chunk of information at a time instead of looking at the whole course. I smiled inwardly because he made a point of wandering over to me to share his small success; I smiled more when he said, "Well I guess I'll be going, but I'll be back tomorrow." Baby steps, small successes; half full I'd say!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Having vision!

Our school met a little over a year ago and created a belief statement that is echoing through my brain like a chorus to a popular song; I just can't seem to get it out of my head. When I think about it, I realize that the belief statement is one that I have embraced. Our statement, "Together, we dream, believe, strive and succeed" was the product of many hours of arguing over individual words and I have to conclude that the arguments were worth it because it is a memorable little sentence that is impacting our professional decisions at the school level.

Today, I saw this statement in action. A teacher met with me this morning and we quickly took care of her question and then began talking about the possibilities of wikis. We spoke of trying to improve what we do, working more effectively and efficiently at how we communicate in an effort to become better teachers and serve our students better. For me it was the highlight of the day; it was collaboration, it was respectful, and it was hopeful. In the afternoon, I bumped into a student just after I left a classroom and she was looking for our career transition advisor because she was interested in learning more about going to university; I told her I hadn't and she said well maybe you can help. I thought how nice it was to have a student ask for help regarding her future and I immediately changed my plans and spent 20 minutes showing her around the U of S website. It occurred to me that this is what together is all about. A student needed help, the resource person she was looking for was not available, and I stepped up and filled in the role meeting the student's need. It felt like I was making a difference and I was glad that I had taken the time to learn as much as I could about technology because I was able to find what she was looking for on the internet in a matter of minutes. I was sharing in the student's dream and I was showing her I believed in her by taking her request for help as being more important than working on exit reports or PAA reporting sheets. Her efforts in school may be heavily influenced by the 20 minute conversation we had today.

I also saw team work (together) today; at a high school meeting after school I presented the problem I was having supporting online learners in our school. I just don't have enough hours in the day to reach the students consistently enough who need help. So I asked the group if they would be willing to help by taking interest in one or two students each to monitor their progress and to encourage them to keep working. I am delighted to report that I had no problem getting staff to volunteer; they want to see our students succeed and they are willing to work as a team to see it happen. It was a good day at school; I networked with colleagues, I had positive interactions with students, I visited a class, I took care of some of the administrivia that is on my plate, and I left the school late feeling tired, but satisfied that, for today anyway, my day was spent more as an educational leader than as a cranky old guy in the hallway.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Satisfaction and Frustration: Just another day!

Every now and again things happen that restore hope and lead you to believe that all the things that cause you grief can actually be overcome by turning to your friends and colleagues. Today began with a staff meeting and we had a problem that we did not have a solution to; we had 5 staff wanting a leave for Thursday and Friday when we only had 3 subs available and 5 leaves already approved! Staff came through though; the suggestion came to have a culture day on Friday which would allow us to easily combine groups of students and cover them with appropriate supervision. Problem solved; meeting planned and leaves granted!!!

I still had another problem to contend with though as I have a teacher out on sick leave for perhaps as long as 9 weeks. I have no qualified teacher to take a term contract and no one to plan lessons for the class. I spent an hour today trying to find work we could give to the group and I was beginning to think I would have to take the group over, but again a staff member came to the solution. She would take the kids,the sub, and tutor from the other class and incorporate them with her own! Problem solved! Boy I owe that lady some Mars bars - her favourite!

The good in people surrounds us; we just don't always take the time to see it for what it is!!! It makes me appreciate the team I work alongside with and it makes me realize that together we are so much stronger than when we work in isolation.

I met with a student taking an online class today and he was feeling down. He was feeling overwhelmed by his online class, his motivation was low, and he was talking about dropping the class and picking it up in second semester. I smiled as he talked and I confessed to him that I had been having similar concerns; I admitted that I hadn't been able to support the learners the way I had hoped I would be able to and that I had another idea that was going through my mind. I plan to talk to high school teachers tomorrow about taking an interest in one online student; I would want them to check with the student frequently and be a go to person when the student is having a difficulty. I also suggested that he had to set a goal of completing one activity a day. I shared with him my belief that because the student can see the whole pie (all the class work) that he wants to eat it all at once. I suggested that if he were only shown one piece at a time it would be easier. I then helped him with one assignment and he agreed that it would be helpful to limit himself on how much he tries to to take on a day. I ended our session by showing him a Youtube video on Dalton Sherman called "Do you believe in me?" which can be found at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=HAMLOnSNwzA When he left, I marvelled over the maturity I now see in him and I thought briefly about the challenging student he had been a couple of years earlier.

The work of teachers is often overlooked by those who think poorly of the profession; however, when you see first hand the impact teaching and teachers can have on individuals, you realize just how important a single meeting between a teacher and a student can be. Teachers are life changers; all this on just another day!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

People don't always do what the say they will!

I bumped into one of the online adult students in Church today and I lingered after Mass to see how things were going for her because I'd been away most of the week. She told me she had done some of the orientation unit, but was having some problems that she wanted help with. She asked if I would be at school in the afternoon and when I confirmed that I would she said she would drop by. Unfortunately, there was no visit and I am in the dark about what her issues were. I guess this will be one of the challenges of my project. I want to support online learners, but I can't do it for them. They have to want to be successful and be willing to take the help when it is offered or available. This is the second time I'd made arrangements with an adult learner who wanted help and then didn't show. I'm little disappointed, but I have to remember this is a research project and the human variable is the reason it needs to be studied and reflected upon.

Do you play with your Wiki?

I've been experimenting with Wikispaces since I attended a class with Dr. Alec Couros of the University of Regina this past spring. He was so enthusiastic about what technology can do for us that it became contagious. You couldn't help but think to yourself, and out loud for that matter, that you just have to try some of this stuff. I have become a lot less paranoid about putting myself out there in the world wide web as a result. I currently have two active Wikis; the one I am most active with right now will have a relatively short shelf life as it is a collaborative assignment that I am working on with six other people and is due on November 1, 2008. It can be found at http://teachinginacoldandwindyplace.wikispaces.com/Book+and+Article+response if you are interested. The other is an idea I want to play around with and it is essentially an electronic staffroom. With a teaching staff of 32 and a support staff of 13, it is sometimes difficult to communicate with people so I am hoping this will be part of the answer. This Wiki can be found at http://llcsdenestaffroomwiki.wikispaces.com/.

If you have never experimented with Wikis, I am encouraging you to have a look at them; they are essentially web pages that can easily be updated and added to. You can set up your own account at http://www.wikispaces.com/ and it is not difficult to get started. If you want to see what Dr. Couros has done, I suggest you go to http://couros.wikispaces.com/tools; he has posted a long list of programs that you may find useful. Incidentally, I found out about teachertube because of this site!

Well I'm not sure how I will connect all this to my community based master's project except that it could be a way of sharing what I learn. More on this later.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another Journey Begins

Yesterday I found some old pictures of my children and marvelled at the changes they have gone through in less than a decade. I found myself in a reflective mood and began questioning what things were most important to me; it didn't take me long to conclude my family is number one in my heart. Yet, even though it was a Friday and I was off, I was working on a project for my Ed870AR class that had me looking for pictures to support a powerpoint I am working on to explore effective Indigenous Pedadagogy instead of being with them. Don't get me wrong, I have no regrets for pursuing the Master's Degree, but I am realizing it is a real sacrifice to dedicate the hours to research and writing for course work.

I was away from home this past week because of our annual teachers' convention and I was able to attend sessions that had a direct link to the project I am working on. I am exploring ways that an in-school administrator can support on-line learners and so I attended sessions on Tuesday, October 14, put on by the staff of Edcentre.ca, an online school that offers Saskatchewan High School credits. At one point they shared their successes with us and I was surprised that they only had two student names (I knew they were missing another one) from our school. This year, because I have drawn attention to the program and its availability to students in the community I serve, we have registered close to 20 students. I guess in one sense, even though the project is not complete, I can already claim a success; the fact is the program is now better known here than it was and I have given local students an opportunity to earn credits in an alternative way that they had not considered before.

I have to say that the more I look at technology and the changes that come with it, the more I am realizing that even though I consider myself a progressive thinker who is open to change, the more I am realizing just how far behind most educators are when it comes to working with the technology. My exposure to technology has influenced my thinking and the way I work or want to work into the future; I am now exploring wikis and how they can fit into my work,and to support course work requirements to journal I am looking at blogging as a solution to keeping track of my own thoughts and writing. I am already wondering if I can blog retroactively? Is it possible to go back to what I have written and add it to this blog with the date I originally wrote it? If you read this and have an answer, let me know.