Breathlessly going Forward

Although I have put in the required hours, my learning project is not complete. I have learned a lot, but I am not done. I have learned:

  • Meditation may have medical benefits for people who make it a regular practice, including rewiring the brain, better resilience for stress, immune support, emotional wellness, and improvements in sleep
  • It’s not easy. Meditation is work. Every time. Making time to practice it daily was difficult, and the little voice in your head gets louder if you have a large “to do” list

  • The focus is important – whether it is visualization or focusing on breathing, giving your attention a clear task is the route to training your mind.
  • There are many types of meditation to try. Some are based in theological rituals, others are based on physical practices, and others are based on mindfulness
  • I did not have success with my original goal: improved sleep. However, I noticed that I had less headaches, I was better at self-calming, and I began to personalize less of my challenges
  • For my best learning, I need a blend of online, self-selected content, books to read, and human contact to check in and seek answers to questions
  • Reflecting openly about my new interest has increased my connections and PLN – reflecting regularly has increased my support network and also kept me engaged in my learning
  • Journaling helped me to process my personal learning experiences and growing knowledge base to transition into my more public thinking out loud blog

    Meditating at my local little beach.

    Meditating at my local little beach.

  • A meditation “space” was less important than I thought. I tried meditating in my bedroom, my front porch, in the woods overlooking the beach, as a passenger in the car, while cooking, and even at work
  • I like my new mindfulness! This part is simpler than I thought. I connect with my senses to ground myself in the present. I smell Spring in the air while walking the dogs, I hear my dogs lolloping around me, and I see the diffusion of light as I move through my day
  • There was one component of my chosen app Headspace that I did not have a chance to fully utilize and I believe that it would have added even more of a dynamic experience, based on my time as part of our #tiefit group: the ability to connect with other Headspace buddies. You can encourage each other and cheer one another towards daily practice. I never did find another Headspace partner. That is ok, as it took me 7 months to accept my first FitBit buddy. So, in terms of connecting with other Headspace users, it may still happen over time.
  • The way that the app is gamified (it tracks your “streaks”,
    My run streak from earlier this term.

    My run streak from earlier this term.

    there are incentives for reaching certain milestones, and your progress is represented in multiple ways) encourages you to compete against yourself and ensures that you keep returning.

  • It is actually less about doing a little “something for yourself”, and more about considering the people who will benefit from your ongoing practice of meditation. Focusing more on the benefits that your work will provide to others will make the practice easier, your mind softer and more malleable to the process. Meditation should be done as an act of service, not solely as a treat for yourself. However, your increased calm and self-understanding may lead you to be less critical of yourself and others.

  • Some days are better than others. At first that was difficult and when I re-read my journal I can see how critical I was of my efforts. Now, I realize that it is about the practice. Learning a sport is similar: you attend practices and some days are better than others, but ATTENDING the practice still counts.
  • I have begun to practice some of the strategies and reminders as a new part of my daily ritual. Headspace teaches you to “flash” some of the teachings as often as 5 times a day to ground you in the moment. I have taken some of the lessons to help me ease into sleep on restless nights, or visualize my busy thought traffic as a road that I step further and further away from. I am in the process of owning this new learning!

So, my journey continues. I have paid for a year’s use of this app, I am enjoying the practice, and I feel like I am getting something out of it. I am learning the skills to be more in the moment and to be present in whatever task I am attempting to do. It is actually feeding my sense of gratitude and joy. The guided meditations are working for me, but I hope to try a few more guided mindfulness activities on the move.

Thank you Alec Couros for giving me the opportunity to learn something new and to explore new ways to bring balance into my life. And thank you to my expanded PLN for supporting me along the way with resources, ideas and encouragement.

My mental "clutter" that I sketched out earlier this term as I began this journey.

My mental “clutter” that I sketched out earlier this term as I began this journey.



Reflective Teaching – Day 22

Te@chThought‘s Day 22 Challenge is: “What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching?

My PLN (Personal Learning Network) is composed of people I know face to face and amazing people I have never met in person, but have received tremendous support and encouragement from online.

My local PLN has a few key players who are always pushing the envelope of innovation. They encourage me in trying new things in my classroom and in my own life. I would not be pursuing my Masters degree without these people in my life! My local PLN has many dedicated teachers in it, but also several non-teachers. I have benefitted deeply by seeking out the opinion of people who are not classroom teachers because they are able to often add a perspective that is missing when you only interact with colleagues. Some of my PLN are the parents of former students or of students I have never taught, one is my husband who sees things with such clarity, and others are friends who are connected with schools in some way but do not work as teachers. I am grateful to have people who are willing to share their ideas and opinions with me.

My extended PLN is mainly my Twitter community. I do not have a huge group of “followers”, but I have been lucky enough to connect with some amazing educators, parents, and administration who are eager to pay it forward. Twitter is also great for actively learning from people who are sharing out their ideas and work publicly for all to benefit, not just close friends. I feel grateful to have found a few people who will frequently respond when I post a question or I need help or ideas. I love the energy that is present on Twitter – once a conversation gets going, people jump in from all directions! Twitter chats are a great place to grow your digital PLN. Some of my favourites are #bcedchat, #mschat (middle school chat), and #BYODchat.

My other source for my PLN has been my Masters cohort. We’ve become quite close, and can count on each other for support as we learn together.

Reflective Teaching – Day 18

Te@chThought‘s Day 18 Challenge is: “Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…”

Teaching today requires teachers to wear multiple hats. It is no longer enough to coach from the sidelines, or lecture to large classrooms.

So in my thinking, a teacher is a collaborative engineer. Let me explain:

  • models collaborative skills by engaging in professional collaborative efforts
  • assists students in finding collaborative work partners and developing skills in working with others
  • engineers the conditions in which students can learn
  • engineers learning opportunities that make students WANT to learn
  • collaborates with students as a fellow learner
  • leverages the power of technology to facilitate connections beyond the classroom walls in order to provide rich learning experiences in areas students are actually interested in
  • ensures that learners do not feel alone on their learning journeys
  • fosters rich discussions with learners so that everyone has the opportunity to derive as much meaning as they can from lessons, readings, viewings, etc.
  • challenges learners to design their own meaningful investigations
  • engineers inquiry from rote facts

I see teachers as co-conspirators with their learners embariking on a great adventure!

Reflective Teaching – Day 7

Te@chThought‘s Day 7 challenge is “Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why?

My most inspirational colleague is one of the first teachers that I met when I made the move to Middle School years ago. She is a dynamo!

Ever-positive, brimming with enthusiasm, humour, laughter and joy, she brought cheer to everyones’ day. Her laughter was infectious, and could be heard from any place in the building! She howled with laughter regularly – often all day! She brought such energy and spirit to our building and could be counted on to create FUN anywhere she went.

Her role in our school was as a learning support teacher. She brought such a unique approach to how she designed her program. Her classroom looked more like a family room – welcoming couches, soft and variable lighting, alternate work spaces, visible evidence of student ownership of the space, and lots of choice.

This amazing colleague listened deeply to students’ and teachers’ needs. She had an inexhaustible wealth of ideas, a desire to share, and she engaged in caring follow-up. I was constantly amazed by her calm and mindful presence in the midst of a crisis. She could maintain a critical, clear perspective through any situation! Whenever I felt flustered she would offer immediate clarity.

This outstanding educator is a mentor in our district. She gathers colleagues together to share ideas, discuss pedagogy, gather momentum, and grow supportive networks. She takes risks and is willing to support new friends in their endeavours in teaching.

I have felt profoundly lucky to know this incredible educator. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She gently nudges me out of my comfort zone. She says “yes” whenever I want to try a new direction in teaching. She invites me on grand adventures in learning and introduces me to ideas and experiences to help me inform my practice. And, she laughs. All the time!

Some of the memories and lessons I carry with me:

  • balance is important
  • listen
  • pause before you respond
  • laugh often – life is fun!
  • if you can help, do it
  • learn constantly, and know that it is ok to be learning. You don’t have to be perfect immediately
  • share incessantly
  • be inviting
  • don’t judge
  • say yes to beautiful shoes
  • be generous with your joy, contribute positivity


Reflective Teaching – Day 6

Te@chthought‘s Day 6 challenge is “Explain: What does a good mentor “do”?”

I’d like to answer this question in terms of what characteristics I would like to have in a mentor. 

My ideal mentor is someone who is:

  • Open: open-minded, open-armed, willing to try new things or consider new things, and open to questions
  • Creative: a divergent thinker who enjoys a challenge
  • Able to know when to say “no”: Balance is important in life, and I need reminded not to take everything on. To be happy and healthy means keeping family as a priority and making time for rest, relaxation, and pursuing leisure activities.
  • Growth-oriented: I’d like a mentor who is able to discuss their own areas of strength and development openly and guide me in learning and improving in areas that I would like to focus on
  • Connected: leverages the power of their own PLN to extend my voice and help me network when I am trying to solve problems
  • A Life-Long Learner: I don’t need my mentor to have all of the answers. My favourite way to learn is through story and conversation. I’d like to work with a mentor who enjoys uncovering solutions together.
  • Patient: looks forward to working together, and is fully engaged when working with someone.
  • Has a “Big-Picture” View: plans with the end-in-mind and does not sweat the small stuff
  • Passionate: a mentor should truly LOVE their profession and inspire the same positivity, curiosity, and engagement in the people they work with.
  • Joyful: this job is FUN! I want a mentor who values play and makes happiness a priority.