Posted by: bwoof | August 4, 2016

Learning with pre-schoolers

Two and half weeks! Rich learning on every level.

I’m tired….and encouraged. Exhilarated.

Takeaways include:

talkingiconTalk a lot and use real words, even big multi-syllabic words. Little kids get them, use them, understand them, and remember them. And if not, they are good guessers and predictors, true 21st century learners.


walkiconWalk a lot while you’re talking. Stuff happens and you never know what the next serendipitous learning moment will be. The Curriculum of Life will happen in the mini-steps.

questioniconAsk a lot of questions that prompt thinking and limit telling.

For example,”It looks like you built three LEGO towers. What is the same about each one?”

Rather than,“good girl, you are so smart for building three LEGO towers with three blocks each.”

kidsplayingiconPlay a lot (get on the ground or the floor, smash your clock or at least hide it 6′ underground, and don’t look at the dust on the floor while you’re down there. Lose the broom while you’re at it, too).

Grateful for:

  • H, R, L, and R, L and K, J and S, W and Benji
  • West Jet and the wonderful direct flight from Vancouver to Hamilton
  • time standing still

bordercollieCurious about:

  • What happens when it’s time to say good-bye to your best four-legged friend ever?
  • how to determine if a dog is in pain?


Posted by: bwoof | July 31, 2016

To Pokemon or not, that is is the question…

So, I finally succumbed and downloaded the Pokemom Go app.


An example of what I saw at the park from The Ottawa Sun

An example of what I saw at the park from The Ottawa Sun

Well, I was at the park with two little ones, and doing my very best non-helicopter-concerned-adult imitation, I was at quite a distance and just purposed to ‘let them be’.  Indeed!  It was glorious, and might have included a scraped knee or two, but also untold amounts of independence, curiosity, and exploration. Kid stuff. Good stuff.

So, from my carefully perched position, I was able to see another phenomena. The park was full of people….lots of them…and not a single one looking at each other, no eye-t0-eye contact, no non-verbal facial expressions noticed, no gleam of interest in the other.

But curiously, they were together in small groups of friends, families, and even new acquaintances. Many of them engaged in head-down conversations with others, many of whom had evidently never met before. They were walking, albeit slowly and with circuitous paths. They sometimes huddled together or sat side by side on park benches. Two wheeled by on bicycles with iPhones in hand and eyes gazed downward,  and I wondered how they didn’t crash.

Each person, even the youngest toddlers and the almost-grey-haired adults, held a device, and on that device was Pokemon Go. It felt surreal with so many people almost floating in slow motion.

So…with all my adult-care-for-youngsters-attentiveness, I confess that I did take one fraction of an eye off the little ones and simultaneously downloaded the app. I had to! Right?

Within seconds I was online and could see the cause for the impromptu gathering (and more people kept coming). Nearby were three Pokemon entities. I stood up, one eye still on the little ones, and began to attempt my first Pokemon catch. Silly things….they kept wiggling away, but finally I got the turtle in sight, within a circle thingy that kept radiating in and out.  Nothing happened even though I kept pressing my iPhone button.

squirtle_pokemonLater, in an act of Pokemon community, I asked a nearby-head-down-safe-looking-adult how I could get the turtle. What’s the aim of the game I wondered. “You have to toss the ball over the head of the pokemon…get it beyond him”, I was told.

A few attempts later, my head now down for more than seconds, and I realized that my little ones were off on their own, climbing monkey bars to less-than-safe heights. And I had become distracted.


Something is not right about this situation. I have decided that the question “To Pokemon or not” is important for me to answer.

van_allsburg_wretched_stone12948868164d2e67a020723I deleted the app.

This reminds me of a most important book illustrated by one of my favourite children’s adult authors, Chris Van Allsburg. I urge everyone to read, The Wretched Stone.

Pokemon looks stoney to me.

Grateful for:

  • a reminder that technology isn’t everything
  • a reminder from Dean Shareski, @shareski, that people are not responding to each other as much on Twitter. I think it’s a version of the Pokemon phenomena and we need to be careful
  • the park, the play structures, the sunshine, the slips and falls, the breeze in our hair

Curious about:

  • Trump. How, oh how can this trumpiness be happening?
  • What will pervasive ubiquitous technology do to our brains?



Posted by: bwoof | July 27, 2016

Time stands still with little people


I’m learning….learning…learning…

It’s OK (if not wonderful) to let time stand still. There is no clock in this picture. Amen!

Grateful for:

  • children and grandchildren
  • raspberry patches at my home
  • red ‘happy’ boots
  • techno-free zones
  • freedom from the tyranny of plogging — I know that I’m ‘supposed’ to be on top of this and faithfully post, but it really just doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things

Curious about:

  • what will happen during the current Democrat Convention? Will will be any more or less crazy than last week’s Republican event?
  • what will happen in Rio? Will the Olympics actually happen?


Posted by: bwoof | July 14, 2016

My wilderness ‘bookshelf’

My reading list and 'bookshelf'

My reading list and ‘bookshelf’

A techno detox is just what the doctor ordered and Massassauga Provincial Park for a five day canoe trip was the prescription. While there, we found a most amazing dead pine stump, full of knots and gnarls, with lots of evidence that it had found the cracks in solid rock sufficient enough to sustain life for untold years. Amazing.

We dragged it back to our favourite site and it became a display for the reading materials I had stuffed into my sac and subsequently portaged more than once. Their benefit far exceeded their weight and I don’t for a second begrudge the strain in my backpack. Learning through books, and in this case mostly magazines, is worthy work. Indeed!

Further, the gift of the June 24 edition of The Economist, pre-Brexit, was a gift from some unknown paddler before us. S/he had left it under a burnable log (another gift) as if to say, “I know you’ll now find time to read from cover to cover — enjoy this exquisite moment.”  Or perhaps s/he said, “Oh my…this magazine is far too heavy to portage all the way home, so I’ll leave it for the next unsuspecting but morally upright camper to do the deed for me.”

P1250480Either way, it was a gift.

Later…we burned the stump (not Discover, or Scientific American, or National Geographic, or The Economist, or Anne Fadiman’s book about re-reading — No indeed!) and watched it in fascination as it blazed under a waxing moon. Beautiful! In every way possible.

Grateful for:

  • #604, #34, #16, some of my favourite numbers
  • Wes, the best life-long paddler and camper ever!
  • wild blueberries (not enough to eat yet, but plenty enough to remind me that last year we saw bears eating in ‘our’ patch)
  • Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn who continue to dance through the night sky
  • Binoculars for star-gazing and bird-watching, particularly Ospreys who never cease to bring beauty to my lens
  • A dead stump burns

    A dead stump burns

    Fire (in fire pits)

Curious about:

  • Why can there be such peace out in the wilderness and simultaneously such chaos, pain, suffering, and violence? Awful news from Bastille Day in Nice met us as we left our paddle-powered-canoe and headed home in a motor vehicle with a radio and other technologies powered up.
  • Why did the water levels go so high this year and kill thousands of young white pine trees?
  • Is there someone who manages water in the Great Lakes?  Or do the levels just go up and down at the whim of Mother Nature?
Posted by: bwoof | July 13, 2016

Campsite ‘if’ question #2

A second question from Wes goes like this:

Q2: “If you had to advise a young person about whether or not to get married, what would you say?”

A2: Another L—O—N—G pause. It’s complicated, partly because relationships are under such pressure (it seems) these days, and since so many people are jaded and jilted by what they thought life might bring and what it ended up not bringing.

A2a: YES….get married if….

A2b: …if you are fully OK and prepared to be single.  There’s no sense merging into another’s life when you yourself are not fully present and aware, and willing to be interdependent. Independence will be a thing of the past, and it will be expanded by something bigger and better. However, it’s not a 50/50 proposition. Only 100/100 will do.

A2c: ….NO…don’t get married if you think another person will satisfy, or fill the cracks, or be for you all the time, or will fulfill a contract. It doesn’t happen that way. But covenant relationships can work and are worth it.

P1250506Grateful for:

  • 35 years
  • Life partner

Curious about:

  • what will relationships look like as society and more and more people (it seems) progressively become increasingly  disenchanted with togetherness?
Posted by: bwoof | July 12, 2016

Campsite ‘if’ question #1

P1250408While on our amazing wilderness canoe trip we started talking through a set of questions someone made up — all are on little cards and you get to ask another person a question, usually starting with an ‘if’, and then they can answer back to you. It’s quite an amazing way to get to know someone better, especially oneself.

But, not to be outdone, Wes had a couple questions of his own and I found them to be stretching, learning-centred, and quite difficult. But oh so good!

Q1: If you knew you had only two weeks to live, who would you want to speak with?  Family can’t know about your pending demise, so they can’t be included in this list.

A1: L—O—N—G pause….long…….

A1a:  First, I’d talk with Dale, my bestie university friend who couldn’t be more unlike me, but who couldn’t at the time be closer in spirit, heart, and mind. We live so far away now, not even in the same country, nor have we chatted in person for years, but I think that would change in a heartbeat. I would ask her about her life, her loves, her learnings.  Whatever she says I’m sure would be life-enriching and stretching.  I miss her, can see her on Facebook, but that would be such a lame way to talk.

A1b: Second, I’d talk with Pauline who may not even remember me. She was more than influential when I as a 14-year-old camper at Northwoods (Camp Mini-Yo-We) was in a study with her as the teacher. She was on to me…knew that I knew the code, the church-jargon, and she didn’t let me off the hook.  I recall reciting with significant aplomb all the ‘right’ answers, but deep down inside had a sinking feeling that it wasn’t real, wasn’t good enough. Pauline knew. And she keep pressing. And she kept questioning. I love her for that as it started a personal journey from which I’ve not strayed. She was the real thing. And I’d love to reconnect to say ‘thank you’ and to learn more from her.

A1c: Third, I would find a young woman, probably an emerging awesome educator, to share into. This is not to say that I have much to offer, but what I have I’d like to bequeath to someone to whom I could entrust a few secrets of life that I’ve learned along the way.  What older women invested in me, I would like to see re-invested in the next generation.

Grateful for:

  • Questions. Answers.
  • Dale, Pauline, Mandy, Candice, Catharine, Brittany, Sonya, Jen M, Mandy Mc, Melinda, Karen

Curious about:

  • Why do we never see Blue Heron babies? We see the adults all the time, but no little ones.


Posted by: bwoof | July 9, 2016

Citizen: An America Lyric by Claudia Rankine

The best part about grad school is the car-pooling pre- and post-class conversations with my classmates. It’s during these times that I learn the most, tangle deeply with ideas, and have the most  “Wow, I never thought of that angle before…” moments.

A class I missed with the cohort last summer included the reading of a book that landed outside the usual grad school researched article backdrop. And it is this book  (is is a poem? a muse? a novel?), required not only by the prof, but highly recommended by my co-learners that I was by happenstance reading in this week when racial tensions heighten, violence increases, and the hope for in-country peace seems virtually hopeless [See this article for a sad reminder about what’s happening this week. And yes, I know that even in the selection of an article there is bias. Truth be told, I don’t know how to choose without some internal filter affecting my choice — but I am now aware that I do have bias.].

citizen an american lyricClaudia Rankine’s CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC invites see a subversive world of micro-aggressions that I have, like the many in the book, been guilty of committing. It’s more than unsettling and sobering. And in this week when collective anger erupts into news headlines, Claudia’s words help me understand that the racism is a violence that comes from a place, a place that I need to learn about.

Of the many reviews to consider, here is just one – I offer it in full knowledge that I have curated the options–and I wonder to what extent my own bias has determined my choice.

Oh so complicated!

As Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself”. This may be the best advice ever in these tumultuous times. Dear Claudia, I’m sorry. To what extent can I love?

Grateful for:

  • Literature — the window into the soul
  • Big big big whiteboards that I can use to help us ‘see’ ideas, plans, beliefs
  • Susan C for giving me a copy of Citizen
  • The Meeting House and many reminders through messages, tweets, and conversations that violence is not the only option.

Curious about:

  • What does ‘love my neighbour’ look like when the veins of -isms run so deep that I’m not able to recognize that they are there?
  • What I need to know about ‘black lives matter’? What would Claudia want me to know?


Posted by: bwoof | July 8, 2016

Curiosity reprised…

Today’s George Couros blog creatively reminds me that curiosity is a virtue. Yes! A virtue. It’s a good thing. A really good thing.

The dual theme of CREATIVE CURIOSITY is starting to show up over and over again, and I realize it’s becoming my theme, too.  For example, here are just a few pieces that illustrate the point:


Grateful for:

  • Karen who has agreed to help me with a big project
  • my prolific raspberry bushes
  • my HWDSB exec leaders who are at #CASSA2016 and are tweeting inspirational observations from Winnipeg and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Curious about:

  • How will our exec leaders use their new-found learning in the days to come? I look forward to seeing how we will practically apply this learning. Exciting and humbling.
  • How do we keep curiosity alive and not crush it in a compliance culture?
  • Why…oh why?  Dallas is in mourning. Guns are everywhere. Why?
Posted by: bwoof | June 30, 2016

LOVE it. LOSE it. LONG for it.

I can’t say enough about how much I love being a part of public education. It’s the end of another year, and just the beginning of more learning.

Humbling. Overwhelming. Exhilarating. And even Scary at times.

A highlight from today and yesterday include our teacher-learners in community as they reflected on the year. They shared the things they LOVE and want to keep, the things they don’t love and want to LOSE, and the things they LONG for and would add to their wish lists. Powerful data to consider and help lead our way into the next school year.




Grateful for:

  • Melinda who stick-handled many logistics today so that I could focus on other things
  • a learning day that trended to positiveness and not grumpiness
  • ice cream and a summer playlist
  • gentle reminders to go back to the data pool when faced with difficult decisions…sometimes getting more perspectives makes all the difference

Curious about:

  • how one simple timetable proposed change, driven by student learning need, can disrupt my inner equilibrium
  • what motivates people to want to be in certain departments
Posted by: bwoof | June 29, 2016

OLF in practice

OLF IN PRACTICEWe have a lot of theoretical chatter, particularly about leadership. I like the theory, and even more I like the practical application of that theory.

PRAXIS makes a difference.

Today we explored the practical connections of the Ontario Leadership Framework (OLF) to our Heads and Assistant Head roles at school. What might it look like to purposefully set direction, for example?  Or to build relationships.

I’m more than excited about what the school leadership team will vision and accomplish next year!

imageGrateful for:

  • HWDSB – a great place for me to learn and grow
  • Jennie and her awesome cake-making which honoured Estella
  • Estella – a kind, professional, intelligent, other-centered wonderful educator.

Curious about:

  • What easy-to-remember focus will we have for next year?
  • school fees – to have them or not?
  • How can I support school leaders who are tired and trending to seeing lots of negatives right now? How might I help them remember how awesome they are and will be?

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