A small moment of mindful appreciation

Can I just be honest for a minute? Finding the time to write this blog post has been really hard for me. It’s not that I don’t love blogging; I actually love the process of organizing my thoughts and reflections, writing them out, and opening up a conversation about some topics that I’m passionate about. Since the October F2F session, I’ve had several ideas for posts. But I have not been able to squeeze in a single minute for writing before now. Even now, there are about a hundred other things that I should be doing. Plus, I haven’t yet had a chance to do the homework of my interviews with my learners to determine their needs. But, an email from @adamcaplan to all coaches this week included this as a to-do list item:

Write a blog. Any blog! Possible topics: How did the last F2F go for you? What have you been thinking about this past month? What three things would you change if you could snap your fingers? Do you have any ideas for an action plan this year? What is new for you this school year? Which book or article has most resonated with you since school began this year, and why? What do you hope for of participants in the next F2F?

So here I am. What’s new for me this school year? I’m so glad you asked.

In the middle of August, coming off my maternity leave, I started in the job that I’ve been working toward for a very long time: technology integration specialist for the Middle and Senior Schools. Although the school had this position in the past, when the previous person left the school unexpectedly, the position wasn’t filled, and I unofficially took on some of the responsibilities of this role as part of my job in the Middle and Senior Library. I was thrilled when the school reposted the tech job after five years and I was the successful applicant. While I enjoyed working in the library, deep down I knew it wasn’t my true calling. This is what I was made for.

We’re now one quarter of the way through the school year, and what a ride it has been so far. I absolutely love my new position. I am working with teachers and students, and even some staff, trying to make technology work harder for them and facilitate their learning. I’ve learned so much already and challenged myself with completely new (to me) projects, like the grade 8 3D printing project that just wrapped up. I still have so much to learn, and an endless list of possible projects and partnerships that I want to make happen.

But wow, has it ever been busy. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so strongly the sense of treading water trying to keep from drowning under the amount of stuff I have to do every single day. And throw a 15 month old into the mix and I just don’t have the same time that I once did to work during evenings and weekends.

How I’ve been feeling lately.

Lately I’ve been finding myself getting stressed out on my drive in to work as I go through all of the tasks and priorities for the day. But Tuesday morning, as I drove down some of the few remaining undeveloped roads in my region, I was struck by the beauty of a surprise overnight snowfall. Every tree was coated in a thick layer of not-yet-melted snow, and the morning light was just beginning to rise.  And so I tried to put aside the stresses and the pressures, if only for a moment. I tried to slow down my racing brain and just appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. And you know what? Although I arrived at work and got right down to business, and likely didn’t have the chance to even look out a window again until dusk was falling and I was heading out to my car for the evening commute, those few minutes of mindful appreciation made a difference in my day.

Hello, world!

I joined Cohort 21 a little bit later into the year than most, which meant that, along with lots of catching up to do, I had missed the first F2F session. I missed meeting all of the other Cohorters, and the coaches and facilitators. I missed getting the run down on everything that would be involved this year like the toolkit, the hangouts, and the action plan. And so I felt frozen when I thought about finally getting myself out here on the blog, as fears about not knowing my audience, not fully knowing the expectations, and not knowing what to write about seemed too daunting to overcome.

On Wednesday night, the wonderfully kind and helpful Les McBeth hosted a Google Hangout with a few of the other latecomers to the C21 party. Beyond getting us caught up on what we missed at the first F2F, she gave the best advice: not every blog post has to contain earth shattering revelations or deep, philosophical reflections. Sometimes it’s good just to get yourself out there.

So here I am, and just in time for the second F2F: my first blog post. Just putting myself out there.

My name is Jen Weening and I am the middle and senior school teacher-librarian at the Country Day School. In addition to heading up the library, this year I am also teaching grade 11 Communications Technology, which is a brand new course at my school, and which I am really enjoying so far. I taught 9-12 French for my first few years at the school, and so it’s been really fun getting back into the classroom after a few years away. I missed the relationships I was able to develop with my students, which were noticeably different than the relationships I developed with students in the role of librarian. Teaching a course in addition to my regular duties in the library is a great new challenge, but with all of the other things happening at the school this year — CAIS inspection, ministry inspection, and moving our library into a new space at the end of this term — it means it’s a busy one.

The decision to join Cohort 21 took me a while. I first heard about it a few years ago when Garth came to speak to the CIS librarians’ group at Sterling Hall. I was immediately intrigued, but I was about to embark on my first year in the library, and so it seemed a bit overambitious for that year. Then last year, a colleague and I attended the GAFE summit in Montreal, where we met several members of the Cohort. In our chats with them, we realized that we felt out of the loop, in a way. It seemed like the other Toronto-area schools were quite well-connected with one another, but we felt like an island unto ourselves up in King. But by then it was already December, and the chance to become a part of this network had passed us by. This year promised to be so busy that it seemed foolish to join, until, at this year’s GAFE summit, I spoke with Les after one of her life-changing sessions (it was DocAppender, obviously!). She helped me to realize that Cohort 21 wasn’t so much an additional thing to do, but that all of my new challenges and professional goals could become part of my learning and action plan. And the rest is history. Here I am, one of the newest Cohorters, ready to put myself out there and get learning! Who’s with me?


DantePS – As long as we’re here getting to know one another, I might as well start the way I intend to continue: with an adorable photo of my handsome man, Dante. Perhaps not professionally relevant, but one of Justin’s keys to a good post was to include a photo, and who can resist a puppy?


Welcome to Cohort 21

c21_logo_mediumWelcome to Cohort 21. This is the first post on your new blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share and collaborate as you move through the C21 learning cycle towards your action plan.

Cohort 21 is a unique professional development opportunity open to CIS Ontario teachers and school leaders who are seeking to explore  what it means to a teacher in the 21st century.