Author Archives: Monica Rand

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Last week in Ontario, we settled back in to a few weeks of teaching into the abyss;  speaking to a sea of black squares and unacknowledged jokes as we “pivot” once again to online learning. While I spent the days leading up to the end of the holidays dreading the possibility, as usual once I got into the swing of things, the reality was far less painful than what I had built it up to be in my head. Students turn their cameras on for me in the mornings to say hello, and a few of my jokes have been acknowledged. Call it what you will, but I will continue to call this a win.

Reflecting on the first week back, here’s what’s been working  for me so far:

1) Starting every class with a check-in. So far we’ve varied how this check-in happens in my class. Using Jamboard to write down our worries as a class anonymously, using the Mood Meter and a quick Zoom poll to do a self check in, writing 2 emotions to describe how we’re feeling in the moment in the chat, circling which sloth best describes how we are feeling in a Google Peardeck.
I’m finding this a good way to start the day - talking about how we’re feeling, and acknowledging that all our emotions are valid and recognizing how we are feeling is important. Writing down and talking about our worries hopefully also helps our students lift this weight a little and allow them to focus on other things.

2) Music. Whether starting off a class, or bringing everyone back after a zoom break - a little music goes a long way. Our current schedule means that I’m teaching a month-long fairly intensive grade 12 physics course right now - which means I see the same faces all day long. Obviously there are a lot of breaks involved, and I’m trying my best to distance us from screens. Having music playing when we re-convene has been well received - it fills that space with a little joy as students trickle back into the zoom room from their break. I had students fill out a sheet to help me get to know them better at the beginning of the course, and one of the questions asked about their favourite music - which makes it easy to please at least one of them each day!

3) Giving students opportunities to collaborate with each other. Pairing Google Jamboard with the breakout room feature in Zoom has been awesome for this. Whether we are analyzing the physics of the latest movie trailer, or brainstorming strategies to solve an open-ended physics problem, using a Jamboard allows me to see what each group is drawing or writing, and I can always pop in to their breakout rooms to listen in on their chats.

4) Meeting students where they are. Some students are struggling right now - there’s no way around it. I’m lucky enough to be teaching a class of grade 12s, who from my experience are often more equipped to deal with learning online than younger students. However, that doesn’t exempt them from the weight of the world right now. I want them to feel like they have a voice in their learning, to know that they are cared about, and to feel that they are enough, and that doing the best they can right now is acknowledged and recognized.
- If a student shows up late, I greet them warmly, and thank them for being there, or tell them it’s nice to see them. Technology issues, something going on at home with the family, slept in because we’re ALL tired right now? Who knows why they were late, but they are there now, and that’s what’s important.
- If a student doesn’t want to turn their camera on, I have zero issue with that - and my students know this. There are so many other ways to engage without having a video on your face all class. Being honest with them about what it’s like to try to teach in an engaging way to an online class is usually enough to get a decent level of engagement. I told them at the beginning that I don’t care if their cameras are on, but teaching to a sea of black boxes can be really tough. It’s hard to gauge if anyone is understanding, or looks confused, or to be honest is even listening at all when I can't see them. So I told them to give me a thumbs up if I ask if everything makes sense, or throw a question in the chat box if something I said didn’t quite make sense. My class has been great with this, and I think pretty empathetic towards me as a teacher. Most of them turn their cameras on at least during our morning check in and chat, and they all engage through reactions and the chat box consistently.

5) Finding opportunities to check in with students individually. There’s lots of time in the day with one class - which means lots of time for independent work and larger scale projects, and one-on-one meetings with students. I have time set aside every day for students to check in with me if they need to!

6) Showing a visual schedule with the plan for the day. This is probably more applicable for the situation I’m in, where students have a full day of one course - but I know they appreciate knowing what the day will look like, when they’ll get breaks, and when they get a chance to step away from their screens.

7) Taking advantage of useful tech.
- Jamboard for collaborative brainstorming and discussion
- Peardeck to make lessons more interactive and engaging
- Parlay as a Platform for online discussions about a video or topic
- Quizizz is great for immediate student feedback (it’s great in class, or can be assigned individually so students can do it on their own time.)
- Edpuzzle - showing a video through Zoom isn’t always a good use of our time. Assigning it to students (and adding in questions throughout to keep students engaged and listening actively) still lets me know who has watched it and is understanding content, and the students seem to be a fan of this website.
- Flipgrid - giving students an opportunity to record a short video explaining their thinking when solving a problem been so helpful when assessing their understanding - especially in an online setting!

8) Focusing on one or two larger tasks a day, instead of several smaller tasks.

9) Showing myself compassion and grace. Even though we are in the third school year of a pandemic, I still need to remind myself daily that I’m only human, and what I’m doing is good enough. Focusing on fun over curriculum, laughter over grades, and community over assessments is helping to guide me through this phase of online learning - and I think that's okay. Letting go of the things that we can't control, and instead making the best of the things we can, is really all we can do. So let's spend more time in 2022 showing ourselves the same love, grace, and compassion as we do our students. 

Recently, I attended a Webinar led by Jason To called “What Does Anti-oppressive Mathematics Education Look Like?” I can say with honesty that it was one of the most thought-provoking PD sessions I’ve seen in awhile, and I left with a renewed desire to do more in my classroom to be more equitable, to make students more aware of social justice issues, and to encourage more critical thinking and discussion.

He talked about thinking classrooms in math, and the benefits of using vertical, non-permanent surfaces to encourage deeper thought, collaboration, and increase willingness to take risks. He introduced us to the Timeline of Mathematics from Mathigon, and how we might use it in our classroom to investigate the history of math, and the people involved. He also posed the question, “how might we use math to shed light and take action on social justice issues?”

So for one of our morning math chats this week, I wanted to encourage some productive discussion, while fostering strong mathematical literacy skills. I put up this slide, made random groupings, and had them discuss and share their ideas.

I was ready for a straightforward lesson, with (hopefully) some meaningful discussion. I’ll be honest - this absolutely did not go as I planned. In the words of Outkast, “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.”
I was expecting at least some light debate in groups; some differing ideas. What I got instead, was the entire class agreeing that this was totally fair. “I see no issue with this.” “They worked for their money.” We discussed for a bit, but after every group essentially agreed with each other, I’ll be honest, I was left speechless. Did they not understand the math in the title and what it means? Is empathy a lost concept? So I told them to remember this article, and that we would come back to it. I needed some time to think how I was going to approach this in the best way.
I went home, and the brainstorm began. I needed to make this applicable to these kids. I wanted to get through to them somehow - to broaden their views and perspectives. But how?! What interests 14-year-olds? Boom. Candy. Of course.
I journeyed to the store, and bought a plethora of sweets that could probably make your teeth hurt just looking at them. I was ready. I started class the next day as usual, and then told them we were going to do an activity. I told everyone to draw a card, and make sure not to show it to anyone. They were curious about the mystery of the cards, and what was going to come next;  I had them hooked in. Then, I pulled out my bag of candy - cue the eyes lighting up. I walked around individually to each desk, and asked them to show me their card. The first few got 1 or 2 candies each, depending on whether I said “oh, that’s a great card!” or “That’s an alright card.” Some students got no candy, “oh sorry, your card isn’t good enough today.” There was some confusion, and some quiet disappointment from students. The volume in the class increased as I approached on students desk, and began counting out candies and forming a substantial pile of goodies on his desk (50% of the candies I had to be exact.) The outrage as I piled the candies on his desk one by one was palpable. I collected the cards, and then started right into a lesson on solving equations. Obviously, we didn’t get far in that lesson…
I had students telling me how unfair I was being.
“Why did he get so much candy?”
“Why didn’t you give me candy, I had the same card as her!”
And then, after about 5 minutes of questioning and yelling, I hear from a student in the back - “wait a minute… does this have something to do with that question you asked us yesterday?”

Aha! They got there. So we came back to the question I posed yesterday. I reminded them that they all said this was totally fair yesterday, but I just demonstrated the same numbers and they were outraged. Why is that? Could we see why someone might think this wealth disparity is unfair now? We looked at the global wealth pyramid , and discussed how to interpret the graph, and what it meant. We also talked about the concept of wealth, and how it can be difficult to put into perspective. I found a video (I believe it originated on TikTok, so they loved that), of a man using grains of rice to put amounts of money into perspective. Specifically, he shows Jeff Bezos wealth in grains of rice, where each grain represents $100,000.
This led to some really great discussion, and some eye-opening conversations from what I could tell. I won’t say it was easy. They challenged me a lot, they asked me difficult questions, they debated with me and each other. They accused me of making up the wealth pyramid (don’t worry, they believed me when I showed them my source. It probably would have been a lot easier for me to just teach them about solving equations. I don't think most educators decided to be teachers because it's easy though, just like I don't think most math teachers teach "just math."

Now, being a teacher in a private school, there is undoubtedly an immense amount of privilege in a lot of cases. If I can help make some of these young adults aware that this privilege exists, and perhaps build empathy and compassion in a few of them - well that’s a start. I think my biggest takeaway from this whole experience is that math class can absolutely be a place where issues that we might not think fit into math curriculum are discussed. I realize this is a very small step in answering the question “how might we use math to shed light and take action on social justice issues?”. However, I'm a firm believer that a small step is always better than staying stationary. 

I want to give a big shoutout to Jason for his inspiring PD. He shared another idea looking at police carding in Toronto, using statistics, probabilities and ratios to invoke discussions about racial profiling and "fairness". I plan on using a version of this in my classroom in the future!He also left us with a great reminder. "Continue to learn and unlearn. We will never know everything, so the process must continue."

So on that note, cheers to trying new things. Cheers to stepping out of our comfort zone. And cheers to unlearning.

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I’m confident that not a single person would argue with me when I say that this year has been a year unlike any other. While I began this school year with a lot of personal goals for myself and my teaching practice, I’ve found my focus and my mindset consistently shifting as I’ve had to adapt to new challenges. Dealing with the tragic and unexpected loss of our headmaster, a global pandemic, and remote learning has been challenging for me - and likely an unimaginable year for our students. Looking back, I don’t necessarily view this as a negative near, and feel I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.

This year I wanted to focus on pedagogy in my own classes, and building a strong sense of community in the classroom despite having a disrupted year and students scattered across the globe. I also felt extremely compelled to do something to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at a school level, but I think that is something that a team of us are still working on so perhaps I’ll save it for a future post. 

In terms of classroom pedagogy, one goal I had this year (which probably sounds counterintuitive) was to actually take a step back from the curriculum and focus on the bigger picture. As a math/science teacher it is so easy to just stick to a routine and strive to ensure that everything in the curriculum is covered. Sometimes I’m hit with a wave of inspiration and  feel like branching out and innovating and trying something new...but then the “I don’t have enough time” idea creeps into my thoughts and I continue with my routine. But I figured, if there was ever a year to try new things, this is it! 


What I hoped this would look like in practice, is more outdoor, experiential, project based learning. I want students to be immersed in their learning. Now obviously, the pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in my plans. However, I recognize how incredibly fortunate we are at my school, as we had far fewer days of strictly virtual learning than most. So while some of my elaborate outdoor hands-on dreams were squashed, I think if anything this compelled me to treat every day of in-person learning as more of a gift, and take advantage of the opportunity to interact with students and provide exciting experiences for them.

You know when you have those lessons that you at the end of the day that you just feel good about? You’re driving home and you think to yourself “I nailed that.” I had one of those this year! I facilitated an outdoor macromodel with my grade 10 students to learn about greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect. Honestly, as soon as I started setting up the activity, there was an obvious sense of intrigue...and perhaps excitement. With several climbing ropes, about 40 different pieces of coloured ribbon, a bucket of pennies, and a collection of ping pong, tennis, and golf balls - there was a lot going on for this lesson! We spent 2 hours outside, enacting the greenhouse effect in a few different games, and learning about specific greenhouse gases and their sources. 

In physics, we did design challenges frequently to encourage collaboration, innovation, and friendly competition. We designed and built catapults, mouse-trap powered cars, egg drop protectors, and performed a variety of hands-on labs to learn new concepts. To culminate learning, I’ve given them the freedom to do whatever they want to help teach others about a concept or idea learned in class. I modelled this concept for my physics class by building a Ruben’s tube to help introduce our unit on waves and sound. Pro tip: as soon as you tell students there’s fire involved in a demonstration, they’re all for it!
Honestly teaching physics this year was the most fun I’ve ever had teaching a course, and I’m so glad I made a commitment to myself to try new things. Did we solve as many practice problems as I normally would when teaching this course? Absolutely not. I hope they learned more than that though. How to innovate; how to build something from scratch; how to design something to solve a problem; how to fail, and try again. I’m reminded of a line from Walter Lewin: “That is the way I’ve always tried to make physics come alive for my students. I believe it’s much more important for them to remember the beauty of discoveries than to focus on the complicated math—after all, most of them aren’t going to become physicists.”

The other main challenge I found this year was trying to make the classroom feel like a community when you have some students in person, and some online. Through trial and error, I’ve found some strategies that have helped my classes come together. I’ve also found that class discussions in a hybrid model can encourage every student to share their “voice” if facilitated in just the right way. Here are a few of the things I’ve found have worked well for me.

1) Zoom polls feature: Making use of the polls feature in Zoom allows an easy check in with students, and has also led to some great discussions in our classes. Using the mood meter, or other scales to gauge student well-being has proved super helpful to me - and has even resulted in me totally scrapping my plan for the day and pivoting to a fun activity instead to focus on student well-being.

2) Virtual challenges in breakout rooms: This year has been so challenging for our students, and some days they just need an opportunity to connect with their peers and have fun. So on a day when the energy of the group was noticeably low, I had them split out into breakout rooms and work collaboratively on recreating a dabbing unicorn on a conditionally formatted Google Spreadsheet (which I came across on Twitter..) It was a huge hit, and it made me so happy to pop into the different breakout rooms and hear students laughing and chatting. You can find the link here if you're ever looking for a virtual icebreaker or an activity to shake things up in the remote learning world.

3) Google Jamboard: has also been a great tool for brainstorming in a safe way for students, and again has led to some excellent discussions. It’s also helped me open discussions about diversity and inclusion in my classes.

4) Virtual trivia has encouraged collaboration and lots of chatter among both the virtual and in-person students.

5) Digital Escape Rooms: These have been a huge success in my own classes, to give students an opportunity to collaborate with each other to practice their math skills and talk about what we have learned. It’s also so heartwarming to pop into the different breakout rooms and listen to students explaining strategies to each other. Giving students a common goal in smaller groups to collaborate towards seems to engage them quite well, and in their words, “makes math more fun!”

6) Choice in assessment: For all my classes, students have had flexibility in how they are assessed, based on what works for them in their current environment. They have been really receptive to this, and I think giving them that choice in a lot of cases has motivated them to put their best foot forward. I’ve had students  make me instructional physics videos, cakes to show the parts of the cell, breakout games to help others learn about balancing chemical equations, posters to encourage others to combat climate change. I think this is something that I will definitely continue in the future.

I think my main takeaway this year has been mostly a lot of reminders. Sometimes when I’m looking for that inspiration from teaching I think to myself “be the teacher you wanted to be in teacher’s college” - back when I was full of excitement and eager to have a big impact in student’s lives. This year has reminded me that school should really be about a love of learning, and about exploring new things. It has reinforced my personal teaching philosophy that puts relationships at the forefront. It’s pushed me to try new things to enhance learning and build community. It’s reminded me to make the most of every lesson; every day; every opportunity. It’s reminded me of the power of gratitude and a positive mindset. So let’s do our best to make kids love learning. Let’s acknowledge the crap -  there’s no denying this year hasn’t been easy. But let’s focus on the good. Most importantly, let’s show ourselves the same compassion and grace that we show our students, as we continue to learn and grow and face adversity. Cheers to lifelong learning.

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“As a group of primarily math teachers, what challenges do you feel you face addressing  J.E.D.I in your practice and classes?”

First of all, kudos to @tfaucher for asking the perfect question during Saturday’s Cohort meeting. I think that as math teachers, this is probably something we’ve all been struggling with. Sometimes it feels like certain subjects lend themselves more to this work than others...so how do I make it genuine instead of just feeling like I’m checking off a box? We’ve started a task force at our school to collaborate and brainstorm ways to tackle issues of racism, sexism, and prejudice head on. This is awesome, and I’m happy to be a part of it. However, every time I take a step back and ask myself what I specifically am doing in my classes to tackle this issue, I feel like I don’t have an answer. What am I doing?

Honestly, it’s such a complicated and diverse issue that it can feel overwhelming. At times, I feel that it is easy to be so overcome by the enormity of the issue, that the result is essentially inaction.

Then cue Saturday’s face-to-face. I’ve been enlightened by some of the other math teachers ideas, and am so grateful to learn from them. From the pronouns we are using, to the history of math we are talking about (for example the discovery of Pascal’s triangle - thanks @beaton!), they provided me with some great starting points.

This week, we’ve introduced Mathematician Mondays in my grade nine class. We take a few minutes at the beginning of class every Monday to learn about a different mathematician. We have three main questions we discuss:
1) Who are they and what do they do with math?
2) Why are they inspiring
3) What can we learn from them?


Now, I don’t know if you have ever googled “famous mathematicians”, but a quick search essentially provides you with a stream of primarily white males. Women and people of colour are significantly underrepresented in the math world. I want my students to see all the cool things people are doing with math. I want them to see that there are so many different career paths and hobbies that math can lead to. I want students to see that anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or ability can find success in mathematics. Someone shared a few awesome resources on our Cohort Jamboard outlining mathematicians of colour and women in STEM that I will definitely be using for our mathematician Monday discussions. Does this mean I will never share biographies of white male mathematicians? Of course not. I will however, be striving to expose my students to a diverse group of people, doing diverse things in mathematics. Representation matters.

So here’s our first mathematician.


We then had a class discussion about why Angela is inspiring and what we can learn from her.

Here is what the class came up with:

  • She recognizes how difficult it can be to ask for help when you are struggling with math (or ANY class), especially when you feel out of place. 
  • Nobody wants to feel like they are the only one who doesn’t understand…
  • She also recognized that the best way for her to understand was to ask for help, and she reached out to her professors when she needed to. Asking for help is totally okay! 
  • It’s hard feeling out of place. We should all work together to make sure that everyone feels welcome. 
  • She now has a pretty awesome job, and is doing what she loves - with MATH! 

One thing I will never tire of is being surprised by how insightful a group of 14-year-olds can be. I told them we would be doing this every Monday morning, and they seemed keen. In fact, they asked if they could choose some of the mathematicians. They are now each responsible for creating their own SlideDeck on a mathematician of their choosing who inspires them and that we can learn from. I’m excited to see what they will come up with, and am hoping we end up with a diverse collection of people who inspire our grade 9 mathematicians!

I know this is a minuscule step in my journey to address diversity, equity and inclusion into my practice. But don’t big journeys usually start with small steps? I guess, I’d rather be moving forward than continue to be stationary. So cheers to small steps, and cheers to Mathematician Mondays.

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Do you ever stop to think about how you ended up where you are now? What drew you to teaching as a career? For me, the main draw to teaching is relationships. I’m a firm believer that significant learning is far more likely to occur with significant relationships, and I like to think this comes across in my practice through the connections I often have with students. 

I think this is why hearing that we will have to teach online again starting in January devastated me so much. (I know devastated sounds dramatic, but 2020 was a tough year for our little school by the lake and that’s honestly the best word I can use to describe my initial reaction.) Online teaching in the spring was fine, but I found myself longing for that authentic interaction with students that is hard to foster in an online setting. Sitting at my kitchen table talking to a screen of students with their videos off was draining - my jokes feel far less funny when I’m the only one laughing at them! So being back in person with these kids in September really made me appreciate what I do and how great it is to be able to watch them grow, learn, and just be kids.

Then the news came - starting next week, I have 4 weeks to teach a grade 12 physics course, now with at least one of those weeks online. I’ve been trying to remain positive about this situation, dreaming up all the exciting learning opportunities that might come with having the same group of students all day. But there’s always this creeping thought that I can’t deny - this is going to be hard. How am I going to cover all the essentials of the curriculum in such a compressed time period? How will I ensure lasting and meaningful learning? How am I going to build relationships and a sense of community in our class in just 4 weeks/online? How am I going to make this class awesome? As the thoughts of these challenges creep into my mind, I often find myself questioning my negativity. “Remember gratitude Mon. Gratitude. Look on the bright side.”

Heck, I like to think I spend a lot of time practicing gratitude and positivity - so why am I still feeling so unprepared and overwhelmed about the term ahead?!

A book I’ve been reading over the break, How Bad Do You Want It? has helped to bring me some clarity about my "negativity". It talks a lot about the mental strength of endurance athletes - which might seem totally irrelevant to teaching...but stay with me.

The book quotes a 2011 paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology that says, “people often choose to expect the worst of an upcoming experience in hopes of creating a more favorable contrast between their expectations and reality.” It goes on to say, “in the context of endurance competition, this favourable contrast can enhance performance. The more discomfort an athlete expects, the more she can tolerate, and the more discomfort she can tolerate, the faster she can go….Bracing yourself- always expecting your next race to be your hardest yet- is a mature and effective way to prepare mentally for competition.”

I think this applies to more than just endurance sports. I’ve realized that acknowledging the challenges that I’m going to face isn’t necessarily being negative. It’s a coping mechanism, and one that I think is actually relatively effective for me personally. While I’m by no means a superstar athlete, I enjoy the personal challenges of swimming, biking and running and competing in triathlons for fun. In 2019 I signed up for my first triathlon - an Ironman 70.3 - and told myself I’d train lots for it and be in the best shape of my life. As I think is often the case, I trained far less than I had planned, and suddenly it was the day before race day ….and I remember thinking “This is going to hurt.” But accepting that I would be challenged and uncomfortable helped me cope. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that I can do hard things.

After taking some time to write down all the challenges I expect for this upcoming term, I feel far more liberated to proactively plan on how to overcome these challenges. I feel optimistic. I feel okay. I feel like I can do this. I like to remind myself that I've rarely encountered a challenge that didn't result in some sort of growth. I’m not going to try and sugar coat it and pretend it won’t be hard - but I can do hard things. We all can.

It’s okay to not be sunshine and rainbows all the time. It’s okay to acknowledge that sometimes, you’re dealt a bad hand. We can be grateful and realistic at the same time. Let’s face it, this school year probably feels like more of a marathon than a sprint for a lot of us - and marathons aren’t easy. So while I remain optimistic about the future, and thankful for all the good in my life, I’m bracing myself for the semester ahead. 

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I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be writing something related to what is working for me as a teacher during a pandemic right now. Or maybe I missed the deadline for that? I don’t even know anymore. It all seems a bit irrelevant now. Honestly, this isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing -  but here we are.

I had a draft of a post from last week about how I was struggling to find the same sense of community that I normally feel in a classroom this year due to the hybrid learning model. I’m about to quote myself here, but bear with me. In my draft post, I had written “one of the things I’ve been struggling with is building a sense of community in the classroom - specifically a community that includes both our online learners and our in person learners. My personal teaching philosophy is pretty centered around relationships first - and teaching to blank screens and muted students is proving to be a challenge.”

I stand corrected. Rosseau Lake College is the strongest, most supportive community I have ever been a part of, and I felt that to my core this week. On Monday (which feels like 47 days ago but has remarkably been less than a week), our community was brought to its knees by an unfathomable tragedy. Our Head of School, Robert Carreau, is gone - killed in a terrible accident on his morning run. This week has been a complete blur of emotions - attempting to hold myself together while being there for our students and staff. I actually found myself googling, “will I eventually run out of tears,” and then laughed at myself because the science teacher in me realized how ridiculous my query was. But the community that I am a part of is incredible. The number of emails I’ve received from students asking if I am okay and how I’m doing - even from online students who never even had the chance to meet Mr. Carreau - is mind blowing. Working at a school where literally every student and staff member feels like a member of the family is such a blessing. Losing the father figure of the school is not. But I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more supported than I feel right now from these students. Thus, I feel like I can no longer write about my attempts to increase a sense of community between online and in person students. It seems redundant now - we are more than a community. We are a family.  Again - this is not the blog post I thought I’d be writing.

I teach math and science - meaning I’m no English connoisseur. With the state my mind is in this week, I’m also certainly not the most eloquent, but I’ve been trying to put my thoughts together. Lately, I’ve just found myself thinking about mindset during this entire situation. Mindset during a pandemic. Mindset during a tragedy. Mindset during a bad day. This year has been hard - and I know I’ve probably been guilty of being a little more negative at times than I’d care to admit. 

I want to change that. 

I’m going to make an effort to see the good in every day. I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert, and what advice he might have in this situation. His ability to be both optimistic and realistic at the same time is something I’ve admired since I met him, and his insightful words often comforted both staff and students. So, here’s what I’m focusing on for the next little while.

1) Let go of expectations that things need to happen at a certain time.
Yes, we have a curriculum. Yes, it has importance I suppose. Is it the be-all and end-all of student learning? Absolutely not. Have I been focusing on it this week? Definitely not. Robert would always say, “they probably won’t remember the periodic table later in life, but they will remember how you made them feel, and those moments they had with you.”

2) Take care of yourself.
This was something Robert always reiterated to staff at the school. You can’t take care of others until you take care of yourself. This week I’ve been trying to stay strong for all of our grieving students. But I haven’t been taking the time for myself. Yesterday I cried in front of a group of students for no apparent reason. Self-care isn’t a fad. It’s necessary. It’s also okay to not be okay. I admitted to the students that I wasn’t super okay right now, but that I would be eventually and just needed some time. I think that this might be just as important a lesson as math or science - maybe even more so. Being real, showing emotions, being authentic - these are how we build those critical relationships with students. Teachers are humans too.

3) Why wait?
Robert was never one to hesitate on anything. I recently read in his obituary that Robert’s X-ring had the words “Why wait?” engraved on it. That message is such a beautiful reminder to seize the day, and stop putting off those things you want to do. Next time I have some wild idea for a class that perhaps I feel like needs some more refining or planning, I am going to remind myself of this. Spontaneous field trip? Outlandish whole-school activity? Ambitious goals? Why wait?

4) You are not your resume.
Robert’s resume was beyond impressive. He completed so much at such a young age. While his accomplishments and achievements definitely impressed me - they are not what I remember most about him. I remember his ability to talk to anyone and make them feel like an immediate friend. I remember his tact for being able to break down the walls of kids who had them built the highest and the strongest. I remember his remarkable ability to wear so many different hats so well - to excel at so many things - and to remain so humble. I remember his singing, his laughter, his sense of humour, and how much he cared about kids - his own, and his students. I hope we can instill this lesson in our students. Grades don’t define you. Who you are and how you treat others is what matters most.

5) Even in the midst of a tornado of unforeseen circumstances, there is always something to appreciate in life.
We start every staff meeting with a moment to express gratitude towards others in our community. Even in the crappiest week, the shittiest day, the most terrible morning - there is something to be thankful for. I’ve started practicing more gratitude with my classes this week. We start our lessons with PearDecks, and the first slide is often “what is one thing that you are thankful for this week?” (I highly recommend it. It is completely anonymous if you use the PearDeck add-on for Google Slides, but everyone can see the answers posted. It is such a refreshing way to start a class. I wasn’t sure the kids were into it until today when I didn’t have the energy for a PearDeck, and a student said, “but I need to write what I’m thankful for today! Might’ve been the first real smile on my face all week.)
This week has been really really hard. But, I am so grateful to have met Robert 3 years ago, and to have had the privilege of knowing him, working with him, and learning from him since then.

We need Novembers

In one of his most recent letters home to parents, Robert put into words what I think I’m trying to say far better than I ever could.

The truth is though, we need Novembers, and rain. We need setbacks and failures, stress and sadness, moustaches and bad hair days, tragedy and disappointment.  We need these and all other challenges, not only because they make us stronger, but also because they allow the light in the rest of our lives to shine even more brightly.” - Robert Carreau, October 20th, 2020.

So at Rosseau Lake College, we are going to allow that light in our lives to shine more brightly. 

We are going to support each other as the community - the family - that he led and inspired and cared for. 

We are going to do everything that we can to heal, to grow, and to make this school even more remarkable than it already is.

One of my coworkers said it best when she said, “if we all strive to be more like Robert Carreau, the world will be a much better place.”

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c21_logo_mediumWelcome to your Cohort 21 Blog. This journal is an integral part of your Cohort 21 experience. Here you will reflect, share and connect with the C21 community as you move through our inquiry process.  This is your first post and an opportunity to practice publishing your thinking to our main site and get feedback on it. It is also an opportunity to learn about WordPress (this blogging platform) and watch some videos to learn about how to add media and content to your posts.  See "Helpful WordPress Video Tutorials" on the sidebar for more.

First post prompt: What is going well?
As teachers during this time we are well aware of what is challenging. Learners in multiple locations, learning new tools, under new time constraints , with new duties, rules, PPE and shifting parent & school expectations is no small feat. Adding to that the anxiety of living and supporting friends & family during a pandemic can leave even the most positive person deflated. But...try we must. It will be through the simple act of sharing "what is working" that we collectively bring each other up and rise to the challenge that surrounds us.

Please share a practice, pedagogy, tool or strategy that is having a positive learning impact for you and your students. Share links to resources, tools and ideas that have been helpful for you. In your post describe the lesson, approach, strategy or experience so that someone reading your post might feel inspired to try it too. Simply put....share what is working in your classroom in such a way that  it might inspire someone to try it too. Close your post with a question you have or an idea you would like support with that is connected to the post. How can we help you take this idea further?

First post guide:

  1. Change the subject text to reflect the context / focus of your post
  2. Write as little or as much as you want. Your audience is other teachers like you so write with them in mind, provide detail, context and as much "Why" & "How" as you can.
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  7. ***Delete all the text above and replace it with your own after you have finished answering the prompt ***
  8. Publish your first post by Nov 15th so we can give you feedback on it and share it with others.