It was a great day of sharing, and of coming to a close for this amazing experience. I had a very inspiring discussion with school leaders and teachers who were genuinely interested and courageous enough to ask hard questions. A word that came to mind in our conversations today was THRIVING. Here is a sketch note that captures my process over the day as I massaged my action plan into something hopefully useful.


Are any of us thriving now? What do we need to do to put ourselves on a trajectory where we aim to thrive, rather than to survive?  What if our goal was not to “catch ourselves up”, or “to get back to what once was”, but rather it was to explore fully and honestly, how we might set ourselves up to thrive? I know that I am excited to continue to research all the ways and practices I can discover, and I have made my mind up to start to share those with other interested educators.  Our busy lives have me thinking about the easiest and most digestible ways that we can share these wellness tips. I am looking forward to exploring INSTA reels and stories, tic tok posts, and other popular social media platforms.

Meeting you all at Cohort has inspired me to seek ways to share with as many people as I can.

See u soon:)

How Might We question and why…


and this is WHY we need to…

It was the middle of the month of September 2022 and we were attending our first special assembly in two years, on the important topic of Truth and Reconciliation.  There were hundreds of us: teachers, staff, administrators and students from grades 9 to 12, sitting close together in rows, in the dark theater.  I glanced to my right at the girl sitting next to me and I could see and feel her legs shaking, her hands shaking, really trembling. I made eye contact, offering an empathic glance to let her know I was there and could see her struggling. I instinctively put my hand on her back and whispered, “I’m right here with you. Hey, let’s look for 5 things in this room that look nice, now let’s see if we can smell anything, now let’s listen”.   I was drawing on my recollection of a grounding exercise we had learned about, but it wasn’t working as she was still shaking and even harder than before.  The speaker continued to talk about difficult experiences which further added to the intensity of the moment.  Instinctively, I pulled my sketchbook out of my bag as well as black sharpie. I opened the book to a fresh page and passed it over to her. “Just watch yourself draw slowly”, I whispered, “start to make little repetitive marks over and over, and slow your breath to match the mark making”. At first, her hands were very shaky, and she had to really push the marker on the paper to stabilize her hand. All her focus turned to the activity of drawing, and I could feel a slight relaxation start to emerge as the shaking of her legs slowed. Not wanting to draw attention to us, I continued giving her instructions but this time by writing directives on my iPad. I wrote: Think of a container you can create that will be able to hold this discomfort, and when you are ready draw it. Now, imagine this discomfort can be put inside it. Create a lid that you can use to close the container.

Student drawing to self regulate in a public space

Write some positive affirmations around your container to remind yourself of your own strength, like I am. I watched as she added ‘I can, I feel, I love’ around the jar she had created on the page. I continued to write: Now start to draw calm shapes, words and support around your container. She continued to draw, and draw, and I could see her becoming noticeably calmer. After about 15 minutes of drawing, there was no more shaking. With a sense of certainty in her actions, she stopped abruptly, looked at the sketch, closed the book and sharpie, and looked me in the eyes, and said, “Thank you!”.  She handed me my book “You can keep it”, she smiled. I whispered, “By the way, what you just did is called therapeutic art, remember that it is always available to you”.  As we made our way out of the auditorium she shared that each mark she had drawn outside of the container, was a thought she had in her head. I said: “Wow, that’s a lot of thoughts, no wonder you were feeling overwhelmed!  But now look at all the space you’ve created for yourself around the bottle”. We parted ways. As I made my way to my class, I noticed I was surprised by the encounter and thankful for my recent art therapy residency because, without saying much, without doing a whole lot, I was able to support a student to regulate her physiology using a sketchbook and a marker in a very public crowded space.

 This situation I have just described, of a student experiencing significant panic at school, happens more than we’d like to acknowledge.  The reality is that our kids are really struggling. Pre-pandemic, the statistics showed that 1 in 7 teens, on any given day, were experiencing significant mental health issues, predominantly with anxiety and depression.  Moreover, 70% of these young people would not get support for their mental health. Knowing that over the pandemic, the number of teens seeking mental health support grew by 30% both in requests for help and emergency hospital visits; there was a 60% increase in the number of youth reporting eating disorders; and Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world (Youth Mental Health Stats in Canada 2022). We are experiencing a crisis in youth mental health, and I believe an all-hands-on deck approach is required. Since my initial summer training at  the Vancouver Art Therapy Institute,  additional art therapy courses over this term, and with the success of the auditorium intervention under my belt, I could start to see that I have the ability to  make a difference right now. I can use therapeutic art therapy tools  in my course by integrating these activities into my art classes to support regulation, safety and relationship building.

The effectiveness of art interventions across all age groups is recognized in scientific research. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the HEALTH EVIDENCE NETWORK SYNTHESIS REPORT 67, which synthesized evidence from over 3000 studies supporting the positive impact of the arts on health-related factors and conditions. The report called for the implementation of community arts programs for mental health as well as the development of interventions that encourage arts engagement to promote healthy lifestyles.  It is past due that we are mindful about what activities we set up for adolescents, for the environments we create for them have a direct impact on how their brains develop as it is based on their experiences. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi shared: “It is how people respond to stress that determines whether they will profit from misfortune or be miserable.” (Csikszentmihalyi , 7) As a result, we can wire them up to be high strung, or we can teach them wellness skills. I know that I am seeing an overwhelming number of kids that are not equipped to manage what we are expecting them to. I have decided that I can no longer wait for changes to come from educational leadership. I have decided to intervene using art tools and I can already see it is having an impact. I look forward to sharing some of the discoveries I am making in future blog posts.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2008). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. 1st Harper Perennial Modern Classics ed. New York, Harper Perennial.

Elbrecht C. & Malchiodi C. A. (2018). Healing trauma with guided drawing : a sensorimotor art therapy approach to bilateral body mapping. North Atlantic Books.

Fancourt D, Finn S. What is the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being? A scoping review [Internet]. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe; 2019. (Health Evidence Network synthesis report, No. 67.) Available from:

Youth Mental Health Stats in Canada. Youth Mental Health Canada. (2022, February 13). Retrieved December 24, 2022, from


Urgent and Important, Let’s start with Honesty

BAM! BOOM! POW! Let’s face it, over this covid period we have been through quite the collective experience!  When we were released from lockdown, I felt as though I was emerging from a cave. Everything was extra loud, busy, noisy, smelly. My senses had been on a long holiday and were having some trouble getting use to the environment. Fast forward, and just a few months later it seems as though it never happened. We’ve got our classes up and running, we have well subscribed co-curricular activities, school dances are back and packed , and the dining hall is again a busy, noisy, social place at lunch. As educators we find ourselves coming to the end of our first term in a “BACK TO NORMAL” capacity. At the surface, it is quite a sight to see. It feels great, exhilarating, Woo hooo it’s all over! We really are back at it, and it feels pretty fantastic, until it doesn’t.

So how are we doing? How are you doing? Have you allowed yourself a chance to stop and ask yourself that, or are you just charging to get back on the saddle? Why have you chosen to approach the return this way?  Have you noticed that there is a different kind of intensity, just under the surface, where people seem okay one minute, but are, in moments of challenge, super quick to temper and frustration? When is the last time you checked in with you?   Well, If I am honest with you, I am still figuring out how I am doing. Some days I feel amazing, I am super pumped and energized, driving myself into the art studio early to set up our activities, and other days I am overwhelmed, exhausted and wondering exactly why and how I am going to navigate this thing called teaching. I notice I do not have the same stamina, I need rest after hard work now but, maybe I always did?  All I know is that as I continue to figure it out, despite whether I feel on my game, or completely useless ( let’s admit that as teachers  we can feel this way sometimes), I am going to acknowledge my own vulnerability in this checking in with myself process. I think the best place we can start is with honesty.

This summer, in my first week of training as an art therapist, we learned that taking care of ourselves is a professional ethical responsibility, and that good self-care  practices are what equip us to be effective support for our clients. In the health profession they warn caregivers of the danger of compassion fatigue. I was relieved to learn about it this summer, and how it manifests in medical professionals but also frustrated that within our teaching profession, this is no mention of this in our training and practice. Teachers too must surely experience compassion fatigue. Indeed reading about the symptoms below,  I know I’ve come close ( over the past two years) , what about you?

“Compassion fatigue develops over time; you can spot the signs if you know what to look for.”



The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health explains that the main symptoms include the following:

  • feelings of helplessness and powerlessness
  • reduced feelings of empathy and sensitivity
  • feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by work demands
  • feeling detached, numb and emotionally disconnected
  • loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • increased anxiety, sadness, anger and irritability
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • difficulty sleeping and sleep disturbances like nightmares
  • physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, upset stomach and dizziness
  • increased conflict in personal relationships
  • neglect of your own self-care
  • withdrawal and self-isolation
  • an increase in substance use as a form of self-medication

I know that I am a more fragile teacher this year that I was before. I know that I must make sure to check in and tend to my needs first, if I am going to be able to tend to my students in a meaningful way. I know that this year, part of my teaching practice will be to help my students to do the same. My work at Cohort 21 will explore the urgent and important wellness concepts, approaches and practices that we might put in place to help us all, students, teachers and administrators, to recover from one of the most challenging periods of our lives and careers.  I believe the place we need to start, is with honesty. So, How are we really doing?

for more information about compassion fatigue I have provided a link:

Urgent vs Important – Reflections on the return to school

c21_logo_mediumWelcome to your first post!: Following each Cohort 21 Face to Face session, we will provide you with several questions to reflect on. By making your thinking visible and publishing your thoughts to this blog, you will be able to engage our powerful support and feedback system and accelerate your professional growth. Please follow the following steps:

  1. Answer questions #1 and 2 below.
  2. Replace the “Featured Image” at the bottom of your screen with another image of your choosing that fits with your answers and theme of your post.
  3. Press the blue “UPDATE” button on the right to save your work along the way and publish your post.
  4. Click the  “Helpful WordPress Tutorials” link on the left sidebar to explore some of your blog’s features.
  5. Answer the questions  below by Nov 1st so we can give you feedback before our 2nd face to face session on Nov 19th @ Havergal
  6. **Delete all the text above once you have responded to the questions below ***

Question 1: During the first face to face we used the language of Urgent vs Important to help frame our thinking around our use of TIME. Reflect on why you joined Cohort 21 and your professional goals for this year. Now that the year has begun and you have met your students what IMPORTANT  goal might you like to address and leverage this community to get support with.

Question 2: Which of the Season 11 Strands resonates with you and why? Share what you feel is both urgent and important about it for you and your school at the moment and some of the questions you have around moving forward.