Just do SOMEthing!

DSC_0196My problem is… I overthink things.

I overthink things to the point of not even beginning something that should be a relatively easy task, if I were to just begin. I am constantly trying to think of an even better way to begin or set things up or roll out a plan. To the point of sometimes sitting very still for a long time.

What’s the best way to organize my garage?  What’s the best way to switch my winter clothes out of my closet and start bringing out my summer stuff? What’s the best way to sort out the content on my sister’s Greenhouse website?  By the way, none of these 3 tasks have been started.  I get stuck.

A few weeks ago, I was quite geeked to be a part of a 4 day professional learning experience involving a “Google Bootcamp” and a “Google Summit”.  Many ideas streamed by me for 4 days at lightning speed… people sharing ideas… apps to try… extensions to add to Chrome… and solid pedagogical practices that were shared.  For 4 days, I tried to organize it all in my head and figure out a strategic way to implement some of the possibilities with my staff.  I struggled with how to “dial it back” a notch to begin at a reasonable speed.

I had a great discussion tonight with a few colleagues as we shared and brainstormed about “what would be the best way” to share ideas with our staffs regarding curriculum, pedagogy, and integration of technology.  We shared our ideas of our weekly newsletters that are sent electronically.  We shared our attempts at organizing blogs according to strategies we see in our schools.  We shared our face-to-face discussions.

And then I started to talk about my vision of how I’ve always wanted to start a separate page on my website that I could begin sharing weekly ideas with my staff, that would be archived online for future access as well.  And as I listened to myself say “I’ve always wanted to do that, but haven’t figured out a way to organize it all yet”, I realized that I could be putting it off for a very long time.  I stared into space for a brief moment, and I realized… stop trying to organize it all and just begin.

The process just repeats with me.

Learn… reflect… do.

It’s the timing of each that seems to vary with me.

What have you been spending too much time organizing your thinking around? What can you begin tomorrow?


Keeping honest with my goal…

It’s time to get back to my professional goal of online digital content creation. It seems that I was much more effective at this BTW (before thesis writing). And so now that I have completed my Masters in Education as well as my thesis, I feel as though I can move on with my professional learning goals as a Vice-Principal!

photo (55)Recently, our staff contributed to a Professional Learning Goal wall of excellence in our front foyer, as a way to show our students and our parents that learning never ends.  The goal I chose to display was “to further support staff and students in using technology effectively in the classroom, where students create content to share with others”. 

And so it begins.  I remember listening to an audiobook by Ed Bliss called Getting Things Done.  He mentioned that “the difference between a wish and a goal is very often a number and a date”. I have been wishing I could find more time to work with students and staff on specific content creation projects.  And so now I have turned them into goals.

One goal is to work with a group of grade 8 students and our specialty computer teacher in order to create Learning Skills and Work Habit videos that have a student voice to accompany the teacher resources previously worked on from a teacher’s perspective.  We are hoping to have these done in the next couple of months.

Another goal I have is to work with a group of 20 grade 5 students in order to create an awareness video in honour of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, 2014.

There.  It’s in print.  I must complete them.  What goals have you set for yourself? Have you written them down, with a number or a date?


She made me do it!

My Master’s buddy, Laura made me apply to graduate on October 13th.  And now I’m freaking out.

I received the email awhile ago from the University telling me that the deadline to apply for graduation was August 1st.  So I pretty much just closed that email and didn’t look at it again. Part of it was avoidance, part of it was denial, and part of it was me not wanting to feel freaked out about any deadlines.

I even lost touch with my Master’s buddy, Laura for weeks, with both of us blaming it on our busy end-of-school-year schedules.  And now I’m wondering if maybe, subconsciously, it might have been more of a deliberate avoidance.  Just maybe.  Laura and I have taken all of our courses together and decided that we would write a thesis according to the same timelines. We both knew we could do it in a tight timeline, if we kept each other on track.

When summer came around and I realized I was behind in my tightly planned schedule, I had to check in with Laura to see what our plan was going to be. It turns out we were still at the exact same stage –  Just finishing our analysis of data.  We discussed the possibility of October 13th as a graduation date, and wavered between “no, we can’t” and “yes, we can” for a couple of days. How could we possibly finish analyzing our data, meet with our advisors, prepare our discussion and conclusion, finish all revisions, submit it to our third reader (who I haven’t even met yet) and prepare for a defense before a deadline of September 19th? It sounds a little closer to impossible for me.  Especially since I haven’t really spoken with my advisor about this deadline.

But then when Laura emailed and said she applied, and that I was just a few clicks away from doing the same,  something happened…  I realized the short deadline was exactly what I need (not to mention the competitive nature of thinking that Laura would graduate without me).  Plus, we both agreed that the worst thing that could happen, would be that we’d have to wait until spring to graduate.  Ugh. No way!

So now I’ve been back at the table for days.  Trying to make sense out of all of my data and figure out how to compile it into a comprehensive paper that will make sense to the reader. I have read a number of other peoples’ theses to see if I can get a little more inspired, or un-stuck, and start listening to the “you can do this” voice in my head that pops up every once in awhile.  As well, I have a meeting scheduled with my advisor on Tuesday to show him my progress.

So I’ve learned a few things here….

  • I always enter freak-out mode when I move onto a new stage in this process.
  • At first it paralyzes me.
  • Then I find every other task that NEEDS to be completed first.
  • Then I finally hit a point where I admit my creative avoidance.
  • That’s when I begin by accessing my resources.
  • And then I just need to sit down and begin.
  • And make sure there are a lot of snacks in the house.

But above all, I continue to learn and realize… I’m a much better ME when I surround myself with people who believe in me and push me beyond my limits.

On October 13th, I’ll be the one in the graduation cap! Beside my Master’s buddy, Laura in her’s :)


Descriptive Feedback… on the receiving end

It’s all about the HOW-TO improve.

As an Assessment & Evaluation Consultant for a number of years, I have had the opportunity to structure and facilitate numerous workshops focusing on the effective delivery of descriptive feedback for our students.

But now, I’m on the receiving end. This time, I’m the student. Receiving descriptive feedback on my own personal writing as I work towards completing my thesis.

I feel that I can connect more closely to what our students must be feeling when they are handed their work, marked with all sorts of comments.  As I was handed back my draft, I felt the rush of intense curiosity, wonder, fear, excitement and more questions as I skimmed and scanned quickly for the gist of what had been written about my work. Then, I read the feedback for a second time, taking in a few more details of each suggestion that was offered. And finally, I forced myself to slow down and re-read the feedback for a third time, this time stopping and reflecting on each word in an attempt to understand what I had to do next.  It made me wonder how well we teach our students to value the feedback they receive and how to act upon it.  I believe this is a skill we need to make sure we incorporate into our teaching.

It was refreshing to note that the comments I received contained all the important areas we work on as teachers with our students: strengths, areas to improve, and next steps.  In terms of how valuable highlighting the strengths are, I must admit that I re-read the beginning page quite often in order to remind myself… “Kelly, you have clearly done a lot of work on this proposal. I enjoyed reading your work and learning about this topic.”  These simple statements made me feel that my work was valued and respected.  Acknowledgement of strengths, made me WANT to listen to the suggestions for revisions.

The specific areas to improve were quite intense.  At first, I was both excited and very overwhelmed with all the suggestions.  So I began gaining control by turning the feedback into an organized list based on each suggestion that was given to me. The list ended up having 43 action items that ranged from a 5 minute task (e.g., define transformative learning) to a 2-3 day task (Research Socrates’ view of active learners engaged in critical inquiry through interaction). I must be honest and share that I stared at the list for about a month, perhaps even feeling a little paralyzed to begin, but I was definitely thinking about the content all the time. I will consider it my “reflective learning” time and a necessary part of the process for me.

During this reflective learning time, what intrigued me the most, was how the quality of “next step feedback” varied and as a result, impacted my learning.  There were next steps that were simple and concise:

  • Include more peer-reviewed articles about this topic.
  • Explain how you came up with your coding template.
  • Define these terms.

And then there were next steps that went much deeper.  Suggestions that seemed to challenge my thinking and push me into further learning, while at the same time providing me with “how to find the answers”:

  • What makes this form of communication completely new?  You need to draw more from your source & push the point further.
  • You’ll need to explicitly outline your search techniques in how you explain the methodology of your lit review.  Lieberman & Mace (2010) is an article you will want to check out.  You’ll also want to check out Kassens-Noor, E. (2012), Gerstein, J. (2011).
  • Kelly, you should make a case for using this particular model.  What makes it a strong model?  Why have you chosen to use this one instead of another one?
  • Outline the similarities & difference between these terms.  Remember, Dewey would take issue with the way in which DuFour’s ideas are used to facilitate data-driven decision-making.
  • Say more about teaching presence here, Kelly.  Also, point out what does Swan’s lens add to the academic arena of higher learning.
  • Again, Kelly, you’ll have to make a strong case for choosing to use this particular model … & you can start to make that case here in your lit review & then you can return to it in your methodology.
  • Appendix B is quite interesting, Kelly.  How did you design it?  Did you draw from research?  You need to explain this process & make a case for the template you have designed.
These were the comments that I valued the most. The ones that pushed me to learn further.

It made me wonder, that as teachers, we may give valid information about strengths and areas to improve, and even offer appropriate next steps.  But how rich are our next steps? Do our next steps include questions to clarify, further reading suggestions and enough how-to information for our learners?  I know it’s something I’ll be focussing my efforts on a little more for our students, when I’m on the delivery end of descriptive feedback.

Have you considered descriptive feedback from the receiving end lately?


Audio invitation to UnPlug’d12: International

Listen to hear an invitation to UnPlug’d 12: International shared by BenToddRoddZoe, and I.
Download the podcast |

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“You are trying to sound too scholarly.”

Another great piece of advice from a friend. “I think you are trying to sound too scholarly.”

I’ve been researching, reading and making notes for months. I have found my common themes for my literature review and I have finally started to actually write. The problem is, I want it to be perfect. Even draft #1. So I tried to make it sound like all the articles I’ve read. I thought it was brilliant.

I shared my initial attempt with a friend a few days ago (because of course I need it to be perfect before I share it with my advisor – I know, I know…) and I received great feedback again:

  • Kelly, I think you are trying to sound too scholarly.
  • You are assuming everyone will know what you are talking about.
  • You have to unpack this and use YOUR voice.
  • Write like you talk to me.

Of course at first hearing this, I felt like I failed at my first attempt. But then quickly realized that I had to embrace this learning. My first opening sentence had six concepts that I assumed everyone would understand. Yes, six. We circled them. That made me laugh out loud.

I ended up tossing and turning all night, rewriting while I tried to sleep. And when I got up the next morning, I just started typing as if I was talking. I took that one opening sentence and turned it into a page and a half, without referring to any notes from any of my articles. I just used my thinking, my experiences and my voice. And I believe it’s more real. It’s more ME.

I think I’ve been thinking too hard. I think I need to think less. I actually found an article to support that thinking this morning :)

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/black-belt-brain/201202/stop-thinking-so-much-you-have-too-much-mind


Finding my joy again

A few weeks ago, a friend told me I had lost the joy in my voice.  A statement that triggered great personal reflection.

I was not feeling comfortable with the process that was supposed to lead to a creation of a research proposal.  I seemed to be going in circles. Circles that were not productive.  In fact, I was working feverishly, but I was at a point of paralysis and couldn’t even begin my writing. So when I heard “Kelly, you don’t have that joy in your voice anymore.”  I knew I had to take action.

After great critical reflection, I had a discussion with my advisor that maybe I needed a change.  As much as I could appreciate some of his theoretical constructs, I was not feeling comfortable with how our methodologies were not aligned.  I was experiencing a strong dissonance in what I wanted do as my research.  We mutually agreed that perhaps it was best that I seek another advisor.  As stated in the letter to the dean, “This decision was reached productively with mutual agreement and respect.” Phew.

As scary as this was, within two days I had secured the support of a faculty advisor that has taught me two of my Masters courses.  He has experience using the methodology I propose and has even met the authors of the theoretical construct I am basing my research on.  He is aware of my background knowledge, my work ethic and is appreciative of the research I am proposing to embark on.  A win-win situation.

I am no longer paralyzed.  I have started my writing and am very excited to get started officially on my research. But best of all, I’m excited to talk about it again.

I have once again found my joy.


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