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Category Archives: Leading a Learning Community

Lead Yourself – Leadercast 2018

Leadercast Live focuses on the leadership issues most relevant to today’s leader. It is a pairing of inspiring messages and rich interaction with fellow leaders who are being intentional about raising their standard of leadership, through a creative, energetic and memorable experience. My school division hosts this annually in our Centre for Education Board room.

It is an exciting time bringing together various PSD employees, vendors, students and community members. I enjoy the excitement energy and thoughtfulness that the day brings. I also like coordinating my hosting efforts by setting up an elaborate theme for the day! I have a fantastic and creative Administrative Assistant that is just so phenomenal. We not only want the speakers to be the focus but also the environment.

Our group was joined with more than 100,000 leaders for the largest one­-day leadership event in the world this past Friday, May 4th!

This year, the Leadercast Live stage featured leaders who explained the power and importance of leading yourself first so you can lead others well. I posed three main questions of reflection at the start of the day for participants:

  • What does it look like to lead yourself?
  • How can you intentionally develop your own leadership skills and style?
  • What qualities do you hope to embody as a leader?

We also had fun with the Lead Yourself and the May 4th Be With You theme. Some of us dressed up as Star Wars characters, all of the food and drink items were labeled with Star Wars references. Leadership books were on display. The tables had the itinerary and lightsabers. The food tables had huge Star Wars LEGO models as well as Leadercast Speaker quotes. This year we had a wonderful set of sponsors – Cisco Canada and Compugen Inc.

Check out the visual summaries (sketchnotes) created by @jgough on each of the Leadercast Live 2018 speakers:

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I also added to the Speaker lineup a few special guests to make the day a little more personalized. We used our Webex platform to videoconference in the following:

  • our own infamous MCHS Choir to sing Oh Canada to start off the day
  • Willa Black, VP of Corporate Affairs for Cisco Canada that spoke about the Connected North program during the morning break
  • 5 Prescott students on how they are leaders in their environments during the lunch break

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Overall, Leadercast Live always sends me away with many gems and takeaways. Definitely, a day that I look forward to in experiencing with colleagues and one that I don’t mind taking all the extra time beforehand in setting up and coordinating.

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Using a Growth Mindset During Tragedy

This past weekend has been an especially hard one emotionally for me. I am speaking of the Humboldt Bronco’s bus tragedy whereby 15 people were killed as they made their way to a playoff hockey game in Saskatchewan. Both my children are in sports and we often travel to games whether by motorcoach or car. We also indirectly know some of the hockey players and two of them attended schools in the school division that I work in.

Image from Silvia Pecota Studio

This post sheds the use of a growth mindset in the face of tragedy. I find that Jack Canfield succinctly shares ways in which we can deal with disasters. This can easily be used in any environment to help anyone.

How to deal with overwhelming emotions (via Jack Canfield):

  • take a deep brief and that whatever you are experiencing this too shall pass
  • be patient with yourself
  • be patient with others
  • forgive yourself
  • use ETF tapping (video below)
  • practice gratitude

Homework

  • to make it easy for myself, I created a Google Keep note and started to type down things that I’m Grateful For… I used Canva to create the .png image. I find I like Google Keep since it is available on my smartphone, on my laptops so that if something pops up, I can quickly add via voice or text the already created note.

Now check out the ETF Tapping Therapy video below:

The ETF tapping therapy looks like something that I could possibly use more in the work that I do to support teachers who support students.

 

 

 

(Dis)Connected, Distracted or Addicted? Understanding the Smartphone Generation

I had the extreme pleasure to attend both the Public Evening Lecture and the Research Colloquium on this highly important topic. Please view the STORIFY of the tweets and materials for the 2018 event.

Important points from both the evening and day events:

  • we all need SLEEP, 8-10 hours depending on age
  • step away from the turned on screens one hour before bedtime
  • middle years and high school students are going out less, doing less with friends
  • society needs to reconnect with nature – go for walks, hiking, playing ball/frisbee, sit around a campfire
  • all media is educational! It’s just as important to feed the brain as it is the body. It’s the quality of the media that matters.
  • try a weekly digital sabbath with everyone in your family
 

Habits: Make ’em Small in order to get Big Results

Habits.

We all have them.

Some are good habits and others we need to let go if we want to move forward professionally and/or personally. If you are interested in habit formation and performance improvement then take 52 minutes and watch and take notes on this video. The speaker, James Clear, shares his work and other research that is relatable for any field of work or personal paths. This particular video was taped during Snaps, a leadership conference that unites key influencers from across the basketball world for a weekend of inspiration, leadership development and relationship-building.

While watching, think about some of the goals and habits your currently have. And write down any great triggers to change or move you forward as you listen to James.

If you are wanting to show this to staff and/or students (I’m in education), my suggestion would be to break down the three parts of the video. Show them on three different days so that staff/students have time to process but not too far apart that they don’t recall the information.

If you are working with colleagues in another sector, figure out what is best to have each part of the video work for your situation. If you have weekly meetings, then you could use each part of this video over three weeks. Or if it is during a work retreat, add more time in between the parts of the video so that staff can write down and do the suggested work.

  • Introduction (0:00-7:19) and Why do some habits stick and others fail? (7:19-22:03)

Ask staff/students to watch the introduction and write down any key thoughts. Stop the video at 7:19 and Think, Pair, Share. If time have some pair share with the whole group. Or those thoughts could be put onto Post-it Notes and stuck on a wall.

Watch part I which is 15 minutes long, again with some note-taking. Write down some systems thinking and goals in your current work, any triggers, list all the things you do (complete the Trigger TChart Exercise) and add a new habit. Share any thoughts with a partner and/or small group.

  • How do I know what to change? (22:03-37:10)

Watch part II, a 15 minute section of the video. List any of your distractions, try the Closing Open Loops exercise. Download and fill in the Eisenhower Box. Share some of your top information in each of the quadrant with a partner, small group.

  • How do I get started and take action? (37:10 – 52:44)

Watch part II, the last 15 minutes. Write down a pre-commitment statement or set up something in your calendar. Statements like ” During next week, I will partake in ___(date)___, ___(time) or any visual cues you might use. And if this topic is of more interest to you, download James’ Transform Your Habits: The Science of How to Stick to Good Habits and Break Bad Ones document.

 

 

The Elusive Why – Yours and Theirs

Today in my inbox was an explosive article, in my opinion, that got me to thinking about my journey so far in the Innovative Teacher Academy. Over the past several weeks, I have been learning with an amazing group of educators from a variety of experiences and places throughout the world. A.J. Juliani, our guide, has set up some amazing weekly backgrounders, activities and questions to keep us talking and sharing. There are opportunities for the ITA17 group to interact socially and virtually. If it weren’t for ITA17, I would not have been exposed to this article. It’s OK not to have a ‘Why’ by Tim Le Roy streamed in my Medium Daily Digest this morning (one of the tools presented to us in ITA17) and set me off to use my Google Voice Typer so I could get my ideas down that were swirling in my head (I just couldn’t type fast enough and I didn’t want to lose any of my thoughts).

PAUSE here to READ the article!

Yes, it’s worth the read first and come back to my musings below. In my work with teachers and administrators as well as Senior Exec in my school division and sitting on various educational committees (provincially and internationally), I believe that the success in moving forward on any project or idea IS THE WHY. If people in an organization, students in a classroom, administrators in a school division, educational departments in a Ministry of Education don’t have a strong handle on THE WHY, no matter who is part of the group, then the WHY doesn’t come as easily, nor do the actions to move the WHY forward, nor the sustainable results. We cannot just skip over THE WHY and Tim’s article is potent in saying that THE WHY can be an individual OR a collective one. For me that was exciting to read. In both my professional and personal life I carry several WHYs, some are easy to attain and attend to (such as supporting my children’s academic and athletic pathways) while others are more elusive (my goals in ITA17 need to change since I’m not completely achieving them).

Reading this article then also pointed me to another goldmine of interesting people and topics. For those of you who are TED-talk aficionados, you’ll now appreciate, if you have not yet been exposed to, like I was to the DO Lectures with speakers who inspire others to DO, too. I came upon Timothy Ferriss’ How and Why to Be Unreasonable Lecture from 2008. I did not know who Timothy was so it was interesting to hear about his incredible experiences when he introduced himself and the different case studies that he shared.

Watch his video (26 mins.) below while thinking about:

  • What resonated with you?
  • What is your FIRST next step?

 

Timothy Ferriss: Aim for the Impossible from The Do Lectures on Vimeo.

I leave you with one of the quotes that Timothy mentioned, in further detail so that you can appreciate Marianne’s overall thoughts. It also captures the VISION for the educational work that I work relentlessly to support.

 

Teaching and Learning are in my DNA

A recent call-out in our provincial Alberta Teacher’s Association newspaper caught my attention and had me mulling over an idea for a bit. The call out by editor Cory Hare was asking for anyone who had a family teaching connection story.

My reflections and discussions with my mom (Maman) took some time but eventually I had enough information that I could write my own Teaching and Learning DNA story.

My mother, Angéline, is a retired teacher. She started her professional post-secondary work in 1950 at Normal School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Up until 1970, those who wanted to become teachers in Canada would attend Normal School. In Manitoba, my mother attended this Normal School for one year and then took two years of Summer courses from the Department of Education to receive her Professional First Class Teaching Certificate. (Background on the Teaching Profession in Canada by Historica.)

She had an interesting teaching career which spanned a couple of decades and in a few different provinces. At the time she was a single French Canadian girl from a farm in St. Laurent, Manitoba who wanted to teach and see the world.

Teaching highlights:

  • Bourret (Catholic) School from 1951-1953. It was a one room country school in the Municipality of Morris north of Winnipeg with grades 1-8. My mother taught about a dozen children in five different grades and she lived next door in a Trustee’s house. The school was warmed up by a stove inside the building with no indoor plumbing, only an outhouse.
  • St. Eustache (Catholic) School from 1953 – 1955. This two story school near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba was run by the nuns in the region. Here my mom taught grade three. Being fluent in French, she also taught this subject to her students (who were also French Canadian), however this was quite controversial since English was touted to be the ONLY language studied in regular schooling. This would of course change in the late 60’s with the Official Languages Act.permanent-tchr-cert-maman
  • Flin Flon, Manitoba from 1955-1957. Here she also taught grade three. This public elementary school no longer exists as it was one of four schools that were condemned by the Fire Commissioner’s Office in 1975.
  • Dryden, Ontario 1957-1958. With two other Flin Flon teachers, my mother and her posse travelled to Ontario and worked at a public elementary school. Her duty was to work with grades 2-4 special education students that came from poor families. Unfortunately, there was not much support for these three teachers and the Superintendent’s leadership was abysmal, so all three left after one year.
  • For six months, my mother travelled to Europe, and worked in Winnipeg until tchr-cert-ontario-mamanlanding a job in Kenora, Ontario where she stayed from January 1959 – June 1961. It would be the first time she worked with grade ones and then looped with them to grade two the next school year. This was also the time that she met my father, Wolfgang Otto, who recently immigrated from Germany. The two were married in 1959. Both seeking to get away from the harsher winter Canadian climate, they moved to Lethbridge, Alberta in 1961.
  • St. Patrick’s Elementary School from 1961 – 1967. Under the Principal’s Berlando and Mahoney leadership, my mother flourished in grade three. Here, resources, professional learning and collegiality were accessible. Superintendent of Lethbridge Catholic School Division was Robert Kimmitt. See this overview by the ATA about teaching in the province in the 1960s.

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Even though my mother retired from teaching in 1968 (I happen to come into the picture, and my brother five years later), she continually advocated for teachers, students and parents. In 1978, the Lethbridge Catholic Separate School Division added a French Immersion track and my mother was on a committee that helped organize this transition, she also was the main contact to answer questions from parents and supported teachers in the French Immersion classes. She also was co-owner (with my father) of Otto’s Spudnut and Ice Cream Shop located in downtown Lethbridge until 2000 when they both retired from the business.

Throughout my schooling years, both of my parents have placed an emphasis on being an active participant in learning. They would look for resources, speak with teachers, council members in order to advocate for the best education possible for us and others in Lethbridge. I was also influenced by two other teachers in my mom’s family – my Aunt in British Columbia. and my Uncle (who is also an Oblate Father) in Manitoba.

I always liked learning and my first real job was as a City of Lethbridge Lifeguard and Instructor with the Recreation Department. At the same time I attended University of Lethbridge, then spent one year in Tours, France at the L’Institut d’Etudes Françaises and finally came back to the UofL to complete my two degrees – B.A. – French Language with Art and Math Minors and B.Ed. – Modern Languages.

Teaching highlights (more details found at LinkedIn):

  • St. Michael’s School, Bow Island (taught K-12)
  • St. Francis Junior High School, Lethbridge (taught French Immersion 8,9)
  • High Park School, Stony Plain (taught 3-9, Assistant Principal)
  • Stony Plain Central, Stony Plain (taught 6-9, Assistant Principal)
  • Centre for Education, Parkland School Division, Stony Plain (Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator)

In my 25 year teaching career, I have taught students from K-12 various subjects in both English and French, worked in the Special Education environment to support Individual Program Plans for students, stepped into two Assistant Principalship roles, completed my Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Lethbridge (2006) and now work to support staff as a Curriculum Educational Technology Facilitator. I sit on a number of provincial committees that support curriculum development and the Learning and Technology Policy Framework (LTPF). And I facilitate workshops throughout the province to teachers, professors, educational assistants, library learning commons staff, I.T. personnel, parents, students and senior executives on a variety of curricular and educational technology topic areas.

I have worked and continue to surround myself with some amazing educators! They brighten my day, make me think, support my work, share and connect my reflections. I am truly blessed in my upbringing and in my educational journey.

I also strive to connect successful strategies with sound pedagogy as well as up-to-date research and neuroscience principles. Whether you are an educator or not, being a lifelong learner and relationship builder are key to continually staying relevant in the globalness of today’s society. I share my thoughts and resources via this blog and my Twitter feed (@nlakusta).

As I regularly speak with my mom about the vast amount of technological changes that have occurred in the classroom, she is amazed at how the world doesn’t seem ‘huge’ to students of today. With one swipe of a finger a student could be speaking with another student or expert in another country or another classroom.

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And the teaching DNA won’t stop with me as my daughter currently is in her second year at the University of Alberta studying to become an elementary teacher. As well, scattered throughout Canada are cousins who are also teachers making a difference with the students they work with everyday.

 

Keeping the Thoughts at Bay

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Notes, note-taking, messages, information – it’s all important at different times throughout my day and work week. I use all sorts of tools to take notes, but for the short ones, like a quick stand up meeting, a voicemail, phone call or quick “to do” list, I have relied on a physical notebook for the work that I do.

Sure, I use GSuite applications and Notes iOS app on my smartphone and laptops, but my “go to” note taker has been the 9′ x 6′ (23cm x 15cm) notebook that I use each school year. Just like my previous teacher notebooks, when I was in the classroom, this one is in paper form and stays in my office. However, lately I have noticed that I want something more available to me, whenever the need arises. I turned to Google Keep for this.

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Being a school division that uses the Google Suite of Applications, it was an easy tool to turn to. I’ve dabbled with it, seen other teachers use it effectively with their students, but I did not quite have a continual and mindful purpose in using it.

Here’s how I’ve started to use Google Keep:

  • in Google Chrome settings > on startup > add Google Keep tab to the “open specific page or set of pages” during start up so it is ready for me to review when I sign in.
  • install Save to Google Keep chrome extension for this items of interest that I’d like to look further into (otherwise I use the Diigo chrome extension for blog posts, larger information for later use (no time limit).
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone. I love the audio note feature here as it keeps the audio while also providing a transcript.
  • use the Google Keep iOS app on my smartphone to make a drawing. Whether it’s a quick description or a math problem, I’ll have it saved for later use.
  • within GKeep, create labels. Right now, I’m using monthly labels and color backgrounds. Gives me a quick overview of what’s occurred or occurring in a specific month.
  • within GKeep, you can easily add collaborators or save to a Google Doc. Information doesn’t just have to reside with me, crowd sourcing is easy here.
  • within GKeep, the Remind Me feature is getting a lot of use. Now I don’t have to highlight or sticky note my notebook to ensure things get done. I do use Google Tasks within my Google Calendar so this remind feature is fantastic. The reminder can be set for a date/time or even a location.
  • within GKeep, adding images, making lists, or just typing notes gives me some creative writing choices.
  • within GKeep, you’ll never lose a note. Just search for it! It even uses OCR so you can take a picture of a page with text (textbook, magazine article, etc.)  which will also be searchable.

After a couple of weeks, my digital notetaking is doing well. I do scribe some items in my notebook and transfer them to GKeep. I think that after Christmas Break I will “hide” my print notebook whereby I will need to use GKeep exclusively. We’ll see how that goes!