NLTA Vice-President

Dedicated to my grandfather, Baxter Langdon; small in stature but walked tall with integrity...

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

'When Pondering Leads to Wandering'

Ever feel like it is just too heavy and challenging to CARE anymore? (This is your red flag).

As educators, we invest exorbitant amounts of energy and emotion into our preparation, daily interactions, 'real-time' communications, and 'pondering'. Upon entering this field, we knowingly signed up for the litany of lesson plans, the email barrage, and the tangled web of assessment. But did we truly know or expect the emotional journey that this career path would hold for us? 

We all have those experiences that become intrusive (in the most altruistic sense of the word):

* The student that may be going through a particularly rough time and seems to take up cranial residence in your mind; 

* A student that presents with daily behavioral challenges and despite your efforts, is seemingly making little progress; 

* Or that individual, that in spite of all the positive interventions you have initiated today, still finds a way to tear down your decision-making or actions. 

I would argue that it is the obsessive 'pondering' (not to be confused with the pedagogically-sound practice of 'reflection') and the sheer quantity of student need that gets most of us. 

'Pondering' can be that occasional thought that seeps in or the draining 'brain bug' that  is not willing to let go. It is the type of thinking that invades our personal space as we attempt to reintegrate into family and personal life after a long day or week, ultimately entering our safe havens and tree houses (so to speak).  

I regularly reference with my students the analogy of junior high as a jungle or deserted island filled with many challenges, 'unknowns', and often times of great loneliness. The teachers inhabit this island as well.  I recall watching each week (with great wonder) how the Swiss Family 'Robinson' were able to survive their shipwreck, build a home (here is where the treehouse reference comes in), and thrive in spite of the wild animals, natural dangers of the land, and the glaring uncertainty of what was to come.

So I challenge you to build that treehouse of yours (in both a literal and figurative sense) as a means of breaking the intrusive thought cycle.

* Hold strong to your best practices and professionalism.

* Make time for those real-time getaways to the gym, to the walking trail, or on a well-earned vacation.

* Schedule these get-away times daily.

* Get lost in your favourite book or movie.

* Take a mental health break from work to allow your energies and motivations to replenish.

* Seek out your informal advisors to assist with student strategies or simply to vent.

* Allow time to create emotional support plans that are intentionally designed for your students.

* Be very careful that the pondering does not fester into deeper-rooted anxieties.


* And...visit your local hardware store and pick up your treehouse supplies...your get-away may be in the backyard!

Yours in Integrity...

TRENT

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Joltin' Joe Brings It Every Day...


Joe Dimaggio, the epitome of ‘coolness’ in the 30’s and 40’s; not only a professional baseball player and Yankee slugger (no less), but married to Marilyn Monroe! Holy moly, can you have a higher profile career and relationship built into one package? It was an era that saw movie stars and sports figures become ‘larger-than-life’ and evolve into heroes of the ‘super’ kind. There were fewer of them (as compared to this day in age) and their names were synonymous with greatness during a time when people needed escape and a reason to dream.

One can easily imagine that this immense social stature could (and would) result in an inherent disregard for the ‘common folk’ and a loss of perspective. The bright lights, swarms of fans, and relentless media coverage could have forced him into self-preservation mode and built an egocentricity that was as impenetrable as his heart. However, Joe seemed to remain cool under pressure, rarely missing an opportunity to impress, and taking the time to connect with his followers (not in the Facebook sense).

One of Joe’s famous (and most mortal) quotes often sticks with me and can be a mantra for any leader who seeks excellence while maintaining a deep sense of humility - “I played my best everyday; You never know when someone may be seeing you for the first time.” This is a message that, as educators, we can entrench within our students as they approach the challenges of each day, build the skill set necessary for post-secondary options, and enter the unforgiving workforce. It can also become the foundation and standard for our own professional practice. 

In a world where a sense of entitlement has seemingly emerged as a widespread character trait of many students, this motivational mindset has great power and potential. As much as I strongly believe that one should live according to their own individual purpose, holding true to themselves, we cannot underestimate the importance of interpersonal influence. And as educational leaders, working with students and their families requires that we come to the field ‘ready to play’. 

Joe saw the power of strong and positive ‘first impressions’. This was one of his ‘non-negotiables’ as it related to his character and his work ethic. The first impression he made on all his fans became lasting impressions (time after time) that continue to endure the test of time.

Do you ‘bring it’ everyday?

Friday, 2 June 2017

Lessons I have learned from Super Grover!

As a young kid and now well into my adult years, I have held on to a fond admiration for my scrawny, furry, super hero of a buddy...Super Grover. Little did I know that within this lovable character was a wealth of life lessons and character-building strategies.

I can fondly recall:
____________

Narrator: “Presenting the adventures of everyone’s favorite hero, the monster who is faster than lightening, stronger than steel, smarter than a speeding bullet...it’s Super Grover!”

(cue music)

SG: “And I am cute, too!” (as he breaks through the paper wall)

Narrator:” And now on to our story.”

SG: “ Yes, on to our story!”

____________

Lessons Learned...

A. Half the battle is securing your se lf-concept such that you can maintain that competitive edge. SG never did struggle with this one...

B. Give that extra effort, each and every day, in spite of the situation. You will be appreciated and valued for it.

C. Comb your fur and look the part. We cannot underestimate the value of our professional presentation to those you hope to serve.  

D. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off (literally in SG’s case) despite what has transpired. Have the ability and willingness to move on, such that a significant setback does not ‘derail the train’, so to speak.

E. Do not take yourself too seriously. A quick look in the mirror can help reset the humility button. 

F. Accept all challenges with passion and vigor (you have the freedom to vary the intensity as necessary).

G. Realize that, sometimes, others do know best and may be able to do better!

H.  Caring & compassion should be at the heart of all adventures.

I. Persistence pays (maybe not at first), but it always pays.

And...Always wear your helmet!


SG: “Super Grover has again, SAVED THEE DAY!”

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Fighting the ‘Wave of Worry’ Amidst Austerity...


In this profession, especially when the evenings close in and early mornings are dark, the mind wanders. 

It wanders to a place whereby all of the tiny battles of the day become huge wars. It wanders to a place where the day becomes difficult to start and even more so to conclude. It wanders to a place whereby one often questions the capability to make a difference.

We are experiencing a time whereby our workplace, our communities, and our home life are being directly impacted...

More than ever, we have a responsibility to remind ourselves and each other that:

* We make a difference.
* Our personal and family lives come first.
* There is help out there.
* We are surrounded by colleagues that have extensive experience and have weathered many storms; these individuals can prove to be great resources.
* As seasoned teachers, we may sometimes need to look to our younger faces in the staff room for that boost of energy, enthusiasm, and motivation.
* Our strength comes in our collective efforts as a staff and an association.
* We are known to be resilient. But we will not be taken advantage of... 
* Now is the time, more so than any other time, that we must keep the passion burning.




Trust that your passion and the strength of the NLTA, will guide us through the storm.

Resilience, Passion, and Trust...



Sunday, 14 August 2016

Meditation for the Teacher Brain...

As the summer proceeds and we inch minute-by-minute toward a new school year, I figured I would share with you some of my adventures (though they be small steps) into the realm of meditation. It may be an opportune to time to try a few ideas before getting back into the teaching tornado. Now I hope that you are not rolling your eyes and saying “yeah, like I have time for that!”. That was me, by the way, a few years back.

Now for anyway who knows me, I tend to have many projects on the go both during and after the work day. I tried pulling back on some of these projects as a means of reducing anxiety and fatigue but found myself being ‘pulled back’ into them as they do offer value to me...’personality’ causes this situation for many of us and I find many of us teacher-types have this ‘get-‘er-done’ bug. So nothing has changed in terms of workload, but meditation did give me a few more tools to add to my relaxation toolkit when I needed it the most.

This heavily-loaded word (‘meditation’) means a lot of things to many different people. You have your global gurus, your hardcore crowd, your recreational user (so to speak), and your nay-sayers that make up your continuum.  For me, it has evolved over the last 3 or 4 years and, with many doubting moments and highlights along the way, I have seen some great value for me personally. I have come across the following points either through reading, scanning Twitter feeds, personal realizations, or stumbling upon things that work for me.

These are simply presented as a means of stimulating potential opportunities for you.

 I have quickly realized that the philosophy behind meditation is quite rich and is strongly-rooted in the history of many cultures and religious traditions. My response?  There must be something to this...

* Meditation can be what you need it to be, for YOU; bottom-line, it is being ‘present’ in the moment. Found this extremely beneficial while travelling in Gros Morne National Park this summer. Found myself in ‘the zone’ while standing with one leg on the railing of a boat heading back from a tour of Western Brook Pond. Think this will be my new ‘happy place’!

* I read somewhere that each and every responsibility that we have is part of our journey on this planet in spite of how menial or frustrating (e.g. meditation and a few choice words helped me survive a mini-flooding of my kitchen while installing my dishwasher). Accepting these tasks in this manner can certainly help with frustration and lack of motivation.

 Breathing – this is a key one. Controlled, deep breathing can do wonders at any part of the day. Mid-day is great or especially after an anxious episode.

* One technique that works for me is a body scan...visualize various parts of your body, how they feel and make conscious efforts to stretch or relax those areas.

* Starting your day with purposeful waking strategies such as stretching (while still lying in bed), drinking a glass of water, avoiding your cell phone (that is calling your name on your nightstand...), not allowing your mind to wander into those infamous danger zones, etc.

* Tried the yoga thing, found it good, but didn’t stick with it...hope to pick it up again soon.

* Hoping one day, to do an experiential retreat..hear there is one in Banff!

* Plan on adding a waterfall to my office...hope it doesn’t cause an incessant need to head to the washroom.

* Your space, at any given time, can be a source of relaxation if you allow it to be so.

* With kids, need to find quiet time for this...always a challenge.

So, three things to sum this up:

#1. I have posted this blog at the risk of being teased by my hockey buddies and those ‘nay-sayers’ I referenced above. May have to throw the old yoga mat in the hockey bag.

#2. To you seasoned meditators, please bear with me in my amateur journey.

#3. Our classrooms and schools will pretty much re-introduce us to the regular stressors that we left in June. Why not take control of your response to them?

Monday, 4 July 2016

A Relationship with Yourself?


I often hear families and individuals comment on the pace of life, the ‘rat race’, and the impossibility of the multiple roles we are expected to fill (that of employee, parent, spouse, care-giver, volunteer,...). 

Significant research has gone into the impacts of the roles we assume (and those we are forced into) as well as the benefits of having a strong relationship with ‘yourself’. The concepts of ‘work-life balance’ and ‘self-care’ have become cliché in many respects but do we truly know and reward our personal selves accordingly?Creating therapeutic ‘alone time’ with your thoughts, emotions, and feelings, and intentionally creating opportunities for self-reflection, renewal, and re-generation can be extremely cathartic. 

The nice thing is...it does not require a huge monetary investment nor a plan to escape into a globe-trotting introspective journey - those Tibetan monks can be a handful! ;). It can simply mean, a dedicated hour for yourself at the local book store, a private walk along your favorite beach, or playing your music, when and where you want...

It’s about intentionality and ensuring these events make it into your schedule.

I strongly believe that an investment in effective personal time can reduce the shock of losing love ones, maintain strong mental health, and truly enable you to enjoy what it means to be ‘you’.

After all, you have so many people competing for your time, what’s one more?


Friday, 17 June 2016

A Virtuous Response to a Senseless Crime...

In "our darkest hour", to act with selflessness and a ‘belief in the greater good’ is the true demonstration of power.

During a week filled with global acts of terror and hate, we lose another one of our own - Robert Hall (taken and killed as a hostage in the Phillipines). This tragedy can be viewed through different painful lenses...that of the horrific experience of being the hostage or being the family member who waits in silence hoping that by some ‘grace of god’ the captors have a change of heart...both of which bring great pain and suffering.

When hearing of Mr. Hall’s tragic passing, I was struck with sadness for this gentleman, great sympathy for the family, and deep anger for the absurdity and asinine nature of this event. It wasn’t until I read a statement from Mr. Hall’s family that I was able to somewhat process and appreciate the impact that this man and his family have had on our country, and our efforts in the war against terror.

“Our family, even in our darkest hour, agrees wholeheartedly with Canada’s policy of not paying ransom,” the Hall family said in the statement. “We stand with the ideals that built this country; strength of character, resilience of spirit, and refusal to succumb to the demands of the wretched.”(The Canadian Press)

In his book ‘Leadership’, General Rick Hillier describes the challenge of building morale within the Canadian Forces and how each member and family’s selfless contribution to ‘the cause’ has resulted in a heightened respect for the Canadian Forces and its impact worldwide.


It is in the same light that I view the actions of Mr. Hall’s family...truly virtuous (and Canadian) indeed.