Moving Out of Waskaganish

It’s official! I am leaving Waskaganish after 4 years of teaching here. Yesterday, the moving truck came and took my boxes. I tipped them $30 USD – I couldn’t find my wallet – and two cold beers. I actually took half a moving day; I will take the second half of the day next week.

It feels much better to have my belongings out of the house, although there’s still a lot of clothing I haven’t packed yet. Likely, I’ll grab the rest of my belongings at the beginning of August, when I have to drop J. off after the end of his vacation.

Pretty excited to be headed out. We are departing on Tuesday, after the last day of work.

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Counting Down the Days

I’m lying naked on the bathroom floor, after a hot bath, not feeling I’m quite ready for bed yet.

Been feeling a bit impatient, anxious for upcoming changes and yet still trying to cherish all the things I love about being here, which is mostly just my time. Specifically, my time with J. and my free time outside of work.

J. and I still laugh every day, and lately, it’s as if we’ve been laughing harder than ever. Like any other couple, there are things that drive us nuts about each other, but for the most part, we have fun. We’ve been walking  to work (if it’s not raining), ditching the car (if we aren’t doing a grocery pick up) and enjoying being able to see each other throughout the day (if we aren’t doing real work) since we are in the same building. Yet it will be very different for us in a month’s time. Or just forever. Who the fuck knows.

Of course, being a person who enjoys change and welcomes it, I know it would be absolute torture to be trapped in the same cycle forever. I can’t say that I’ve been very good at staying put in life; the fact that I’ve even been at the same job for 4 year is a record for me. Financing the Honda CRV was a good idea, as it gave me a financial ball-and-chain that would tie me to Canada. I just didn’t think that my relationship would have been an even better incentive.

What happens in the future is unknown. I’m happy in my relationship – although my family hears a disproportionate part of the parts that drives me absolutely batty – and I, ummmm …. well, we would like to make an effort to be together, despite the distance.

In the long range of things, there are lots of factors I can’t predict. The vision is to obviously land in an urban environment together and both be employed and happy, compromising where we need to based on the other’s needs. We’re trying to focus on the same target but yet the vision is blurred and both of us may be seeing it from different angles. We don’t know where we will land, although Ottawa has been discussed. The future is in unknown.

Officially, I will be leaving in 2 weeks. I’m not even packed yet and report cards are due Friday. Mentally, I’m sort of checked out at work, but still going through the motions and wrapping things up. I can’t say I care about too much at this point, as students are writing their exams and I don’t have to teach. If they’ve prepared themselves and studied, then they’ll do okay. If they’ve been apathetic for the past few months, it’s too late in the game to change anything.

So I’ve been distracting myself. I managed to finish season 6 of HBO Girls, generate more layouts for my new Leuchtturm1917, keep reading my British books and WhatsApp with my friends online. I mean, it’s not much more different than what usually happens, but perhaps waaaaay more TV time than I usually have. It’s not particularly exciting but it keeps me occupied.*

I’m hoping that at least, once the report card marks go in, I can breathe a bit.

I’m looking forward to it being Saturday!

*The original plan was to distract myself in the evenings with kayaking, but with a) the cool weather we’d been having and b) the lack of wetsuit, I’m not going into the Rupert River this week. The Hullavator, a.k.a. Metal Antlers, are still in the basement.

Life Update

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as I used to. It’s likely because Cody and Instagram have become other platforms for microblogging. I’ve decided to take a break from those two platforms for a bit and refocus on writing here, where I can write longer passages with more thought and clarity.

Having said that, here are some life updates:

  • Professional Development: Right after returning from Goose Break in a snowstorm, I drove straight back down to Kingston, Ontario for the annual math conference run by OAME. I did my first presentation at an Ontario conference, which was attended by my mentor, T., and also a friend; it went well and I made a few new connections too. This conference is particularly important to me as I am often feeling demotivated at this time of year; the energy and excitement I get helps to reinvigorate my passion for teaching. Not only that, but I got to meet Gail Vaz-Oxlade, as she was one of our keynote speakers!IMG_20170512_222256882
  • Netflix: I’ve been obsessed with Call the Midwife lately.  I’m late in the game – the show is currently at season 9 – but I finally finished season 5 last week and am now scouring for torrents of season 6. There are very few shows that show such a wide range of amazing women and be able to present a variety of important and sensitive topics. No need to worry about the Bechdel test here.
  • School: Had another visit from Science Travels, which is the third or fourth year in a row. They are always graduate students from the University of Ottawa. I’m always happy to welcome a group of nerds and just have some fresh conversation. This keeps me busy for 4 days straight, as I end up picking them up at the airport, going out for dinner with them and showing them around the school. It was fun, as always, though I didn’t spend as much time with this group as I did in previous year. Also busy with Elephant Thoughts as a new crew of 3 is in and helping my Grade 10 and 11s with studying and examination prep.
  • Bullet journal: Still using my first #bujo since September. The black hardcover grid Peter Pauper Press journal has worked well. I use it regularly for my weekly tasks, although I’ve officially started working on my new Leuchtturm 1917 (~$20) and setting up the new layout. It might take a while, but I hope to transfer to using it daily by July.
  • Sharing financial advice: A couple of female friends have been inquiring about financial advice lately and I’ve been really happy to share. I’ve mainly been explaining the differences behind using your RRSPs and TFSAs for investing and teaching friends about roboadvisors and why they’re a great place to start.
  • Make-Up: I dropped a couple of hundred of dollars on make-up in the past year, with the goal of learning how to do the basics. I invested in good vegan products, such as Tarte. YouTube tutorials (free!) have helped me learn the process and I can do a winged liner decently with some basic contouring (although I often forget the nose). I decide I wouldn’t be spending anymore on make-up as I have what I need and don’t need to go down a slippery spending slope. During the break, I did indulge in just one more item, a blending brush for my liquid foundation (~$10) from eyes. lips. face at Shopper’s Drug Mart. It was starting to feel ghetto using my fingers to apply … I had been looking for a foundation brush and nearly put in an order with Sigma, but remembered that, as of last year, e.l.f. finally switched over from horse hair to synthetic fibres on their brushes.

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Exciting News

Some exciting news, which a few of my friends know about, but I haven’t shared with too many people yet …

The Ontario College of Teachers is doing a small article on my classroom in the “Tech Class” column! They flew a photographer up north a few days ago and we spent yesterday doing the shoot with three students. It was super fun, although a bit tedious.

The way this all came about is funny; I offered to be interviewed by phone with a journalist who was looking to speak with teachers. I had no idea that he represented my licensing board. I didn’t hear anything for several months and was contacted in December by the media company that OCT contracts. We set up the appointment and now it’s done!

I’m really hoping that this will help me with my networking and job-hunting in the future.  The article won’t be posted until March 2017, but I’ll post more info then!

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Considerations for Leaving the North

Lately, I’d been considering whether I should leave the north or not. I’ve had a few students ask me if I am staying on for next year and have told them that it wouldn’t be likely.

While I know I am seeking new challenges and know that one will never truly be ready for change, there are many aspects of the north that I know I will miss.

  • Cheap rent: I pay about $1000 a year as my housing is mainly subsidized.
  • Minimal commute time: It takes me less than 5 minutes to drive to work and only about 12 minutes to walk. It’s easy for me to pop in on the weekends or the evenings if I’ve forgotten something or would like to catch up.
  • Lots of free time: Related to having a minimal commute time. If J. is running late, I could still walk home or just head to the gym by myself.
  • Accessible and affordable gym: The gym is literally the building next to my school. For my membership, I pay approximately $120 for the entire year. And mind you, I drop a lot more dollars on Cody app fitness plans, but those have always been an investment in my health and knowledge. The other thing is that I’ll never have again is a fairly unused squat rack where there are no line-ups.
  • Being able to sleep in: Again, related to the short commute, I can sleep in pretty late.
  • Having time with J.: Since we currently work in the same building and have the same start times, we travel to and back together. We are able to have lunch together and eat dinner at the same time.
  • Being able to save money: There is no place to spend it. If you spend money online and order items, you have to put some thought into it. There is no place to buy alcohol, so going out for a cinq-à-sept after work instead of the gym isn’t something that happens.
  • Having a big, fat classroom budget: I am currently able to spend $2200 a year for my classroom. That’ll never happen again in a public school “down south”… sigh.

Ultimately, I have to finalize a decision by the end of February. I have to sign a piece of paper and give it to my principal to declare whether I am staying or not. I’m trying to screw up the courage to do it, but at the same time, map out my future with J. It’s tricky and am just trying to figure out how we are going about things.

So just to support myself emotionally and mentally, I’m reminding myself that people quit their jobs and do new stuff all the time. Even awesome and inpsiring ladies like Jessica Moorhouse is able to take the leap and quit her job to try something new and that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there.

I’ve also been re-listening to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I’d read it a few years ago, but since my friend V. got me listening to the Dear Sugar podcast, I decided to revisit her book. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s about a woman who decides, during a very difficult period of her life, to do a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Reading about all the hardships of hiking in the wilderness alone – not stepping on rattlesnakes, running out of water, losing a hiking book off the edge of a cliff – helps me put into perspective my own hardships (which there are very few of).

Anyway, it’s still Thursday. I have a spare first period, so it was nice to find this time to blog, but I need to keep my feet on the ground and head out for work soon!

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Signing Up for An AQ

As I had previously mentioned, I was wondering whether I should register for another Additional Qualification this year. Of course, yes. The school board pays for it.

However, I was wondering whether I should start in November or wait until February. My mom* said, just sign up for November. I put my application in and got accepted yesterday forIntegration of Information & Computer Technology in Instruction – Part 1.

Just paid for my course!

Time to enjoy my long weekend.

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-5-47-56-pm*My mom is pretty smart so I try to listen to her as much as possible. 

Looking Ahead: Professional Development

In my school board, once you have worked for 2 years and become full-time permanent, you are entitled to approximately $900 for courses and professional development under a program called “Teacher Improvement Plan.”

Last summer, I used this opportunity to have a credit covered covered and took an in-class Additional Qualification for Senior Math. This was during my vacation, of course, but going to an in-person class at University of Toronto was actually well worth it. The class was small but we had such a great time. It really made me even more passionate as a math teacher and for the first time, I was inspiring and mentoring younger, less-experienced teachers.

I’m trying to decide which AQ to take this year. I chatted with my mom on the phone and told her that I would either get my Senior Geography teachable or Integration of Information & Computer Technology in Instruction – Part 1. She suggested that I focus on my strength; the long-term goal to becoming an expert at #edtech means that I could work towards being a specialist. This could even open up the door of becoming a consultant, since education technology will not be going away any time soon!

On the weekend, I browsed through the Queen’s University website. I’m still trying to decide if I should sign up for the Fall or the Winter session. I guess I still have a month to think about it!

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Getting Things Covered: School Supplies

Earlier this week, I received reimbursement for school supplies (~$1000) that I had picked up over the summer.

While there is no shortage of academic supplies – the cupboards have lots of algebra manipulative, Bohr models and textbooks – I felt that, in my fourth year with this school board, I could finally purchase “not so academic” supplies. These purchases help with the environment of the classroom to reduce stress and to help with better mental health for students; sadly, I feel that these are aspects of the classroom that are often neglected. Some examples include:

  • Yoga mats ($150)
  • Boogie board” tablet* ($40) Specifically for a selective mute student that I work with. You can write on the tablet and then use a button that activates a 3-V battery that wipes the slate clean again. She will be using it to communicate with me when she needs help or has to ask a question.
  • Door mats for shoes (12 x 6 – $80) – Reduces the dirt coming in since I have made it a shoeless classroom this year
  • Foam play mats ($132) – For high traffic areas of our classroom. This keeps our feet warm off the linoleum floor.

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I admit, I looooove shopping and spending money that’s not my own! It’s great that I have such a big budget to work with and don’t have to ask for every item to be pre-approved.

The mats were pre-approved by the principal, of course. I will eventually be starting a yoga club at the elementary school. I’ve bought a couple of yoga DVDs to my mother’s house by Amazon Prime* and she will mail it up to me.

As I go through the list though, I’m also reminded that there are many things I am able to cover on this generous classroom budget. In the south, I’d likely be buying my own:

  • Teacher’s lesson planner ($19)
  • Miracle Bind notebook** ($11)
  • USB memory stick ($5)
  • Japanese washi tape ($13)

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Part of me is writing this post as a reminder for the future. When I transition back to the city, I won’t have a $2200 classroom budget anymore!!! Better enjoy this while it lasts …

*Currently trying out a free trial until October 5th. Wow, my mom got a shipment the next day!
**These are great when your provincial ministry of education decides to change the curriculum every year. The pages are removable and you can reinsert them into another part of the notebook

Getting the Green Light: OAME 2017

I’ve been going to the annual conference run by Ontario Association for Math Education (OAME) for several years now, even while working in the north. In 2014 and 2015, I participated in the eConference but managed to get myself to the one in Toronto last year in-person.

Two weeks ago, I received an email calling out for speaker proposals. OAME 2017 will be held in Kingston, Ontario and will feature the (usual) big names like Dan Meyer and Marion Small. I thought nothing of the email and forgot about it.

Then last week, a second call for speaker proposals was sent out. The email stated:

We are particularly interested to hear from people with expertise in the education of FNMI students both in remote communities or in urban/suburban venues.

I’ve done a couple of workshops now, one on #BYOD tools and one on growth mindset. Both were well-received and fun to create. I had hands-on activities and a high rate of participation. Lots of people left happy.

So I ran the possibility through my head; what if I did a presentation at a big conference in Ontario? I mulled it over, but what got me was the phrase “people with expertise in the education of FNMI students”.

I’m not an expert. I have never taken a course on Aboriginal studies. I’ve read a few papers, but I can’t say I’ve immerse myself in native culture. As a vegetarian, I don’t hunt nor am I interested in smoking Canada goose in a meeshwap. Friends and family have applauded me for working in the north for the past 5 years, but I say, “I’m just teaching kids and treating them the same way I’d treat anyone else.” I’m not up here to be a heroine. I’m up here because I enjoy my job as an educator and I like the financial perks of being in an isolated place.

Anyway, I let the idea go.

A few days after, I received an email from a friend and a colleague. He suggested that I put in a proposal and that I’d do quite well.

It’s funny. We live with doubt so much in our lives. Even when we say yes, we feel like imposters.

Fact of the matter is, it isn’t the first time someone suggested I put in a proposal. T., a professor whom I befriended in the past year, had also mentioned it. Having two people make that suggestion now, the excuses still ran through my head. Yet despite the negative thoughts, I wrote to the executive directors:

Hi ****,

I am an OCT-certified teacher originally from Toronto. I have been teaching on the East James Bay for the past 5 years and am starting my 4th year as a full-time high school teacher with the ******* Board.
I have attended OAME for the past few years but never worked as a speaker before.
I know that you are looking for speaker proposals. I have no background research and do not consider myself an expert educator in working with FNMI students. My
experience with native students has only been tied to this area. Would an anecdotal approach of my experiences still be fitting for a one-hour presentation? I have specifically been using growth mindset, BYOD and interactive notebooks in this community.
Anyway, I just don’t know what you’re looking for, but I wanted to inquire for more information, as I consider future possibilities. If you could give me some better ideas, perhaps I could find other math teachers who might be able to put out a good speaker proposal to enhance the upcoming conference.*

On Sunday morning, I got a very exciting email:

Good morning,

Short answer: YES!

Longer answer: We would love to see a proposal from you. Your first-hand experience carries a lot of weight in my books. Considering, too, it is with the Cree nation, whose geographical expanse covers half of Ontario, and that others who have come forward would be speaking with the experience of working with Ojibwe and Mohawk, we would have a good geographic balance.

Some of the audience will be other First Nations communities such as the one in which you work; however, some of the audience will be teachers in urban and other “southern” settings where First Nations students are mixed in with other cultures – hearing from you about cultural accommodations and learning styles will help them as well to better address their First Nations’ students’ needs.

B*********
Co-chair
OAME 2017

Guess I have to figure out a way to overcome the Imposter Syndrome. And guess I’ve got some writing to do.

*You see how imposter syndrome kicks in so easily? I devalue myself in this last paragraph.