OAME 2018

The annual OAME conference is the only teaching conference I’ve consistently been going to. This year, it was at Humber College in Etobicoke, on the west end of Toronto. Last week, we had two days – Thursday and Friday – of workshops and speakers. Just as usual, I had fun! I missed a few sessions here and there as I’ve learned to take better self care when I’m feeling overwhelmed or tired.

It’s also really cool to see Twitter celebrities from the #mtbos (Math Teachers Blogosphere) community. This Twitter hashtag changed my teaching career and really got me involved in things like Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPSs), interactive notebooks and growth mindset. I’ve gotten great ideas from other teachers’ blogs; I would not have done so well in the north if it weren’t for these resources!

Saw a friend too, J., who teaches in Barrie. Got some new resources and will try to sort them out so that I can be better prepared for next September, when I take on a math LTO.

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Avoiding Homework

I’ve been doing fairly well with my yoga teacher training homework until April. I’m behind on my last assignment, which was due over a week ago. I’ve not been motivated to keep up lately, possibly because we are reading the Bhagavad Gita, which brings back strong memories of a terrible experience with a first-year university philosophy course.

I’m not the only one who’s fallen behind, but I don’t a justifiable excuse. Of course, graduation being less than 3 months away, so with the pressure of time, I know I need to do some catching up.

Thankfully, I have a bit of flexibility at work. When I’m substitute teaching, I occasionally have to watch a class study for a test. Especially when it’s not a course I’m familiar with (*cough* *cough* physics), then I am stuck with time on my hands. I usually carry a paperback with me – currently Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist: Essays – and work on layouts in my bullet journal. If I’m carrying my laptop, I will do some journaling or catch up on the news.

Today I managed to tackle a portion of my homework assignment. We had to choose 3 pinnacle pose and find 5 asanas – yoga poses – that are related or good preparation for each of these pinnacle poses. I decided to do this part of the assignment on Padlet, which I’ve used for teaching math and setting up concept maps.

This took me less than 20 minutes and was much more fun than I thought. Perhaps I just need a way to make my assignments more interesting to myself? Draw on some more fun tech tools? As a teacher, I have experiencing dealing with students who struggle with motivation and completing work on their own. As a human being, it’s not unusual when I go through this myself!

Headed to the library tonight to tackle a bit more after dinner.

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Breaking Up with Amazon

When I was younger, my family and I would take road trips to outlet malls around Ontario or across the border in the United States. For a weekend, we’d explore new towns, peek in to tourist traps, drop in on a museum and try some local family restaurants. The one destination that we were never allowed to take off the itinerary was the outlet mall.

For years, I didn’t realize how much this was a firm part of my family culture. There was  great satisfaction in having found a great deal or picked out a new outfit. We didn’t buy a lot and we tried to aim for items that we needed as a family. At the end of the weekend, we proudly shared and told relatives and friends about our newfound purchases. This was and likely is a pretty exciting and normal for Canadian immigrant families, many who may have struggled financially when initially moving to Canada. Overcoming a plethora of barriers and experiencing both financial stability and disposable income gave us a feeling of pride and peace.

But it’s 2018.

More and more are we aware that consumer culture has had a large hand in climate change. As we’ve grown and matured, my family and I have started to explore ideas of minimalism, kicked started by shows like Hoarders and Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. In 2017, I started bartering on Bunz.com and in the fall, my family and I have spent a great deal of time clearing out the basement. On top of that, the biggest challenge has been the clothing shopping ban that I started in January 2018.*

It would be laughable if anyone ever said it was easy. It has been tough for me mentally and emotionally. I’ve considered quitting many times and have had dreams of sneaking purchases without telling anyone. I haven’t yet. What’s prevented me from going berzerk is being able to acquire new pieces off of Bunz.com.
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What this ban has done is forced me to acknowledge patterns of behaviour which I wasn’t cognizant of. Yesterday on Saturday, I went to a local craft show, Stitch ‘n’ Kitch, in Waterloo and I nearly bought myself a simple black t-shirt with the print “Kitchener-Waterloo”. I completely forgot – as shocking as it sounds – that I was even on a shopping ban until I began to reach for my wallet! I’ve done this many times before: trying to acquire a thing that I don’t need.** The high you experience from the thought of owning something novel, while you perform a wondrous set of mental gymnastics to convince yourself, of COURSE I need this new hipster sweater, I don’t have anything in this colour yet.

Since the shopping ban, I’ve begun to shift my time and energy in new ways. On the rare occasion, I crave a mindless walk around the mall but don’t succumb to it anymore. And while I used to label myself as someone who didn’t go shopping frequently, I’ve since acknowledge that that’s just a boldfaced lie that I hung onto; for the better part of my life, my suburban family and I went out just to crawl the mall on the weekends.

Living in the remote north for the past 5 years also helped me acknowledge these patterns of behaviour, because I had no where to go***. However, I ended up shifting my energy towards online shopping, which wasn’t unusual, consider I had to do it out of necessity. I never really made purchases on a whim and could spend months pondering a purchase before even pulling out my credit card***.

And now I’m back in the city and on a clothing shopping ban.

I’ve spent my money this year on better things; things that I wanted to but wasn’t able to because the services weren’t available for me. I have no health benefits or an active health plan, but I’ve paid for a counsellor ($60/hour), masseuse ($80/hour), physiotherapist ($75/session) and a personal trainer ($485/month). What I’ve learned is that no one questions how you’re using your money until you tell them you’re not on a health plan.

What?! You’ve got a personal trainer? Isn’t that expensive? I only have $500 worth of benefits so I can only have two massages a year. I can’t believe you’re paying out of pocket!

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Yet people won’t question you purchasing some shitty ass clothing that’s probably produced by horrible companies such as H&M, which cuts up clothes they can’t sell, and Zara, which steals designs from independent artists.

In a single year, you’d likely absentmindedly spend the same amount on stupid shit that won’t change your life and no one will say anything. Yet trying to invest in my health and wellbeing – taking preventative measures that will ensure a higher quality of life in the future – is something the other people will scrutinize you for.

What does that say about our society?

I can only conclude that we have our values fucking backwards.

I’m continuing to search for better conversations on how we spend our money. While I have found myself going to Amazon, which treats its staff members like crap and encourages its employees to spy on and backstab each other, I decided recently that I

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am looking for alternatives.***** While I’ve been itching for a new bullet journal, I decided I’ll go back to a A5-sized Peter Pauper Press grid-lined notebook. I researched the dimensions, called the local bookstore in Waterloo, Wordsworth Book, and made an order. Since they order directly from Peter Pauper Press, it will take a couple of weeks but the price is the same as what’s listed on Amazon and I won’t be making Jeff Bezos a richer asshole.

Will I slip and buy from Amazon in the future?

Probably.

Will I enjoy the indulgence of buying new clothes once I end my ban?

Duh, of course. I love clothes!!!

When I decided to get a new bullet journal, it took about 2 weeks of me mulling before I acted on it. Of course, it would have been easier for me to make a purchase online, but I know I can do better. We are all human, but part of it is just trying to be a better human.

And that’s what makes all this worth it.

*I have had self-imposed shopping bans for  3 or 4 months in the past.
**There really is no reason why I would need a new black t-shirt to tell me where I currently live.
***Unless my ex-boyfriend, J. and I would drive 7 hours down to Rouyn or Val D’Or, Quebec, just to go to the mall.
****I held off of buying Vibram Five Fingers for nearly a year. I currently own two pairs – one for hiking outdoors and one for the gym.
*****I still make purchases on Audible as I haven’t figured out an alternative yet. 

Increasing My Step Count

Two months ago, I started checking my daily step count.

Embarrassingly, I was hitting well below 5000 a day. I drive a lot for work and am at different schools every day. Essentially, I am traveling from one parking lot to another, since I don’t live near the gym or the yoga studio. I decided that I should try to improve this aspect of my life.

Along with half a dozen other friends, I am using the Carrot Rewards app.  While I currently do not have a pedometer, the Google Fit app on my smartphone counts my steps and uploads the information to Carrot Rewards. If I hit my daily goal, I get anywhere between 2 to 6 Scene points*. I also collect points for completing surveys (~40 points) and inviting friends to join (100 points). Other friends are currently using it for Aeroplan points.

I’ve actually been doing much better the past month, being able to see how my friends are faring. Social pressure is great and works well for me (when it’s people I care about)! You can pair up with friends, complete 10 step goals together within a week and get more points of your choice.

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A few of them who work downtown hit well over 10,000 each day. My daily step goal has increased to 5200 – it is determined for you and you cannot change it manually – from 3600 last month. Some nights, I have to do an extra walk to the local convenience store or a loop around the park to hit my goals**, but the fact that it’s changed my behaviour immensely is a great thing. I’m well aware that I need a lifestyle change and I’ve been working on it!

The only issue is finding a balance with carrying my phone around. I do try to set it down at home, while I’m cooking or running chores, so those steps aren’t counted. My workouts at the gym and yoga aren’t included either. I’m still trying to get my hands on a FitBit through Bunz, so this will help a lot!!

Do you use a pedometer or have a daily step goal?

*A thousand points gets you one free movie at Cineplex Odeon theatres.
**Tonight, I spent 20 minutes milling about the supermarket after dark. I didn’t want to walk through the park by myself when it’s late.

Places I’ve Traveled In the Past 5 Years

I love traveling, I won’t deny it. I was bitten with the travel bug early on and my parents took my sister and I traveling regularly as we were growing up. I remember that there were periods of our lives where we were going overseas every 2-3 years and taking car trips in between. It wasn’t until I went to university that I was grounded for 4 years … it sucked and I hated it.

Over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve been grateful for being able to afford travel, since being fully employed. Here are the other places I’ve been to in the past 5 years:

2013

  • Portland, Oregon
  • Hawai’i, HI

2014

  • Turkey
  • Mumbai and Rajasthan, India
  • London, England (layover)

2015

  • Chicago, IL

 2016

  • Disneyworld, FL
  • Albany and New York City, NY
  • Jordan
  • Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel
  • Palestinian Territories

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ABOVE:
Checking out one of the tombs in Petra, Jordan

Having said that, I know next year might be different. I might not be going oversea and due to the current political situation, going to the United States doesn’t even seem like such a good idea anymore (although that won’t stop me).

I’ve been happy that I can do trips without budgeting much (really, I don’t budget at all), but if I am going to save for a house, I will have to tighten the belt a bit more and figure out how to be a better budget traveler.

Yes, I might be downgrading a little, but I love my freedom and I love being able to see people, spend time with them and learn about the world. I’ll never give that up!

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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The Questioner

I’ve been podcasting a lot the past few months. One of my all-time favourite podcasts is Note to Self, from WYNC.

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I can’t say I’ve listened to a bad episode. The newest episode, The Four Tendencies: How to Feed Habits, was pretty interesting, especially if you are either interested in goal-setting or making New Year’s resolutions. This episode is an interview with a writer, Gretchen Rubin, who has a theory that there are four personality types when it comes to how we perceive internal and external expectations.

I took the online quiz and discovered that I was a Questioner, which I would say, is pretty accurate:

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Typically, this is the way I like to think:

Questioner: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

Of course, according to Rubin, a Questioner can still have aspects of a Rebel or an Upholder. Obviously, I tend to lean towards the latter. As a public school teacher, I feel very strongly that I need to be a positive role-model.

But on a personal level, how is this information useful to me if I want to set new habits?

  • My drive is based on my inner expectations, so when I build a habit, I must make it specifically towards my needs.
  • I like justification. I need to know why and how I should take on a habit, so I will do research on the benefits and efficacy of the aforementioned habit.
  • I only take suggestions from people I respect, so I will look for sources of information that are reliable (i.e. published books, scientific evidence).
  • I will sometimes spend too much time on research, creating “analysis paralysis”. This has happened when I was deciding on a fitness goal. I would overthink, rather than simply taking action.

In teaching, we called this self-analysis metacognition. This could potentially be a fun exercise to do with my older, mature students. I’ll save this resource as a future project at work!

Do you know which of the four personalities you are? What goals are you setting for yourself for the new year?

 

The Downside of Being Offline: Using a Bullet Journal

I had a scare today; I thought I had lost my bullet journal, which is my personal organizer. I used it during a school meeting last night, but had no recollection of tossing it into my backpack. Thankfully, it had made its way home. I found it accidentally tucked under a vintage copy of A Clockwork Orange, which I had rescued from a pile of discarded books.

Since September, I’ve been using a #bujo planner*. I mainly use it to keep track of personal goals – weekly, monthly and annual. It’s become popular, partly because it’s therapeutic to doodle and draw, but also because it’s nice to just be offline. Yes, I still use my paid Toodledo account as digital notepad when I don’t have a pen, but pretty much everything** is in my bullet journal.

While I’ve used a variety of tools, including apps like Coach.me (formally Lift.do), to track my habits, I just felt that I needed a change when it came to writing monthly goals. I’d found that I would start fudging and editing the goals I had initially written down and delete ones I’d ignored, just to make myself feel better. It’s been working well so far and I can say that my bullet journal isn’t just a fad I’m picking up; it’s likely a tool I will be using for at least a couple of years. I enjoy drawing and laying out my new “weeklies” while listening to podcasting.

Some things will always remain online though, including net worth tracking via NetWorthIQ and fitness tracking on CodyApp.

Yet the ultimate issue with the bullet planner is that I have no back-up system. To be clear, I don’t intend logging everything on Toodledo so that I can check it off later. In my panicked state earlier this morning, I did consider how much I would be losing if I really could not find my planner.

My life wouldn’t be over. I’d likely be able to rewrite 50-70% of the active task lists that I had going on. Once monthly goals are complete, I published them on my blog. As for weekly habits, I really couldn’t care less.

And is there anything that would be so important that I’d actually forget entirely I’d have to do it?

Likely not.

So even as I did hug my planner with a sigh of relief when I uncovered it, I realized that I still don’t intend on backing it up. And that’s okay. It’d be like a piece of lost art. I would have enjoyed all the time that I’d put up with it, but I’d be willing to let it go.

*If you’re unfamiliar with bullet journals, check out this article from the Toronto Star, Bullet Journaling Will Get You Organized.

**For work, I keep a separate teacher’s lesson planner which I’d purchased (and expensed to the school board) from Staples. Keeping my work and personal life separate definitely gave me less stress; I found that I could appropriately put my energy to focus on work when I need to and have some space from it when I just want to enjoy my down time.

Finding Your Network

Life has been pretty good. Work is good. Health is good. Diet is good. Family is good. The car is good. The turtle is good. The internet is annoyingly slow, but still good. The first season of Narcos has been good too. My crocheting skills aren’t good yet, but I can live with that.

While I have been doing well, I am coming up to some hard questions in my life – where do I go next? What’s in store for me? Will this be my last year in the north? If so, what will I face next year? And if so, what do I want? And what will get me there?

Needless to say, these questions and the discussion around these questions bring up a myriad of emotions. Some good, some bad. So while life has been good, I am bracing myself for some emotions that don’t necessarily feel so good.

This morning I felt like I was in a slump. It threw me for a loop and I headed into work a little later than usual to emotionally readjust. And I kept thinking, what is it that I so badly miss right now?

I miss my network.

However invisible they are in the day-to-day life, I miss my network IRL*. The people I WhatsApp when I am bored, the people whom I can have a laugh over internet memes with, the people that I chat with every week on Cody or Facebook (oddly, some I have never met in person). They are there and they hold me when I am in pieces. They lift me when I am sad. The affirm that I am of value and I mean something to them, to others, to the world. Their attention, in a gentle and caring way, give me strength. Their friendship and support give me love. Being far away means that sometimes I see them once every few months, or a couple of times a year or every three years. Yet invisible, they are still there.

And I can claim no success or be who I am right now without them. Likely, if you have been reading my blog for a while, you are one of them. And whether you know it or not, you keep me going and driven forward. As much as we all like to say, “I don’t care what others think of me,” we all need affirmation from others. We are social creatures and don’t do well alone. So while a lot of people are always in awe of the fact that I have been in the north, in a very isolated place, for the last 5 years, I could not have done it without my network. I could not have thrived and grown and matured and lived and loved without them.

I don’t really know how to end this post. I guess, on a morning where I am feeling alone, I just want to remind myself that I never really am.

*”In real life”

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.