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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Running a Workshop at School

It’s a professional development today, meaning no classes to teach. I love when this happens on Fridays! I had been bugging the principal for a while and she finally let me do a Quizlet teaching workshop. In total, I had 12 teachers attend and everyone had fun in the 45-minute session!

One teacher told me that she was glad she came; she hates workshops when they are a waste of time. I reassured her, “If I have something to share, I will never waste your time.”

Also, here’s my make-up. I wasn’t stressed doing it before work and it turned out alright (eyeliner is still hard for me as I still can’t tighten the line … yet). The overall look is a bit softer than the initial test run last weekend. The brows look good (although one got a bit too much mousse and turned black instead of brown). This could be a good casual look, although I still need to figure out how to contour my nose, because otherwise, it looks very flat.

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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.

The Idea of Home

Last night, I went out to play board games with the Cree Health Board crew, right after dinner with the Adult Education staff. This afternoon, I played badminton at the high school, then left at 3 pm to help a teacher with some science lesson planning and then went for more board games in the evening. I even left my board game* with my buddies, since J. left for vacation with the car and I didn’t want to lug it around.

I have to say, my first year up here as a full-time teacher was lonely. I had worked for Elephant Thoughts and been used to living with 2 or 3 roommates at a time. I always had someone to speak with and do things together. When I moved in with J., I wasn’t used to how lonely it was. It didn’t help that the only 20-somethings at work wouldn’t invite me out much either.

Three years later, I can say I have no shortage of friends or socials to go to. In fact, I find that it’s a nice balance now. We’re not very busy that we feel exhausted at the end of the weekend and going home early or when you’re not feeling well is easy when the town is so darn small.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned but I am considering this to be my last year up north. I haven’t decided if I will put a sabbatical in yet. There are lots of benefits to living up here; the amount of free time, the disposable income for car payments, the short commute and not having to wait very long to get a check-up at the clinic … these are definitely things I will miss when I do leave the north.

Having said that now, I am more appreciative of what I’ve got. I have a fairly decent job, financial security, reasonable access to food even as a vegetarian and extremely affordable rent (~$1000/year per person). I know when I move back to Ontario, I will have to go back to struggling for a bit. But that’s okay. I’ve taken the time to practice better physical health routines, as well as mental health care.*

Will I miss the lifestyle up here? Of course.

Will I come back to the north? Who knows.

As much as I complain about being isolated and far away from family and friends, city lights, shopping and bookstores, the north has grown on me. I can honestly say that I am starting to feel at home here. But I guess I’m funny that way; that’s often when I feel like it’s time to leave.

*We played Agricola tonight, one of my favourite board games, but also one of the HEAVIEST of boxes!
**Now if only I could afford weekly massages!

 

Make-Over on the Make-Up

If you know me, I often wear a bare face. I’m pretty bad at putting make-up on and sometimes I won’t want to wear it simply because it’s a pain in the ass to take it off at the end of the day.

My day-to-day facial regime is quite simple; most mornings, I use a wet cloth to wash my face. Sometimes I put on facial cream and under eye cream, but usually there are zero products on my face.

Granted, I know I need to work on my make-up application skills. I do actually enjoy it on the rare occasion, but realize that if I am going to be networking and doing interviews, I should get more practice with my make-up. My good friend, B., bought me gel eyeliner last Christmas, but I draw on wings with the dexterity of a 3-year-old. Then I just get very self-conscious when I’m wearing it …. sigh.

I had intended to go into Sephora during the summer and do a make-over, plus pick up some new products. But things got busy and I just wanted to go out and have fun …. needless to say, it fell on my list of priorities. The biggest issue is actually just finding vegan and cruelty-free products*. Usually, I use ignorance as the main excuse, and decided it was time to do some serious research.

I knew it would be a pain in the butt, but this morning, I finally did it!

It took about 2 hours to make sure every thing I purchased was entirely vegan, including make-up brushes**. Honestly, I’m glad it’s done. I’d been putting it off for quite a while and just need to cross it off the list.

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*I currently use blush and bronzer from Physician’s Formula, but not every single of their products are vegan. Same for Urban Decay. This makes things a huge headache in general because fully vegan brands tend to have a very small selection of products.
**I once accidentally bought a generic Sephora-brand brush, only to realize it was made with boar’s hair. Went and got a refund.

Goodbyes

It is official.

Our gym trio had last session on Monday. We had a goodbye dinner on Tuesday. Today, H. and I squeezed in one more lift after work, the bonus being that we both PR’d on deadlifts at 120 lbs! I also used the Harbinger belt I bought during Goose Break and found it helped a lot with maintaining abdominal pressure.

All around, a great week despite all the departures! K. has driven off – although I will see her in Toronto next week – and I’ll be dropping off H. at the airport tomorrow.

And since both K. and H. have been clearing out of their houses, we’ve inherited a lot of random food items and condiments. But the best grab was this coffee mug from H. Perfect for me as I was avoiding retail therapy!

First Ebates.com Rebate

A few months ago, a student introduced me to Ebates.com. Basically, the program is set up to track online purchases and in return for the data that they collect on you, you receive a small cashback on your purchases (usually varies between 1-5% with increased incentives during holidays and long weekends). The company has been around for a long time and I recall hearing about it many years ago, but I never did much online shopping until I moved up north.

Out of curiosity, I used my student’s referral code, so that I could get a $5 bonus and she received $10. Since then, I’ve made a few purchases through Ebates. Mind you, I didn’t shop more than usual. I made purchases I would have done anyway – birthday present for mom, a few books for myself and some household goods from Well.ca. Yesterday, I got my first cashback through Paypal – $14.70! Not a lot, but hey, I have no problem getting free money!

If you’re curious, you can always start an account using my referral link.

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Thank You Cards

I don’t often write thank you cards, but I tried to make a better effort to show gratitude in small ways. I wrote a few cards, but actually forgot to finish them before I leave (doh). The guidance counsellor did get hers, so she wrote me this email today:

Thanks for the card and it is nice to know when one is appreciated for their contribution in the success of our students.  I really appreciated your contribution to the success of our students.  I wish more teachers would be as caring as you are.  It helps our students when they know that their teachers care and I know that you really cared about the students.  I heard that you went to a family wedding, I hope you have a blast and enjoy your time with your family members.  I wish all your family members well. … I will keep you posted when we get more exam results. We should receive [them] by July 6th. … All for now, enjoy your summer!

Glad to see someone appreciated their card!

Taking It To The Next Level

I’ve learned a lot since August. I’ve learned a lot about my own body, about strategies and techniques for different poses and can now count to 20 in Sanskrit. I’ve read up on the history of yoga, as well as the physiology around yoga, separating the myths (i.e. yogic breathing does not increase your oxygen intake) and the claims that are scientifically backed up. I’ve gotten tons of tips from watching YouTube and following classes on CodyApp, as well as support from discussion forums, Instagram users and yoga teachers.

All in all, I’ve climbed a big learning curve in six months.

The fact that I am living in a isolated community 1300 km away from Toronto actually forced me into regular home practice. It’s funny; I was never one to do any home practice. This would have never happened if I was in Toronto. I thought that going to the yoga class was practice. How wrong was I. Now think of it this way: I’ve spent a lot of time – about 10 years to be exact – playing sonatas and arpeggios at my parents’ house. When I went to piano class, that was not practice. That was a chance to get a second opinion and to have your skills refined and your mistakes corrected.

So while the last 6 months have been an amazing change for me, it still feels as if I am at the beginning of a long journey.

There is so much more to learn, but I am hitting walls here and there.

With the love handles and my pudgy midsection, I am reminded that I don’t do enough cardio to raise my heart rate for extended periods of time. With my side planks and fallen angel pose, I know that I need to work my core consistently, including my obliques. With my pull through practice, I am just scratching the surface, since I still can’t hold boat pose, or navasana, very well. With my handstand practice, I wish I had a spotter to check my hips or help hold me up as I practice realigning my back.

But one of the biggest walls I feel I am hitting is strength. While bodyweight exercises at home are great and all, I need to go to the gym and start lifting. I watched Krissy Cagney’s free “Beginner Strength” video on CodyApp and took lots of notes (i.e. where to grip the bar, how to squat, etc), but I am afraid of hurting myself on the squat rack. I don’t dare deadlift by myself!

So I could see that things were going to change when I found someone today who said he’d help me learn to lift! This means I need to be going out. I need to be going to the gym regularly. This means I need to change my habits, which is on topic, having just mentioned how to hack your habits earlier this afternoon.

I am taking it to the next level.

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Keeping Straight

Third night at a hotel in Val D’Or. My 1-hour presentation on BYOD was well-received and I was pretty lax about it, because I knew all the teachers except one. We had some good laughs and the feedback I got back was that teachers really like Kahoot. However, I would definitely like to do this presentation again and it would be good to clean it up for when I have a new audience (with higher expectations to be professional and well-paced).

Now I can relax! But I’ve been sleeping late every night because I’m up doing yoga and so I keep waking up more and more exhausted. Part of me feels guilty for pushing my body this way, but I also know I don’t often have time to myself. What I should have done was gone to bed early and do my yoga practice in the morning.

Anyway, as I’ve become more comfortable with my body, I’ve started playing around with my legs while in headstand. I threw up a few good shots on Instagram – I was impressed when I saw them! – so I won’t repost here.

The main issue is that I still struggle to straighten my legs fully. I’m realizing that there are three root causes at play, one is a weak core, the second is that I’m not engaging my legs fully and that three, my base was not as strong as I believed it to be. The latter merely emphasizes the fact that a solid foundation is critical if I am to start practicing away from any support (i.e. walls).

Tonight, I took this video and it’s possibly the straightest I’ve ever been able to align myself! I dropped myself just to get a feel of how it could flow to chaturanga, without placing my palms and wrists into the position yet. It’s definitely something I would like to work on!

Sirsasana #8 from Min Min T on Vimeo.