Taking Time to Say Thanks

This week held some really important events for me, and I need to thank a few people for their part in it.  You see, I was pushed.  I was pushed in my thinking, pushed in my self-confidence and pushed to share something I am very passionate about that until now I couldn’t share.

Last Saturday, I attended #edcamp35 and hoped to connect with many educators, parents and students who would challenge my thinking.  I wanted to sit back and listen, but Chris Wejr pushed me to facilitate two sessions.  I had opportunity to lead a break-out group from Chris’s session on “Starting with Student Strengths” and also lead a session with Tracy Cramer about student e-portfolios and our experience with using FreshGrade.  The discussions were rich, challenging and thoughtful.  Thanks, Chris, for pushing me to take the lead instead of sit back and be a spectator. I am always grateful for your encouragement and friendship, gently pushing me to share my strengths.

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending Surrey School District’s Digital Dinner at the invitation of Elisa Carlson.  I appreciated the opportunity to connect with teachers from Surrey, hear some great Ignite presentations and hear George Couros and Superintendent Jordan Tinney present.  As a district, Surrey has inspired me.  I see them taking risks in their learning.  I see them wanting to be better educators and do what is best for students.  I have learned much from them, and I am pleased that they have “adopted” me as a co-learner.  Thank you Elisa for inviting me to be a part of the evening.

Hearing George Couros speak, I found myself nodding.  A lot.  Every time I read George’s blog I am challenged.  I don’t necessarily agree with everything he writes, but he makes me think and rethink about what I do and how I do it.  Thank you, George, for being that conscience I need to question everything I do.  I appreciate that you are willing to dialogue with me when I have questions and I need to figure things out.

Thursday was a big day for our school.  Our superintendent, Kevin Godden, came to visit.  Rightly or wrongly, there is always a tension when “district admin” come to call.  There is the stress of “will he think I’m doing a good job?” and “what if he doesn’t like me or what I am doing with my students?”  Kevin came into my room and stayed for close to half an hour.  He was interested in what I was doing with FreshGrade and communicating student learning with their parents.  He was excited when my students wanted to show them the things they were building and he was encouraging and receptive to the things I had to say.  Thank you, Kevin, for taking the time to visit.  I know your job does not allow a great deal of time in the classroom, but I was happy to share with you a project that I feel passionately about.  Through the use of FreshGrade, I have been able to make connections with my students’ parents that previously weren’t possible.  I look forward to seeing how our district embraces the concept of the e-portfolio and goes forward, helping our students graduate with a representation of what they have learned and what they are proud of.

Kevin was so excited about what he saw in my class, that he asked Gino Bondi, an assistant superintendent in our school district, to come and visit me the very next day.  Ok, no pressure!

Gino came to Abbotsford via the Vancouver School District and he brings a fresh perspective.  It was a privilege to spend an hour with Gino, taking him around our school, sharing some district and school history with him and sharing the vision we have for the transformation of our Library into a Learning Commons.  I got to show him how I use FreshGrade with my students and how exciting it is to send snapshots of learning home to parents even in the middle of the day, as students are working. Gino was able to share with me the district e-portfolio project that he has been working on with the secondary schools, and we talked about the possibility of someday having a K-12 portfolio for each student.  Thank you, Gino, for spending time talking with me.  It’s not often that teachers and admin just have time to talk and share.  I think that’s an important piece that is missing when we have “formal” meetings.  I felt our time chatting was very inspiring and I felt that you valued what I had to say.

And thank you to my principal, Cameron Friesen, who allowed me to take the time to share my work with both Kevin and Gino.  Your support of my use of FreshGrade and your excitement about this new way of sharing student learning has been what has kept me going when it has been hard to be “the one” to try FreshGrade in our district. Thanks also to Julie Rousseau (Director of Instruction) and Cindy Romanowski (District Principal for Early Learning) for being the first to give me the “Yes!  Try it out!” message.  I appreciate your trust in me to really give this pilot my all and show the possibilities an e-portfolio can present for teachers, parents and students.

Today, Dean Shareski tweeted the following:

Absolutely, a RT can be seen as that admin valuing the work or opinion of a teacher.  The same can be said for a teacher RTing an admin’s work, too.  We all need to value each other and push each other to be better.

And yes, Gino, the visits from you and Kevin this week did give me a “charge”.  Those visits validated the hard work I have been putting into making FreshGrade the type of e-portfolio I am proud to share with parents, students, and educators.

Isn’t the education system so much stronger if we can all encourage each other?  We are better together.  Thank you to all those people who made this week so positive for me.  I hope I can return the encouragement to you, challenging you to be your best selves every day.