Day 6: Equity in the Waiting Room

Today I spent my Friday night sitting in the emergency room with my wife and 17 month old…everyone is OK! My child has had a fever and it spiked to a number that we thought should be seen by the professionals. I have nothing but great things to say about Orangeville Hospital, but that is for another blog post.

Tonight was unique in the sense that there was a lot of rushing, then waiting…waiting…waiting. I normally am equipped with a phone or iPad to avoid having to interact with humans in situations such as these…but in the rush I left it in the car with a useless 5% battery charged. It turns out I was able to reconnect when I was disconnected.

One of the few places where all members of society are treated equitably, the waiting room. Assessed and evaluated based on current needs and prioritized accordingly, the waiting room doesn’t discriminate against age, sex, gender, culture, economic backgrounds. If you are really sick, you get to go first.

Abigail was kinda-sort-of-really sick, which translated into an hour and a half of waiting. During this time I people watched and dropped an ear in on complaints and critiques of this waiting room heirarchy. The one boy by the door kept looking to see who was coming and going, he was keeping score. He realized that his leg injury was of little currency compared to that of the man with chest pains. I started to make connections to the and the waiting room and the classroom.

I know both systems are not perfect, but they are systems that function to serve the needs of a large diverse group. As a primary teacher I feel that we are the first ones to “triage” and assess the needs of our students. We accommodate and modify was we strive to ensure equitable access to quality education. This continues as students progress through the grades, building data and sharing the history with incoming teachers.

Both systems are designed in a way that will work towards but never achieve perfection. We will never have enough resources, manpower, or capacity to meet all the needs at the specific time with the exact requirements.  This is where customer service really plays a part on the true value of the systems. Let’s call this a cliffhanger. More on this (customer service) tomorrow, besides today is almost finished!



Day 5: Open Your Door

Today I was able to do something I love, visit other classrooms. I am a health and safety rep for my school and that basically means people think I am accusing them up for horrible infractions once every two months…really I walk around the school and contribute to keeping a safe workplace for all.

In a span of 60 minutes I saw a retelling of a story using physical theatre, robots being programmed to calculate angles and directions, and a very busy kindergarten room about to dive into a subitizing activity. I am fortunate to work in a building full of exciting and engaging activities.

Sometimes I catch myself watching the learning in action instead of inspecting the classroom, but I can’t help it. It can be easy to keep the door closed, focused on your room, and forget about your neighbours. Somedays I wonder if I saw my teaching neighbours! It’s important to step out and see what is happening because chances are it is different from your own environment.

I can’t begin to count the number of times I have said “that’s cool, I need to try that.” Inspiration can be in the form of a bulletin board, lesson topic, hands on manipulative, student discussion, or my favourite: programmable robot!

Today I watched, listened, and may have found a few minor health and safety violations along the way. Did I mention robots???

Day 4: Creativity Thrives on Overcoming Obstacles.

My after school role is simple. I collaboratively teach elementary and junior musical theatre classes on Wednesday nights at Centre Stage Theatre School in Burlington. This year we are working on the productions of Aladdin Peter Pan. I also lead the March break and 6 week summer programming. The rush from Bolton to Burlington is epic, and may involve a quick stop for coffee if I don’t hit too much traffic (thank you highway407).

Each week I am privileged to work with the most creative, innovative, free-spirited types of human beings around…children. Each time I find that moment that acknowledges why I do what I do. Tonight that moment occurred during the part in Aladdin where the parade is about to occur in Prince Ali…we (myself and 5 awesome actors) were organizing specific talents to showcase for this parade within the play.

One actor was changing his trick, experimenting back and forth. He realized in his mind that he was making a mistake and called himself out on it. Without hesitation the child beside him said “There are no mistakes in art!”, and we all agreed this was wonderful and moved on.

Driving home tonight I thought about how this applied to the classroom. In the process of rehearsal we allow ourselves to make mistakes, and mistakes are accepted as part of the process. In the classroom mistakes are seen by children as a set back, a discouraging wall that can stop them in their tracks. Anxiety towards not getting the right answer or not knowing something right away can have a significant impact on the value of the learning process.

I think mistakes are discoveries of our current limitations. Limitations are obstacles that we must challenge ourselves to overcome. Creativity thrives on overcoming obstacles. I believe it is my role as an educator to find that spark to help students challenge themselves.

Tonight’s discovery has motivated me discover more deeply how my students view mistakes. The actor did eventually decided that his trick would be a combination of the worm & newly created breakdancing move. Everybody wins.



Day 3: The Smell of Rain

I am often asked on average 100 questions within the first 30 minutes of my day at school. I can mostly answer them with:

-Double check your backpack.

-Did you ask a friend?

-Double check your backpack.

-Wait until _____ comes back from the washroom.

-Double check your backpack.

Once in a while a question will come my way that makes me stop and think. Today, one of those questions came my way. A student asked me: “Is it weird if I like the smell of rain?”

I found it interesting that this came up spontaneously (well it had just rained in the morning). I acknowledged that the smell of rain is a wonderful smell, and that candle makers have been trying to capture it for a long time (with no success in my opinion). We both agreed it was not weird and moved on with our day.

I later thought about why that question would be asked. The word weird can imply a variety of meanings. Different, strange, abnormal…did this student feel any of these, was I able to normalize that idea by agreeing to it?

Ideas and thoughts of an individual can be censored by a number of factors including peers and social norms. The smell of rain question is innocent and came at a time when the class was not focused on a particular discussion. It made me wonder how quickly can creativity, ideas, and thoughts be censored based on what is right, wrong, normal, or weird?

How many times have we stopped ourselves in a meeting or discussion because of what we wanted to contribute could come across as being weird? Today I am left with more questions, which is OK. So here are some questions for you:

When did you start to acknowledge that an idea was weird? Did it stop you from pursuing it? What influenced that next step? Good questions to ponder during a rainy day.

The laptop needs to be charged and I can’t find that charger, better double check my backpack.





Day 2: Started From the Bottom.


As I recover from the 24 hour flu (hopefully 24 hours), I thought I would give myself a pass on posting today. I wasn’t in the classroom, so therefore finding the creative moment of the day probably wouldn’t occur as naturally as I imagined. Fortunately I have a 17 month old.

Abigail had found some measuring cups from the kitchen and took the liberty of combining them with her stacking ups. My first thought was to remove the measuring cups as they do not fit int with her regular cups, and we are constantly missing kitchen utensils (if you see a yellow spatula please let me know). What I will call extremely foreword thinking parenting (…or exhaustion, it’s hard to tell at this point), I opted to let her play with the measuring cups.

I watched as she began to transform these empty cups into glasses full of imaginary liquid, musical instruments, and a makeshift Jenga tower that for some reason couldn’t get past 3 cups high. I was eventually invited to play and attend an impromptu tea party (a first of what will be many in my future).

I reflected briefly during my second cup of what I think was green tea (I had the green cup) on how simple decisions can impact the creative process. Today it was the measuring cups…tomorrow it will be something else. As an educator I find myself increasingly aware of how important the process of exploration and discovery is to promote creativity and innovation. How many times have I denied students the ability to create/discover because something didn’t fit in the plans, or I didn’t see the potential value?

My takeaway from today is to acknowledge the spark, that initial interest when a student finds something they find important in that moment. I will not say “tell me later when we have more time” or “that’s great, thanks for sharing”…I want to provide an opportunity to fuel that spark. Say “yes and” to that idea that promotes the student to move into the next step of discovery.

Today it was the measuring cups…tomorrow it will be something else.



Yes, And…

My #100dayproject is to write a brief blog post about what inspires me and sparks my creativity for the day. Inspiration is all around us, we make the choice to listen to it. So here it goes, 100 days of blogging. It is something that I have wanted to start for a while but I found myself saying…

Yes, but I just started my first full year LTO…

Yes, but I just had my first child…

Yes, but I have to run to Burlington to teach theatre classes tonight…

Yes, but what if no one is interested in reading this…

Yes, but what if I can’t make it for 100 days…

Yes, but…

Time to start saying

Yes, and.

Yes, and I will set aside 15-30 minutes each night to jot down my spark or inspiration…

Yes, and I will post it to twitter so I feel like I have a public obligation…

Yes, and I will actively listen to my surroundings and capture that spark, that inspiration of the day.

Yes, and this was day one. 30 minutes went by too fast. I feel like I barely got anything typed. But at least I have something. I look forward to this new journey. I hope you will find something from this along the way that will connect with you in your personal or professional world.