Pleasant Surprises

When I was in high school, I was told I should start to think about what I would do as a chosen career. At the time, I had a keen interest in drama. It was my favourite course, by a long shot, and over the five years I spent in those classes, I developed a love of acting, and eventually an idea in my head that one day I’d do it for a living. 

Grade 11 drama class – We have a student teacher and she’s telling us about her experiences in post-secondary. We ask a lot of questions – after all, we are all like-minded kids. Who takes Grade 11 Drama unless they are passionate about it? Something odd happens during this class. Her description of studying theatre in university completely turns me off of doing the same. She turns my plans upside down. Who wants to study theatre history? I just want to act, I don’t want to know who the famous Greek playwrights were. Decision made. Or so I think.

First year of university – I’m an undecided major. I figure I’ll take a bunch of different courses to see if something jumps out at me. Nothing does. Eventually, I realize I know exactly what I want to do, and I apply to a few theatre programs. My parents are not exactly impressed but luckily, they are supportive. The next year I am doing the first of two things I never thought I’d do: I’m studying theatre.

Third year – I come to the conclusion that theatre life is not for me. I do not think acting is a viable career for me and I know I don’t want to be working part-time to support myself while I struggle through audition after audition. I decide to try something out – I considered being a teacher once, why not give it a shot? I enroll in the appropriate courses for my fourth year, apply to teacher’s college, and am pleasantly surprised when I get in. Cool.

Teacher’s college – Hey, this is pretty great. I could do this. I’ll use my theatre experience and be a great drama teacher. English is my second teachable subject; it’s more of a challenge. In my practice teaching placements, I struggle and secretly hope I’ll never have to teach it.

Supply teaching: years 1-5 – It’s a tough market for teachers; too many of us, and not nearly enough jobs. I’m a supply teacher, working very consistently, thrown into a number of different classrooms. You name it, I’ve ‘taught’ it at this point. The funny thing is, there are far more English jobs than Drama. The funnier thing? I’m starting to like it.

16 October 2016 – I’m currently sitting at the computer in my English classroom. My students sit in front of me, Chromebooks in front of them, writing their own blog posts. This post is projected on the screen – the hope that they can see that the writing process isn’t always smooth (a great idea ‘borrowed’ from a respected colleague). I, the theatre major, am in my eighth year of teaching, predominantly English (and loving it) with a dash of Visual and Dramatic Arts.


For some people, a chosen career path is clear from a young age. I often envied those people. For others, like myself, it’s a constantly shifting role. What I’ve come to realize over the years is that the path you choose isn’t always the one you anticipate; in fact, it can downright surprise you.

 

8 August 2011 – Alberta, Canada

July 2016 note: Back in 2011 a friend and I decided to do a tour of some of Western Canada before going to a friend’s wedding in Alberta. We started in BC and made our way through it and Alberta. This is one entry part-way through that trip. Happy Canada Day ūüôā


 

This morning we got picked up by our new tour guide. She took us to our first stop, Lake Minnewanka followed soon after by Two Jack Lake – both beautiful (much like everything out here). Jen and I took a couple of fun jumping pics and then we headed to one of my favourites: Lake Louise. Absolutely stunning; the water an awesome shade of turquoise. We headed up the mountain for a two-hour hike to see Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes where we stopped to eat lunch. After our hike back down we checked out the Fairmont Hotel and I took some pictures of the beautiful poppies for mom (her favourite flower).

Next was Crowfoot Glacier, then Bow Lake (which is fed by Bow Glacier) – both very impressive. After that we stopped at Mistaya Canon which was magnificent (I’m running out of adjectives for these gorgeous places). Mistaya Canon is a spot where the constant flow of water has eroded the rock which flowed over, creating a canyon. Words can’t really do these places justice so I’m taking lots of pictures.

We eventually arrived at our hostel for the night – HI-Rampart Creek. It’s a rustic wilderness hostel which I was a bit concerned about (seriously, no hot water?), but it turns out it’s pretty great. We made a coconut curry chicken for dinner and then sat around the campfire where Jen and I taught the others some old Canadian camp songs. They seemed to enjoy “Great Big Moose”.

I’m having such a fantastic time. I love meeting new people – the majority of the people on this trip are not Canadian. Everyone’s so nice and friendly and they keep asking Jen and I questions about Canada or telling us how beautiful it is here (which I’ve only recently realized myself seeing it firsthand). It’s such a cool feeling being a tourist in my own country. I can’t wait to see the rest of it.

30 July 2012 – London, England

June¬†2016 note: I’ve always written journals and especially detailed ones while travelling. I’m currently debating whether or not to publish my travel journals on my upcoming trip to South-East Asia but figured I’d test the waters first with some past journals. I figure it’s a fun way to share my journey while keeping my own notes like I usually do. Let’s see how this goes!


Hello London! My new travel buddy¬†Steph and I flew here last night and arrived in London at 7:30am UK time. We only slept about an hour on the plane and had an hour-long nap early so we’re pretty beat. Here’s a quick recap of our day:

We met the Aubry family at 10:30am in Trafalgar Square. We enjoyed¬†a coffee while they went on a walking tour and told us we should go to somewhere called Canada House when it opened at 11am. We quickly learned that Canada House is the Canadian Embassy which has been converted into a place where family and friends of Canadian Olympic athletes can hang out. It is¬†also incredible.¬†FREE EVERYTHING:¬†drinks, snacks and hot meals twice a day (we went at noon for lunch). They stored our luggage and we were excited to see they had laptops set up for free Internet use. They offer hair stylists and makeup application for anyone who wants it (!) and gave us¬†goody bags. It’s absolutely amazing and totally unexpected. The coolest part is that everyone is decked out in Canada gear and is watching live events on a bunch of big screens. Our dear Olympian friend pulled through big time. Thanks¬†Chels!

So after lunch we did a hop on/hop off tour with the family which was really nice. We saw a lot of major sights from the comfort of the bus¬†(because of our exhaustion). The plan is to see everything ‘up close’¬†over the coming days. After a short nap, Steph and I headed to Canada House to watch the game and had a couple of beers to celebrate as Team Canada won! We then decided to go to a Canadian pub called Maple Leaf Pub (fitting) where expats and other Canadian visitors hang out. We met some like-minded people, had a pint and came back to our perfect little apartment.

It’s been an incredible and surreal journey so far and this is only the beginning. I’m so excited about this trip. Grateful for Chelsea, the Aubry family and their generosity.

GO TEAM CANADA!

Quick Reminder: It’s Okay to Fail

I do my my best thinking while lying in bed. And by thinking I mean stressing. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking about all of the things that are currently giving me stress. One of those was the fact that I had failed. One of my new years vows was “to do at least one really creative project”. On January 1st I started another 365 photo project and I anticipated that being the aforementioned creative project. Well, not even halfway through, I let it slide. It was something that was becoming a chore and it just wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it’d be. I failed. Of course that one thing snowballed into a reminder of the¬†multitude of unfinished things in my life (I’m a master at starting things but not seeing them through) and I almost reached¬†“cold-sweat” territory. Ugh.

The nice¬†thing is that when I woke up I had completely forgotten¬†about all that¬†late-night anxiety¬†and realized I had a few other items¬†on that new years list. Looking at the list now, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of sticking to most items. And here’s the thing: even though that one creative project failed, I realized that I have another on the horizon that I’m really excited about. So if anything, this is a simple reminder to myself that it’s okay to fail. Not only is it okay, but it’s important to reflect on how that failure can be turned into something positive. Now if only my late-night self could remember that…

To Another Year

I’m not a fan of New Years Resolutions. I’m not sure why, really. Maybe it’s because of the connotation that they so often fail. I like taking the time to reflect on the past year and ask myself what I hope for in the coming months. In the past I’ve created themes or used a word to define my hopes, like the year I focused on¬†change. This year, I feel like I need to make a few vows to myself because in a lot of ways, I’ve lost many¬†of these things. Life does that I guess. Things happen that change us and I think it’s up to us to take control and make the positive changes we need to ensure we are the best versions of ourselves.

This year I’ve decided to start 2015 with some personal commitments. In no particular order, I vow:

1. To work on my optimism and positivity

2. To truly be grateful for what I have

3. To travel alone at some point

4. To do at least one really creative project

5. To always be there for my family

6. To give back

7. To maintain my amazing friendships

8. To love and be loved

Happy New Year

The Point, for Me, Is Simply to Write

It’s been a while since I posted anything. Not wrote, posted. I sat at my computer and wrote a few times over the past few months but nothing seemed to be worth sharing. Why would anybody care about what I write? Who’s reading this? What’s the point? These are thoughts that plagued me before I even wrote my first blog post. Well I’ve finally come to an important conclusion. It doesn’t really matter who is reading this – the point, for me, is simply to write.

I love to write. I don’t think I’ve ever been particularly brilliant in any of it but I get a lot out of putting my words down. I ordered my first diary from the “book order” at school. How do I know this? Because I wrote about it in my first entry, on February 5th, 1992.¬†Most kids get a diary or a journal, use it for a while and then lose interest. I’ve been writing in journals for 22 years.

I’ve joked before that my writing in journals is necessary because of my terrible memory but there’s truth to it. I love being able to go back in time and get a glimpse of what my life was like at any given moment. It’s also very therapeutic. A bad day feels slightly more bearable after I get it all down on paper. It’s also a great way to see the big picture. Something that made me really angry at one time in my life will likely seem a lot more trivial now.

The most interesting part is to see how my writing has evolved. The first couple of years consisted of one or two sentences very literally describing my day. On my eighth birthday, I simply listed all the gifts I received: Two trolls, Game Boy, 90210 shirt, colouring kit, 40 dollars, a sticker book and 2 packs of stickers, clothes. Fast forward 22 years and I’m reflecting on the state of my life. I went back and read the entries from almost a year ago when my dad got sick. As painful as they are to read, I appreciate my commitment to writing those feelings down at the most difficult time in my life, even though I’m not sure why.

So I guess there is a point to this, even though when I started writing today I thought it would just be a self-reflection. I’m reaching out to those who have a fear of writing or sharing their thoughts, especially in blog-form. Write on, friends! If you love to write, then do it. If you want to write only for yourself, then do it. If you want to share your feelings with those in Internet-land, feel free. No judgement here.

Public and Professional – The Social Media Diaries

Here’s a quick timeline: I joined Facebook in 2005. 2005! What does that mean? I think it means there’s a lot of 20-year-old me posts out there somewhere in Internet Land. The good news is that a few years after joining, I came to the realization that future me may not be as excited about those Halloween ’06 photos I posted and I did some weeding. I should say there was some outside pressure to start deleting content as well.

In 2008, I enrolled at Queen’s to begin my¬†Bachelor of Education. While learning about lesson planning, classroom management and assessment strategies, my peers and I were also being warned. “You should probably delete your Facebook account” is a phrase I didn’t hear just once. That’s when the real purge began. Even though I had a “private” profile (I had locked it down to the point that all information was hidden unless we were “friends”), I still deleted anything I feared¬†might¬†be considered inappropriate.

I joined the world of Twitter in 2011 with a “protected” account – meaning my tweets were private unless I approved of followers who added me. I even created a different account to use with my students, because, why would I want them following the “real” me on Twitter?

First Tweet
My first tweet

For a while, I thought I was really doing this Social Media thing well. I shared what I wanted, with whoever I wanted. I felt like I had control over my content and that I was being safe. But then I started to do some reading, and some thinking, and some more reading. I realized that maybe I was going about this all wrong. Rather than trying to keep everything hidden and private (which is getting harder and harder), why wouldn’t I just put my best foot forward from now on? Why not be mindful of what I post and tweet?

In Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private, George Couros states, “It is not that we can‚Äôt be ourselves online, but we should just be more cognizant¬†of what we do there.” That statement really resonated with me. I felt that I was trying on a new identity with my teacher account while keeping the real me locked behind my protected account. So, I made the decision, “unlocked” my Twitter account and began to truly think about everything I wanted to share.

This shift in my Social Media presence has been a positive one so far. I feel like I’m able to use Twitter to it’s full potential through sharing, retweeting content and chatting with people who don’t follow me. And even though I still keep my Facebook account private, I feel that by carefully considering everything I post and share, I am putting out the image of myself that I feel most comfortable with, and therefore am projecting a positive persona to my ever-expanding audience.

Finally, I feel like I’m really able to stress the importance of Digital Citizenship and the power of putting out positive content to my students. In the past, I’ve warned them about the dangers of posting without thinking on Social Media, but now, I’m having a different conversation with them. Rather than scare them into protecting their accounts, I want them to start being more Social Media saavy – I’m now stressing the importance of creating a positive profile, thinking before posting and attaching something good to their name.¬†I’m sure some young people are going to find the need to purge their profiles in a few years, but my hope is that they don’t have to weed through too much questionable content along the way.

 

Confessions of a Twitter Lurker

I signed up for Twitter back in 2010. I posted a handful of times and then promptly deleted my account. I asked myself, “Why would anyone care about what I have to say?” Honestly, I just didn’t see its purpose and figured I wouldn’t get much use out of it.

Fast forward about a year later and I found myself getting talked into rejoining. I created a new account, added a photo, posted a couple of times and lurked…a lot. I followed some people who interested me, clicked on their names and scrolled through their timelines. I read conversations between educators, too scared to jump in with my own thoughts on the subject (I felt like I would be intruding on a private conversation), watched as people tweeted and retweeted content that I found interesting and helpful. Slowly, I came to the realization that it wasn’t so much about me putting something unique and brilliant out there, it was about reading and learning from others, and posting when I found something that was helpful to¬†me. It wasn’t until I had lurked for a while that I felt comfortable enough to start tweeting more and I think it helped me really understand the usefulness of Twitter.

So what’s so good about it? I think the beauty of Twitter is that you get exactly what¬†you¬†want from it. You tailor your account to your preferences. Like sports? Follow athletes, sports blogs and media personalities. Photography? Follow professionals, amateurs, and more blogs! The best part? You can unfollow with ease and without feeling too badly about it.

One of my favourite functions of Twitter is the organized chat. In my profession, there are countless weekly chats in a variety of subject areas and interests that are open to anyone. All you have to do is find the chat, follow the hashtag and join in the discussion. This is where lurking comes in handy again. The first few times I “participated” in edchats, I didn’t tweet, I only observed. Again, there was that fear of not having anything particularly important or useful to add to the conversation. Slowly though, my lurking gave me more confidence to really join in the conversation and tweet right along with the others.

I admit I still do a lot of lurking, and I don’t see any harm in it, as long as I do join in the conversation from time to time. So for those of you that are nervous about Tweeting, my advice to you is this: lurk away. Find some people whose Tweets you enjoy reading and scroll through their timelines. Observe. Join a chat on a subject that interests you and watch and read to see how people interact. Finally, don’t be afraid to join in. Start with some retweets then add your own perspective and slowly, you will build the confidence to use Twitter in a whole new, hopefully more meaningful way.

I Don’t Have the Job I Expected (And It’s Okay)

I’m sitting at someone else’s desk, using her resources and marking her students’ essays. I check her mailbox, use her copy code and check her voicemail. I am an LTO.

LTO stands¬†for Long Term Occasional teacher. This is a fancy way of saying I’m filling in for someone. Disclaimer: I am one of many teachers in this board (and province) who are in a similar position; however, my experience could be (and likely is) different than many others out there like me.

When I was in teacher’s college, we were told the job prospects after graduation would be slim. It was a well-known fact in 2009 that there were simply too many teachers and not enough jobs for them all. Upon hearing this, I decided to make a plan. I decided that I’d stick it out for five years and then re-evaluate the situation. So here I am. Re-evaluating.

There was a point in my career, not long ago, when I had almost given up. In between jobs supply teaching, I would search the internet for other jobs inside and outside the world of education. But, I decided to stick it out a bit longer (I had to get through those five years first!) and continued on this path. Reflecting on this, I’m glad I decided to stay in this profession.

I love my ¬†job. I get to be social, I get to meet interesting people and I get to challenge young minds. I often complain about my current situation and I realize I have to stop. I commented to a colleague last week that I was tired of interviewing every few months for a new job and then realized I’m fortunate to even have interviews considering many of my friends and colleagues are still waiting on the sidelines trying to get their foot in the door.

No, I don’t have my own desk and no I don’t have my own mailbox (well, sometimes I do), but for a brief time, I can call them “my students” and that’s the most important part, isn’t it? I am thankful to continue to get jobs and hope that one day I’ll become a permanent teacher. Until then, I’ll be the “new guy” every few months and I’ll be okay with it too.

Works in Progress

It seems we’re often in search of that one thing we’re really, really good at. We compare ourselves to our colleagues, classmates, family members, and friends often searching for that one quality, characteristic, hobby or “thing” that will set us apart. I’ve spent a lot of time searching for that “thing” in myself, and last night, a friend helped me realize that I had found it.

I am a master of starting new things and rarely following them through to an end point. I bring to you, an incomplete list of my current works in progress:

1. The T-Shirt Quilt

As an avid concert-goer in my early 20s, I managed to amass a large quantity of concert t-shirts. I didn’t plan to start a collection, it just happened naturally as I always wanted some kind of memento from a great (okay, not always) show. I wore a lot of them but they slowly stopped coming out of their drawers. During one of the few projects I started and followed through with (my 365 photo project), I took a picture of my t-shirt collection and wondered what I should do with them. A friend made a brilliant suggestion: turn them into a quilt! How crafty! So, I started watching YouTube videos, reading blogs and gathering knowledge to start my quilt. I bought some good quality scissors, measured and cut.

Current status: 12″ x 12″ squares of my t-shirts sitting in a bag in my closet

2. My Photobooks

I have a mild obsession with chronicling the events in my life. I’ve kept a journal since I was seven and I have thousands of photos and videos showcasing the most mundane to most exciting moments of my life. ¬†Before I got a digital camera, I was pretty good at keeping those photos in some kind of order. I would develop my memories (often making doubles to trade with friends) and store them in photo albums that I’ve since looked at hundreds of times. Digital photography made things a little more tricky. I now had thousands more photos and less motivation to print and store them. Then came the photobooks. I was a pro. From vacation albums to yearbook style, I’ve made countless photobooks. The thing is, they’re really time-consuming. And now, there’s a backlog.

Current status: Partway through my 2011 yearbook

3. This Blog

I started this blog over a year ago when I joined a MOOC. I had developed an interest in blogging and figured I should give it a shot. Well, I did. I wrote two posts and called it quits. I was talking to the aforementioned friend yesterday who told me he started a blog and it got me thinking about this one. He encouraged me to get back into it, so here I am. I’m not sure which direction this will go in, or if I will continue writing and sharing on this platform, but I’d like to give it another shot. And who knows, maybe this self-reflection will help me get back to the works in progress I’ve put on the backburner for all this time.

Current status: Unknown