Making And Keeping Friends — Not Just A Lesson For Kids!

I’d like to think of myself as a fairly loyal friend. Growing up with a non-verbal learning disability, meant that making friends has not always been easy for me, which is maybe why I work hard to maintain these relationships as I develop them.

The Power Of Friends

Recently, I’ve experienced the end of a friendship. If I’m honest with myself, this was probably more of an acquaintanceship. This relationship — whatever it was — ended via text message. I was not expecting this person’s response to one of my texts about when she might like to reschedule a recent dinner plan. One message became many more, and when it became clear that maybe emotions were getting misconstrued through these texts, I wondered if talking in-person would help. No such luck. I will say that this individual never actually said that our friendship is over, but her responses and then lack of responses, made things done for me.

I was surprised by some of the things that she said, noting times that she told me about others who did similar things, but never making any parallels to my choices. Maybe though I should not be surprised. If she was talking about others to me, would it not seem likely that she was talking about me to others? Is this really a friend that I want? It’s this final question that makes me think a lot about school. Learning to make friends is hard at all grade levels, and learning to keep them, might be even harder. Sometimes learning when to step away is an even bigger challenge. I feel as though it was recently that I learned this final lesson.

During this upcoming school year, as we navigate friendships with our students, maybe this summertime experience will help me empathize more with kids. Do we need to experience some of our own struggles to help understand the struggles that students might also be experiencing? I think my life will better without this friend/acquaintance and the drama that she brought with her, but letting go was not an easy thing to do. Sometimes we need to realize that we deserve better. This was my time to realize that.


Flip Phones, iPhones, And Avoiding Assumptions

One thing that tends to surprise people about me is that I don’t own an iPhone. Or a smart phone of any kind. I am all about the flip phone and the humour that my flip phone stories tend to bring about with them.

My lack of a smart phone is not because I’m afraid of technology or unaware of how to use it. Honestly, I’ve always been reluctant to buy one because I feel as though I will never be disconnected. Setting limits with checking emails or texts (I can text on my iPad) is hard for me, but I know that without a data plan, I can leave the house and leave the internet behind. Yes, there’s wifi, but it’s not everywhere, so meals with friends and time out shopping can be spent without connecting. Many people shake their heads and laugh at this choice, but I’ve stood by it … for many, many years. Until Thursday …

On Thursday morning at 10:00, my home internet went down. As I blogged about last week, I’m currently trying to get things ready for numerous Board camps plus complete a writing team project. I need to be connected. I waited to see if the phone and internet reconnected quickly, but it didn’t, so I took my iPad and laptop and went to a coffee shop. I was able then to reply to emails, put an automatic reply on my Board emails about how to connect with me (with no internet service), download some writing team templates in order to work offline, and check to see when the phone and internet service might be restored. It was supposed to be at 2:15. At 2:30, everything was still out, so I ventured to another coffee shop for more work and more searching for answers. At 3:30, I saw on the provider website that internet and phone service was restored. Yay! I went home eager to be able to connect again, but everything was still out. I used my trusty flip phone to call the company and see if anyone could help. The company tried to reset my modem remotely, but it was still showing offline. Now I needed a service call, and nothing was available until Saturday night.

I ran out to the grocery store to grab a few items for dinner and reply to a couple of emails, and then I got to thinking. Maybe I could manage to go visit various coffee shops or work at the Board Office until my internet was fixed, but what if the technician couldn’t fix everything on Saturday? I’ve made too many commitments to be without wifi for too long. I can’t believe that I was considering this, but I decided that it was time to buy an iPhone. It’s now 5:50 at night, but I remembered that there are a couple of phone stores at the plaza near my house. Will they be open? It’s time to get in the car and see. I lucked out! The Source is open until 8:00, and they had a few different plan options. I’m going to give this store all kind of love right now, as their customer service was incredible and their employees were so patient as they worked through options with me.

I’m sharing this story, for as we discussed phone plan options, I mentioned that this would be my first iPhone. I even showed them my beloved flip phone. It could be really easy to make assumptions about my comfort with technology and my ease with using a smart phone. The key for me was explaining why I haven’t had an iPhone before, and why I needed one now. By hearing more about what I knew and what I didn’t — and what I needed and what I didn’t — they could form a better opinion of me as an iPhone user. This helped the employees determine what might work best for me. It was all about personalized instruction/service here.

This made me think a lot about the classroom.

  • What assumptions do we make about students?
  • How do we form these opinions?
  • How can we find out more about kids and families to have a better understanding of them and what they need?

We’re nowhere close to going back to school yet, but I’m going to let these ideas simmer this summer and see about what thoughts might form come September. Maybe conversations with my teaching partner, Paula, will also help. I might have just bought my first iPhone, but with an added dollop of some good food for thought.


Saying “Yes”: A Summer Of Different

While I probably should have said, “No,” when opportunity two came along, I’m glad that I didn’t. Let me explain. This summer, I’m taking on a new challenge/responsibility with the HWDSB Summer Learning Program. Instead of being the Curriculum And Site Support Teacher for one camp, I’m now one of two Program Coordinators. This year, we have three different camps running out of five different sites, so this position involves overseeing the registration, ordering, training, and organization for these 15 programs. The last couple of months of school required a bit more balancing with these added responsibilities, but now that the summer is here, it’s nice to take on this new role and explore leadership in a different way.

I share this, for a few days before school ended, I was given another opportunity. I received an email asking if I wanted to be part of the Reimagining Wellness Writing Team. This is a two-week commitment at the beginning of the summer.

Maybe I should have said, “No.” My MS Teams Calendar for online meetings is quickly filling up, coupled with some important in-person responsibilities. Removing these 60 hours of writing and editing from my plate might have reduced some stress and eased a full calendar, but I just couldn’t turn this down.

  • I’ve never been part of a writing team before. I wanted the chance to try something new.
  • I’m passionate about Self-Reg, and Reimagining Wellness aligns so much with Stuart Shanker‘s thinking.
  • This year, the team is creating a kindergarten component to Reimagining Wellness. As a strong advocate for play-based learning, I see an opportunity here to align the Kindergarten Program Document‘s pedagogy with the Board lessons.
  • While there are independent aspects of this writing, there’s also a collaborative component. Being part of this writing team gives me a chance to focus on collaboration with a different team and in a different way than I do all year long.

So I’ve made a promise to myself to protect my weekends. I might answer a couple of emails and do some blogging (something that I don’t consider work), but I’m also going to read, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the beautiful weather. These next few weeks might be especially full, but sometimes, the excitement around trying something new outweighs the balancing act of finding enough hours to make everything work. I’ve still managed to read six books since school ended on the 30th, so I guess that I’m making time somewhere.

Even with my current crazy schedule, I’m happy that I said, “Yes.” What are some of your maybe-I-should-have-said-no-but-I’m-glad-that-I-said-yes moments? No matter what different we each might embrace this summer, I hope that we all get opportunities to try something new: personally, professionally, or somewhere in between.


Watermelon Connections: What Are Your Stories?

Many years ago now, I remember a fellow educator saying this to me: “Go through your list of students. Can you tell me at least three different things about each of them?” She was not talking about academics here. She was talking about the child. What is each child passionate about? When we get to really learn about our students, we also start to form connections with them, which positively impacts on both behaviour and academic success. This video reminds me of this point over and over again.

My amazing teaching partner, Paula, has added to this thinking over the years when she’s taught me that in addition to us learning about our students, it’s important for them to learn about us. Sometimes it’s through the insights that we share, that connections form. I really thought about that this year.

A couple of days ago, I shared this watermelon story on Instagram.

We don’t often hear or speak about the upside of virtual learning, but during a time of numerous restrictions, the opportunities to share a snack together and connect more with students, were definite positives. Yes, watermelon is my favourite food of all time, but it’s the reason why that I’ve never told anyone. When I was growing up, watermelon was my dad’s favourite food. My mom always bought watermelons each summer, and my sister and I would sit and enjoy them with my dad. We would eat watermelons for whole meals. As I’ve blogged about before, I was not really close to my dad growing up, but we developed a relationship again as we both got older and before he unexpectedly passed away. Watermelon might just be a fruit — and a great one at that — but for me it’s about the memories that make this fruit extra special. The gift of the most perfect watermelon spoke to a very special two years and the power of relationships and connections.

I thought about this even more in the final days of school, when every gift, note, and card that we received brought with it a little something special.

  • To the numerous portraits, paintings, and drawings that kids made for us because art was such an important part of both our online and in-person worlds …
These are just a few pieces that we received.
  • To even the gift cards to coffee places, restaurants, and bookstores: knowing the places that we love and the ways that we spend our time.

This post is our heart-felt “thank you” to all of our incredible families, who provided us with so many wonderful memories, happy times, and important connections, even with a few (or many) pivots along the way. What are your watermelon stories? I think that I’ll always remember this year and what happens when we share a bit of ourselves with our students, and vice versa.