The Courage of One

We recently watched 42: a movie about Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in the modern era of Major League Baseball.

The movie portrays his courage and strength in the face of hatred and discrimination: from other teams, from fans, from his own teammates, even. But I was moved to see how one person’s courage led others to stand up, to step up, and display courage as well.

In fact, it was the courage of the Brooklyn Dodger’s club president and general manager Branch Rickey that put Robinson on the roster to begin with: a move many thought was preposterous in 1945.

The courage of one creates a ripple – two or three others join the cause… a dozen more… hundreds… thousands – a tidal wave leading to eventual change.

A recent example immediately comes to mind: Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old Swedish activist. Oh, what a difference a year makes as evident from this tweet.

“Stand up for what is right, even if you’re standing alone.” Perhaps you will create a ripple…

The next time you see me…

The next time you see me, my hair will not be perfect. But, it will be my own.

Over the last few years, I have been dealing with Alopecia Areata. It started with thinning hair, but eventually the hair loss became significant and I couldn’t hide the bald patches any longer.

My hair loss was emotional: much more than I expected it to be. I faced insecurities, a loss of confidence, and shame. One day a few years ago – quite suddenly actually – I decided it was time for a wig. That too, was emotional: also much more so than I expected.

I shared my reality with some, but for the most part, I have tried to hide the truth. In time, I became more accepting. I adjusted. I started to share my story with a few more people. I have also met others with Alopecia: some children. Talking to others dealing with this condition has helped me to feel more normal and accept my reality.

Fortunately, over the last few months, my own hair has been growing back. What’s more, I have had no hair loss since. Now that the length has evened up, I have decided to lose the wig. I have also decided it’s worth sharing the truth and raising awareness.

I know my hair loss could begin again at any time. I know, too, that many others deal with hair loss much more significant than mine.

This blog is usually about education. Today it is about education of a different sort: September is Alopecia Awareness Month. If you want to learn more, please visit The Canadian Alopecia Areata Foundation. Today, I made a donation to this foundation; if you are interested and able, I invite you to donate to a cause close to your heart.

Lasting Habits

Each day, I find myself calling to and talking to our dog. You may think there’s nothing strange in that. After all, many dog owners do the same. Here’s the thing: he doesn’t hear me. He is now completely deaf.

So why do I still talk to him? Quite simply: habit.

A habit is defined as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.”

I am not sure that I’ll be able to break the habit of talking to Jak. It’s just the way I’ve communicated with him for so many years.

But what about habits within our classrooms? If we begin to develop habits now – in September – these behaviours will become routine, something our students know to do.

As teachers, most of us are concerned about time. How do we find the time for all we need to do? How do we make the most of the time we have? For me, the answer lies largely in developing strong routines and efficient habits – especially during transition time.

Consider this: What habits do you want your students to develop? What can you do to support them?

Know Thy Impact

We don’t always know the impact we have on our students.

Today I attended a Celebration of Life for one of my former teachers. The number of people in attendance – family and friends of course, but also former students and colleagues – is testament to the impact she had on so many.

The stories told highlighted her generosity, her eccentricities, her passion, her love of life. What came through most however, her love of books. She was described as “a goddess of literature” and a teacher who inspired a sense of wonder.

In his work with teachers, John Hattie says, “Know thy impact.” And yet today I was reminded that we can’t always know the exact nature of our impact. We can’t necessarily predict the words that may resonate with our students. We might not even realize a moment that may become significant in a student’s life: we may provide inspiration, much needed discipline, or even a sense of fun, at precisely the right time.

When I was a student in her classroom, Lynn Weinlos could not have known that to see her weep as she read aloud King Lear, sitting atop a student desk, would affect me to this day. Her unabashed love of literature, her unique style of teaching, her fundamental belief in the power of words, influenced me as a teacher, as a writer, and as a person to my very core.

We might not know our precise impact, but we should remember that our students listen and observe us each and every day, sometimes in unexpected ways.

“Know thy impact.”

Live Through a Lens of Celebration

Dewitt Jones, former National Geographic photographer, changed my thinking with his 18 minute Ted Talk.

This video has given me a new perspective, a new mantra even: live through a lens of celebration.

Meaning what? Meaning… we can choose the lens through which we view the world. Meaning… we can shift our thinking. Reframe obstacles. Stay engaged. We can stop griping and start celebrating. We can change our lens and change our life. We can discover a world of light and possibility. A world of beauty and compassion. We can celebrate what’s right with the world.

I urge you to take the time today to watch this Ted Talk full of insightful nuggets and stunning photographs. It will be 18 minutes well spent.

As a side note, it was a grade six teacher who shared this Ted Talk with me. This year, she is using the video to spark a unit of discovery with her students. They will be reading books within this theme: exploring how they can find their own voices and celebrate what’s right with the world. I wish I were a student in her class…