• Creative Writing,  Creativity,  School Leadership

    Open the Jar: When Creativity Takes You Somewhere Unexpected

    There is freedom in a metaphor. I love its openness to possibility.

    When creativity flows well writing is as easy as taking the lid off the jar, grasping streams of inspiration as they swirl above, and then sprinkling words onto the page. Sometimes it can feel like confidently singing a song you’ve known for a long time. Often when I write poetry the story appears all at once and catches me by surprise.

    Over the years I’ve noticed that I like to write about what I’ve learned. Through the act of writing my learning deepens, my understanding shifts, and my wishes clarify. We can learn from every experience. When we look at things in different ways, we can see differently. When we allow our intuition to guide us and we give permission for the voice deep inside to rise and fill the page, we find our story. We find ourselves. As much as creative expression can offer us soaring freedom it can also offer us deep-rooted connection to our values.

    Writing the poem “Open the Jar” transformed my understanding of sunshine in a jar to include gratitude and generosity. I learned that this light isn’t a beacon of happiness but a symbol of hope.

     

    I remember the day I wrote this poem.

    When the idea to write the poem appeared I leapt out of my chair, wanting to avoid it. But the idea followed me down the hall. I took a deep breath, returned to the chair, picked up my pen, and wrote a poem about some of my most difficult moments as a young teacher.

    There is so much we are not prepared for when we begin our teaching careers. Sometimes we are growing up alongside the students we are teaching. I was in my mid-twenties. My students faced challenges I couldn’t imagine. The students taught me about resiliency, grit, and perseverance through challenge.

    I learned the importance of community and building a school culture where all students feel safe.

    I learned about the strength of my colleagues and the value of having a mentor.

    I learned that by listening to the students we could better identify the issues and work toward change.

    I learned how even in the face of challenge and tragedy schools can be models of courage, truth, love, and wisdom.


    Open the Jar

     

    Last night I opened the jar and it whispered to me,

    “a piece of the story is missing.”

    Silence.

    Breath.

    I wished the thought had stayed in the jar,

    wished to rewind,

    go back to the moment before

    I released the latch and

    eased the lid.

     

    Open the jar.

    Blue dot days glued to glass,

    days of Sylvia’s bell jar and

    cobwebs and fatigue and

    frustration and sleep and

    tears and

    darkness.

    Blue dots

    drowning my calendar,

    blue dots

    covering my day book—

    a giant blue bruise.

     

    You should know,

    I teach outside the city

    in a nice suburban

    community.

     

    Open the jar.

    A morning swarming at 7:45

    two hundred teenagers

    chase a grade ten

    girl

    angry faces

    push against glass,

    she calls for help.

     

    Open the jar.

    Pepper chokes

    classrooms,

    chairs, clocks, and computers…

    A toxic shot

    in the head.

    Later, a fifteen-year-old boy

    wears handcuffs

    and not the kind from his joke store.

     

    Open the jar.

    Racism, bullying, homophobia,

    illiteracy, drugs, eating disorders

    spiralling around bells

    passing days and

    heedless years.

    Take the lid off the subtext.

     

    Open the jar.

    A friend defines “suddenly”

    when our student

    dies…and then another.

    Words evaporate

    hearts frozen in crowded hallways.

     

    Open the jar.

    Julie whispers of last night’s rape

    during attendance

    digital now

    twenty-first century tracking of

    presence.

     

    Open the jar.

    I pass Tina her graded work and

    she asks if she should visit her boyfriend,

    in jail

    even though

    he was charged:

    attempted murder

    she thinks

    only yesterday she smoked pot, drank vodka, slept with

    Tonya, and cut herself on her left arm for the sixth time.

     

    Jars lined up like child soldiers

    down a long corridor of black-hearted

    steel lockers collecting

    souls. We all felt it

    clouds building chains around teen dreams.

    Teacher machines

     

    We forgot the taste

    of sunshine

    jars

    emptied

    closed

    lid twisted tight

    within the glass grooves.

     

    But in time we learned

    to gently turn the lid,

    open the jar

    and sometimes we found something

    for somebody

    and in time we learned to capture sunshine.

     

    Open the jar—

     

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  • School Leadership

    Ten Things I Learned Last Year About School Leadership

    One of the many things I love about my job is that learning is at the heart of the work. Every day I am invited to learn from people, experiences, research, and curriculum subject areas.

    Here are ten things I learned during the 2016/17 School Year:

    #1: There is poetry in Math. I was inspired to keep a wall of my Math learning after taking a Mathematics Leadership course in partnership with Trent University with Dr. Cathy Bruce.

    #2: The Zones of Self-Regulation are for everyone. Our whole school learned about the zones and defined what the “Green Zone” looked like for us. We celebrated at the end of the year with a t-shirt for everyone. Designed by a Grade 5 student.

     

    #3: When we focus on improving Special Education processes all students win. It’s important to have clear roles and goals.

    #4: Peace is not what is happening around you. Peace is what is happening within you. Self-care is vital.

    #5: Sometimes you just need cake. Celebrate with staff whenever you can. And with students too! My favourite PA Day this year started with cake.

    #6: Streamlining routines and processes helps the brain focus its best energy on the complexities of problem solving. We focused on Special Education, school day transitions and recess. Click here to watch our video about Recess Routines.

    #7: In a small school, all staff are leaders. My staff continuously inspired me with the vision, spirit, and pride for our school.

    #8: Paying attention to the little details can have a big impact.

    #9: Ask for help. There are helpful people out there.

    Our “Buddy Bench” donated by the Colborne Lions Club.

    #10: When the staff truly work as a team, that’s when the magic happens.

    A friend posted this and I loved it–felt it captured the CPS staff well!

     

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  • Life Lessons,  School Leadership

    Thanks to Technology Today I Can Learn Nearly Anything: Top Seven Online Learning Destinations

    Technology and Tradition

    Technology gives us the ability to learn nearly anything. I love that we can access information, processes, and thinking that for many centuries was available only to few. Technology is taking the lid off learning and redefining education.

    There is a major shift in the ways we can learn about anything at anytime happening right now! Today. Part of it is due to the evolution of our electronic devices and part of the shift is due to how educators are using the technology to create learning platforms.

    John Hattie says that “the computer is not the teacher.” My iPad doesn’t make me smarter, but how I use my iPad could change my life. Innovative teachers are using technology to make the world their classroom and providing access to learning experiences for anyone with a device and Internet connection. Our traditions in education need to change too!

    This list is big. Be sure to take it in slowly, coming back to try another hyperlink. I thought about sharing fewer links but changed my mind. One of the best things about online learning is choice. There are so many choices out there!

    Here are 7 amazing learning experiences online:

     

    1. Google. Most people use Google to research, but are you maximizing what Google can do? Did you know that Google algorithms predict what you are looking for so your search results may be different than someone else’s? Did you know that Google has country codes? Take a free online Google course in Power Searching or Advanced Power Searching or use Google Search Operators to broaden your options. I promise you will find things you didn’t even know were out there!
    2. Free or very low cost Virtual Schools. Earn Ontario high school credits through the Independent Learning Centre or in the United States try Stanford University High School. But this is the one that has me most excited: Take free online courses from the world’s best universities through edX, a site that has the super power of Harvard, MIT, and other education heavy weights.
    3. Online workshops, tutorials, and webinars. A number of fabulous sites are popping up with outstanding learning opportunities. From Lynda.com that offers online video tutorials to Udemy that offers more than 32,000 online courses, the opportunities to learn are vast. And many teachers are utilizing these platforms to expand their classrooms. I love that I can create a course on Udemy too (I’ll have to add that to my bucket list). A favourite of many high school teachers is Khan Academy where there is a diverse collection of lessons on a range of subjects (Math, Science, Computer Programming, History, Art, Economics, etc).
    4. Industry specific professional organizations. In Education there are a number of amazing places to go to learn and connect with educators around the world. The articles posted through ASCD are awesome and if you’re like me and too busy to visit the site, it will come to you. You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter so their articles appear in your feed. From collaborative blogs (Connected Principals) to MOOCs to resource databases like Edugains, quality professional learning is no longer limited to which workshops you attend on a PA Day. Seek out your industry’s top learning sites.
    5. Social Media. I learn a lot from Facebook and Twitter because I try to find people and companies to follow that have something that I need to know. Or I use social media to connect with and engage with other educators. Twitter has some great chat feeds. I really like #amwriting to connect with other writers. My favourites in education are: #onted, #ontedleaders, and #edchat. Many groups will designate a night when everyone is online. You put the hashtag into the search box and follow/respond to each other. Twitter interviews are also becoming common, where an expert is asked questions by a host as well as anyone else who joins in the discussion. Find out where your people are (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and connect. (I find Twitter or Pinterest are the best places to connect with educators right now).
    6. Technology tools can make learning easier. A current trend in education is blended learning, where some of the learning happens with technology and some of the learning happens face-to-face. Whenever I explore the tools to use with classroom learning my eyes pop out! Truly. Check out Diigo, a site that helps you sort, tag, annotate, and share research. Verso helps to give every student in your class a voice. Edsby is an amazing learning management system our board has just started using. Prism promotes collaborative interpretation of texts and would have been a dream when I was teaching English. The WayBack Machine allows you access news from the day an event happened.  Wolfram Alpha is incredible too–it will solve any Math problem and can answer questions in a variety of other subjects. WRITERS: you will love Wolfram Alpha!!!!!
    7. Text, audio or video content sharing sites. I’ve always been a big fan of Audible for downloading audio books–for me it’s always non-fiction. I’ve recently discovered Sound Cloud a site with lots of new music and podcasts. YouTube has always been a go-to, especially when I get stuck with my technology. There is always a video to bail me out. Blogs are more popular than ever and by subscribing to the ones I love, updates appear in my email inbox. Many people love article collecting apps like Zite or Instapaper or Flipboard too.

     

    Click here for some notes on the tech tools I use to organize my work and life.

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  • School Leadership

    How Can We Support Student Well-Being and Mental Health in Schools?

    Together we can make an impact.

    The Good News

     

    This summer I spent a lot of time with my cousin who wrote a six-part blog series about collective impact that I followed in August. It got me thinking about how this type of intentional work within schools and within our broader school communities could better support students.

    Promoting well-being is a focus in Ontario schools. It includes supporting the whole child: cognitive, emotional, social, and physical well-being. The most challenging area is mental health.

    We have access to more experts and resources than in the history of schooling. We have processes in place to support students in crisis and ongoing training for all staff. There is a lot to celebrate. But I think everyone would agree that there is still more work to do. Our kids still need more.

    Many adults in a school may be working independently or as a team to support one child. Each person has a different role to play. Imagine the jobs and skill sets of these people:

    • Principal
    • Vice Principal
    • Special Education Resource Teacher
    • Classroom Teacher
    • Guidance Counsellor
    • Student Success Teacher
    • Child and Youth Work
    • Educational Assistant
    • School Board Counsellor
    • Student Retention Counsellors
    • Board Interdisciplinary Team (including a Psychologist and Mental Health Nurse)
    • Special Education Consultant
    • Behaviour Specialist
    • Superintendent
    • ….and we are part of a special Promoting Mentally Healthy Schools project.

    In the community we have access to various services and supports:

    I’ve worked with each of these agencies and utilized every support available to help kids and they are all amazing.

    Schools have access to resources I fantasized about at the beginning of my career. The new Ministry document Supporting Minds: An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Students’ Mental Health is fabulous. The much talked-about Health and Physical Education curriculum integrates mental health concepts into all content areas of the Healthy Living strand. Edugains has expanded its resources to include Mental Health resources for teachers. Our board offers staff access to training in Mental Health First Aid and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. From CAMH to TAMI to Stomping Out Stigma student groups, we have hit a much needed tipping point for gaining support in schools.

    But despite all the agencies, expert support, and caring parents, kids are still in distress and there is sometimes a feeling of helplessness in schools when trying to support students who struggle with mental health issues.


    My Big Question

     

    We all want the same thing: healthy whole-hearted children and youth.

    I wonder if we’re making an impact. I wonder if we’re missing something. I wonder if there is more we can do. I wonder if we’re trying to do too much too fast. I wonder if we are being intentional enough about the way we are working alone and together. I wonder why sometimes even when a student has access to every support, s/he still suffers every day. These are the kinds of thoughts that keep me up at night.

    Is it that more students are struggling or that we’re getting better at noticing? According to an in-depth CBC feature anxiety disorders affect six percent of children and youth. Twenty-two percent of children will be affected by anxiety in their lifetime. The buzz in school staff rooms and on social media is that it feels like more students struggle with anxiety now than in the past and the cases seem much more complex. So it might be both: more students are struggling and more educators are noticing just how complex mental health issues can be.

    So my big question is how can we use a collective impact model to support student well-being? 


    Autonomy AND Collaboration?

     

    This is too big a problem to solve alone. Supporting student well-being is a job for the whole village.

    What is my role?  I am one person in the village with a specific skill set and knowledge base. We need to better understand the roles of each individual in our village and be clear about what collaboration can look like.

    A couple years ago at a high school we tried looking at this with our Student Success Team. On our team were vice principals, guidance counsellors, special education teachers, coop teachers, attendance counsellor, school board counsellor, consultant, and a student success teacher. We met weekly to discuss students who were struggling with academic and socio-emotional issues. Classroom teachers referred names to our team, we collected information, looked for trends, brainstormed supports, and followed-up with the student who needed support. I understood my role as a vice principal but I wanted to know more about the other roles. I wondered if there was overlap or gaps in service.

    We created a google-doc and sat around the conference table with our laptops. The headings were something like:

    • Name: Jessica
    • Role: VP
    • Goal: what is the purpose of your job?
    • Meetings: what information do you require at a Student Success Meeting to do your job?
    • Strategies: what strategies do you use to support students?
    • Students: which students do you serve?
    • Successes: what works well?
    • Challenges: what is most challenging?

    We went round-robin and filled in the chart with as much detail as possible. Then I synthesized the trends and patterns into this summary document so we could make decisions about next steps: Reflecting on Student Success Meetings.

    This thinking was a good start for our team in being more intentional. Where we fell short was on taking the time to really develop a solid plan from here. We had some great ideas and implemented some changes, but we didn’t have metrics. We needed to return to these questions and better monitor our work along the way. We needed to measure what impact our changes made. The second year would have been crucial in consolidating this thinking/learning and maybe the team continued to refine their collective work but I moved to another school.


    Collective Impact as a Possible Solution

     

    If supporting students with mental health issues in schools is something I can’t do on my own, then how will we work together? How will we ensure efficient service delivery? How can we prevent students from falling through gaps in service?

    We rely on the strength of home, school, and community partnerships. We rely on the expertise of others–I think that can be the scary part for us as educators. We like to be in control and to support students well we have to acknowledge our limits in schools and trust our community partners. We have to learn what success looks like and even though our hearts cry out that it looks like happiness for all, that may not be realistic. We live in a complex world with complex problems.

    The first step is to develop a clear vision and ensure a common understanding. We need to put all our questions out there even if they fly back at us like boomerangs without answers.

    Ontario has a comprehensive strategy called Open Minds, Healthy Minds that includes building resilience through schools. Our board has an amazing leadership team supporting schools. I am blessed to work with a dedicated school staff. This collective work has already started and I feel confident that we will all get better at supporting students in time. We need to persevere.

    In my humble opinion here are some other things I think we need to start doing together:

    • Teach parents how to advocate for accommodations and supports for student mental health issues the way parents have learned to advocate for special education needs. We need to help parents navigate the systems. I want to learn more about what parents need.
    • Prioritize meetings with school teams, board teams, community teams, provincial teams, national teams, and/or global teams to strategize how to work together with more intention, to learn from each other, and to check for gaps or overlaps in services. (Perhaps we need collective impact consultants like my cousin to bring teams together. An outside facilitator can help us stretch our thinking, build trusting relationships, and bring more purpose to our work).
    • Communicate better what everyone is doing to support mental health issues in children and youth…and in a simple, efficient way. (Some days I feel I don’t have enough information and others I’m on information overload).
    • Leverage technology to build online learning communities that include stakeholders learning together and problem-solving from various perspectives. I know these must exist but the people I know don’t know where they are. We need to know. I would love a safe, confidential forum to discuss student well-being with other school leaders and experts as need arises.
    • Plan for how to support students in moments of crisis at school and to support students with ongoing mental health issues. (I am learning how to support students in moments of crisis, but I am unclear of my role as an educator when a student demonstrates a mental health issue over time–from months to years.)
    • Learn how to better cope or where to go next when nothing changes when interventions are utilized. How do we know when we’ve done enough? As one doctor told me, mental health issues can be fatal. I struggle with accepting that. I struggle with knowing what to do when a student is receiving treatment but we are not seeing changes at school and years pass–this is why we sometimes feel helpless. We want our support to lead to change and sometimes it doesn’t.

    I’m optimistic that in my lifetime we will continue to see more supports for children and youth. I’m optimistic that educators will feel more confident in the role they can play in supporting student well-being. I’m optimistic that if we are more intentional within our schools and communities good things will come. We will reach another tipping point.

    Questions are good. Let’s start there. And my question remains: how can we use a collective impact model to support student well-being?

    The answer lies in our collective commitment to action. Commitment is a promise to do or to give something. Are you committed or just interested? We need people who are going “to do or to give” sitting at the table. What are you willing and able to do or to give? We each have a role in this village.

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  • School Leadership

    Five Essential Things You Need to Know About Learning

    10 Things You Need to Know ABout Learning

    Learning is a process with two key phases: action and reflection.

    We have an experience, we reflect on the experience, we expand our understanding by making new connections, and then we act, trying something new with the learning. Teachers describe this as instruction and assessment. Instruction is the action, the doing, the experience. Assessment is reflecting on the impact of the learning on the self or the student.

    The current model for learning design in schools is to begin a new lesson with a Minds On task, something to trigger prior knowledge or spark curiosity. Then we move to the Action part of the lesson, the things the students are doing to learn the new skill or explore new knowledge. The students own the learning, the teacher facilitates the process. Finally, there is Consolidation, a chance to reflect on the learning, to see where it fits in the students’ understanding of other things, and to decide on next steps.

    We can all engage in action and reflection whether we are learning formally through a course or teaching ourselves how to bake.

    • Self: When I am learning something new, how do I build reflection into the process?
    • Teacher: How do I balance instruction and assessment?
    • Leader: How do I share my learning process with staff and students?

    Learning feels like a rollercoaster.

     

    When we learn our energy is affected. Learning is change. Sometimes we feel excited and positively energized by learning and sometimes we feel frustrated and negatively bogged down by learning. It’s normal to feel a combination of both when we are learning something new. In fact, the best learning happens when we feel a combination of familiarity and disorientation, clarity and confusion.

    I always know I’m learning when I get angry. Typically I’m not an angry person so when I feel my emotions shifting I know I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone to a more vulnerable place. The challenge and conflict can overwhelm me. I wonder how an hour ago I felt so confident and how now I feel like an absolute mess. But inevitably when I stick with it a path out of the pit emerges and I climb out of the darkness into the light a new woman.

    Learning Pit

    • Self: How can I sustain my focus during the difficult parts of learning, when I’m in the pit surrounded by darkness?
    • Teacher: How can I teach my students perseverance?
    • Leader: How can I leverage motivation and purpose to inspire staff to accept the learning challenge and better cope with the stresses that come with change?

    Learning looks like a carnival.

     

    Learning sparks intrigue, curiosity, and delight, offering many choices and modes of experience. Carnivals invite us to enjoy them on our terms, spending our time (and money) where we want whether we spend hours at the dunk tank or the ring toss or equal amounts of time at each feature. They support individual experiences and collective experiences.

    When we really look at learning there are many things going on at once. Individuals make choices constantly about what they will embrace and what they will resist. We learn for ourselves and our own gain, but we also learn in relation to the energy of the group surrounding us.

    I’ve been in workshops where the collective vibe was resistance and there was low engagement. Was learning happening? Were we going to take these ideas back to our schools to implement in our classes? Probably not.

    Then I’ve been in workshops where the collective vibe was encouraging and there was high engagement. It made me want to take more risks, plunge into new layers of thinking, and make connections between the experience in the room and my classroom.

    Learning is most impactful when there is a high level of engagement, collective enthusiasm, and individual choice.

    • Self: What motivates me to learn something new?
    • Teacher: What does a high level of engagement look like in the classroom?
    • Leader: How can we mobilize our school communities to generate more collective enthusiasm?

    Learning tastes like my cooking.

     

    If I learn slowly with careful preparation and attention to detail the rewards are far greater than when I learn quickly. Fast learning is about as good for us as fast food. It fills an immediate need but it doesn’t provide the value of a healthy, home cooked meal. In today’s world we need both types of learning to suit different needs. Fast learning is figuring out how to use social media to find and connect to friends. Slow learning is figuring out how to sustain lasting friendships.

    Fast learning is reading the latest news about global learning. Slow learning is reflecting on how global warming affects my life and what I need to do to have a lighter footprint.

    The Information Age has overwhelmed us with constant, ubiquitous fast learning. It’s such a blessing to have access to knowledge on anything at the press of the button. But as individuals, teachers, and leaders we need to persist in the pursuit of slow learning, of reading to understand, of thinking critically about the information and its implications to our lives.

    My cooking is as good as the time I spend doing it. Meals that take hours to prepare are far more nourishing and memorable than meals that took minutes to toss together. When we feel tired and sick, we often look to our diet, making changes to invite more energy. Let’s apply that idea to our learning. When we feel stuck and we are not seeing progress in our work and our lives and our projects, then let’s look to our learning. Slow learning is about the process, the journey, the intentional steps toward a goal. Begin with the end in mind and work backwards. Create a learning plan, like a recipe, that shows a singular focus, a sequence of steps, and a desired result.

    • Self: What does my current learning diet mostly consist of, fast learning or slow learning?
    • Teacher: How can I create conditions in my classroom to nurture slow learning?
    • Leader: How can I model slow learning for staff in the pursuit of my individual learning goals and our school learning goals?

    Learning moves like a spiral.

     

    Learning is continuous, expanding, and moving. Each time we learn we open up more opportunities for learning something else. Lessons repeat over time, bringing us deeper into our understanding. The learning spiral moves through our days from birth to death, affecting our choices and values and relationships.

    From the earliest humans, we’ve collectively learned about technology, each century evolving into more refined methods of efficiency and effectiveness. As a species we reflect on what went wrong in previous generations to try and make better decisions in this one. The same lessons repeat year after year, decade after decade; they always have and always will. Learning is the soul of evolution and learning is our gateway to personal and collective change. Learning is natural.

    Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote about 10,000 hours of practice making an expert: slow learning over time with action and reflection. Our school curriculums are designed to support this idea. Last year our school focused on strategies for multiplication. Every class from Kindergarten to Grade 8 did a multiplication task, modified to grade level, about the number of muffins the baker made. It was amazing to see the continuum of learning spread out in front of us in the student work. As the students got older, their strategies for problem solving were more sophisticated. Even though they may have solved a similar problem seven years prior, Grade 8 students now solved the problem in a different way that accommodated more complexities. And these students will continue to learn about approaches to problem solving (whether in math or life) beyond the walls of our school.

    • Self: How have I learned about problem solving over the course of my life? What do I still need to learn?
    • Teacher: How can I use metaphor as a way to support my students in reflecting on their learning in a meaningful way?
    • Leader: What problems need solving in my school? In education generally? What is my first step toward finding solutions?

    Learning moves like a spiral.-2

     

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  • Life Lessons

    Meet Felicity Sidnell Reid

    Live your questions now, and perhaps-2When the student is ready…

    We can learn from each person we meet. Teachers are everywhere when we are willing to be students. For years I’ve been a stealthy student watching and listening and reflecting, my mind a people-powered repository. Every day I reflect on my learnings: ideas and insights from experiences, conversations, and encounters.

    People can teach us valuable lessons about various aspects of life, but we need to listen well, we need to pay attention. Learning is everywhere and in everything.

    For years I’ve wanted to begin a blog category that celebrates people who influence and inspire others through their example. To influence is to have the capacity to affect character, development, and behaviour. “Influential teachers” are those who change the people and culture around them. They may be famous or they may be in our family or they may be the person at the grocery store. We choose our teachers and that’s the best part: every person we meet has the potential to be a teacher and to influence us–it’s our responsibility to catch their light and to learn.

    Each month I plan to feature an influential teacher, sharing with you what I’ve learned from this special person. In most cases, the person is not an educator and the learning has happened informally through events, observations, and reflections. I want to do this as a way to thank the people who influence me and to share my lessons with you.

    Catch the Sun


    Felicity Sidnell Reid
    Felicity Sidnell Reid by Gerri’s Photography

    About Felicity Sidnell Reid

    I met Felicity through the Spirit of the Hills Writing Group. She is our generous leader, organizing and chairing our monthly meetings. Over the last five years our paths have crossed at writing breakfasts, book events, and library events.

    I know Felicity as a local writer, editor, and radio host. She was one of the editors for both volumes of Hill Spirits (Blue Denim Press). Some of her publishing credits include pieces of memoir in two anthologies: Family Ties (Hidden Brook Press edited by Elizabeth Kimberley Grove) and Grandfather, Father and Me (Hidden Brook Press edited by Donna Clark Goodrich). In 2014, The Ontario Poetry Society included two of her poems in their 2014 anthology Scarlet Thistles.

    Felicity is also a Sunshine in a Jar Press writer with a poem published in The Writing Spiral: Learning as a Writer.

    Here are some other interesting details about Felicity’s life, work, and writing:

    • Graduate of University of London, King’s College
    • Lived in New Brunswick for 7 years
    • Then lived in Ontario: Peterborough, Toronto, and now Colborne
    • Taught Grade 5 students to University students in Canada, England, and Thailand
    • Taught English, History, Drama, and ESL
    • Worked as Vice Principal at Harbord Collegiate and Northern Secondary in Toronto
    • Mother of four children
    • Poet
    • Master of Arts in Victorian Studies from the University of Toronto
    • Master of Education from Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
    • Education Writer (text books and resources)
    • Volunteer with Cramahe Public Library
    • Co-Host of “Word on the Hills” radio program 89.7 FM
    Felicity and Gwynn, recording for Word on the Hills
    Felicity and Gwynn, recording for Word on the Hills

    Felicity with one of her granddaughters, Summer 2014.
    Felicity with one of her granddaughters

    Five Things I’ve Learned from Felicity:

    1. Fortitude: Felicity exudes a peaceful strength. Her optimism and resiliency shine through her confidence and kindness. She is assertive, but not aggressive. She teaches me to be self-reliant, strong, and connected to community.
    2. Humility: Felicity gently puts others first. She finds ways to share moments, to build confidence in those around her. She is a natural teacher and “invisible” leader. She teaches me the impact of using our gifts to support others.
    3. Patience: Everything has its time and even when her schedule is packed, Felicity is fully present. She teaches me the value of careful planning and the benefits of committing to each moment of the day and each person I meet.
    4. Generosity: Felicity leads our writing group with a generous spirit, making space for our diverse personalities and sometimes disparate voices. She teaches me the art of facilitation and the gift we can give others by quietly leading without expecting anything in return.
    5. Focus: Intentionality seems to ripple beneath the surface of my observations of Felicity. She seems to know what she wants, how she wants to spend her time, and focuses her attention on what’s most important to her. While she juggles a number of priorities, she teaches me how to attend to each ball with laser beam focus and with a clear understanding of intention.
    Felicity and I reading our conversation in poetry at Word Northumberland, 2013. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Reyes.

     


    Live your questions now, and perhapsQuestions in a Jar

    Felicity answered three questions pulled from my 50 Questions in a Jar so we could get to know her better

    Q: If you could fill a piñata with your favourite candy, what would you put inside?

    Felicity: “In my pinata I’d like to find chocolate roses, sugared violets, silk flowers and butterflies.”

    Q: What do you like thinking about?

    Felicity: “What do I like thinking about?! Such a huge question—I like thinking about my family, walking in the woods with my dog, sitting b the sea and watching the tide come in– or out– and, of course, writing, and what I am reading, since I have been an obsessive reader all my life.”

    Q: What is the greatest love song?

    Felicity: “My favourite love song is Burns’ My love is like a red, red rose…

     


    Felicity’s Next Big Project

    Alone: A Winter in the Woods by Felicity Sidnell Reid with illustrations by Jirina Marton

    A story for all ages, Alone: A Winter in the Woods quickly engages the reader in thirteen year-old John Turner’s adventures. Forced to grow up quickly, while left alone on the family’s land grant in a virtually unsettled township, in the winter of 1797, John has to overcome devastating isolation and loneliness. With only a couple of oxen, a pregnant cow, a handful of chickens and his dog to keep him company, everyday tasks become ten times more difficult than they were while Pa was still with him, building their tiny cabin. Meanwhile John’s mother has adopted the orphaned Joséphine, who keeps a journal recording the life of the Turners and her own experiences. The family waits for Pa to return to Adolphustown to escort his wife and young children up the lake to the new settlement once spring allows water traffic to start up again. This tale explores the differences between family life and expectations in the eighteenth century and the present, as John and Joséphine reflect on what home, family, and friendship mean to them and struggle to find the courage, determination and faith needed to face the future.

    Alone: A Winter in the Woods
    Alone: A Winter in the Woods

    Additional Details:

    • Published as part of Hidden Brook Press’s North Shore Series with six more books in this series.
    • Launch party on October 4, 2015.
    • Alone: A Winter in the Woods will be available online from: Amazon and many other e-stores around the world; Local bookstores (Northumberland); May be ordered from any bookstore in Canada by giving them the title, ISBN number and contact info for Hidden Brook Press: writers@hiddenbrookpress.com
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