Posted in Career and Academic Counselling, Professional Development, School

The Challenge of Crossroads

Assignment: Reflecting on the cases from the text or your personal experiences,  provide an example of where career and non-career issues intersect.  Where would you draw a boundary between career and personal issues?   What theory(ies) (feel free to go beyond the theories we have covered, but if it is a theory we haven’t discussed please provide a brief overview) are most useful for addressing non-career issues? (Career Foundations Course)

Ah, yes, the fine line where we attempt to balance our lives between career and non-career issues via compartmentalization, yet how the messiness of life – like a demanding toddler – can be ever-present wailing at the door for its needs and attentions to be met too.

In theory, in the role of my job as a teacher, I generally do mighty fine with my coveted ideal of “drop it at the door” – meaning that whatever is going on in Pamela’s life that distracts from the work at hand, must be compartmentalized and left aside  in order to focus on the business at hand – respecting the students and their learning.  This is a rule I learned in training for the theatre and via the ideals of my English-Irish parents of a stiff upper lip and carry on.  In the theatre, we are trained how to compartmentalize because if we don’t, nothing can get done by the emotional, empathetic natures of many theatre artists.  Just as an actor leaves their personal “baggage” outside the theatre, in order to step into the job of acting and the being of a character, so too do I attempt to do the same in my job of teaching: focus on the students, focus on the learning at hand – this is paramount.  Yet, the irony, is that my true being, my true self – a genuineness and a truth – must too be ever-present for the kids to buy-in (like believable acting – we access truth in ourselves to create believable characters).  Kids can smell fake a mile away and if a teacher’s essence is 100% trapped in a trunk, outside the door, then the students will never wholly trust and connect.  Hence, I need to ensure that my heart and being are honest and that the “left at the door” stuff is managed.  Just like in all careers – we need to function to get the job at hand done.

My sleepless night, my sore throat, my worry about the argument I had with my daughter as I raced out of the house, my arthritic pain, my son’s heartbreak, my husband’s work frustrations, the politics of work, my worries about next year’s teaching assignments, my undone to-do lists (that I likely lost), my unsold house, my puking dog, my parents’ worries and struggles, my friends’ upsets, my being stretched too thin trying to be and do all I can – all the messiness of life, simply cannot get in the way of my students learning for the day, and simply should not get in the way of the job.

“Except when they don’t
Because, sometimes they won’t.” (Dr. Seuss)

Ah, indeed, Dr. Seuss was so right “I’m sorry to say so / but, sadly, it’s true / that Bang-ups / and Hang-ups / can happen to you.”  And sometimes that messiness cannot be easily left at the door, especially when there’s messiness inside the door too.  Hence, we can manage as best we can and when it gets too tough to manage, as Brown and Brooks indicate, “career counseling is an appropriate intervention” and “counselors need to be aware of how career and personal factors are intertwined…”.   (Swanson and Fouad 256)

Such a bang-up is this professional mid-life crisis where I genuinely want to ride into the sunset with my career ideals: success, satisfaction, and achieving a work-life balance – compartmentalizing and being the best teacher turned career and academic counselor I can be.  I so passionately want to believe in career construction via Super’s Development theory that “vocational choices … represent an implementation of the self-concept” (137) and Social Cognitive Theory whereby “the constructs of self-efficacy and outcome expectancies are an individual’s perceptions of reality” (178.  However, such ideals seem to be a “Pleasantville” of a past black and white TV world.  After 20+ years successfully teaching – the satisfaction of a work/life balance is an ever-elusive fairy-tale.

In our modern world – with financial constraints, demoralizing Blustein philosophy of “working” as a means of survival over “career” achievement, and Gottfredson’s reality-checks of Circumscription and Compromise – it’s hard to maintain the ideals of how we desire our careers to play out in a balance of parallel existences, not at a crossroad where accidents can happen. With the wear-and-tear of more classes assigned (no preps), with more students (+30), with extra-curricular service, and the heartbreak of limitations placed on us in the limits of time and opportunity to teach, connect, and offer feedback – on top of the messiness of our lives encroaching on the world of work – added to the seemingly limited opportunities for growth or change, these intersections of career and non-career issues can erode our attempts at compartmentalization, balance, success, and satisfaction.  The lines blur between what are “career vs non-career issues”: “And the chances are, then, that you’ll be in a Slump.” (Dr. Seuss)  The slump of uncertainties and lack of control – a reality in the educational working world today – creating a stress and haphazardness at the intersection of career and non-career issues.

Perhaps, we need to embrace what we perceive as this intersection being an obstacle, when really it might be an opportunity as Richardson acknowledges via a “study of work in people’s lives” (209)?  Hmmm … food for thought.

At the end of the day, Savickas’ theory of the “four Cs” helps me to manage and move forward by focusing on “career concern” by maintaining optimism and planning for tomorrow, “career control” by making choices and setting boundaries, “career curiosity” by seeking alternatives, and “career confidence” by  focusing on hope due to my skills and abilities.

So, although my career and personal issues do intersect, these crossroads can be managed and need to be managed, for I have a great power and responsibility to impact my students in a positive and motivating way that shouldn’t be cluttered with my issues.


Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go.

Ross, Gary (Producer & Director). (1998). Pleasantville. United States: Larger Than Life Productions.

Swanson, J. L., & Fouad, N. A. (2015). Career theory and practice: Learning through case studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Posted in Career and Academic Counselling, Professional Development, School

I think I can, I think I can … Can I?


Again – this is a discussion response in a Career Foundations Course I’m taking through the UofC.

Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) has self-efficacy at the heart of the model and I believe that one’s successful pursuit of careers or interests is always best served by the concept of self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy begins the journey up the mountain by establishing a “can do” attitude in establishing a growth-minded pursuit, while achievement in that climb creates a feeling of great success and well-being.  Ah – the sweetness of success, or is it?  How many times and how many ways do we acquiesce to something different or less than what we can be because our self-efficacy really just led to our bar being lowered in order to appear successful in our limited achievement.  Sure, “I can” if the hill is relatively small.

I would offer that in my life experiences I had many a great carrots dangled as opportunities while other doors outrightly slammed shut – while my lack of self-efficacy and/or interests with the timing did not align;  hence, I foreclosed many opportunities or they were foreclosed on me.

My greatest dreams as a child was either architecture, interior design or geography  (I’m the kid who would buy home design and National Geographic magazines with my chore money) – all of which came crashing down when a counselor said that none were possible due to my poor math grades – but “hey, not to worry because you are at least good in English, theatre, and history!”  So I pursued Theatre and English.  Ah Gottfredson – how right thou art.  I compromised, but luckily I have great passion for Theatre and English – and shifted my paradigms

As a 20 year old, I had worked for 4 summers as a summer student with the local police force in Community Relations and Forensics data entry, and was coaxed and encouraged from brass and bosses to apply to be a police officer – a shoe-in they’d say with my four years experience, my university education, and my grace of being female in a quota-equality-hiring-mandated land of opportunity.  But, I had known too much, at that point, of the tough realities on the streets as a cop, not the cushions of the office as I had been enjoying on the force.  So, I foreclosed that option – it was a job, not a vocation for me.

Again, I foreclosed, on the dream of Public Relations and International Diplomacy because I just didn’t understand where the train was, how to get it on the track, nor how to enjoy the ride.  Always the career I dumped because I didn’t have any sense of direction or self-efficacy for the pursuit.  An occasional whiff of “what if” crops up every now and then.

I foreclosed on my first degree in professional theatre due to not being able to subscribe to a life of poverty and chronic uncertainty, nor having any conviction in self-efficacy.

I foreclosed on a writing career due to fears of inadequacy, uncertainty, and again – a lack of self-efficacy.  Completing an English degree on a part-time, evenings and summers, did not give me the networking tools nor confidence I needed to pursue writing nor higher education in English.

Work in Loblaws from years of part-time cashiering to full-time photolab managing led to offers – as a university-educated-female – to a funded Business Masters for store management, yet – again – I foreclosed.  Not interested, although here I believed I did have the self-efficacy to have been successful.

Finally, I felt the twinges of a calling – one where I felt self-efficacy abounded in me – education.  And I was right.  I was driven to pursue my B.Ed and did so at the top of my class, and for 21 years I’ve always been employed, and highly successful, as a teacher.  A teacher who gets to do theatre and writing every day.  In so many ways I hit the jackpot, succeeding and soaring.  Self-efficacy is indeed at the heart of my success and I endeavor to cultivate in teens every day.  And yet …

That Super theory from last week whereby I want to be “stabilizing, consolidating, and advancing” – but I continue to feel an imbalance in my world.  As much as I’m a master teacher – an expert – I never feel the comfort of being stabilized, consolidated, and certainly never advancing.   I tried seeking a role in administration – but I didn’t make it after a few attempts.  This is a position I feel great self-efficacy for, but that opportunity is closed by a ceiling I cannot shatter.  I work in a school division that I have a great pioneering passion for and have wanted to continue my journey with, but opportunity does not abound, and I have continued to feel unsettled.  Do I see myself at the front of a classroom in 13 years from now (my projected retirement age) – no, I don’t.  Why?  Because  Richardson’s theory of “work and relationships” beckons to me to find the buried living that’s lacking in my piles of working (namely in the form of marking – the English teacher’s ball and chain) and it requires my “on” from the minute I arrive to the minute I leave (after 10+ hours most days) – performing as an extrovert when I am an introvert by nature.  I love my job in a million ways for a million reasons – but “stabilization” and “advancement” is necessary as I’m stagnating.   Of course, I complicate it all further in that I contest with Blustein’s insistence on “work” over “career” – I firmly believe in the semantics that the work I do cannot qualify as work – it’s a calling, a vocation.  And the most recent “calling” is a deep-seated desire to continue to work with and love teens – ideally, our teens, in our school system –  on a one-to-one basis as a career and academic advisor,  even with coaching our staff in their Professional Growth Plans (PGP).

This goal has driven me to begin this quest by following (unknowingly) Savickas’ Career Construction Theory/Life Design whereby I seek to “construct myself], impose direction on [my] vocational behaviour, and make meaning of [my] career” – as I have done this journey in finding success as a teacher.  I seek to adapt via the  “four C’s”:

  • Career Concern – I seek a plan for tomorrow to maintain optimism (to avoid falling into indifference and pessimism)
  • Career Control – I seek to have control over my choices (something I have constantly felt was tenuous and uncertain year-by-year with course assignments and class sizes)
  • Career Curiosity – I have been inquisitive about my realistic options and interests – leading me to this program to learn, to grow, to create my opportunities and to seek my alternatives
  • Career Confidence – I believe in myself for this change – I have great self-efficacy for this re-designed career – to help mold the dreams of kids and staff alike.

So, in the end, my midlife professional crisis leads me to fulfill my desire to find a work-life balance in counseling; to find stability, consolidation, and advancement – even if it were to take me beyond the comforts of the work environment I have become accustomed to.  The paradigms are flexing and shifting.  This work I can do, I know I can.


Swanson, J. L., & Fouad, N. A. (2015). Career theory and practice: Learning through case studies. NC: Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications.

Posted in Blogging, Career and Academic Counselling, Professional Development, School

Cultural Contexts

I’ve put many writing pieces into draft mode, but have been reluctant to share writing this past year.  But my goal for this semester is to get back to posting every couple of weeks – creative writing material as well as pedagogical work.  This year I’ve decided to embark on a journey of studying Career and Academic Advising at the UofCalgary in the hopes of moving into this for a future career – it is a path that I’m more excited about every week as a study.  Presently, the course I’m taking online has us post “discussions” – so when I write something that resonates for the blog, I will share it here.  This week’s assignment had us respond to our readings and we needed to address the topic of Cultural Contexts & Culturally Responsive Counselling where we were to discuss “white colonial” attitudes and cultural messages that we have witnessed or experienced in our practices, any discussions or initiatives happening in our workplace, and our need to respect First Nations values and traditions in our counselling.

“Anotherness”: Making Obstacles into Opportunities in the High School Classroom

I have spent over 20 years immersed in the world of education, in multicultural landscapes of diversity.  When I began my career in a Kitchener, Ontario school – the school was challenged with being an inner city “gang” school with a poor reputation.  But passionate educators decided to work to change that perception; what was the school’s obstacle – multiculturalism (64 first languages) – became the opportunity in a millennial project to develop an International Studies Program “Windows on the World” (CHCI CIS Program –  This program’s goal was to develop “an informed, compassionate, lifelong & CultureSmart learner who strives for excellence in an ever-changing world.”  Changing paradigms and perceptions for kids from all cultures was paramount. So rather than subjugating students with “otherness” – the school came to celebrate “anotherness”.  (Barnhill –  This is a successful model of embracing demographics and differences rather than trying to educationally assimilate.  Essentially, to nurture the child, the school was “culturally responsive” and sought to redevelop their processes in much the same way as the CACCM model (Swanson 74).


Yet, I witnessed and participated in this educational program re-development from the position of “white privilege” and have felt a keen responsibility to develop sensitivity and awareness around the position of that vantage point: to always be aware of my ignorances.  To always seek to understand.  And I confess, I have often felt “white guilt”.

One further experience I have is being married to an immigrant from Argentina.  I have experienced with him the harm of prejudice, ignorance, and “white supremacist” attitudes. Furthermore, I too have felt “otherness” having lived in Argentina with my husband in his home town, and I really felt the sting of language and cultural barriers.  This experience helped to create a sensitivity and awareness in working with students and families in an understanding, empathetic way.

The second part of my career brought me to Calgary to another culturally diverse school – a charter – that draws students at our high school level from all communities, all quadrants, of the city.  In front of me, daily, is a mosaic of varying cultures and religions.  This is the classroom tapestry that I truly love to be in – a place where I am always learning, often humbled by my ignorances.  In an English classroom, we can study literature from around the world – from the places where the faces in front of me call home.  To engage any student, one must be prepared to “travel the road less taken” and we do that often from novels, memoirs, poems, and plays that transport us around the world.  It is humbling to be taught “how I’m getting it all wrong” when embarking on a journey into Nigeria with Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart – to step back and be taught about the cultural contexts, intricacies, and significances via the eyes and hearts of my Nigerian ladies, those who understand and love the text in ways I’ll never.

But I can listen.  I can learn.  I can love.  I can develop a relationship with students and families – seeking to understand.  It is my goal to maintain a curiosity, an open-mindedness, and a respect for “anotherness”.

Our journey into embracing “Anotherness” in this school is emerging, although many of us have been embracing it in our classes for years.  This school is founded on norms and values the quality in conformity and consistency – so the paradigm shift away from melting pots into tapestries is a challenge – including those seeking assimilation.   Education as a whole in Alberta is seeking directions in this both for its developing multicultural realities and to reconcile and revere our First Nations cultural values and traditions via a new focus on FNMI studies.

I cannot change the colour of my skin nor the privileges I have been born and bred with in middle-class Canada.  But I open my heart, my mind, and my classroom to the opportunities to build relationships and to develop a teaching practice into a counselling practice using the CACCM model (Swanson and Fouad).  This model resonates with me as an educator.



Cameron Heights International Studies:

David Barnhill:

Rethinking  the Relations of Nature, Culture, and Agency (Patrick D Murphy) –

Swanson, J.L., & Fouad, N.A. (2015), Career Theory and Practice: Learning through case studies (3rd ed). Thousand Oakes, Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.

Posted in Blog a Month, Blogging, School, students, writing

Daisies Matter


When you don’t sleep because you mark, and mark, and mark their writing. 

 And so much of it is beautiful and brilliant and you are grateful that you get to be the one chosen to do this hard work of marking, and marking, and marking.  And even the writing that is not really that beautiful is still a marked improvement from where they were months ago, and you are cheering for their growth, humbled by their monumental efforts to please themselves and to make you proud.

And then you get to read something like this from Hope (click this – I promise you that this poem is ridiculously good):

And you are reminded that this work is important, so important.  Their voices: their hearts, their minds, their souls are so very, very important.  And you are blessed, so very blessed.   

So, when you don’t sleep because you mark, you are really just blessed to be reading – and in reading you are hearing the voices that need to be heard and honoured.  And they are so very beautiful.  Every voice on this blog is beautiful and brilliant:    And I am in awe!

This is our last week with this garden of daisies.   Listen to them – they need to be heard.  See them – they deserve to be seen.  Love them – they matter. 


Posted in Blog a Month

Gratitude in Times of Doubt

This “Blogamonth” series is one I participated in a few years ago, and have been drawn to return to the PLN for coaching, inspiration, and light as I have seemed to enter a bit of a professional mid-life crisis this past year, uncertain how I’m to navigate the remaining years of my professional career, uncertain what there is for me beyond the trenches.  Consider joining us on the journey wherea diverse #PLN of teachers, administrators, coaches … connect to provide each member with some “edu-couragement”  to write a blog and comment on a blog at least once a month.” Join us here:

SEPTEMBER TOPIC: A new beginning: One thing that is different from a year ago that I am grateful for…

47b92df7463e5188c9fb482b2ac95e98Every year I get to fall in love.  Every year I have to say good-bye. Yet, after 20 years it is never easy to say goodbye to the kids you fell in love with.  It is a heartache that begins the second I start to fall in love and as time rushes us towards our farewells I get quieter, wishing for the days to slow down,  saddened that my birds are flying away.   Yet, proud too.  The love is constant, and the goodbyes are constant too.  Nothing different year to year.   And I am so grateful for it all, as always, even though it hurts.

So, when asked what is “different from a year ago that I am grateful for…” I have pondered and perplexed over this prompt.  Initially, I felt that nothing is new – just same old, same old.  In fact,  I am frustrated by the redundancy of my career.  I’ve been hungry for a change into a leadership position  – in administration, in curriculum design, in being a learning leader, a specialist, etc… – but there is nothing available in our organization for the likes of me.  I hunger for inspiration to aspire to something different, but something that still allows me to love, of course!goodbye

I’m trapped in a “now what?” existence. But in this limbo, I am graced with the beautiful paradox of falling in love again while achingly regretting the pending goodbyes.  I’m grateful for my students – all 78 of them whom I teach this semester.  Seriously, 3 classes of gorgeous children – I’m madly in love!  I’m not in anything I really want to get out of, yet I do want a change.  Thus the dilemma. Thus my mid-life professional crisis.  Am I grateful for a dilemma?  Not really, but yes.  It makes me appreciate every moment of class with them – even some of the marking.  Furthermore, what is uniquely special this year is that so many of these students have been with me since Grade 10 between Creative Writing, Drama 20 and AP class – 3 years of love makes the goodbyes so much more painful.  And I’m as sad as I am intoxicated with awe by their brilliance – especially my AP students where I get to learn alongside them.  I’m humbly grateful!

62c63f899cb43a8e2933cb8a332e0d29What is different with this group is the depth of love.  What I’m grateful for is them!  I’m grateful that I have this year with this group of 12s before they are gone.  In truth, I am the learner and they often are teaching me. What I’m afraid of is what is left of me, for me, when we say goodbye?  Yes, I can (and will) recycle again, as I have for the last 20 years, yet this would be the group that would be a high to close the finale curtain with.  But I am nowhere near retirement.  And I cannot seem to find contentment with sailing this sunset to the horizon, for my sails are tired and worn.  Sailing is not my interest – I love the battle of learning and want to find my own balance from weariness while being inspired to grow and adapt.  I’m certainly not bored, in fact, I’m overwhelmed in the to-do piles, especially of the marking kind – teaching English is a lifestyle, not a job.  “Get your master’s,” they say.  I’m just trying to get some sleep – let alone a master’s.

It is one of the benefits of teaching – we get to hit the reset button each year.  Only I’d like the reset button to be starting something new.  For now, I am grateful for being in love, while mourning our painfully pending goodbyes.

ILAG – Infinite Love and Gratitude!

Please check out my classes’ writing on our blogs:

Posted in School

AP Grade 12 Ted Talks

As our year winds to a close, our Grade 12’s share their wisdom and experience with our AP kids and friends via a Ted Talks style 5-15 minute speech.  The students’ truth and wisdom brought us all to tears for well over two hours.  Here are the highlights as shared with us by Jade’s great note-taking.

Highlights from grade twelve Ted Talks: 

Claire, on “Why I am Funny” 

  • -“If I’m funny, they’ll have to keep me around, right?” 
  • -insightfully describes humour as a source of validation, inspiration and perhaps even a coping mechanism 
  • -a wonderful speech about finding and establishing a sense of belonging and a safe, comfortable space 
  • -exploration of the idea that funny=likability=happiness 
  • -relatable–we are all looking for validation, for something to cling to, how we have a tendency to compare ourselves to other when we don’t feel like we are good enough 
  • -a funny, heartwarming story about finding and knowing our own worth–reaching our full potentials–how sometimes it’s a matter of patience 
  • -surrounding ourselves with humble, caring people who advocate for our success 
  • -taking chances, trying new things in order to find a place where we are passionate, where we feel safe, and where we feel like we belong 


Emily on “Dear Someone, from a child of divorce” 

  • -we all love people differently 
  • -spoken word style–LOVE 
  • -“matrimony, like bones and roses and poetry is fragile” 
  • -“it breaks the bonds, love and lovers” 
  • -fear of loving, of giving others too much of ourselves, fear of sacrificing dreams and hopes in the name of love 
  • -“I will likely take more than I can give” 
  • -“married, mothered, and monstrous” 
  • -“my hair, my sheets and clothes all smell like you” 
  • -how our upbringings predispose us to loving a certain way 
  • -how do we love selflessly without losing/destroying ourselves in the midst of doing so 
  • – dear, someone–word someone makes it applicable and relatable to anyone. 
  • -BRAVO! 

Harmehar on “the harm of minimizing your self-worth” 

  • -a universal suffering we have all experienced 
  • -why do we find confidence intimidating? 
  • -some of the most confident people have also felt the most insecure 
  • -who do we surround ourselves with?–we need to find people who love us unconditionally, those who are accepting of us, flaws and differences 
  • -don’t surround yourselves with people who are afraid to see you succeed!–cut them out of your life. 
  • -knowing what makes you happy and practicing those things; hobbies etc 
  • -sometimes where you feel you are supposed to be isn’t contributing to your own growth, development, and positive sense of self worth 
  • -self fulfilling prophecies 
  • -“realizing the potential that surrounds you”–never accept less than you deserve, do not short change yourself 
  • -we all deserve to feel good about ourselves 

Bryna on “finding your true path” 

  • -overriding convention of society 
  • -Tumblr and spiritual awakenings—LOVE it 
  • -from catholic to pagan 
  • to look up and realize my spirituality is Apollo and his mates shining down on me
  • -finding our own connections and passions–not letting others choose it for us 
  • -anti-conformity 
  • -“when one god comes in your life, more are sure to follow”  – each to teach us their lessons
  • -wonder, confidence, pride 
  • -“Apollo told me to never let go of my morals” 
  • -“Hermes is my closest companion” 

Sadia – the validation of one’s self

  • -the relationship you should value most is the one with yourself 
  • -the only validation that can satisfy you is the validation that comes from yourself 
  • -“if you make a mistake don’t lament…”–they aren’t meant to be a deterrent 
  • -“keep your humanity close to you.” 
  • -“don’t silence compassionate thoughts” 
  • -don’t let others decide your worth–only you, as an individual can do that 
  • -“our world is not without magic” 
  • -“become aware of the power and influence your mind is capable of” 

Timi on “imperfections and the pursuit of happiness” 

  • – beautiful, biographic story 
  • -we are all born with an inclination to love ourselves–with child-like wonder, something that often begins to deteriorates as we grow older 
  • – “body image became a must pay attention to” 
  • -“In a few months I went from being the most confident to the most self conscious” 
  • -“I looked for love in the wrong places” 
  • -our trials, imperfections and flaws are contributors to our strength and happiness 
  • – abuse
  • -“we all want to be somebody.” 
  • -embracing imperfections 
  • -“know the difference between and imperfection and a liability” 

Sania on “Islam is beautiful” 

  • – stereotypes vs reality 
  • – harm of stereotypes 
  • – peace, love, dignity, respect, a source of comfort in times of despair 
  • – my world of Islam was peace, beauty, and love
  • -“so remember me I will remember you” 
  • -“and he is with you wherever you are” 
  • -open, trusting, reliable community 
  • -“it felt like everyone is Saudi Arabia was one person”–unity 
  • -the fatal generalizations and incorrect assumptions made about Islam: comes from a place of fear, ignorance
  • -“every nation has seeds of corruption” 
  • -“fear reveals what we care about most” 
  • -“all the hardest, coldest people you meet were once as soft as water. And that is the tragedy of living” ~ Iain Thomas 
  • -“Islam is good” 

Sajan on “grade thirteen” 

  • -serendipity 
  • -the significance of second chances 
  • -self discovery 
  • -“I provided the spotlight for other people but I never gave it to myself” 
  • -it’s okay to ask for help when we don’t know how to help ourselves 
  • -heartache–muse, inspirational 
  • – finding home 
  • -“it’s never too late to get your *@!$ together” 
  • -the perils of sleep walking through life–find yourself instead 

Malika on “learning to let go while continuing to love on” 

  • -“I can’t leave you, my heart screams…but I have to” 
  • -“goodbyes remind us that we are human and that everything must come to an end” 
  • -“maybe the key to letting go is accepting the fact that forever doesn’t exist” 
  • -“love has no sense of time nor placement” 
  • -“love is a promise to never forget” 
  • -letting go doesn’t mean you stop loving 
Posted in Leadership, Professional Development, School

Coaching Teachers

I have noticed in my 18 years of teaching that we teachers value being heard, validated, and supported, especially in difficult times.  I am often sought as a mentor for many staff with a range of struggles from the classroom to personal life.  The intense demands of teaching coupled with the inevitability of life cause perpetual challenges that ebb and flow for teachers, so helping them to develop resilience is essential in the process of supporting them.  The experience of being this mentor for many years, with wisdom garnered from my own life and work challenges, gives me a wealth of perspective that I call on to support my colleagues when they need it.  It is the same “ear”, relationship, and caring that I give to my students as the needs arise. Effectively supporting people requires an investment of relationship, trust, communication, responsiveness, follow-up, and validation:

  1. Establish Trusting Relationships: I observe people. I listen to people. I take the time to get to know people. Why?  Because I value relationship as a foundation for trust.  Within my classroom, relationship is founded by mining inside the hearts and minds of students through writing, creating, and building community.  With adults, it is getting to know them in meetings, social contexts, community builders, and just being present in their class and observing what interests them by what surrounds them (photos, books, posters, momentos, …).  Having a relationship with staff is essential for being trusted both in good times and when they are in crisis needing the support I can offer.  With this trust, they come to me, and they appreciate my mentorship.
  2. Communication and Availability: I’m the mom to many at the school. I keep an open door policy as much as possible and am available to people when they seek my support or guidance. I am present with people and prioritize their well-being. When it is evident that someone needs support, I use my intuitive nature to read body language, tone, and word choice to give me the insight to ask the right questions in order to support them.   I genuinely know that my presence, candor, trust, and caring has made a difference for many, and I take that responsibility seriously.  My strong emotional intelligence and open-minded, non-judgmental attitude really help me be a compassionate listener and a positive influence in helping someone navigate those tough times.
  3. Responsiveness and Awareness: In communication, it is important to be responsive and attentive. Constant interruptions are a part of being an AP, but handling them with grace and awareness is essential so staff feel valued and heard. Small graces by putting aside the computer, offering eye contact, and my full attention create a safe space for effective communication to occur, so they know that I care to hear what they have to say, and to find out what they need. I ask: “How can I best help you” or “Who could best help you?”  I break down the upset or crisis into manageable chunks allowing for exploration of the root cause – this strategy alone is highly effective to give clarity and insight.  As leaders it is our responsibility to allow teachers to feel supported and that they can count on us.
  4. Follow-up: The key to genuinely supporting teachers is the element of follow-up both in person and virtually. In the follow-up we can train resilience through encouraging positivity, coaching a growth mindset, connecting with their heart, helping them make habits of self-care, and getting them to laugh – yes, laugh! I firmly believe that love, learning, and laughter is the formula to help struggling teachers survive and thrive.  In the follow-up, I coach them towards resilience through accountability.  As we build up their resilience, they increase their capacity and open-mindedness for growth, improvement, and empowerment.
  5. Validation and Kindness: The key to helping teachers maintain a resilient state is to offer validation and acts of kindness. This cannot be underestimated as an important strategy to maintain all teachers: a kind word, a handwritten note or email, taking a supervision, or covering a class for a break can go a long way towards coaching self-worth, endurance, and gratitude in staff. Think of our 3:1 ratio rule – teachers, like students, need 3 positive encounters for every 1 negative.  We, as leaders, have the power to be the 3 in a teacher’s world, and these acts foster motivation, respect, and success.