Posted in Professional Development, School

The Art of Inclusion

I began my career in 1998 in Kitchener, Ontario.  People balked when I told them that I was hired at CHCI: “That school is dangerous! That school is the ghetto!” Driving in for my interview, the school looked like a factory or prison building from the outside, and, in truth, it was filled with students from various parts of the city, including some “tougher” areas of town, including heaps of students who spoke 64 different first languages – families with great courage, leaving their homeland, all seeking a better life. Regardless of where they were from, all kids these kids had big dreams, just like me. This was a special place, with special people, where I learned so much about teaching, learning, and loving. These walls held the most beautiful people and they filled my soul! This was not the place people balked at when I told them where I was hired. This place was magical!

Enclosed in these dreamer walls was a first-class special-ed and life skills program too for high-needs kids.  There were lots of barriers some of these kids faced, so I learned the art of “inclusion” before it became a political-educational term in the last decade.  In my second year, I had the highest needs group I ever taught – 10 kids who had a full-time TA/security gent who followed them from class-to-class; he managed their fisticuffs, weapons, violence, and drug issues when these distractions would surface in class (yes, the toughest, downtrodden kids I ever taught – and I fiercely loved them, and they loved me). This was a class where I learned probably more than I taught – and I’m so grateful. These 10 kids I pray have found their way in the world, but in that semester together I learned that our space was an important family space for all of us.

This school had a very special, loving staff who worked to embrace our diversity while changing the negative reputation.  I came in as the dream was being built – I was young, an idealist, a hard-worker, an academic, and a dreamer too.  So, I jumped aboard with these great colleagues – who became my great role models, who became my dear friends – building a school proud of its diversity, building a school seeking success for each kid, building a winning drama program from nothing, building a gifted program into an IB ELA program, building a community that became a proud family of kids and teachers.  I believed in these dreams and our success.  I believed in these kids who graced our halls – all of them. I believed in this school and its community. I believed in all corners of this world from my wee drama group of amazing kids; my team of powerhouse ELA teachers; other subject specialist gurus; the music and art programs extraordinaire; the coolest radio station and program; brilliant leadership in SU; inspiring fashion, foods, and family programs; kick-ass sports teams; and really robust trades; etc… etc… etc… – every niche held space for our kids. As a new teacher, I was mentored by some of the most inspiring educators one can ever hope to guide – and these teachers taught me that inclusive pedagogy was essential to drive student success.

For 23 years, the art of inclusion has always been a non-negotiable in how I love the kids, design my spaces, plan the learning and assessment in the classroom. I learned from the best.

For the last 15 years at FFCA, inclusion has been the heart of how I teach. Although the needs are not as challenging and tough as those early years – diversity, academic challenges, and ESL continue to be plentiful in this public school, charter program. Inclusion and accommodations are part of how the class ebbs and flows each day, so when this term came to fruition within the last decade – I was already there. This seemed obvious – it turns out that it isn’t. So, I embraced the query and practice to further – more consciously – examine designing instruction, for supportive engagement, towards successful assessment – and how learning supports, strategies, tools, and technology can also help this quest.

This past semester, I was given the opportunity to do the important work of Inclusion Liaison – a position being phased out due to fiscal restraints. A role where I was the chief worrier and communicator – a linchpin – in supporting the kids with academic challenges and needs. A linchpin between students, staff, student services, admin, and parents – a vital, engaging, and necessary role with nearly 1/8 of the student population on the list at varying levels of needs who were categorized as priority, moderation, or radar. A variety of needs and challenges – and gratefully – many coasting along the “keep on the radar” level thanks to the excellent teaching staff. These categories are fluid and change based on needs and courses the student is taking.

But the public coffers in education are a pretty dry well these days and this role is now dwindled from full-time allocation, down to 1 class period a day this year, to nothing next year – an absorbed responsibility by admin now. So, with this loss – these are my parting thoughts to our staff – an email sent out to them:

Hi all,

Thanks for the time you’ve taken to update some CLEVR profiles – this will be helpful to us as we move forward next year.

Thank you for the PD opportunity this Inclusion Liaison role offered me – I loved the work with your kids, with you – the staff, with parents, with the Inclusion Team, and with Student Services.  It has confirmed my passion to work in some capacity for student services, for student success, in the future. 

What I learned that I wish I knew before as a teacher or reinforced what I knew before(here’s the condensed list):

  1. Many kids have cracks, gaps, and chasms (especially with this past year) – communication is key to help these: with the student, with the families, with the others teaching them – and CLEVR helps us trace their stories (both challenges and successes);
  2. As a staff – you are wise, talented, and caring – keep doing the great warrior work that you do;
  3. The best PD is the humbling experience of getting to be in your classrooms watching these kids or in conversation with you about these kids – thank you for the learning opportunity so many of you gave me.  Two shout-outs to Anil Nayak and Allan Broughton because the work you two have done with some really struggling inclusion kids taught me SO MUCH.  I’ll be forever impacted by what I’ve witnessed and learned from you both;
  4. One-on-one conferencing with kids is powerful in its ability to shift kids’ understanding and motivation – and these kids really respond to the attention of being seen, being cared for;
  5. Accommodations can often be incorporated into “good 1st time teaching and learning” for the whole class (I practiced many in class this year to see the effectiveness – and, dang!).  But when “good 1st time teaching and learning” isn’t working – look for further support:
  • CLEVR logs – for suggestions from teachers who have tried strategies already
  • “Collaborative” communication between all teachers teaching the child
  • Particular Students’ Psych Ed “accommodation suggestions” (at the end of the reports) are very useful for tips and tools – often just great ideas for many kids in a classroom.  (find these under “Files and Links” on CLEVR).
  • the FFCA ARF – Assessment & Reporting Framework – (page 17, Appendix B) – Assessment and Reporting Framework Overview with Clarifications 2020-21.pdf
  • I recommend that you begin the year with a survey of some sort having the kids (who can) identify their strengths, needs and accommodations – and you’ll be able to cross-reference if they have accommodations on Inclusion documents and CLEVR “accommodations” tab.  Student self-advocacy is going to become an important element in moving forward with our fiscal realities of scaled-back Student Services and supports.  

Again – thanks for the learning.  Continue the good fight for our kids!

Image Sources:

Equity –

Katniss –

Posted in Career and Academic Advising

Career Development Foundation: Advising Philosophy and Mission Statement

My Strengths: Clifton Strengths Assessment

Top Themes and the power of these strengths as an Advisor

  1. Strategic
    • My ability to analyze information and data of seemingly disparate pieces of information, and to synthesize it easily, helps me to “identify ways to transform an obstacle into an opportunity.”  I feel that this is particularly interesting and highly relevant skill set for an advisor as I have the ability to make use of the assessment data for each client, along with their personal narrative, to help them navigate their future in unique and fulfilling ways. This skill also helps me to “express [myself] with ease and grace,” which offers me the communication skills necessary to help a client understand what I’m needing them to understand. Strategic is an essential skill for and advisor to be successful.
  2. Intellection
    • Along with the strategic strength, intellection is evident in my present success as an English teacher.  As an advisor, it helps me to succinctly learn the information necessary to be a reliable and effective advisor.  My ability to read with focus helps in my ability to synthesize information and data strategically.
  3. Empathy
    • Of all strengths, this would be the one most people identify me with in my life and in my role as a teacher – an ability (some say it’s magical) to intuitively and insightfully “tune into the emotions and needs of individuals.”  This is what drives my desire to work as an advisor to “help people grow personally and professionally.”  This allows me to work with clients, naturally, in a heart-driven space and to have them come to trust me, and combined with my  other strengths, I have excellent qualifications for such a position – by nature.
  4. Ideation
    • Like strategic, once again my strength is in “find[ing] connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.”  As a creative person, the ability to create and innovate offers me the ability to make unique contributions to a clients’ needs.
  5. Adaptability
    • Again this description seems to be a perfect match with advising with a “tend[ancy] to … take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.”  This strength allows me to work with the unexpected that comes when dealing with people and their problems in a positive and proactive way.  Again, my many years of teaching and helping teens to navigate the tumultuous mini-mountains and some serious tragedies has given me a wealth of experience that has honed this particular strength.

In summary, I feel that I’ve been a great teacher, but “my best” will be when I’m able to synthesize my strengths and skill sets into Career and Academic Advising.  As much as I do love my subject expertises with the arts of reading, writing, creating, performing and directing – and I have found great success in doing so – my best days are when I’ve inadvertently worked as an advisor with a student, helping them to examine who they’ve been, who they are, and who they want to be.  The legacy that I want to leave is not only the inspiration I’ve imparted as a classroom teacher, but also the impact, support, and wisdom in helping students to be successful – to find their own paths towards a vocation with a work-life balance.

My Personal Philosophies:

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller 

Hope – I believe that hope is the most essential quality in helping a student to construct their future, and I commit to creating an office, a centre, where hope resides – where students can imagine the life they want to strive towards, and to believe that they can do what is necessary in order to be successful.  In this regard, I endeavour to use self-assessments of strengths, interests, skills, and values in order to have a language that empowers and validates students.

Every human being, of whatever origin, of whatever station, deserves respect. We must each respect others even as we respect ourselves. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Respect – I believe that common decency is to interact with each other with respect.  I will respect each and every student that I have the opportunity to advise.  I will respect each student as if they were my own child, given the honour to help them strive and achieve with what they need to make for themselves a successful future.  I, respectfully, seek to empower each student and to help maintain a student’s dignity in the face of adversity.  I respect, honour, and embrace diversity of different ethnic cultures, races, religions, economic backgrounds, geographic origins, genders, sexualities, and beliefs.

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Empathy – I believe that when students feel cared for, genuinely, they will open up to the learning that is being offered.  I will use my strength of empathy to intuitively and insightfully tune into the emotions and needs of individuals.  This is what drives my desire to work as an advisor to help students to grow personally in order to find a future of success, professionally.  I will always endeavour to work in a heart-driven space.

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” ― Hermann Hesse

Understanding – I believe that it is my responsibility to help students to understand who they are: their interests, skills, strengths, and values in order to help them establish their goals and to understand each step they are required to take in order to be successful.  When necessary, with great sensitivity, I will be understanding, with empathy, to the challenges students have faced in their past or are facing in their present that might be a barrier for them to maintain positivity and hope.  I endeavour to give students the counselling and the tools to re-configure their lives towards a better future. 

My Mission Statement:

As a Career and Academic Advisor, it is my mission to help each, individual student to assess their strengths, interests, skills, values, and goals in determining possible paths they may choose in order to develop towards a future of finding fulfillment and success with continued growth and development.  It is my goal to create a caring, inclusive environment that ensures students feel heard and respected in the process – always maintaining and supporting each student’s dignity, hope, and empowerment.  In regards to student advising, my practice is guided by the theories of:

  • Super’s Developmental Theories in regards to a study of life stages and a series of developmental tasks through growth and exploration phases; to examine vocational identity by focusing on an individual’s work values, interests, and abilities.
  • Social Cognitive Career Theory in particular regards to the Choice Model that “proposes that person inputs and background context  together influence learning experiences, which  influence self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectancies.”
Posted in School

Blogging Expectations

Reblogging this post from 6 years ago – blogging with classes continues to be excellent. And found my post was mentioned here –


Blogging Goals:Communication, Trust, Respect, Courtesy, Integrity, Scholarship, Self-Discipline

The blogging experience is, as I’ve said time and time again, an opportunity where the walls of my classroom disappear and the students begin to engage – as both writers and readers – in a medium where they find comfort – the virtual landscape.  However, the ultimate goal is to have students now “see” each other in ways they never saw before – to see each others’ hearts and minds, transferring that understanding, respect, and friendship back into the classroom when our walls surround us once again.  It is builds our community of learners.  It teaches them as much about themselves as it teaches them about each other.

Blog Writing Criteria

Ideas:  Writer generates original and compelling ideas with astute opinions; synthesizes complex concepts, and offers keen insights.  

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Posted in writing

Finding Our Voices as Writers by Emulating Great Writers

The art of emulation, otherwise known as imitation, is what we naturally do in order to learn how to do things that interest and inspire us.  A baby will emulate the facial expressions in front of them, even masterfully imitating mom’s grumpy face.  With skates on and stick in hand, the child will practice the moves Sydney Crosby made in Saturday night’s game, awaiting the day that the crowd goes wild cheering her racing up and down the rink handling the puck and scoring.  How does one learn a lay-up?  Watch and imitate the teacher or coach, or better yet, record Michael Jordan and study his moves in slow motion, step-by-step, then imitate those steps into a lay-up that would woo His Airness himself.  How does one learn to sing?  Sing along with the song – don’t we all sound fantastic when we’re all alone singing with our favourite musician?  How did my daughter come to love and be talented at art?  She coloured countless colouring books – both inside and outside the lines – since she could first hold a crayon, filled in numerous paint-by-number imitations of masterful works every Christmas, and has drawn and doodled every day of her life.  We learn through play and practice.  

Imitation in writing is plagiarism!  Well – that’s true if submitting an essay that you pilfered from the internet, or cousin Troy’s personal response that he wrote last year.  But just like the art of hockey, basketball, singing, or art – skills are only developed when studied, analyzed, played with and practiced.  Just like “Mad Libs” offers us templates to play with our parts of speech, syntax, and diction, emulation writing does the same.  So, we can only improve as writers if we read great writers, then practicing and playing with their moves.  

Which brings us to the art of emulation in finding our voices as writers. Students can write the words of a writer and then emulate – substitute words to create their own version of sentences, imitate the art and crafting of the words and sentence structure until they find their own flow, their own words, their own structures.  The art of imitation also improves grammar and punctuation skills.  

Come on let’s try this together. This was the first lesson I learned in the art of emulation writing to inspire students to write, and I learned it from Penny Kittle, who learned it from someone else, and so on.  So here I am, emulating the lesson for you (and giving credit where credit is due). 

Get a pen and paper.  Yes, adults, you too.  Now, let’s emulate from George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From”  (You can find the full poem here:

I’m From
By Pamela Hunnisett

I’m from a land of forest and shield rock
on a portage line between lakes of trout and walleye.
I’m from a kid-ridden broken paved street 
ending in a cattail, beaver-havened swamp.
I’m from a wander-lusted forest of lean-to shacks (muddied with decaying leaves),
Taunted by bears and moose above the escarpment, beyond the creeks that covered our legs in leeches.
I am from trees of maple, pine, and peeling birch,
Whose branches we’d hang, climb, and fall from.
I remember the smell and freedom of growing up in the wilds of the woods.

That’s right – try it.  Emulate from the original, or emulate from my emulation.  Write for your kids to tell them about where you are from, from your places, your people, your childhood.  Help them – whether in Grade 3 or 12 – to write their own versions of “Where I’m From.”  If you create something from this exercise – whether emulated or inspired, whether a poem or a paragraph – feel free to share it here with all of us through the comments on this post.

This is what we do in Creative Writing and, ultimately, in English classes too.  You can do this with poems, with passages from novels, famous quotations, with newspaper articles, with song lyrics, with children’s stories, with cards – let your children (and yourselves) write with the training wheels on and eventually you’ll be able to ride more confidently and competently on your own without having to emulate to find that voice. But, of course, be clear about emulation, it is to play and practice with, not for assessments. 

Here’s an example of the power emulation has on writers when playing and practicing writing from great mentor writers – in this case the students chose Robert Frost (PS – I do not know why it formatted each consecutive writer lower):


Spoils Of The Dead
By Robert Frost 

Two fairies it was  
On a still summer day
Came forth in the woods  
With the flowers to play.
The flowers they plucked  
They cast on the ground
For others, and those  
For still others they found. 

Flower-guided it was 
 That they came as they ran
On something that lay  
In the shape of a man.
The snow must have made  
The feathery bed
When this one fell  
On the sleep of the dead. 

But the snow was gone  
A long time ago,
And the body he wore  
Nigh gone with the snow. 

The fairies drew near  
And keenly espied
A ring on his hand  
And a chain at his side. 

They knelt in the leaves  
And eerily played
With the glittering things,  
And were not afraid. 

And when they went home  
To hide in their burrow,
They took them along  
To play with to-morrow.

 When you came on death,  
Did you not come flower-guided
Like the elves in the wood?  
I remember that I did. 

But I recognised death  
With sorrow and dread,
And I hated and hate  
The spoils of the dead.
Two Children
By Kamran L

Two children it was
On a hot summer day
Came forth in the sand
With beach balls to play.

The seashells they plucked
They tossed in a mound
From others, they stole
For still others they found

Seashell-guided it was
That they came as they swam
On something they lay
With the colour cyan.

The sand must have made
The feathery bed
When this one fell
On the sleep of the dead.

But the sand was gone
Washed away long ago,
And the tail they wore
Still attached right below.

The children drew near
And keenly espied
The rainbow scales 
And a staff at its side.

They knelt in the water
And eerily played
With the shiny new
And were not afraid.

And when they went home
To hide in their burrow
They took them along
To play with to-morrow.

When you came onto death
Did you not come
Like the kids on the beach?I remember that I did.
The Man Who was Death
By Tanzil C
They saw the man,
face down on the ground.
Stiff and not moving,
not making a sound.

The children they touched,
they poked, they prodded.
They looked at each other,
and solemnly nodded.

They thought they knew,
that they would do better.
But Death would not stop,
for death was no quitter.

The children they grew,
both smarter and older.
But Death smiled with glee,
as they slowly became older.

Death followed them around,
like an ominous mist.
The children became old,
and they saw what they missed.

All those years ago,
that man on his face,
was no longer a man,
but death in his place.

Posted in School

A Personal Career Journey

ADL 212 – Assessment – University of Calgary (Career and Academic Advising)

Looking over my life journey, I am humbled by the wisdom and experience I have acquired through my early jobs as a teen, into leadership positions in my 20s, into developing mastery as a teacher, and hopefully into a side-step position as a future career and academic advisor at my high school.  It is evident that my persistence for learning and passion for helping others has always been at the forefront of my work identity and successes.  I have been employed ever since those first days of nanny-dom  – 34 years ago – thanks to: a strong work ethic, a desire to please, a calling to learn and teach and counsel, being a creative and conceptual thinker, and leading as an educational mentor.  My greatest career satisfaction is in helping students achieve their personal excellence by motivating them through hope and efficacy – truly.  I love when students geek out with me in our shared passions of reading literature, writing great sentences, and performing under stage lights.  I also have loved being a teacher to teachers with the world of blogging, receiving international kudos with an interesting fan base in the Philippines and China?  But something I love most, is the ability to tutor and conference with students one-on-one – seeing epiphanies and possibilities of understanding unfold in front of me.

The Early Years:

My early teen years saw me initially gainfully employed as a reliable babysitter and a summer nanny to three precocious children all under the age of 5, and I was darn good at it too.  I innately seemed to understand that children were best behaved when they were engaged – so keeping my client happy, so to speak, was the focus of my time with the children – plus I had a serious Mary Poppins idealization that was being realized.  But to also further impress the parents – I would ensure the home was better when they returned, than when they had left. Being seen as responsible was profoundly important to me.  This experience led to my first “real” job – an easier job – of minding a doll/toy store at the age of 16 for a few summer months.  It would have been easy to sit behind the counter and read for hours,  but I’d buzz about cleaning, redesigning displays, and when a customer came in – I seemed to carry my dad’s ease of sales and often had successful cash out’s at the end of the day –  impressing the owner.

Upon entering my Grade 11 year at school, after a summer of savings from the doll store, I was seduced by the prospect of a school trip to Paris in March Break.  My savings were meager compared to the cost of this trip, and my parents shut down any hope of being able support this dream, so out I went to the mall with determination knit on my brow and a host of resumes in my bag – leading to an instant hire as a cashier on my first stop – Loblaws.  This happenstance successful moment led to 10 years of loyalty with this company.  A grocery store is a great opportunity for work as a teen busy with academics and extra-curricular activities – their flexibility with availability works well as a part-timer (yes, I did make the money and loved every moment in Paris – but that’s another story). 

The following summer, I was offered a second job as a Summer Student for the North Bay Police – on word-of-mouth from my former nanny-dom employer – I was hired for the position of data-processing in forensics and community relations with block parents, neighbourhood watch, drug education.  So my next four summers into university were filled with work days with the police, evenings doing summer theatre musicals, and weekends cashiering – and workaholism seeped into my blood. 

Uni Days:

My first year of uni took me away from northern Ontario and into the heart of Ottawa where I spent my first year immersed in all academic demands while maintaining my seniority at the grocery store in North Bay.  Once a month I’d speed up the highway  on a weekend to work – which was well worth it given union wages.  In the summer between 1st and 2nd year, I learned that my job would be lost at the end of the summer due to the store closing.  But as a union position, all staff were entitled to choose one of three options: a pay out, a partial pay out but be hired back at the new grocery moving in – with a pay cut, or to “move to and Ottawa store with a $10,000 moving allowance”.  Yep, you read that correctly.  I was paid to return to Ottawa, where I already went to school, and be given a job where I could work weekly and avoid a monthly 360km commute to and from the north – to a store near my home and school.  No greater luck could befall me.  In school, abandoning Communications and Politics for Theatre, I achieved great success and built heaps of skills in my hands-on Theatre programme – where countless hours acting, directing, teching or managing in the blackened boxes of illusion led to me achieving an incredible amount of skills and honed talents.

Graduating three years later with a degree in Theatre, working as an actor and doing tech in summer productions, while also working with Loblaws (being as flexible as it was), led to me seeking more reliable paychecks and employment.  So, Loblaws again to the rescue, offered me a department manager position – a 9to5 job – managing the newly minted Photolab in its new flagship store in downtown Ottawa.  What did I know about photography and dark rooms? – well, not much I tell you – leading to my mother’s critical gaze and exasperated sighs.  But in my resume and interview, I had the instinct to sell my skill sets as “transferable skills and strengths”: photographs are pictures – in theatre I use light and composition on the stage; machine and computer processed film and pictures is merely tech and mechanical skills – I use technology with lighting and sound, plus I can build sets (hence I have a mechanical know-how – admittedly, this was a stretch); management of people – ah, my wheel-house of ability for I have spent thousands of educational dollars to learn how to collaborate with, direct and stage-manage theatre artists (the most ego-centric and belligerent of workers) all towards a common vision within a tight timeline and budget.  Bingo – I was hired.  And I excelled at this career all while continuing to study a second degree in English Literature and Creative Writing (because why not? But really because my dream was to pursue Education for Theatre and English), and also continuing casual work in the theatre with friends and former professors, while building volunteer experience with Children’s Aid for my Education application.  Busy with varying hats that I was wearing – overworked, but highly engaged – I was feeling good with the paths I had carved.

Professional Work and Further Education:

Soon, with two art degrees under my belt in Theatre and English – Loblaws came a-knocking once again; with their need for gender equality in the workforce, they were offering me a Master’s in Business – which they’d fund in the expectation to groom me towards store management.  With the countless number of times I had been left in charge of the store – with automaton mindless workers and customers whining – I knew that store management was really an uninspiring future for my creative needs, and I turned them down (gracefully – slam no door is my motto), as I was to pursue a Bachelor of Education degree. In the Ontario world of education in 1996, this was idealistic and foolhardy – there were no teaching jobs for years with miles of qualified teachers awaiting any job that would come available – most flew off to Asia, England or the remote northern climes of Canada. 

With bleak prospects for a future in teaching and wide eyes, I turned down  the practical offer and pursued the idealistic path – one that brought recognition and reward of a job offer – one that I had to turn down.  On my last practicum of student teaching in April of 1998, I was offered a job for the fall teaching drama and English – the dream was realized, but my foolish heart had married the year before I entered Education and it was his turn to now pursue his educational dream in southwestern Ontario, at the Stratford Chef School. I was faced with the dilemma to stay in Ottawa away from my (ex)husband or to sacrifice a rare opportunity in a dream school to support his turn, and I turned the offer down – as much as it broke my heart to do so. 

We packed up our life and moved to the beautiful town of Stratford – an amazing town for my creative heart to soar with theatre and literature opportunities abounding – but little in line for teaching.  Humbled, I tucked in and secured myself with three jobs to help our ends meet – work is a-plenty in the theatre season, but dries up in the winter – so like a good squirrel I worked 7 days a week to store away money for the desperate winter season.  Mornings, five days a week I would waitress the breakfast shift at a local diner, to work in a dress shop for 40 hours a week, to wait tables at an upscale restaurant for a few nights a week until after midnight. My resume was in every school board within an hour long drive, but not a single call was received until the Friday before school started in September. At home, while I was working, my (ex)husband received a call asking me for an interview at 1pm that afternoon – in the middle of my shift. With blessings and cheers from my boss – I rushed up the highway to Kitchener in order to do an unprepared, impromptu interview.  I was hired on the spot – they were desperate to fill a drama/English position and not many were qualified for both subjects. 

Teaching in Kitchener:

Armed with little material about the course syllabuses, I stepped in front of turbulent teens in an inner city–gang renowned school and never looked back.  The school was poorer, rougher and tougher than I ever expected, but I fell in love.  The teachers were disheartened and destroyed by provincial politics that saw walkouts, work-to-rule, and strikes the year before – leading to teacher breakdowns and retirements (which opened the spot for me).  And here I was, idealistic and eager, but aware enough of the disgruntled staff room to know that my enthusiasm could only come alive within the walls of my classroom, with my students.  I needed to balance respect for colleagues and the needs of my students.  I thrived – finding love with both colleagues and students. 

Those were good days of opportunity – I led a theatre program – winning showcases and competitions our first year and every year for the next six years.  I joined committees helping redesign our image from the gang school to a school of International Studies, to developing a “gifted” English program, to being the lead for English in acquiring International Baccalaureate status.  Within six short years my resume was stacked with credentials, kudos, and experiences.  Yet, after those first two years, my marriage fell apart.  So, even though I experienced great personal loss – professionally, my work world was ideal – if working 70+ hour weeks on average is ideal.  But I loved it.  I was happy, successful as a beloved teacher, found family in my colleagues-friends, and I had earned many “stripes” of recognition and validation.  Then, with all stars aligning, my personal life met this amazing math professor (online no less) who worked an hour away at McMaster, and the trajectory shifted again.  Our whirlwind romance resulted in marriage and a baby within a year, while I taught the inaugural IB class and led our theatre troupe to another win.  All was well – excellent, in fact.  Ideal.  Until. 

To the U.S.of A:

Until my husband’s post-doc of three years came to an end and his job hunt began – I knew this when I met him, I knew this as I fell in love, I knew this as I married him – but now reality was here, and my beloved job – my second family – I had to leave.  His pursuits led us to the heart of New England in Hartford, Connecticut – a lovely place to go, idyllic – really – as our simple life was surrounded with Gatsby-like riches and Stepford blonde-dyed Pleasantvillers.   With a toddler in tow and another in womb, we set about our new life with our new identity surrounded by quaintness and academia – with library times and mother groups at the community centre.  And soon with a pink wrapped baby in arms, and toddler boy in hand, I set about mommy-dom in America – post 9/11.  I found friends.  I swapped free lunches and yoga for homeschool teaching of English and Drama.  I took classes for free at my husband’s east coast Liberal Arts College of Trinity.  My life expanded in interesting directions as did my mind and my experiences.  I found another life, ideal. Until.

Back to Canada – to the New-Old West:

Until my husband’s second post-doc of two years came to an end, and the search began anew, and we set our sights back towards Canada or to my husband’s homeland of Argentina, as raising kids in a Bush era of war was unsettling – even if our little world was lovely.  This brought us to  the University of Calgary in 2006 with soaring home prices in a boom phase – Calgary was hot, and we were poor as church mice.  But with the gamble of the boom and our professional credentials – home ownership was possible, but it required my return to work after two years as a mom, a student, and a granola-crunching homeschooling consultant-teacher.  Grief set in as I secured a teaching position thanks to one of my besties from teacher’s education who worked for this “charter” in Calgary – this charter is a leader in public education now ranking statistically as the #1 public school in Calgary – back then, I was hired to teach Grade 8, having to leave my babies in daycare. I was sad.

These were the hard years.  First, I longed for being at home with the kids – shockingly.  I was a feminist.  I loved teaching.  But I missed those days of being just a mom.  Doing both this time didn’t seem reasonable or possible – I felt guilty and mediocre.  This world of teaching was not the one I had left in Kitchener.  We were alone in this world of work, commutes, daycares, and no family and really no friends.  We survived.  Critical to the discontent was that I was teaching middle-school – not my love or expertise.  Of course, my work ethic superseded my whining and I worked extremely hard to honour and respect my work and my students.  And I succeeded.  I led teams for building Critical and Creative teaching frameworks, I built theatre programs, and began learning and leading computer technologies into classroom learning.  All was good – but tough – and not ideal. 

Within two years I managed to work my way into teaching at the high school for our charter – but as an English teacher, not a drama teacher.  Losing drama was like losing a child – I love both subjects equally, so I lost a bit of myself – but found it a bit in supporting our drama at the high school and finding my best friend who was the teacher.  Our collaboration – and my eventual opportunity to teach it too for the Grade 11 level –  has led us to be one of the most successful programs in the province – winning competitions for 10 years now, consecutively – with students successfully pursuing theatre arts professionally.  In English, I have been coordinator for our team, and now helm our AP English and Creative Writing programs.  I’ve carved out great programs and guided them to great success.  I’ve pioneered blogging and been a speaker at local and international conferences in Boston and Costa Rica –  with a following and mentorship across the world for other educators going down the blogging trail.  In so many ways, I have found new ideals – new prospects – new horizons.  But I have also felt stifled and the marking piles after twenty-two years continue to grow and the weariness of teaching for over two decades offers two dichotomies – mastery as a teacher and longing for a new quest, a new learning, and new challenge.  And I feel this longing for something different.  Something else.

Pursuits, Rejections, and Future Hopes:

In midlife – the crisis is a professional one.  Did I pursue the right path?  Do I have regrets for unrealized possibilities?  Of course I do.  Reading Katy Morton’s memoir I thought – why did I not pursue journalism and international travel writing?  Reading Mankell – I think of those lost opportunities to become a police officer into a detective – I fancy that I’d rival both Nancy Drew and Olivia Benson’s SVU character – all five feet of me.  Lost pursuits of International communications with politics to help a diplomatic embassy in Paris – well, yes, a regret!  Pursing the nomadic life in the theatre – nah – I’d rather teach the craft to students – but perhaps I better prefer teaching it at the uni level.  Running a grocery store? – nah! 

I pursued learning about the new concept of a learning commons – with the ambition that I’d love to be an educational leader in a learning commons space – a learning leader for both students and teachers.  A job that does not exist in our system.  To leave my school for it was not something I wanted, so I tucked in, and stayed teaching.

About six years ago, I tried my hat at the “administration pool” – and although I did well in interviews, with great letters of regard and support – I, for the first time in my career, felt the sting of humiliation in not being chosen – ouch!  I was not only rejected once, but three times.  Clearly, the powers that be did not accept me into their inner sanctum.  I received little feedback the first time other than “you do not have your Master’s in Education” – the same degree that the awarded teacher was permitted to pursue after his ascension.  Then later feedback appeased that losing me in the classroom would be too great.  Then the feedback that I’m a leader already,  that I’m a champion for students, that I am more valuable in that role than as a disciplinarian or dealing with the teachers.  So I have continued my path of teaching with all my heart and passion – working to hone my craft and to learn, constantly.  I love learning and do so alongside of my students every day.  My days are filled with my mantra to LOVE, LAUGH, and LEARN every day – and that I do with my students!  And the divided roles of mother/teacher have found rest with my teenage babies coming to school with me every day.  And there are so many ideals in my days.  But my nights filled with marking continue to plague.  And I still have felt this longing for something different.  Something else. 

Which brings our journey to the fall of 2018 when our beloved counsellor – the “moulder of dreams” – declared that the golf courses were beckoning her more than the school bells and that retirement is likely on her future horizons.  Alas, the light beamed on me – that I could wax and wane into the twilight of my career moulding dreams as a career and academic advisor – helping and supporting kids with all the passion and gusto I bring to my classes – while ushering in new technologies and supports along the way.  Leading to my exuberant pursuit of this certificate to support my calling and with our “moulder of dreams” supporting and cheerleading me the whole way.  I pray that either full-time or part-time this role as an advisor might be my next journey, with our kids, at this school.  But perhaps, if rejected, I’ll offer my skills and passion to another high school, or maybe a university – we’ll see. 

Looking at this journey, with my passion, my empathy, my experience, my wisdom, my constant yearning for learning and growth, my love of teens, my dedication, my work ethic – I know I can do this new work, and do it splendidly.  The moulder’s shoes are tough to fill, but so are mine.  And I’d like to take my shoes and walk this new path of learning, to master the skill of counsel to honourably support the stakes of students’ futures, rather than their success in a course – a course where the best work I do is helping them to find themselves in the light of the learning, not just disseminating a curriculum. 

This Personal Career Journey has me realize so much about myself, reinforcing these goals and desires.  However, metacognitively I’ve learned the importance of listening to the narrative of the client because in the narrative exists the strengths and the weaknesses and helps to make meaning and sense of the assessments and inventories.  Listening is key to advising.  And I am ready to listen. 

Posted in School

Social Media – An Innovative Educator of Influence – George Couros

This is my 3rd post for the UofC Continuing Ed course – BMC 312 Social Media Essentials. This assignment requires us to “share an example of a company or brand that you think is using social media effectively.”  I have chosen to focus on George Couros as an innovative educator of influence.  George, if you read this (and he might), let me know if I’m missing something or need to correct anything!  Cheers!

This assignment had me scouring various brands, websites, and tweets – all in an effort to complete this task – I looked at products and social influencers.  I loved Chantel’s post about Jillian Harris – Chantel has a great sense of style and really did an inspiring job aligning her own look with the influence of Jillian’s.  Since I love home design – I looked at Joanna Gaines and her Magnolia site.  Since I love gardening – I looked at how Saskatoon Farm has really amped up their Facebook & Instagram presence this summer – luring me to the south of the city for fresh vegetables and berry picking.  Since I love travel – another road I travelled was to find influencers around travel (something I’ve always wanted to do was be a travel writer), but I found heaps of hip, hot, younger wanderlusters – not something I could wholly connect to. So finding middle age wanderlusters like the late foodie-culture-lover Anthony Bourdain is more my interest and something I’ll explore more in my future having added many to my social media feed this week.

gcourostweet.jpegBut for this assignment I finally landed – thanks to a tweet on twitter (seen in the visual on the right) – on a leader in education with a large scope of  influence on both teachers and administrators, an Albertan who came to our school about 4 or 5 years ago to introduce the staff with how useful social media can be in the sphere of education – George Couros.  George had everyone pull out their phones to sign up on twitter, had our school work at thinking of itself as a brand via twitter handles and hashtags.  Although I had been using twitter for a few years at that point and wasn’t new to its ability to impact my professional learning, I never considered the concept of it as “an influencer” or “as a brand”.  With twitter he is active daily by writing posts, advertising his books and consultant work, but mostly he retweets the tweets of others, bringing to them exposure too.  This man is networked!  And I would argue that although the focus of his social media and books are for an audience of educators, I see many things he posts and writes that really help businesses with branding and using technology as a means to an end – see this article “Humanizing our Organizations Through Social Media”. 

George’s blog is titled The Principal of Change – Stories of Learning and Leading, which is exactly what he does as a disrupter, an innovator, a leader who holds out his charismatic hand to administrators and teachers guiding them into the 21st Century, with social media as his magical wand.  Notice his blog page, below, and on the left of his page there are several social media links to share his work.  He posts with regularity, occasionally reposting an older post to bring it attention and to keep his blog updated regularly (a great strategy when you have as much material as he does), and when his blog updates it is tweeted out to his followers.

Principal of Change

In his About Me he outlines his digital footprint: with various platforms in, connected principals – a site he created for administrators world wide, edutopia, twitter – where he has regular presence, diigo – a social media bookmarking tool that doesn’t appear to have been used in years, facebook – that he uses personally but also has his brand page, Youtube – where he mainly has music he’s interested in with other videos that are related to education, Scribd – where he’s uploaded documents like his CV.  He does need to do some updates on the site as he is also active now on Instagram, Amazon, and LinkedIn too.  Clearly, this is a connected leader.

Innovators mindset

When you go to his blog, this  “Call to Action” (visual to the right) quickly pops up and you are offered to subscribe to his blog – this keeps his followers informed and increases his social media presence, but is also a further incentive to buy his book – clever!

Further to this presence that is impacting and influencing both administrators and teachers, he has created a brand for himself with books he’s published – with direct links for purchase from his website to Amazon:

Not to mention – he has a t-shirt for sale via his blog too, with one of his quotations:

Couros shirt

George knows his brand and certainly knows how to sell it.  He’s managed to develop his career as an “Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant” and an author, with such great success as he now does this full-time, giving up the security of his work in education as a previous Division Principal with Parkland School Division in Stoney Plain.  Education administration, with the security of its benefits and retirement, is not an easy thing to give up unless you are confidently successful in the branding of your name, your work, and your ability to continuously find financial independence in this world of being an influencer.  George offers many consultant opportunities with Keynote speeches and workshops, as are noted on his website; (I think he should also list his appearances so that followers and fans might find where he’s speaking and influencing next – like another educator guru I love named Penny Kittle does on her website).

All in all, George inspires teachers like me to do the best we can for our students – both in the classroom walls and beyond them using technology and social media.  He maintains his touch with the trenches as his lovely wife Paige (a former teacher at our school) is an elementary teacher who holds him accountable and real.   He helps us to connect with our community of colleagues, students, and parents as we reach out via social media – humanizing and de-mystifying the teaching and learning in our four walls.  Thanks George!

“What many organizations are learning is that actually humanizing their business through social media is something that is helping to build a deeper loyalty to not only the company, but to the vision of the organization.” George Couros “Humanizing Our Organizations Through Social Media”

Posted in Career and Academic Advising, School, Social Media Essentials

Social Media – Best Practices

This is my 2nd post for the UofC Continuing Ed course – BMC 312 Social Media Essentials. This assignment requires us to “identify 2 specific learnings you have had about social media content best practices.”



These past few weeks have been interesting as I am taking in so much info regarding Social Media – realizing how much I’ve learned through hands-on trial and error, realizing how little I have known, realizing how much more we should be overtly teaching students Social Media skills with Digital Citizenship – which I try to do when blogging with students in English and Creative Writing classes.  But I am middle-aged and Social Media skills are still experimental and awkward to me.  However, the more I read and learn, the more I play with social media – the more important I think that the KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) should be taught and nurtured – kind of like Sex Ed needs to be taught and not just happened upon (although, please – never ask me to teach Sex Ed).

My big “AHAs” could really have me write about a dozen different moments and realizations – but for the sake of conciseness (a social media best practice), I will limit my response to TWO, as assigned: Content Mix & Content Organization.


Visual from:

The challenge for many of us in actively engaging our “brand” on social media is the challenge “what to post”.  I liked the simplicity of the CCC – reminding me that I don’t have to “write” it to post it.

CREATE = this is where I am the creator of a social media post because I personally wrote it, or shared an image or video that I took or created.

CURATE = this is where I link or share content created by another writer or source.  This is how I most often use social media – to share the great “aha” material that others have created.  But in doing so, I’m mindful to choose material that maintains my purpose, my style, my interests both professionally and personally (ensuring that my “personal” presence supports my professional role).  I have a rule that if I wouldn’t say or share it in a class, then it should not be on my social media – personally or professionally. Kind of like the “grandparent rule” for students – would you be okay with your grandparent reading this?

COLLABORATE = partner with others so the onus of creating material is not on you.  I guess that this is what happens on my classroom blogs – they are a collaboration of voices from the class.

  • AP Class Blog
    • here you’ll see a collection of AP English students’ writing since 2015 – a wealth of exemplars and inspiration for other student writers taking Advanced Placement English (university level reading, writing, and exams in high school)
  • Creative Writing Class Blog
    • here you’ll see that students query to publish their favourite pieces onto our class “hub”, but there are links to each students’ created blog in the sidebar – via their name and blog title.

I also felt that the link to A Beginners Guide to Social Media Practices at to be an excellent resource in reviewing the “how” and “what” regarding Content Mix.

I particularly loved this infographic in the article as it reminded me of important responsibilities and opportunities around creating content – this is something I will use with my classes as I teach blogging and digital citizenship:

infographic about content mix



I have never considered “scheduling” social media posts because I’m not a business (at this time) that is trying to build a following for economic purposes.  I just post what I like, when I want to.  I try to maintain a “presence” as an influencer, but not a gainer.

Although, I do have a “newsletter” that comes out on my twitter automatically every Sunday morning – Paper li curates my twitter interests and creates a newsletter that I read every Sunday morning – but I doubt it has many readers other than myself.  (Paper li is something I’m looking at using more with my students’ writing and reading this year.)

But after reading this article: How to Create a Social Media Content Calendar: Tips and Templates  – I began to see the relevance and importance of this for building a brand or promoting a business.  Truly, companies can take the job of marketing into their own control.  This is definitely something I will look into working with more if I am in a position of needing this type of marketing presence.  Coschedule was a website that definitely caught my eye regarding this work.

All in all, my mind is rattled and my curiosity peaked!  My social media presence this week has been mindful – I’ve been keenly aware and reflective in my roles of being a  creator, a curator, a collaborator, a learner, a reader, and a responder –  I am part of the hubs and spokes that are redefining what it is to be a human in the 21st century.

Posted in Career and Academic Advising, Professional Development, Social Media Essentials

Intro – Social Media Essentials Course

I’m working towards a certificate in Career and Academic Advising via the University of Calgary.  This summer I’m taking three courses: Ethics, Social Media Essentials, and Intercultural Communication.  I’ll be using the blog for posts about my learning and professional development in this field. 

Hello to all,

My name is Pamela Hunnisett and I’ve been teaching high school for 20+ years and I just finished my 13th here in Calgary, Alberta, at FFCA. I teach English, Creative Writing, and Drama 20 (acting and playwrighting) – it’s a beautiful gift to work with teenagers, to help them discover themselves, and to help them uncover their potential.

I live a life of gratitude with a wise husband, my two kind-hearted teenagers, and a cuddly-suck-of-a-dog. I fill my time with reading, writing, theatre-viewing and creating, researching, traveling (a wander-luster), hiking, nature-loving, bird-feeding, cooking, gardening, etc.  I love to travel and will have my bags packed in an instant whenever the prospect of travel comes knocking – we’ve journeyed to Argentina many times (where my husband is from), across Canada, the US, Costa Rica, Spain, France, England, and Switzerland – with so much more to see in this world.  But this summer we’re stay-cationing in lovely Calgary while we finish the basement to our new house in the NW and I work on courses towards a Certificate in Career and Academic Advising – a position I hope to do in the future at my high school.

Since 2009, I’ve pioneered blog writing and communicating online with my English and Creative Writing classes via Edublogs (a division of wordpress for education), Edsby, Google classroom, and Edmodo platforms.  This work is something that is ever-evolving and I learn more every year to improve what we do and how we do it in my classes.  The social media world is constantly shifting, so as experienced as I am, I constantly feel like a novice and keeps me on my toes as a learner.  I’m excited to take this course to see what I can further learn and integrate into teaching and advising; I also hope to refine my use of platforms like LinkedIn, etc….   This work has led me to share my students’ blogging work and learning at conferences in Boston and Costa Rica, and I really hope that in the future I’ll have more opportunities to share the work and collaborate internationally with other instructors and classes.

I have enrolled in the program for Career and Academic Advising because it is an area that has always been of interest to me.  At school, our beloved academic counsellor announced that retirement is on her horizon in the next few years, and it is my hope to attempt to wear her very large shoes (a crazy and impossible aspiration – we call her the “moulder of dreams” for a reason).  I am a student-centred teacher, a mom to many, and we spend many lessons helping students understand where they’ve been, who they are,  and what they’d like to be in their future.  I believe that honing my skills in Social Media will help me develop a blog/website resource for students in Career and Academic Advising.  I look forward to learning all there is so I can best serve, support and guide our students into their future.


Pamela Hunnisett

Posted in Career and Academic Advising, 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 Advising, 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.