Monday, February 6, 2023

OLA SC 2023


I need to begin today's reflection by returning to last week's reflection and combining it with someone else's reflection. (How's that for convoluted?) The wonderful Doug Peterson and Stephen Hurley mentioned my blog post on my puppet theatre STEM challenge in their This Week in Ontario Edublogs episode. They had some questions that begged for a response.

a) What is a standing flashlight?

This is a term of my own invention, which actually supports the theory that I have no clue what I am doing in hardware stores. I needed a flashlight that could "stand" on its own, without rolling off a desk. Since our school has eliminated all our overhead projectors (thank you Stephen in your show for talking about how kids are drawn to making hand shadows with past and current light emitters, from overhead projectors to data projectors), I needed something to produce light that I did not have to hold all the time. I've pasted two photos on here as examples. The first one I'd call a "regular flashlight" and I nicknamed the second a "standing flashlight".

b) What will we do when the show it over? What happens when it comes down? Does all the intellectual property come down with it too? Will it be easier to do next time? Will we document how to put it back together?

I'm fortunate that the creator, Dean Roberts, is a retired teacher. He promised to come by the school this coming Tuesday to see if he can assemble it the way he created it. This time, we will definitely take photos and record the necessary steps. Even though it was fun to try and determine how to build it without directions, it definitely got a bit frustrating at a certain point. (To clarify, my own children focused on the puppet building rather than the theatre building. I'm not breaking into my school on the weekends!) Creating an instructional manual for the puppet theatre is a must. The video is a good idea - thanks for the prompt, Stephen and Doug!

Doug and Stephen talked about the desire for students to stay in a place when they are super-engaged (like Doug's computer lab and Stephen's classroom when his students were making Rube Goldberg machines), about jackdaws (I had to make one for Grade 7 history), about friendly Home Hardware stores in Milton (I don't fault my local supplier with being unapproachable - the hangup is purely my own internal inferiority complex), and eventually, they got onto the topic of the Ontario Library Association Super Conference as they began talking about Jen Aston's post. (I smiled hearing about this, because I was the person who rewrote the Queen's University Teacher Librarianship AQs, so I'm indirectly connected to Jen's project! Jen - I hope you enjoyed creating it.)

Circumstances meant that I was only able to attend a single day at OLA SC, but I'm so thankful I could. Here's my own reflection of the conference.

Ontario Library Association Super Conference 2023

Walking in Two Worlds - Reflections by Diana Maliszewski

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 9:00 a.m.

How to Run an LGBTQIA+ Book Club for Teens If You're Not Queer or Trans

Summary: (taken from the program description)

Say you know there’s a need for a queer book club for teens at your library, and you’re willing to run the program, but you’re not queer—what are some best practices for being an incredible ally to your LGBTQ2IA* teens? This panel will bring a group of LGBTQ2IA* authors together to think through best practices, and all the tips and tricks we’ve got to make your queer book club the best it can be. We will talk about things from book selection to developing a community agreement to thinking through the kinds of other supports a queer book club needs to be successful, especially if the person running it isn't queer themselves.

3 Key Points:

1. The authors were all queer kids growing up and they offered several tips on going a good ally and moving towards being an accomplice. 

    a) Offer both overtly and covertly queer materials so readers can feel comfortable borrowing. Sometimes you want covers with visibility and sometimes you don't.

    b) Don't force pronoun identification; phrase things in a way that signal that this is a safe place even if students aren't ready/willing/comfortable sharing (e.g. "If you'd like to share your pronouns, feel free" / "What pronouns do you want to use in this space?" / What is the name you are comfortable using?")

    c) There are often two main concerns for library professionals providing queer book clubs - making mistakes like using the wrong language and pushback in conservative communities - so just make sure you have supportive admin/colleagues and a plan in case things don't go well; plus, don't make a big deal if you mess up a name (just say "sorry, let me correct that" and move on)

    d) Don't center your own identity as a cis or straight person

    e) Give direction to the book club by establishing guidelines for conduct (because as Edward Underhill, one of the speakers stated, "marginalized kids can still be dicks to each other")

    f) Bring queer or trans adults into the space and ensure that these guests can give the teens what they want and need (i.e. intersectional viewpoints)

2. The speakers gave several ideas on what library folks can do to support queer and trans teens, such as sharing power.

3. There are many helpful resources out there, such as Dahlia Adler's LGBTQ Read website, the BIPOC Bookshelf, the Mombian website, the ALA Rainbow List, the Stonewall and Lambda Awards, and GLSEN's website.

So What? Now What? 

There were a lot of great points shared in this session. The Q&A helped. There were a lot of useful "This is what you can say" phrases, such as:

- how to respond if in a queer book club a member suggests that asexual people aren't part of the queer spectrum (You can say "I hear you and it's not for you to decide.") 

- how to help with readers' advisory without forcing readers to name their identity (You can say "What interests you?" or "Are you looking for a particular kind of pairing?")

I'm not sure if I am ready to begin a GSA or queer book club in my SLLC but it's reassuring to know it's okay to make mistakes and what to say at times.

Media Artifacts

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 10:00 a.m.

OLA Super Conference Exhibit Hall

This is such a great space. I wandered through all the vendor displays and spoke to a variety of people, from representatives from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to the Privacy Commission of Canada, from TVO to lots of publishers. I received a gorgeous autographed book called Deep, Deep Down: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench by Lydia Lukidis and held many enriching conversations.

Media Artifacts

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 10:30 a.m.

OSLA Spotlight Session - Dr. David Anderson

Summary: (taken from the program description)

Libraries and Librarians created Catalogue systems, selected the books for their collections and for many years, decided who would be granted access to their collections. Today, libraries continue to be the collectors and depositories of the Written Word but the process of determining what is “good enough”, how to catalogue works and how to display such work, is changing.

Wahwahbiginojii Indizhinikaaz , Mukwa Indoodem. Dene/Anishinaabe Indow. Dr. David Anderson, has spent over 30 years as an Indigenous Educator working with First Nations Communities in the classroom, on policy, curriculum, resource development, and Teacher Education.  He received his Doctorate in Indigenous Education from Seven Generations Education Institute in Ontario in 2017.

David is currently working with and Indigenous Education Press as an Editor, Indigenous Educator and writer. Our Team's focus is to bring the Languages and Knowledge of our Ancestors to All of Us. 

David is the proud father of two beautiful children and is Third Degree Midewiwin in the Minweyweywigaan Lodge at Roseau River First Nation. 

David can be reached at

3 Key Points:

I didn't write down any notes from this session, as I arrived a bit late after getting absorbed by the Expo Hall (a common OLA SC problem).

So What? Now What?

To be frank, I found this session a bit rambly and unfocused. Thing is, I'm unsure if this is just my Western settler ears being used to a certain style of presentation. Maybe that's my next step - to become more accustomed to Indigenous ways of sharing knowledge.

Media Artifacts

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 12:00 noon

TDSB TL Luncheon

Several teacher-librarians gathered at Scaddabush to eat lunch together and socialize.

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 1:00 p.m.

Creating an English Language Learner Friendly School Library

Summary: (taken from the program description)

With more than a third of the school identified as English Language Learners, the Queen Elizabeth Public School Library was a place where English Language Learners often felt lost or overwhelmed but a partnership between the ELL team and the Library Technician has begun to foster a space where these students feel welcome and valued. Join Library Technician Megan Venner to discuss small but purposeful changes the school made to create an English Language Learner friendly library.

3 Key Points:

1. It can be challenging to make changes with no budget, barely any staffing, and little central support. Megan Venner, from the OCDSB, offered 4 areas she focused on with her one of her two schools (one with 25 countries and 26 languages represented). Her big points were that small changes have big impact, collaboration is key, and connections are important.

2. Signage and Content are important. She made signs on Canva, selecting the top five languages spoken by English Language Learners in her school. She placed displays in high traffic areas in her library and she found students noticed immediately. She moved her dual language books to a more visible area and also sought out accessible books (e.g. wordless books) to promote. She is very deliberate with her word choice, saying books are "fun and quick reads" rather than "for lower grade reading levels". 

3. Connections and Community are the other areas she focused on. She offered an ELL-only library orientation in October after the regular class orientations in September to provide a more in-depth explanation of services. She arranges field trips to the local public library. She is deliberate about bringing in specific authors as guest speakers (such as Danny Ramadan) to appeal to everyone. 

So What? Now What?

I should revitalize my dual language section with better shelves, signage, and promotion.

Media Artifacts

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 2:45 p.m.

Maamwi - A Journey Together on Reconciliation Through Education

Summary: (taken from the program description)

Decolonizing the minds and hearts of educators is critical to confronting the legacy of colonialism in Canada. The Indigenous Peoples Education Circle (IPEC), College Libraries Ontario (CLO), and The Learning Portal have created a best practice in advancing the goals of the TRC. This session will outline the planning, funding, coordinating and implementation of the Maamwi Hub, a repository for Ontario college students and faculty. This Indigenous-specific open learning resource is rooted in the work of Confederation College and the Negahneewin Council and guided by IPEC and their Action Plan that sees a move away from a ‘deficit approach to Indigenous Peoples to a reciprocal relationship that recognizes the contribution of Indigenous staff, students and communities to the College system.” This initiative is a best practice of respectful, consultative, open, careful and gentle dialogue that will help advance Indigenous education across the system and contribute to systemic change.

3 Key Points:

1. The learning portal can be found at

2. It is important to move beyond a minimal duty to consult. There's a lot of mistrust between colleges and Indigenous people and they have to be true participants at the table.

3. It takes time to develop relationships but is worthwhile when people come from a good place and good heart, with an open heart and open mind. Non-Indigenous members of Maamwe didn't personalize information as "attacks" when they were told about the good, bad, and ugly from Indigenous partners.

So What? Now What?

I really wish we got to see the actual resources created, but it doesn't launch until April. The categories (Discover / Inquiry / Inspire / Empower) sound like they will be useful for educators of all sorts to digest. Once it goes live, I will need to look at it.

Media Artifacts

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 4:00 p.m.

Closing Keynote - Elamin Abdelmahmoud

Summary: (taken from the program description)

Elamin Abdelmahmoud is the host of CBC’s Commotion, and author of the No. 1 national bestseller Son of Elsewhere, a New York Times notable book of the year. He is a Reporter at Large for BuzzFeed News and a contributor to The National’s At Issue panel. Elamin was a founding host of Party Lines and Pop Chat for CBC Podcasts. His work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the Globe, and others. When he gets a chance, he writes bad tweets.

3 Key Points:

1. We make sense of our lives and identities through stories.

2. Popular culture helps us build roads to connect with others (like wrestling).

3. Sometimes it is important to pause in the telling of our stories to make room for others.

So What? Now What?

I was so impressed with Elamin that I bought his book. I was already well-disposed to him because he is the husband of Emily Burns, who led SuperConference in 2020 when I was a OSLA Conference Planner. He had a very difficult act to follow, as just prior to his speech, OLA presented the OSLA Lifetime Achievement Award and gave it posthumously to Caroline Freibauer. I wrote about Caroline before on my blog. It was hard for both the presenters (Beth Lyons, Johanna Lawler) and the recipients (Natalie, Caroline's daughter) to hold back the tears. He read the room perfectly and still managed to deliver a great talk. My next step is to read his book.

Media Artifacts

Friday, February 3, 2023 - 5:30 p.m.

Closing Reception

Interstitial, according to the Cambridge dictionary, means

relating to the space or time between things:

and it was the connections, the time spent between sessions chatting with others that meant so much to me this year. This is practically impossible to replicate with a virtual conference, although I am very grateful that they offered the choice of virtual sessions at this conference. It is telling that most of the photos I took were selfies with people I talked with. Friends and colleagues are so important. This collage is just SOME of the selfies I took with a few of the lovely people I hung out with.

Thank you to everyone that spent time with me, chatted with me, taught me, and made my OLA SC time a precious one.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Big Building Challenge

 A while back, I mentioned how, based on a suggestion from teacher Lisa Daley, I set up STEM min-challenges in the library for our upper-junior and intermediate students. This past week, we had a doozy of a challenge and many individuals joined in to try and help.

\I'm busily preparing for our school's upcoming concert. The Grade 1 and 1-2 classes are performing a shadow puppet play. I needed a contraption to hold a large white screen that the students could sit behind to project their shadows. Dean Roberts, a former teacher who is now retired, made a puppet theatre out of  PVC pipes and fabric and donated his creation to the school. I found where it was stored, thanks to Lisa Daley and our caretaker, Michael Dumlow, but there was a small problem. There are no instructions on how to assemble the puppet theatre.

I set out the PVC pipes and explained to each of the classes that arrived in the SLLC on Friday morning my dilemma. I was amazed at what happened next.

Many of the students decided to try to solve the problem, despite the magnitude. Not only did they work together on the complex problem, they persevered. The Grade 6-7-8 library time is only 20 minutes and many of the students begged to be allowed to return to the library to continue to work on the build.

I invited my school principal in to assist, and he enthusiastically joined in. The would-be architects and engineers asked for any clues I could provide on this puzzle. I found a photo of the completed theatre on an old blog post of mine, but the only help that provided was the shape and the location of one of the poles, as the rest of the structure was covered in fabric. I texted Dean to get clarification on some of the codes written on the pipes. My principal enlisted the help of the caretaker and the special education teacher after the students had to return to class to continue to tackle the project. By lunchtime, we had a decent frame up and ready to go.

These are just some of the photos of the students, working alongside adults as equal partners, as together they planned, pondered, tested and tried to build a large structure with no directions.

The big build challenge continued on the weekend, albeit with a more artistic angle and different participants. The Grade 1 and 1-2 students had made puppet prototypes for the play but sturdier, clearer puppets were needed. This is where my own children saved me. My daughter, a university grad with a degree in English, creative writing, and media studies under her belt, has already been helping me write the script adaptation of the book / folk tale. She, along with her brother, who is a Game Arts student in his last year of college, were conscripted into helping me build the puppets out of cardboard. We based it on both the illustrations from the book and the student designs. Here are some of the students' prototype puppets and the process of constructing the puppets we will actually use for the play.

I really enjoyed watching the different ways everyone approached these tasks. Some compared and measured pipes with their eyes and hands. Others talked with people around them. My own "kids" sketched and talked and examined the drawings. They used a lot of thinking and collaboration skills. I know for myself that I had to leave my comfort zone to go to Home Depot to purchase dowels, a standing flashlight and a utility knife as part of the project. (Hardware stores make me feel stupid, so I don't like shopping there, but I was successful this weekend!)

I promise to share some photos of the puppets and working theatre in action. Thank you to everyone

Monday, January 23, 2023

A Wonder-Full Experience

 Saturday was a big deal for the Grade 8 students at Agnes Macphail Public School, and not just because it was the eve of Lunar New Year. The students, with some parents and teacher supervisors (including yours truly), were special guests at the Toronto Raptors NBA game.

This is a great opportunity for me to employ my 2023 word, "lift". I want to lift up the efforts of this amazing class and their dedicated teacher, Farah Wadia.

As I shared in one of my December 2022 blog posts, Farah's class entered and won an essay contest about Lincoln Alexander. The grand prize was an all-expense paid experience at the January 21 Raptors vs Celtics game. 

I didn't expect to be one of the chaperones, but Farah needed supervisors and invited me. I call it a "wonder-full" (as opposed to "wonderful") event because it contained so much awe and wonder. You see, it was my first time to the Scotiabank Arena and my first time watching a professional basketball game.

I worried a bit that the experience would be "wasted" on me because I am not a basketball fan. There's also the chance that this experience will "spoil" me because I won't have an opportunity like this ever again, and this is a very atypical way to watch a game. I'm glad I went and I promise it won't spoil me or be wasted.

Huddle Up, the organization arranging this prize, chartered a couple of school buses to transport all of us to the Scotiabank Arena. That place is HUGE! Once there, we got to sit courtside to take photos until our "gondola" (exclusive suite) was ready. The seats had a bird's eye view of the game as well as free pizza, wings, hot dogs, snacks and drinks. During the pre-game show, Farah and Arianne, the student who wrote the winning essay, were interviewed live. A special, pre-recorded session featuring the class hearing the good news for the first time was also broadcasted on the Jumbotron and on TV.  

Watching the game was a learning experience for me. Basketball is a fast-paced game and I really appreciate how Renee Keberer, a fellow teacher and good friend, was able to explain the intricacies of the game, such as the significance of all the clocks (e.g. 24 seconds to take a shot when in your section of the court) and the different kinds of fouls. I was surprised to learn that in basketball, music plays continuously during the game and that gameplay stops so that the viewing audience has time for commercials. (The live audience is treated to mini-give aways and other interactive elements like the "crowd camera".) This really piqued my media literacy interest, in how the televised portion of the game dictates the real-live rhythm of the game, and the commercial implications. The way they ran the land acknowledgement and anthems, as well as the various "message announcements" sprinkled throughout showed the value messages and setting of the basketball court helped shape the experience, since form and content are so closely related. I was amazed that this was the same venue for a hockey game, because it felt so different - proving that media have unique aesthetic forms. (For instance, the photo below shows the Scotiabank Arena after the audience was prompted to turn on the flashlight feature on their photos for this portion - in the past, it would have been a request to ignite your cigarette lighter!)

(The last photo in this sequence of four includes several of our staff members - some were trying out the Snapchat Challenge posted on the Jumbotron for a chance to win swag!)

After the game ended, with a very close 104-106 loss for Toronto, the group was escorted back down to courtside and we were fortunate to meet Lincoln Alexander's granddaughter as well as three Toronto Raptors players. Farah prepared for the moment by getting her students to pre-generate some questions for the athletes (with the students never realizing that they'd actually get personal time with these gentlemen) so it was well-used time. A lot of photos were taken, as you can imagine. I have to say that professional basketball players are really, REALLY tall.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not every average basketball game ends with a meet-and-greet like this. Even though I did not know the men who came to speak to us, the students did and were so excited for the chance.

Big thanks to everyone who made this possible. Even though it was Arianne's essay that won the contest, every student in Farah's class researched and wrote about Lincoln Alexander. (Their class decided which of the essays to submit for consideration and they voted for Arianne to represent them.) So, congratulations to all the Grade 8s in Room 207. Special recognition should go to Farah Wadia, who worked tirelessly from the beginning of this adventure, training her students to write thorough essays, to the great reveal (with special media release forms, organizing the visit), to finalizing all the trip details (including permission forms, bus seating plans, coordinating interview schedules, and including as many people as she could). She and Arianne represented our school with intelligence and grace. Thanks go to the Raptors organization as well as Huddle Up. I didn't get the names of all the people escorting us places, passing out wristbands, shepherding us to different locations, and more, but their service was so appreciated. Go Raptors, go!

Monday, January 16, 2023

Toy Store Tales

 I promised a number of weeks ago on this blog that I'd talk about the Toy Store drama phenomenon. Now seems like a good time to do so. I usually don't have any images or artifacts to share for this experience because it's so immersive and "in-the-moment". However, because it's report card season, I've collected a few samples and hidden names/faces.

So what is this Toy Store thing? It all began when my own daughter (who is now 23 - and today is her actual 23rd birthday - Happy Birthday Mary!) used to take classes on Saturdays at The Drama Workshop on Yonge & St. Clair when she was quite young. (I looked it up and the drama studio no longer exists.) Toy Store was one of the drama games that they played and I adapted it for use in my own drama lessons at school.

The premise is simple. The children are all toys in a toy store - toys that are actually sentient. The toy store owner has no clue that the toys are alive. When the toy store owner leaves the building for the day, the toys unfreeze and party. When the toy store owner returns, the toy store is in a mess and the toys are strewn all over the place. The owner is quite flummoxed and eventually tries to uncover the mystery. She returns the toys to their shelves (who are all still and unmoving) and when she leaves, it happens again.

There are certain protocols that are set up in advance so we can play this at school

  • The toys can move when music plays. (That way, there's a signal for when students can move or freeze.)
  • The teacher is "in role" as the toy store owner when she wears a certain hat. (That way, students can tell if the teacher is pretending or really being the teacher and giving instructions.)
  • If the teacher/toy store owner taps the student/toy twice on the shoulder, then they are allowed to get up and assist the game by walking over to the chair or table to be put away. (That way, the teacher doesn't have to physically carry every student back to their shelf, even though the students adore it. Lifting 20 students onto desks is time-consuming, heavy, and potentially awkward when educators aren't supposed to touch students.)
The students are absolutely gaga for this game. They love it. They beg to play it. It's also great to see how their self-control grows as they play this game several times. At first, I have to take off my hat several times to remind them that they can't move when they are toys and the toy store owner is around. They have to work very hard to stifle their giggles when the toy store owner enters the space and is so shocked by the sight. It's better than playing freeze dance because there's a built-in purpose for the inaction. I can also test their ability to be still when, while in role as the toy store owner, I dust the shelves or put price tags on the toys for an upcoming sale. Some of the students are quite excellent at remaining motionless. 

Here are a couple of photos of what the "toy store" looks like before the party and after the party. The students love sitting on the tables, which double as shelves, and I've had to remind them that they can't jump on the tables or have too many people sitting on a single table. (The row of chairs doubles as another set of shelves, which is useful when I have to put away toys.)

I want to point out the person who has their face covered by the red oval. See how she is holding a bottle of hand sanitizer? This is where the game of Toy Store really gets fun. It also fits beautifully with expectation B1.3 - plan and shape the direction of a dramatic play or role play, building on their own and others' ideas both in and out of role, with support. The toy store owner is trying hard to understand why the toys are all over the floor. I ask the students after we've played Toy Store a few times for ideas on what the toy store owner can do to solve the mystery. They suggested that she install a security camera. I used the hand sanitizer as a proxy camera and set it up. Naturally, when they are toys, they had to deal with this story wrinkle. While in role as the toys, they dismantle the camera, hiding it or moving it from its original spot. This way, they are considering multiple points of view - the toy store owner and the toys.

Because I'm playing alongside the students, it's hard for me to capture everything I see, hear, and notice. For instance, another suggestion was to have the toy store owner stay overnight in the store. When the toy store owner tried that, she "fell asleep". (I had to have someone else turn on the music so they knew it was "safe" to move.) I have to stay in character, so I can't scribble notes about who is doing what or how still they are when the music stops. To help me out, we did some paper planning using words and pictures. They could choose to recommend next steps for the toy store owner or the toys themselves.

These are just two of the ideas that one of the classes came up with on paper.

I wasn't sure how I was going to assess these thoughts at first. What I ended up doing was piling them into piles of excellent, good, so-so, and poor suggestions. Then I examined what was it about the submissions that made them excellent, good, so-so, or poor. That helped me construct the rubric (which I have included here so people can use if they want to play this).

I don't know if you can read the second example, but it's a fascinating one, and actually fits indirectly with some current events. I have two classes that I teach dance and drama to this year, with about 20 students in each class. Out of the 40 submissions I read, 2 of them had a very startling suggestion - that the toys kill the toy store owner. (In case you can't read what the second example says, it says "The toys kill the toy store owner but the toy store owner call security guards but the toys beat up the security guards".) I was a bit surprised by these trajectories, as there's been nothing violent in the scenario we've played out. We had a conversation out of role about what a person might do if they discovered that toys could move, think and act on their own - believe it or not, very few of the students have ever seen the 1995 Pixar movie Toy Story, so I had to describe how the toys in that film are very selective about who they reveal this secret to, because of the ramifications of such a revelation. (The class and I theorized that adults might do scientific experiments on the toys from curiosity or throw the toys in the garbage from fear if they realized what was possible.) The current event it can relate to is the news that a six-year old student brought a gun to school and shot the teacher. There are a lot of questions swirling around about who is responsible and what inspires such actions. Thing is, when a student considers violence to be an appropriate solution, it bears considering how and why. (By the way, the other Toy Store suggestion along similar lines wrote "The toys can hide behind the door and get a sword. They would stab the toy store owner.") 

To end on a positive note, I have to say I am quite impressed with the creativity of the students in devising ways that the toy store owner can determine what is occurring in the store after hours. I find a lot more participation in Toy Store than I do in other drama activities because there's no spotlight on a single player. It's also something they'll remember for a long time, as students who are much older can recall doing Toy Store if I had them as a drama student. Maybe we'll have to watch the movie Toy Story so they can see how other "toys" deal with the same problem!

Monday, January 9, 2023


 I'm a pretty open book. I am comfortable sharing things about myself. Even in my professional practice, I aim to be transparent in how, what, and why I teach so I can be accountable to myself, my students, and my school community. Sharing ideas and thoughts is part of how I process information, and reflection makes me a better educator. This is part of the reason why I blog.

There are times and topics where I can't be as free with what I know, see, or hear. I've written about this related to private life vs public life (a 2017 blog entry titled "I Won't Post That") but I want to approach this same topic from a different angle - that is, when other individuals or organizations insist on or enforce confidentiality.

The above image, "Confidential" icon by Eucalyp from The Noun Project, is used under a Creative Commons license (CCBY3.0) - this attribution requirement is posted as per the terms of use agreement.

Obeying external restrictions on sharing information is not a new concept to me. In the past, I've been on several committees, such as the CCBC Best Books for Kids/Teens Committee and the OLA Silver Birch Selection Committee. I'm also on another team right now and confidentiality is so prioritized, I'm not sure if I'm even able to reveal that I am part of this group! When participating in projects such as these, we are often required, as part of our contracts or participation guidelines, to follow some confidentiality rules that resemble non-disclosure agreements. 

There are good reasons why these privacy arrangements are necessary. According to the Law Depot website,

Confidentiality Agreement protects confidential information during discussions, proposals, reviews, analysis and negotiations. The agreement allows the disclosing party to share valuable confidential information while retaining control over how the information is used by the receiving party. This type of agreement is useful when disclosing information to a potential purchaser, having an invention evaluated or when an employee will have access to or create confidential information during their employment.

Deliberations and decisions need to happen without external influences interfering. Information shared may be sensitive in nature. Having details "leak out" before it is finalized or official may lead to a lack of confidence or trust in the organization and/or final product, especially if aspects of the project change. A lot of information I've read about non-disclosure agreements, such as this one from Investopedia, focus on business reasons for keeping quiet - preserving intellectual property, protecting ideas from the competition, etc. Sometimes I chafe at these restrictions, because it's contrary to my interpersonal ways of learning and being. However, I need to remind myself that there are many times in the world of education where we have to zip our lips.

Some of the reasons why we might not be allowed or encouraged to broadcast our experiences as educators in schools include:

  • information and the decision-making process need to happen without others getting involved because they can also be misinterpreted (e.g. awards for graduates)
  • information related to families might tarnish their reputation in the community, especially if further investigations exonerate or explain situations in different ways (e.g. calls to the Children's Aid Society)
  • information may jeopardize student well-being or cause embarrassment (e.g. sharing personal information related to sexual orientation, personal interests, etc.) - this does not include if a student is being abused because teachers have a Duty to Report 
  • information about a colleague's personal life or job performance can become gossip fodder; if you have concerns about a fellow teacher, union rules around Duties of a Member to Fellow Members stipulates you must address them with the member directly (e.g. if you see a teacher doing something with his/her class and you disapprove)
  • information shared too widely can undermine the trust parents have in the teacher if they choose to reveal facts they consider private and just for use by the teacher (e.g. if a child has bed-wetting issues or if the family is undergoing turmoil)
  • information can be misinterpreted by other parties who have particular agendas or don't understand the context (e.g. deselecting / weeding books from the library can be seen as "wasting taxpayer money" and "throwing away perfectly good books")
What other reasons for confidentiality for educators have I forgotten? Please leave comments on Facebook or Blogger and I'll add them in.

This list will make me feel a bit better as I maintain silence on certain areas I'm dying to talk about.

Monday, January 2, 2023

#OneWord2023 = Lift

2023 - another year, another fresh start. When my husband saw me composing my blog post, he was surprised to see that I'm still attempting these single-word-focus-for-the-year goals. These are the past words for me.

2016 = continue

2017 = forgive

2018 = seek

2019 = enough

2020 = push

2021 = well

2022 = watch

For 2023, I was influenced by events from the last week of 2022. 

First, let me back up a bit with some history. Three times a week, I go to the gym with my husband. I first worked out at Cross Fit Canuck in late 2017 with an introductory Boot Camp. James joined me in April 2018 when I realized that we required regular physical exercise. The pandemic interrupted our routine when gyms were forced to shut in March 2020 - I need the structure and mentorship of in-person coaching so virtual workouts weren't motivational for me - but when classes were able to open again, we returned. Our gym held outside classes from June - August 2021 to be extra cautious. When the classes resumed indoors in August 2021, the gym no longer separated the Sweat 60 classes from the Cross Fit classes. That meant that I had to learn how to use a barbell. I was uncomfortable using a barbell. It wasn't my "thing". I didn't recognize any of the vocabulary used related to weight lifting. Everything was difficult. I never experienced that "post-workout exhilaration" that others achieve after a strenuous session. I go to the gym because I need to go to the gym to maintain and improve my physical health. Most of the time, there's no joy related to my exercise.

On Friday, December 30, 2022, I deadlifted a PR (personal record) of 205 pounds. (By the way, the photo below is not of me lifting 205 - this was either 175 pounds or 195 pounds - I'll explain why I have no precise idea below.) 

Hitting a personal record for performing a deadlift was/is a big deal to me. I'm not athletic at all. I don't consider myself to be strong. In fact, I made this parody ad in August 2021 to express my deep frustration with my lack of progress at the gym.

A lot of credit has to go to two of the coaches that were at the "box" (a term that refers to a Cross Fit gym) that night. Rob Cilia knows that a lot of my challenges are psychological ones, so he loaded my bar (aka put the weights on the empty barbell) for me so I wouldn't know how much I was trying to lift and kept things low-key. Tami Seguin understands how to give suggestions without discouragement, so when she saw me make a failed attempt, she explained in simple terms how I needed to "get set" closer to the bar (and modeled it herself) - and then I did it. Thank you Rob and Tami!

That's when I figured out my focus word for 2023 - LIFT.

I love selecting words with many nuances. This is what it says on

Definition of lift

verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)

There are some more "unsavory" definitions on  (such as steal or plagiarize) but I want to focus on these synonyms: ELEVATE, TRANSPORT, RISE, and HELP.

So, what will "lift" look, sound, and feel like for me in 2023?

Lift will LOOK like:

  • continuing effort at the gym (lifting weights and challenging myself to improve)
  • promoting the accomplishment of students, family members, and colleagues (via photos, displays, mentions at conferences, etc.)
  • getting assistance when I need it and giving assistance when it is needed
  • going in the air to fulfill a long-held dream 

Lift will SOUND like:

  • encouraging and elevating others at work, at home, or at the gym with my written or spoken words
  • providing constructive, detailed feedback (to AQ candidates, to students, to mentees)
  • not shirking from doing some "heavy lifting" by having hard conversations about things that matter (lifting my voice firmly and confidently even to those with significant power)
  • praising progress, no matter how small
Lift will FEEL:
  • exhausting but worthwhile
  • meaningful
  • empowering
  • positive
There's nowhere to go but up, if all continues to go well. Health at age 50+ can be precarious so I'll keep my fingers crossed that there will be no set-backs for me. Spiritual renewal will need a bit more of a "lift" for me as well. Physically, mentally, professionally and emotionally, I'm in a very good place (with gratitude to my administration, immediate family, and contented stage of my life). I'm cautiously optimistic for 2023. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Sharing Good News

 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; (Luke 2:8-10)

Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate. My plans for Christmas Eve Mass with my mother and mother-in-law were thwarted by the weather, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Technology allowed for a Sunday video call between my parents, my sister in Calgary, and our home, for which I am grateful.

Other than the good news related to the Christian holiday, this past week, there were two big examples of happy announcements.

At our brief lunch staff meeting on Tuesday December 20, my principal called me up, along with two of my colleagues - Stephen Tong and Jenny Chiu. The reason: to present to us our 25th Year commemorative pins and congratulatory letters for teaching with the Toronto District School Board. (Thanks to Maha Ngo for taking this photo.)

The funny thing is this is actually my 26th year of teaching, and Chiu and Tong have been at it longer. My principal made inquiries on our behalf after I saw my friend Zelia Tavares share, via social media, her pin reception ceremony at the same time as her Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM. Thanks to my administrator for making the right calls to the right people so we could receive this memento.

The second piece of good news relates to the Grade 8 class at my school. Their hard-working teacher, Farah Wadia, spent at least six weeks focusing on essay writing skills to prepare them to enter the Raptors MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment) Huddle Up Essay Contest on the importance of famous Canadian, Lincoln Alexander. On Thursday, December 22, a camera crew and some high-ranking members of the Raptors organization and MLSE snuck into the school to deliver some exciting news - the essay written by one of Agnes Macphail's Grade 8 students (Arianne) won the grand prize!

(I'm allowed to share this photo because Ms. Wadia, in her ultra-prepared way, arranged in advance for Media Release Forms to be signed.)

I had the privilege of helping to spring the news on the class by coordinating the visitors behind the scenes and taking some school photos and videos. The entire class, with some parent chaperones, will attend a Raptors game on Lincoln Alexander Day as special guests with incredible perks. Congratulations again to Ms. Wadia and all of her students for their efforts. 

These are "big good news" items. There were several "quiet good news" events this past week as well - the successful Toy Drive coordinated by the Student Council, the continued learning even in the last week of school, and the prioritizing of safety by cancelling school on Friday, December 23 (even though the news was met with disappointment for many of our students, which goes to show how much they love our school community).  

This is the last Monday Molly Musing post for 2022. (The next one appears Monday, January 2, 2023.) Thanks to everyone who continues to read these posts. My 2022 word was "Watch". It'll be interesting to see what 2023 will be like. Love and well wishes to all!