About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back to school ... or how to manage stress in a house with one elementary, one secondary, and one university student!

This week, I have been involved with some activities and classes involving our Bachelor of Education students at Laurier. They start at the university two weeks before the regular programs in September. This is a good thing in many ways because it gets them into elementary schools as teachers are preparing their classrooms and then welcoming children into them.

However, this early start also exasperates the stress in our household as we prepare for the transition for all of us back to school. This year we have one child in gr. 7, one child in gr. 11, and one starting university. This is in addition to me starting "back" into my regular teaching duties at the university, as well as for my wife, who also works at the university, the increase in her hours. It can be a stressful time of the year as so many changes are happening and expectations are developing.

So how do we deal with the stress of this time of the year? Well, sometimes not so well :)  Like any family, we have our share of struggles with making this transition a smooth one.

But I've found a couple of things which can really help at this time of the year. Here are three simple things that seem to work for us:

1. Getting back into the habit of a regular sleep. Children especially seem to be impacted by this. In our case, our youngest child has been up much later than normal during the summer. He functions better when he has had a good sleep.

2. Planning in advance. We try and make sure that we are not too rushed in the mornings by having things ready in advance. This can include everything from having the coffee ready to turn on in the morning, to having clothes laid out, to having lunches and backpacks (and briefcases) ready to go.

3. Talking through the transition and the stress. Sometimes simply voicing our recognition that this can be a stressful time helps "normalize" and validate the stress that we are all experiencing. Last night, I told my son that we needed to make a real effort to get moving in the morning (he to hockey camp and me to teaching - all before 8:30) and the morning went amazingly smoothly, despite fog and backed up traffic. Talking about the stress of the year helps our children give a "voice" to what they are experiencing and observing.

The stress of this time of the year is not necessarily a bad thing but it is important to remember that we need to manage the stress that goes with preparing for school and other key transitions in our lives. Please feel free to comment about how you manage the stress and transition that occurs in your context.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Partnerships with a Purpose in Haiti

Since I first started working with my colleagues in Haiti, I have tried to ensure that we didn't work in "silos." Instead, building partnerships allows us to share resources and collaborate in ways that we would not be able to do if we just each had our specific area of focus.

Over the 10 years or so that I've been working in Haiti, these partnerships have really expanded. We have formal partnerships between universities (e.g. WLU and the Public University of the North at Cap-Haitien) and with governmental organizations (e.g. Ministry of National Education). Individually, I also collaborate with other faculty and researchers such as through the newly formed ISTEAH (university faculty from across Haiti, Canada, and the US to support advanced studies in Haiti). We also have informal working relationships with other organizations such as the Sacred Heart Centre in Cap-Haitien, College de la Grace in Pignon, and the Baptist Mission in Fermathe. Each of these partnerships enriches the work we are doing to support leadership capacity-building in Haiti.

Recently, I have been dialoguing with two graduate students from the University of Florida (Bertrhude Albert, Priscilla Zelaya) as we look to bridge the work they have been doing with teachers in Cap-Haitien with what we have been doing with school leaders. Bertrhude (who is originally from Haiti) and Priscilla have started their own charitable organization (check out Projects for Haiti) as a result of their passion to see teacher development occur there.

As a result of a $10,000 grant they received this year, they were able to take a team of US educators to Cap to provide a week of training for 135 participants. They estimate that 5000+ children will be impacted as a result of this training. Another very positive outcome of the training was a decision by some of the key Haitian teachers to form a professional teacher association so they could provide professional development to their colleagues. Their first PD training event is happening next week! This type of professional association will also sustain the learning which occurs in the face-to-face- training sessions. This is the type of sustainable, locally-owned work we need to see multiplied in Haiti.

Partnerships allow us to demonstrate what authentic collaboration looks like. They also enable new directions to be considered and developed. We are currently discussing with Berthrhude and Priscilla how the Digital Mentoring Project, which has had a focus on school leaders, can be expanded to include lead teachers in schools. I am also investigating options for developing on-line learning opportunities for our teacher and school leader colleagues in Haiti to make use of the digital technologies which are increasingly becoming available in Haiti. 

These are exciting developments and I look forward to fostering this "partnership with a purpose" going forward!



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"So just what do you do in the summer?"

I love being asked this question! Often, people assume that profs put their feet up, smoke a pipe, and brew themselves some strong coffee as a way to pass time in the summer. I wish!

My summer has been busy reading, writing, planning, and teaching. I've been working on multiple papers which I hope to get off in the next 2 weeks. One of these papers is looking at some of the data we've collected around the Digital Mentoring Project, another is around how my university has worked with community and school partners to support peace and social justice, a third is examining innovative leadership practices in education in the developing world, and, finally, there is a paper on the use of assistive technology in classrooms. I also have multiple book chapters which are in various stages of development. Finally, there is a second Haiti educational leadership book (my first one was in 2009) for which I have received all of the chapters from the contributors and which I am now editing.

I have also enjoyed the opportunity to do a lot of reading this summer as I build two new courses I will be teaching this fall. One is a graduate course in leadership and I have enjoyed engaging with the writing of authors such as Warren Bennis, James Spillane, and Michael Fullan. I have also been reading (for pleasure) a book by Jonathan Katz entitled The Big Truck Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. This is a fascinating, and disheartening, examination of the failure of the large international governmental organizations in their attempt to rebuild Port au Prince following the 2010 earthquake. There are many, many lessons which I am noting for my own work there.

Beyond reading and writing, I have taught an on-line course and a two week intensive face-to-face course.

And, of course, I have been continuing the work with the Digital Mentoring Project. I am regularly on-line with colleagues in Haiti (and in Canada/US) as we build this project into a dynamic on-line community for resources and support. Plans are well underway for an October partnership trip and I will post those plans on the blog shortly.

So, what does a prof do in the summer? I think the next time I'm asked this question, I'll just refer people to this blog!