Looking Back Over the Year

In my twenty three years of teaching, this year has been like no other year. From working from home at the start of the school year, placed in a new central role with new schools, only to be redeployed a few months later into a new school community, to becoming an ETFO blog writer for the very first time. This year has certainly had its ups and downs. 

I am thankful for the support I have received from family, friends and colleagues throughout a very demanding year. Their support has been invaluable to my mental health and my professional journey, especially during these uncharted times. I am also very thankful to ETFO and to you, my readers, for allowing me to speak my mind on matters that are important to public education and social justice. This blog has really given me the opportunity to develop a personal voice and to be able to think critically about issues affecting publicly funded public education. Your feedback and responses to my blogs have been so thoughtful and supportive, it has allowed me to be more conscious of my words and the impact my message could have on viewers and on the profession as a whole, across the province. Thank you for all that you do and for allowing me to be me.

Most educators across the province, myself included, would probably say that they have had a school year like no other. They have seen many changes to their teaching assignments, they have adjusted to the demands of the numerous pandemic protocols, and they have weathered the storm through a very unpredictable political environment. To me, you are all heroes for making it through, for continuously advocating for public education and for always putting students first. We, as educators, are often the last ones to give ourselves props for the good that we do and the impact we make on the lives of students and their families. Well, this is the year we change that. This is the year we begin to see ourselves deserving of being praised and being recognized for our commitment to quality public education. This is the year we celebrate our successes, in spite of any bumps we might have had throughout the year. If others are not willing to recognize and celebrate our successes, then this is the year we do it for ourselves.

I encourage you to take this time to recharge, to rejuvenate and to self-indulge in whatever makes you happy, albeit in a safe and responsible way. Take comfort in knowing that the impact you made this year (and years past) does matter! I, myself, am looking forward to going out again with family and friends, to travelling beyond borders and to breathing unencumbered air again, while remaining safe and prepared for any changes to current protocols. I am going to bask in the sun and enjoy the moment, unapologetically. I deserve this, and so do you. Enjoy it freely! 

Protect Full-Day Kindergarten

The data does not lie.

As Ontario’s Full-Day Kindergarten Program heads into its 11th successful year, several studies have shown the positive and long-lasting effect Ontario’s Kindergarten Program has had on students, families and communities. 

In a longitudinal study by Janette Patricia Pelletier & James E. Corter comparing full-day and half-day Kindergarten programs, it was discovered that students who attended the full-day Kindergarten programs scored higher in the areas of reading, writing, number sense and self-regulation.  

The Kindergarten Program document itself sources countless resources and empirical studies revealing the importance of play and inquiry based learning programs for young children. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) are quoted in The Kindergarten Program (2016) as stating “the benefits of play are recognized by the scientific community. There is now evidence that neural pathways in children’s brains are influenced by and advanced in their development through the exploration, thinking skills, problem solving, and language expression that occur during play” (p. 19). 

 

What is the real price to pay?

Dr. Gordon Cleveland’s executive summary of The Kindergarten Program from January 2021 reads: “Our conclusion is that high-quality Kindergarten is very good for children. Well-trained teachers and small effective class sizes are important in producing this quality. The effects of high-quality Kindergarten experiences are long-lasting, and socio-emotional support is a key part of providing positive Kindergarten experiences”.

In February 2021, I wrote a post highlighting the reasons why the pedagogical approach that is central to the Kindergarten Program should be celebrated as it establishes a strong foundation for learning in the early years. My trust in the Kindergarten Program has not changed. As we continue to live in a global pandemic, this program becomes increasingly vital for Ontario students and families. 

Removing or changing the current model of Ontario’s Kindergarten Program will disrupt the very core of students’ learning. Changes to the current Kindergarten model will leave students behind in regard to early intervention, mental health and well-being and create cracks in the foundation of academic success. 

 

Why is this program so special?

If you have never had a chance to read The Kindergarten Program document, I highly recommend you do. Rather than threatening cuts to this program, Ontario should be looking into how to weave the philosophies of teaching and learning highlighted by The Kindergarten Program into all other curriculum documents for students attending public schools. Ontario’s Kindergarten program is exemplary and visionary in the way that it supports the creation of a learning environment that allows all children to feel comfortable, is built around attainable expectations and provides all children with the kind of support they need in order to develop.

ETFO continues to fight for the current model of The Kindergarten Program in Ontario. 

Why must we continue to defend what has proven to be indispensable? 

Teachers’ Mental Health – We Need Care Too

It is now, more than ever, so important to recognize and acknowledge the importance of self-care. To me, self-care is a life skill that many teachers of all ages and experiences, including myself, tend to neglect and push off for another day that never seems to come. We are all working in a time and place of uncertainties and are under constant pressure to adapt to rapidly changing situations in the workplace and in our personal lives. We are, at times, forced to find new innovative ways to do our jobs in this current reality. There is no doubt that, for many (if not all) of us, there has been a steady increase in our stress and anxiety levels due to the ever changing realities of COVID19. However, it is vital that we take time and take action to care for ourselves and to respond to our body’s needs. Self-care will improve our energy level, our focus and attention and our ability to cope with daily challenges. When we take care of ourselves, we are also showing care for our students and our loved ones. In particular, we are modelling good mental health strategies to, and for, our students who are often looking up to us for guidance and moral support. 

I often practice mindfulness activities to keep myself sane and ready to face the outside world on a daily basis. These activities allow me to see things more clearly, as it happens, and to pay attention to what’s going on with my body and the things that are happening around me. These mindfulness activities allow me to create a “pause” in which I can respond to situations calmly and justly throughout the day. Here are some simple activities I follow that might be of some support to you:

  1. Pay attention to your body and the messages/signs it sends out to you. It sounds simple, but it’s one of the things our bodies do that we often misread, misunderstand or completely neglect to follow. Try to tune in to your body’s natural signals and respond accordingly.
  2. Be kind to yourself. If your body is telling you that you need a break then take a mental break. A mental break doesn’t have to be something long (though I wouldn’t count that out, if that’s what your body needs). It could be a 5-minute break during work, something done over the lunch break, or something you do right before or after work by yourself or with others. I often listen to some relaxing music while I am working/planning, or even when students are collaborating on a task. You can do some art, play a game on your device or read a favourite book during your break. One of the things I find most rejuvenating is leaving the classroom and going for a walk to see or chat with other staff members. For me, talking to others really helps to clear my mind and to destress from a tense situation. I have also done a walking club with staff. On a Friday afternoon, during the lunch break, we would put on our walking shoes and walk around our community for about 20 minutes. It was always something to look forward to and we always felt reenergized and ready to manage whatever comes our way. A colleague of mine is heavily into martial arts and he would organize sessions for staff once or twice a week. The focus (i.e. martial arts skill sets, meditation, mindfulness or self defense) of each session would change depending on the needs of the group. Whatever interests you, just make sure you intentionally take time to make it happen on a regular basis, for your own mental health.
  3. Eat, eat, eat! Take time to hydrate and to nourish your body. Have healthy snack breaks and drink plenty of water. If you often sit, get up and walk around or do some stretches to get the blood circulation flowing. Use your lunch break for lunch (or something of your own choice)! Don’t take on too much work, especially during your personal time, that leaves you with very little time to eat uninterrupted or very little time to unwind in your own way. I personally value that “me time” because it helps me mentally prepare to manage the rest of the day. I am learning to say “No” when I really mean no, and to have a balance between the demands of work with my own personal time and wellbeing. 

Self-care is a necessity in life, but for some, it is often easier said than done. Above all, please remember that you are not alone. There is support that is out there to help you get through these difficult times. Your school board usually has an employee assistance program, a wellness page or mental health podcasts to support your wellbeing. Here are some other resources that might be of support to you.

LiveWorks offers clients mental, social, emotional and financial support in all aspects of life.

Ted Talk: The Importance of Self Care for Teachers Kelly Hopkinson talks about how teachers should prioritize their own wellbeing, in hopes that one day the school board will do the same. 

Your wellbeing matters to us all. Over the upcoming holidays, I encourage you to commit to taking care of yourself by intentionally creating/making space throughout your day to do you! My hope is that this commitment and the strategies developed over the next few weeks can be transferable to your work day in the new year. It is through our own ability to self-care that we can become the beacon of light in someone else’s life. 

Top Ten Tips for Attending Virtual Professional Learning for Educators

So much learning is happening virtually now and it is amazing.  I recently attended a virtual EdTech Conference in Nebraska!  This is an opportunity I never would have been able to take advantage of before the pandemic.  I have attended a number of virtual conferences during COVID and I’ve also organized and facilitated virtual learning over the last year and it is a different way to get your learn on!

In order to really get the most out of Virtual Professional Learning here are my go-to suggestions:

  1.  Organize your time and your conference selections in advance.  If there are many choices, take the time to do the research on the session and on the presenter. If there are digital links for presentations on the conference site to add into a digital tote-do it before your sessions so that you aren’t tempted to leave the session in order to do so.  Thank you ISTE LIVE 21  for the digital tote feature!
  2. Be PRESENT.  Be mindful and intentional about your learning.  If it isn’t the kind of learning that you were expecting, hop over to another session otherwise you’ll be resentful of wasted time and learning.
  3. Put your “out of office” email message on and don’t check your email.  If you were in an in-person setting, checking your email would be rude. This is time for your learning so treasure and protect that time.
  4. When possible attend LIVE sessions not asynchronous or previously recorded sessions.  LIVE sessions have opportunities to engage and ask questions which makes the learning is deeper.
  5. Have a PLP (Professional Learning Partner) or two! No one really wants to go to a conference by themselves. Some of the best learning takes place when you share what you learned in a session that your PLP wasn’t able to attend! You double the learning!
  6. Participate in the learning.  If there is a chat feature then put who you are and where you are from in the chat.  Ask questions, engage and connect.  This is where you grow your Professional Learning Network.  In a face to face conference you would sit down and meet new people.  Think of how you would engage with others in a real conference setting.
  7. TWEET! TWEET!  Get the conference hashtag, follow it, retweet and tweet about your learning and the presenters.  Follow those presenters and give them a shoutout. Take a picture of the slide that they are sharing and post it (without people’s faces and names in it.)  It is awesome as a facilitator to see the tweets afterwards.  It is timely feedback and motivational for the presenter.
  8. Take notes.  My PLPs and I recently collaborated on note taking using a Google Slide deck while attending a conference.  We pasted links, took screenshots and put notes of important information into the slide deck so we have the learning for later.
  9. Participate.  As a presenter, it isn’t nice to present to the empty boxes on Zoom or Webex. Just as in person, it is nice to see the reaction of the audience to pace yourself and to know that they are still with you! That being said, if you are eating or dealing with your dog or family or have decided to multi-task, leaving your camera on can be distracting for the participants and the presenter.  If there is a question asked in the chat, respond! There is nothing like being a presenter left hanging.  If there is a poll, a word cloud, a Jamboard,or a Kahoot, play along! The presenter created these things in order to make the presentation interactive for the adult learner.
  10.  Take Breaks.  Make sure you look carefully at the schedule (and the time zone) in order to plan your screen, water, coffee, bathroom, movement or snack breaks.

The most important thing to remember is that the presenters put time and effort to share their learning and expertise with you.  It is nerve-wracking to present to a group of educators.  Tech savvy people have tech issues too.  Give presenters grace and remember to thank them and provide feedback for their work and expertise.  They will appreciate it!

 

Attitude of Gratitude

Many years ago I remember watching a gratitude themed Oprah episode.  There was a gratitude journal that the guest had developed and was relaying all of the benefits of writing down things that you were grateful for each day.  The power of suggestion (I’m a sucker for an impulse buy for self-improvement) lead me to the nearest Chapters to purchase one of those journals that weekend.  I certainly didn’t fill that journal. I think I lost interest in a couple of months because it felt as though I was writing the same thing over and over again.  I realize now that gratitude, like mindfulness and meditation, is a “practice.”

Gratitude practice is most effective when life is rough.  It sounds counterintuitive.  It is much easier to be grateful when things are going well right?  Easy to “count your blessings” when you are sitting on a beach in a resort in the Dominican Republic.  I personally feel the power of the gratitude practice when life isn’t going according to plan.  Though, I want to be clear here, there is a fine line between true gratitude practice and “looking on the bright side” or “finding the silver lining.”  That bright-side-silver-lining thinking can border on toxic positivity which isn’t helpful.

Gratitude practice means different things to different people.  For me, it is connected to daily journaling.  Each night since the fall I have been writing about my day in terms of gratitude before going to bed. Some nights I might write for 5 minutes.  Some nights I write for a half hour.  It might read something like, “I’m grateful that we got outside for a walk, that my son felt good about his essay after all of the struggles and tears, that we were able to eat a healthy meal, for Hello Fresh being delivered to my door and for the opportunity to reach out and connect to some new teachers through professional learning today.”  I try to reflect on the events of my day in terms of gratitude.  I could write in my journal that the technology in my professional learning session that day was glitchy, we got off to a rocky start trying to get everyone into the WebEx room, and there were links that didn’t work even though I had tested them twice. Instead, I choose to be grateful for the connection and discussion that I had with the teachers that day.  It isn’t that I ignore that bad things happen or think about how things can be improved, but ruminating on the bad things that happened during the day right before going to bed isn’t going to ensure much of a restful sleep.

In some of the professional learning opportunities that I have recently hosted with new teachers we have discussed the struggles of the current climate in the classroom.  It is important to have a safe place for teachers to voice those concerns and have someone listen with compassion and empathy and ask curious questions.  I will often say that there are many things that I can’t help them with, but that I am there to “embrace the suck” with them.   At the conclusion of those discussions my final question is always, “What is a recent personal or professional success that you’ve experienced that you would like to share with the group?”  This ends the discussion on a note of gratitude. It is SO easy to get caught up in venting and complaining about the situation in education right now. Teaching it is NOT an easy job on any given day but the difficulties have grown exponentially with the pressures that COVID has added.  So when we can take a moment to remember why we continue to go to work each day, why we got into the job in the first place and what our recent wins have been, I think it brings a feeling of hope.

Sometimes I practice gratitude in a less formal way that is more like mindfulness.  Recently while walking on a treed trail on a bright, sunny, winter day with my best friend, I stopped mid sentence and just looked around at the beauty.  I said to my friend, “I just had to take a minute to take this in.  We are so fortunate to be able to walk here.”  It only took a moment.  I don’t do that all of the time, we’d never get anywhere on our walks! However, remembering to do it every so often helps me to deal with stress and the bad things when they do happen.  If in the moment of a stressful situation I can take a moment to breathe and practice gratitude it sometimes keeps the emotions from escalating.  When conversing with someone who is frustrated and perhaps complaining or lashing out I try to remember that this person is doing the best they can at that moment and that each opportunity to interact with someone who is suffering is a chance to learn and I try to be grateful for that.  Author Andrea Owen in her book, “How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t” would call it an AFOG-another flipping opportunity for growth.  When I remember to think about gratitude in a not so great moment, I might do it raised shoulders and through gritted teeth, but I keep trying.  It is, after all a practice.

“If the opposite of scarcity is enough, then practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough.” -Brene Brown

Rejuvenation Through Creation

For me as a kid, there was no better feeling than opening up a new box of 64 Crayola crayons.  The big box with the flip top lid and the sharpener on the side.  I can remember agonizing over which colour to pick first and being so thrilled by the perfection of the colour palette in neat rows in that box.  I loved to draw and colour. I could do it for hours never lifting my attention from the page.  In adulthood, I abandoned doing art for pleasure.  It seemed silly for me to sit around and draw or paint for no real reason.  I felt I should be doing something productive.  A few years ago I began to create art again and realized how much I had missed it and how much joy it brought to my life. I create digital art now, which isn’t quite the same rush as opening a box of crayons but it is easier to share with others-like the picture above.  I have recently learned about the health and wellness benefits of creating. Creating is rejuvenating, it is rest and it is soul food.

Dan Tricarico, in his book “Sanctuaries: Self-Care Secrets for Stressed-Out Teachers”, he talks about how people get lost in an activity that you love so much that the rest of the world seems to fade away.  He calls it a state of “flow”.  I find myself getting into that state of flow when I draw, create music, write, cook or do jigsaw puzzles.  It isn’t that passive state of binge watching something on Netflix.  However, sometimes life’s answer is just that.  The state of flow is active and when I emerge from that state of flow, I feel rested and invigorated.  In Jessie Scholl’s article, “Go With the Flow: How States of Blissful Concentration Can Boost Your Overall Health and Well-Being” she states that, “Flow triggers the opposite of a fight-or-flight response.  Breathing becomes more relaxed, muscles loosen, and heart rate slows.  The specific biochemistry associated with flow varies depending on the activity, but the overall benefits to health and well-being are the same. ”  In fact, a 2018 Forbes article, “Here’s How Creativity Actually Improves Your Health” written by Ashley Stahl, claims that creativity increases happiness, reduces dementia, improves mental health, boosts your immune system and makes you smarter. Well, who doesn’t want all of those things?

You don’t have to be a professional musician, writer, artist or athlete to practice flow.  You can do it with any activity with some level of skill that requires you to pay attention.  It is really a type of active meditation.  Flow can be found with exercise, writing, dancing, baking, gardening, robotics or whatever activity brings you joy.

Don’t have the “time” for a creative pursuit?  It definitely requires some intentional effort to ensure that you take some time each day to pursue what you enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to be for hours but make it a specific small goal. In building anything into a routine or ritual, micro habits are key.  These are tiny steps towards implementation that grow into longer lasting habits. When I started creating art again, I just started with doing 5 minutes a day.  I just drew something.  I wasn’t worried about perfection or even completion.  I started getting lost in the flow and those minutes eventually became hours over time.  I continued to build my time until I created the habit to attempt to do something creative at least twice a week.  Beware of your inner perfectionism critic if you have one, like I do.  Give yourself some self compassion if you get out of the habit.  No one is keeping score and it is meant to be for you and your health and wellness.  When I get lost in stress and the life’s duties I often think, I should probably create something and get into that flow state-it has been a while.  Ultimately, I never regret taking that time away from the rush and hustle.

If your activity is just one more thing on your to-do list, it isn’t going to bring you joy and happiness.  In order for something to really feed your soul, it has to be something you value, something authentically you and something that you want to do because it brings you a sense of flow, peace, focus and energy.  Hopefully you will find something that gives you that “new box of crayons feeling,” whatever that means for you.

 

 

Staff Relationships: COVID Edition

Everyone wants to feel welcomed, liked and seen at their place of work.

To me, this sense of belonging provides me with the confidence and the resources to have conversations with fellow staff, ask questions when I need help and create new connections.

As an OT, creating meaningful relationships with staff you don’t see daily can be difficult. 

Add in a pandemic with a side of cohorting, social distancing and a dash of remote learning and, like many other things this year, you’ve got yourself a challenge.

This school year, I started Occasional Teaching for a new school board in late September. For me, more connections equals more work and more valuable experience.

Using social media, I have been able to reach out and connect with educators who are seeking Occasional Teachers that are comfortable working in their classrooms. Social media has been a wonderful space to both talk and listen to other people like me. Together, we support each other through the many transitions happening this year, answer each other’s questions and lift each other’s spirits. 

As we approach nearly a year of connecting this way, it feels like the new normal. Will our days soon return where we can attend PD sessions with dozens or hundreds of others? Connecting, talking, listening? 

As our methods of supporting each other constantly evolve, we must continue to place importance on creating and maintaining relationships – no matter how great of a task this may feel. 

As grateful as I am for these online connections, they don’t feel the same. They don’t completely and totally measure up to sharing a coffee with someone or looking them in the eye across the table.

Human connection cannot be replaced.

How have you been creating relationships with fellow staff this year?

The cold coffee song

 AKA – A parody on a familiar melody dedicated to teachers who finished as strong, after a tough year, if not stronger than the cold beverages in their cups.

Pt 1 (sung to the chorus of Escape, The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes)

Yes I like drinking cold coffee!
And ignoring my chronic back pain.

I am out of the classroom,
At home by pandemic and fate

It’s really hard to be teaching,
sharing through cold blue screens.

It’s become easy to breakdown,
seeing students struggling each day.

Yup, it’s been rough one folx. We have come so far together and we all know that the journey is just beginning. When we look back to the start of the year in September 2019, no one would have believed that we would only be voting on a contract now. No one would have believed  that we would fund our sub-cost-of-living raises by standing up for our rights on the picket lines for 6 days. And no one would have believed that we would not see our students in real life this year past March Break. Judging by what has transpired already, I am pretty sure that the future will be equally unbelievable.

Without a doubt, we’ve shared many highs and lows in our profession over the past 10 months. We have stood together. We have found ways to make a terrible situation nearly tolerable. We have worked from home in makeshift offices at the peril of our own physical detriment. We are all grieving the loss of milestones (graduations, trips, community, playdays, track, and farewells) for the classes of 2020. Yet, we still came up with innovative ways to honour them.

We have parented through a pandemic, and cared for our parents too. We have watched vulnerable communities further separated from opportunities. We witnessed the inequity that exists in presumptions around access and “emergency distance learning.” In all of this we have maintained the dignity and duty of care everyday. On occasion, we even remembered to look after ourselves.

And even though direction from the elected only spilled out like water from a kinked hose, we knew what to do because we knew our students. So when the messages changed it didn’t matter that they came out at the end of the day on a Friday after hours or at all. In the end, teachers knew how to do right by their students. This even meant going on treasure hunts to find marks to fill report cards using a very vague map to cover a number of broad areas.

For my liking, I would love to have scrapped the focus on any marks for this term, and worked within a pass/not yet model.

Pt 2 (sung to the chorus of Escape, The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes)

I am not into health spas.
I won’t ride on busses or Go Trains.

I am not into incomplete reporting
though the data sets must be gained.

I don’t like marking work til midnight
or going without sunlight for days.

I have been teaching from my basement,
and there’s no chance of escape.

The deeds are done and we can look back on them knowing that each teacher poured their heart and soul into their artistry as educators. Like any good gallery, the masterpieces ranged in complexity and beauty regardless of the eyes of the beholder. I’ll leave you with the last chorus to sing however you’d like.

At the heart of education,
We’ll stop at nothing to create,

To make the best of bad situations,
and challenges so hard to relate.

Can’t wait until we’re back in the classroom,
To learn, laugh, and say remember when?

It’s the year that no one planned for,
and hope will never happen again.

Thank you for all of your support over the past year. Wishing you a safe and relaxing summer. Celebrating you all with a cup of something cool and refreshing after I finish this cold cup of coffee.

 

“Techie People”

As someone who is passionate and truly geeky about the power of technology in education, I often hear from my fellow teachers, “I’m not really a techie person.”  Now, I get where they are coming from because technology can be intimidating.  Many times I’ve said, “I’m not really a math person.”  I can “do” math and I can “learn” math but it doesn’t get me fired up quite like tech does.  However, over the last few months educators who weren’t really “techie people” didn’t have much of a choice other than to use tech in order to do their job.  I cannot imagine what that must have felt like for some educators.  For some educators, it must have been terrifying.  For me, it would have been like my Principal saying that I was now the new math consultant for the intermediate grades.  It would have caused me serious panic and anxiety. I probably would have considered resigning but I would have dug in and done the best I could with the tools available to me and I would have reached out to fellow colleagues and leaned on their expertise. THAT is what teachers all over the province of Ontario were doing after the March Break, teaching and learning by the seat of their pants.

As an innovations consultant what I witnessed during the weeks of distance learning was fellow educators doing what they do best; rolling up their sleeves, getting in there and figuring the tech stuff out.  As I (along with some fantastic  and enthusiastic educators in my board) provided webinar workshops on technological tools for teachers, I saw teachers who were self proclaimed Luddites attending and showing appreciation for what we were doing.  The resiliency of educators during this time has been absolutely amazing. The necessity of teaching through technology broke through an invisible barrier that has existed for those teachers who thought that you had to be a “techie person” in order to use tech in education.  Teachers were no longer afraid to try a new technological tool, to make mistakes and ask questions. Teachers are discovering the power educational technology and they’ve been bit by the tech bug.  Educators will always continue to seek out new and innovative ways to deliver curriculum to students and learn as they go-no matter how steep the learning curve.  Some teachers who would have quickly proclaimed, “I’m not a techie person” before March Break are now excited about the possibilities of using technology even in their face-to-face classrooms.  The Educational Technology Geek Community is over-the-moon excited about increasing it’s membership!  We are a friendly bunch, inclusive, sharing and passionate and we’re happy to help.

Inspiration During the COVID Crisis

I know that as I write this, I speak from a fortunate position. We are working safely from home and all of us are still healthy.  Other than not being able to see extended family and friends, having some aches and pains from being in front of the computer and get out to the hair dresser, my family is coping pretty well with isolation.  While so many are suffering it has been humbling and inspiring to witness the resilience, creativity and kindness of those around us.

Music is everywhere.  Concerts on television bringing Canadian artists from their living rooms to ours, live Facebook concerts of our favourite Canadian musicians, and videos from friends and family sharing their music.  This week I joined a virtual Ukulele play and sing along with the Bytown Ukulele Group from Ottawa.  I played and sang along with people from British Columbia, Ireland, Nova Scotia and here in Peterborough!

Art is everywhere.  People are painting anything and everything!  From rocks to sea shells to paint nights with friends.  There are sketches and sculptures and pottery being made. From digital art to creating sketches from tutorials with famous artists; people are creating all kinds of beautiful art.

Dance is everywhere.  There are Tik-Tok videos of dances making teenagers get up and move and follow along.  Dance studios are going online to continue extra curricular dance lessons.  30 second dance parties are happening in my living room whenever we need a break from the computer screen.  Thankfully, none of that is being recorded!

There is culinary prowess being celebrated.  Yeast and flour are hot commodities right now because people are trying their hands at baking bread.  People are posting meals they have never made before and swapping recipes with friends.  People are growing things on their windowsills and in their backyards for the first time.

Innovation is everywhere.  People are trying their hands at DIY projects and coming up with innovative ways to connect online.  Teachers are learning digital tools they have never used before in order to connect with their students. We’ve been participating in online trivia and poker nights.  My son plays Jackbox party games with his friends while also chatting online or streams a movie together.

Most of all, I have witnessed incredible kindness.  I joined a Facebook group called Peterborough Shares.  At first it was mainly to communicate where to find particular grocery items and post information about shopping etc., It has since become a forum of connection where people ask for help and others respond.  From a new mom recently unemployed to a family who lost their home to fire, people are answering to the calls for help.  Something as simple as finding left handed scissors for a child to complete schoolwork or finding a hand crafted Mother’s Day gift, people are coming together to share that information and supporting one another in an unprecedented way.  More than ever, my city feels like a community.

I know I am in a fortunate position.  I am grateful every day that we took my 87 year old mom out of her retirement home when this all began and that she has remained healthy.  I am grateful that my 16 year old son has friends he connects with, teachers who care and a love of artistic things that feed his soul.  I am grateful that my husband and I can work from home and that he goes out and bravely gets the things we need.  I am grateful that in the middle of all of the chaos, in the middle of the grief and sadness, there is hope.