Navigating 2 Courses at a Time

Hey folks!  I’ve currently got 2 PIDP courses overlapping (Instructional Strategies and Professional Practice), and they both involve posting on this blog.

So to keep things as organized as possible, I’m going to keep all my posts related to Professional Practice under the page link of the same name, above.

Please feel free to comment if navigation is getting challenging – I’m getting close to the end of the PIDP journey and so this little blog is starting to feel very robust!

***EDIT***  Nope, I’ve changed my mind.  PP posts will be categorized as “Professional Practice”.  Categories can be clicked on from the right side of this page, and I’ll be working through my old posts (gradually, obvs) to add categories to them.


My Personal New Year

I’m almost finished the coursework portion of the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program.  Once I am finished Professional Practice, I will have one class left, and then just the Capstone Project.


This is a very old photo.

I’m also about to have a birthday, which is my favourite opportunity to reflect and then look forward.  New Year’s shmew years.  This is my personal new year.

It’s been a heck of a year.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a year of better professional development, as I just started a new job that will allow me to apply and work on so many of the skills that I’ve learned in PIDP.  I had a plan in January: I would be in a new position with instruction and curriculum development as the main focus by the end of the year (done by November!).  I also planned to have finished the coursework by now, but that would have been insane.  Plans need to be flexible.

I honestly thought that I wouldn’t learn that much from my courses.  I’ve done lots of professional development courses and it usually feels like as long as you show up and sign in on the sheet, you get the certificate.  Easy peasy.

Not so with this program.  I have learned so much, and most importantly I have learned what I need to continue to focus on with my learning.  I haven’t left with a list of “I can do this”, but more a list of “Here is what I will work on”.  It’s perfect… will give me something to do over the next year!

I Wanna Get Better

I feel like I have been faced with the task of examining my commitment to lifelong learning a few times during my program now.  I think the goal is to recognize the importance and value of continual professional development, even when it is hard or expensive or maybe even a bit of a blow to the ego.


But, I protest, I LOVE learning!  I don’t need to go through this exercise!  I’m super good at evaluating my strengths and weaknesses and identifying opportunities for growth!  I never get stuck in a professional rut and fight against the idea that there may be a better way of doing things!


So maybe I need a plan.  Once this program is over how will I implement the things that I have learned and how will I continue you to grow?  I found this fun little article that suggests that teachers train like actors or athletes, breaking down what we do into practicable chunks – and then actually practice doing them!

Why Teachers Should be Trained Like Actors

I LIKE this idea.  I can read and write about all sorts of strategies and techniques, but it’s the doing that freaks me out and that fear that prevents me from experimenting in the classroom.  But if I had a ‘facilitators’ workshop’ to go to and try stuff out… hhmmmmm…..

Risky Business

Something cool happened a couple of days ago.  I was setting up my workshop room to do a lesson on “Learning from Mistakes” (specifically, at work).

A reminder; I work with at risk youth, and the program that I work within teaches job search, job readiness, and job maintenance skills.

Anyway, the lesson that I was about to launch into had been created that morning, totally on the fly.  I’d never done it before.

So as I was setting up the projector, I overheard the guys in my class chatting about a very recently released video game.  And inspiration struck.

For nearly an hour we had a completely engaged and engaging full class discussion about making and learning from mistakes in video games, and how and why it differs from how we approach mistakes in real life.  The one  student that reads a book for the entire lesson (don’t worry about it, it’s cool), CLOSED HIS BOOK AND SLID IT TO THE SIDE OF THE TABLE.  Seriously, I cannot stress enough how giddy that makes me.

One of Stephen Brookfield’s 16 Maxims of Skillful Teaching is “Don’t be afraid to take risks”.  I took a chance on another lesson a couple of days later and it bombed.  But I can learn from that and move forward, and I won’t forget the win.  It was a big one.





Brookfield, S.D. (2015) The skillful teacher. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Accreditation and accountability

We want students to be responsible and accountable for their own learning, and even have them use self assessments to determine if they have met learning goals… but at the end of the day, who writes the rubric that guides their assessment?  Who determines if they pass?  Educators and administration.  Because assessment without outside guidance means a lack of confidence in results.  And isn’t accreditation sort of the same thing?

I am a professional, that works in a professional workplace, where myself and my colleagues are accountable and care about the quality of our work.  And yet we are not perfect.  We don’t have enough time, often, to check all the boxes for all the things… and sometimes we don’t prioritize important matters until they are, well, priorities.  For example, we had a gas leak scare the other day in our new office, and with the move and some staff changes, we didn’t have a health and safety protocol in place.  This is extremely important for the safety of our clients and our staff.  And yet, it hadn’t made it to the top of the pile yet.

We are currently undergoing an accreditation process, and our coordinator happened to be on site when we evacuated.  It was an excellent opportunity for him to identify an area that we are lacking, and to draw up a plan to fix it.

Accreditation provides us with guidelines and keeps us accountable – which is so necessary when budgets are being cut and staffing levels are tight.  We are human, and sometimes we need reminders of all the things that are important to the quality of our work.

Blah Blah Blah

I was pretty excited to get into Chapter 6 of “The Skillful Teacher”, because it is an area that I could use some serious skill development; Lecturing Creatively.

I fall back on lecture all. the. time.  Too much.  And that approach isn’t often challenged in my place of work.  I find that participants in my workshops come back weeks later and demonstrate to me that they didn’t learn much.

That being said, I don’t think abolishing lecture is the way to go, especially not right away.  I might be able to create fully learner centred workshops over the next year or so, but as we work towards that lecture needs to stay – but needs to get better.

The general theme of much of the chapter is around ensuring that lecture is more than just two hours of one sided information transmission; keep it short, organized, and interspersed with discussion, guided question periods, and other more active learning methods.

The Eight Minute Lecture Keeps Students Engaged

The Skillful Teacher

Ethics in Career Development

I’ve taken several courses in ethical decision making in my field (career development).  It’s always an eye opening experience, as it serves as a reminder not to get settled in ‘going with my gut’ and making sure to break down my decision making process carefully and examining each step explicitly.

Going with my gut works sometimes – but my gut decisions will always be shaded by my privilege, my world views, and my ego.

Code of Ethics

Stop and Listen

stopIsn’t it funny how timely a lesson topic can be sometimes?  This week I read chapters 16 and 17 in Brookfield’s “The Skillful Teacher”, Understanding and Responding to Students’ Resistance to Learning, respectively.  He urges readers to consider times in our lives that we have been resistance to learning and the change that it brings, to reflect on the reasons for that resistance and how justified they were for our lives at that time.  And holy guacamole, you wouldn’t believe how resistant I am feeling about something in my professional life right now.

A new initiative was being brought forward to my team for implementation.  This was done at the tail end of a time period that was full of turmoil and change for us.  As a team, we looked at the initiative, and came back to our management with concerns and questions around the implementation.  We didn’t feel very confident in our ability to successfully launch the initiative while maintaining our (admittedly high) performance in other areas, so we wanted to start a dialogue around what implementation was really going to look like.  This seems to have been interpreted as hard resistance to the idea, and a meeting was held.  After the meeting our team felt as though, if we didn’t go whole hog on this initiative, our jobs were in jeopardy.  We felt threatened.  It was one of the most demotivating and demoralizing experiences of my professional life.

And now I feel… resistant.  I had a conversation with a person in management where I shared my perception of the experience.  I was told that the meeting that was held was never intended to feel like a threat, but the damage is done.  My team needs to feel like our concerns are heard, considered, and directly addressed.

I’ve learned so much from this experience, and the way that it coincided with reading these two particular chapters in The Skillful Teacher; Brookfield argues that we need to listen and understand where resistance is coming from.  We might assume it is from laziness or lack of caring, but often it is a result of a student’s experience of our teaching and our classroom.  We need to hear concerns and take them to heart, and demonstrate to students that their voices matter in the building of a positive and productive learning environment.

Where Do I Want To Be in Five Years?

tofino hike I just started a new job.  Actually, I start in 2 weeks, but it’s an internal position so I’m doing 2 jobs at once.  Yes, it’s exhausting.  But it is worth it.

I work in career development, so I think about where I want to be in five years all the time.  My career is something that I manage very actively.  Subscribing pretty faithfully to Planned Happenstance theory means that I strategize constantly, arranging professional development and relationships to create opportunities for myself.  The effort and financial cost is well worth it.

But the real key to this outlook is to grab opportunities when they present themselves.  I’ve been working as a case manager for nearly 3 years, and when the opportunity to get back in a classroom and dig my hands into curriculum development full time found it’s way into my inbox, I knew that this was it.  This was my chance to set in motion the strategy for the next five years.

John Krumboltz’s Happenstance