Friday, May 25, 2018

Facing Your Fears

I know; it's been a long time. Here is part of my story.

Now that mental health conversation is viewed in a more mainstream way, I feel like it is time to acknowledge how challenging and scary the past few years have been for me.

This. This is the biggest fear I have ever faced. Putting it all out there. I hope it is met with compassion and understanding, as biochemical differences in the brain DO NOT mean that someone is incapable or weird or frightening to be around. I am still sweet, kind and funny, or so those who love me would say.

Facing one's fears in the midst of massive and life-altering change isn't for the faint of heart. There are times when I feel excited about change, especially when it is positive.

For those of us who are blessed with anxiety or panic disorder, even if we love change, sometimes it can be downright excruciating. As a teacher, I want to believe that I always have things under control- but in the last couple years, it sure didn't feel that way. I had been striving to succeed- it was all that mattered to me. All I wanted was that contract and a mortgage.

I had finally bought my first home and was thrilled about it. I had just received the contract that seemed like a fun endeavor. I was excited for the challenge of teaching a combined class. Yes, anxiety was a part of my life, but I believed I knew everything about it and had it under control.

Suddenly, everything crashed down upon me. Panic attacks were becoming a normal part of my day as I was doing my best to manage my two grades (one of which was brand-new to me), a teenager, a mortgage, a shift-worker commuter husband, a commute myself and a new naughty puppy. Anxiety gripped its cold grey hands around my throat School became a place I was terrified of.

I wound up on a medical leave and began treatment for anxiety and panic disorder, as well as some OCD. It was unbelievable to me how much of my past had been unresolved. It was even more amazing to me, when I did reflect upon it, that this mental illness had been a part of my life since childhood. I had brushed it off as asthma.

Things pop up and manifest in different ways when you have had trauma. I experienced every type of anxiety and panic symptom, from my throat closing and stomach symptoms, right down to "hiding in a bomb shelter," shaking and unable to move.

My trauma happened when I was a kid. Perhaps my teachers noticed, but I was a talker and a good student, so perhaps I didn't express it the same way as others might have. I just "toughed it out" and never really had a clue that this was trauma until my late thirties.

In the last year, I have had therapy on a regular basis and have been able to come off medication. I have used art as a form of facing my fears, and the sunshiny me that everyone sees is not what comes out in the drawing. That's okay, though, because it is no longer inside me! The relief that drawing and writing give me is unquantifiable.

My counselor and I are both exceptionally proud of the progress I have made. I have had to face tough times and decisions since going on leave last year; none of these have made me panic. In fact, I can't remember the last panic attack I had.

I still get mild anxiety about certain situations, but nothing in comparison to what I had experienced in the last few years! Things have changed in my life, and I have been able to roll with the punches. At night, I can fall asleep right away.

It can be terrifying to make that first call, but it is absolutely worth it. Peace of mind is something you just cannot put a price on.

Feel free to ask me questions, mes amis! I would be honoured to help.

MmePoulet, The Brave
No longer a chicken.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What will the Future Hold for our Students?

This has been a question that has permeated my thoughts all summer long. With the Alberta curriculum changing, (in what I consider really interesting and positive ways) and with the speed of change with technology being practically immeasurable, what will it look like? I participate in several Twitter chats, and one that really gets my gears turning is #whatisschool.  I love the exchange - I leave every chat energized and proud to be in this profession.

Some of the ideas discussed amaze me. Moderators Craig Kemp and Laura Hill stretch the minds of chat participants with questions like, "What will our places and learning spaces look like?" Or this hum-dinger: "How do we prepare kids for jobs we don't know exist?" How about these ones: "What will the skill set be for the future, what are our kids going to be teaching their kids, and what on Earth will they need in their tool boxes?"  The conversation immediately spawns several opinions on the spectrum of pro, con and indifferent to tech. 

Coming from Alberta and schools that have had technology available to them, I have been somewhat spoiled, I suppose. Of course, I am all for the use of technology; but I believe deeply that it is only as useful as the plans you have for it. That is, unless you have chosen and mapped out a purpose for the tech to serve in order to guide students,  it will be about as useful as giving a dog a screwdriver. I have been guilty of this in the past, but have tried earnestly to use tech in more meaningful ways this last year.

One thing I tried with my students this year was using the Minecraft craze to my advantage in French class. My students learn their vocabulary and language, then may choose a variety of project-based assessments to demonstrate their knowledge. For my La Maison unit, kids drew, created from wood/cardboard/marshmallow (I am not even joking) and Minecrafted their homes, then explained them en français. It requires great effort up front, but is a huge hit and kids stay pretty engaged because they are doing what they learned as well as what they love.

In order to pull this off, of course, students received a very explicit rubric and knew exactly what was expected of them well beforehand. I answered every question imaginable in regard to format in that first class. I found it delightfully easy to give good marks because everyone put in a solid effort and had something they were proud of...even the "low achievers." It was all about setting students up up for success.

Now maybe it's the special educator in me, but I am a bit of an idealist. I believe that with enough effort, time and love, every child will feel the glow of success and achievement. And according to Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, that is exactly the point. Kids and adults alike get frazzled trying to grasp that unattainable brass ring of perfection. Dweck's research had shown, unequivocally, that a growth - oriented mindset, rather than a fixed - oriented, talent and luck based mindset, is the true champion in the end. What's the "magic" ingredient? Effort. That's what counts.

I can most certainly admit that I have had a fixed mindset about certain things. I was once told that perfectionism is the teacher disease. I always demanded perfection from myself, yet never expected the same of others. That is setting quite the high standard for myself, n'est-ce pas?

For example, until this summer, I truly believed that I always was and would always be a horrid cook. Was this absolute judgment upon myself substantiated? Yeah, maybe when I was much younger, a few people said things that discouraged me....but lately? No. It really boiled down (excuse the cooking pun) to effort. I was discouraged>I stopped trying>I didn't improve.

In the midst of redefining my goals for myself that put the biggest rocks first, I realized that my lack of cooking "ability" has really been doing a disservice to my family. With the help of my Big Rocks, Dweck's assertion that we all can improve, and my cheer squad of friends and family, I learned how to make twenty new dishes. I just had to suspend my fixed mindset. I had to be willing to try, fall, get up, fall again, try again and most importantly, put in the effort. Et voilà! Suddenly, I'm not so scared to try cooking new things. My family has raved about my new-found skill and confidence in the kitchen. Now I can bring this forth into other parts of my life.

Isn't that what we want our students to be able to do? To be scared that they might fail and try anyway? This, my friends, is the real reason we teach. This is why I question...  #whatisschool supposed to be? What will it be? And most importantly, if we think with an open mind, what could it be? We have the greatest reason in the world to discover the answers - our kids are totally worth it.

Merci beaucoup!
Mme Poulet

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are You A "Yes" Man?

I am. I am the first to offer to help, to volunteer, to take on the next task.
I proudly stand and wave my hand if there is a job to be done.
Here's the problem with that.
When I was younger,  I had such energy and enthusiasm that I could balance university full-time, working full-time, a full - time social life, dating, volunteering and family with a smile. Sure, I wasn't sleeping, and every year or so I would hit a wall of exhaustion and be hospitalized with some asthma - related issue....but I somehow crammed it in.
Then I became a wife, mom and a teacher. Suddenly the energy became laser - focused elsewhere and I quickly forgot the Shannon beneath the Mom, Honey and Madame. I still tried to be Mrs. Yes, though.
As educators, it is our job- nay - mission to be role models. I fall short of what I expect of myself as a teacher. Of course, I expect myself to be nearly perfect.
As a mom, I do the same. I do not ever want my child to feel that she was forgotten, put second, dishonored as a result of my "other 200 kids"- her own words.
This has caused me to cram parenting, teaching, report cards, marking, cooking, wifely duties, cleaning, dog - walking, baseball tournaments, shopping, commuting, volunteering at baseball and school council bingos, church, organizing and buying a group gift for my daughter's teacher, sending emails and organizing things as president of Alberta Teachers of French, cleaning and packing up the temporary classroom home that I had this year, rewriting all my documents, scanning old ones, submitting all of them and applying for jobs and going for interviews.
All in the last two weeks. Exhausting read, n'est - ce pas?
Where does that leave me?
Well, suffice it to say there are moments for us "yes men" when the Big Rocks simply DO.NOT.FIT. Everything felt important to me.  How could I be forced to choose?
I managed this with relative sanity, but my "Health" Big Rock got tossed out for the time being. My "Happiness"  Big Rock was temporarily suspended. And I felt like my mother, wife and, most importantly, SELF Big Rocks suffered the most.
So last night, with my classroom jammed into corners of my house, I sat down and literally went through my Big Rocks.
I took them all out, washed them with love, re-labelled them and meditated upon them.
It was then that I realized that I had a rock for happiness, health, family and students, but had none for me, my husband, my child,  my friends. So I labeled the family one with friends too- as my friends are like family. I made one for my kid, one for my husband, one for me. There are seven and that number cannot change. How I achieve happiness will change and embodies my Habit 7. Health needs will evolve.  So will all my life, but now, my priorities are set.
As a yes man, I want to add more rocks- but for now, the seven I have are absolutely all my bucket will hold.
It is summer break, and it is time to get back to knowing my Big Rocks closely again!
Have you labeled your Big Rocks?
À la prochaine, mes amis!
Mme Poulet

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What are YOUR Big Rocks?

This year has been a doozy to get used to. Nothing beats changing everything you know about yourself in one year.
This time a year ago, I was coming into my comfort zone with myself. I was focused, rested, buoyant and thrilled for the future. Though I am almost all of those this year, rested I am most definitely not.
You see, this year, I decided to really focus on my Big Rocks. Do you know what your big rocks are?   Once you do, it is a lot easier to decide how your energy should be placed. 

I know one of the big rocks I have to work on is my weight- I am the first to admit it and point it out. I deeply acknowledge this is a big rock and do have strategies in place.
This year, because of the move, I had a deep awareness that it takes much more energy to commute and teach full time than it does to either not commute or to work part time and commute. So I made my big rocks work and family.
And, to be honest, this year my house has been a mess. I used to believe a perfectly clean house meant everything. I am less inclined to believe the same now. I watch only one TV show - at all. Maybe one hour a week. If I am online, it is for teaching or learning purposes - for the vast majority of the time, anyway.
I have taken a leadership role in a volunteer professional organization, created a bond with amazing students who continually gratify my sense of awe, see kids living the 7 Habits and their parents even speak it!
I have done almost every unit with a project in place, added countless technologies to my repertoire, hosted PD sessions, taught kids to do plays in French, had chats on Twitter with my students and their author hero David Bouchard.
I have been there for every baseball game and practice for my blessing of a daughter. Sometimes I even help with practices. We even figured out how to get her there early! I've made time to volunteer as her room rep, sit on her parent council, help run her school dance and allow for her to have six million sleepovers. At least six million.
I have made time to give her teachable moments and have the tough talks with her. Hubby and I have worked hard to make sure our tween, who tests limits at times, doesn't grow into the teen who has zero respect for the rules.
My beloved husband and I rarely see each other due to differing schedules, but when we have been together, we have made sure to make family time really meaningful. We have achieved financial, emotional, mental and spiritual goals as a family this year in addition to blasting through our own personal goals individually.
I have taken the sage advice of the 7 Habits Signature Training and its wonderful facilitators. With my fortune of having taken the program twice and seeing the results at the Leader in Me Symposium, I truly believe it does what it says it will do.
I can proudly say it has with us. I can also humbly say that more big rocks are to come.
Thank you, Covey Family and #tlim for your life-changing inspiration.
Can you see the Leader in Me?
More importantly, can you truly see the leader in you?
À la prochaine, les amis!
Mme Poulet


La vie selon le miroir d'arrière-view

C'était une longue année très occupée, mais j'ai appris plus que je réveillée qu'était possible.

J'ai réussi avec le Leader in Me avec de ma classe - quelquefois oui ; quelquefois non. Dès enfants oui; autres, non. Après il y a 7 années, enfin j'ai pris le courage d'essayer la programme AIM. Mes quatrièmes l'adorent! Grâce à #aimlang, #langchat et à #abtfsl,  je ne me sens pas seul au monde des profs français encore. Merci à tous : d'être mes inspirations, soutiens et camarades.

J'ai exprimé avec beaucoup de technologies à ma salle de classe. On a joué avec le Voki et beaucoup de #google. On a utilisé : Google Slides, Docs, Pictures, LucidCharts, Forms et pendant quelque journées, on fera un Google Hangout avec une autre classe!
Ces technologies me rendre très hâte au sujet du futur! L'apprentissage et l'enseignement va changer pour toujours, à mon avis. Allez - vous changer votre enseignement aussi?

Je ne dormais pas assez cette année.  Je m'ai plongeais dans l'eau froide de changement et je suis tellement heureuse comment ça m'avait changé. L'année prochaine, je voulais faire de plus avec des Chromebooks. Je vais utiliser Remind avec mes classes. Je vais continuer d'être courageuse et changer le monde, un petit cerveau à la fois. Comment allez - vous changer le monde?

Enfin, j'ai beaucoup de fierté en moi même, parce que, s' il y a des fautes ou non, j'ai écrit ma première poste de blog en français.  Ça prend beaucoup de courage,  mais sans courage et croître dans moi même,  est-ce que c'est vraiment possible de donner le même à mes étudiants?  Je ne pense pas.
Quelle sont les plus importants habilités du 21 siècle qui est le plus important à vous? Comment est-ce que vous le faire avec votre classe?

Nous avons un grand et important travail à faire.
Si vous voulez, s'il vous plaît,  ajouter les commentaires!
À la prochaine, les amis!

Mme Poulet

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Time Matrix Strikes Back!

Life can take you some pretty funny directions, can it not?

When I first went into University, I wanted to become a child psychologist. Though it is still on my bucket list, my plans veered toward a career of writing. I found, however, that if I did not have the muse, it was extraordinarily forced and mechanical.

Such was the blog this year, I suppose. Though, to be fair - I have been one busy hen!

We have been very lucky at my school to experience myriad amazing things. My students used the muse of David Bouchard's writing to create legends, which helped them carve a totem pole of their chosen Spirit Animals. While they had fun learning about this, I worked on their 7 Habits understanding and am excitedly repeating the Signature Program myself.

I have had the opportunity to participate in a Mentorship Series through my school division, which I have found very useful in setting my stage for teaching. Oddly, the longer I teach, the hungrier I am for PD.

And, as I take, so shall I give. As the elected president of Alberta Teachers of French, I am putting on an unconference at Pigeon Lake in 2 weeks, and presenting a PD session this fall at the SLIC conference in Edmonton.

After all, if I expect my students to be leaders, doesn't it begin with me?

Thank you to all who inspire me to better myself. Through their guidance, I, too, can be a guiding light.

Madame O

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Teaching Languages in a Star Trek World

Salut, mes poulettes!

As I wrote my professional growth plan tonight, I realized that my blogging has left something to be desired this last while. It has been a big transition year, as I had previously alluded. My husband has taken a new job this month, too – completing the process of our life overhaul.  It’s been a process, but we are beginning to settle into our new world, roles, schools and life at last.

I must, then, return to blogging, as it has made such a difference in my life. I have grown professionally by reading the blogs of others…and through being ready to hear the wisdom of teachers and administrator friends around the world. I admit, there was a certain arrogance I was ready to shed. A certain “I don't need help, I've got this all under control.” attitude. There is no room for a loner attitude when teaching a community. Once I shed that skin, I became receptive to the amazing treasure trove of information and wisdom that existed at my fingertips.

I have undertaken many new endeavors. I am teaching a Grade Six class, giving them the tools of The Leader in Me, and deeply considering my French pedagogy and how to REALLY make it meaningful for kids. In that light, these Professional Growth Plan questions really struck me as something I would like to share with you and get your opinion on.

I truly believe the greatest resource we could ever have as educators is one another, so I would love to hear from you either here at,  on my Twitter feed @mmepoulet , or via my professional e-mail, I am also on Google+ under this moniker.

Now, the questions, and my reflection upon them:

1. As an educator, what should I do more of?

Allow students to be leaders in general. Give students guidance on how to be creators in language and technology. Allow them leadership opportunities in speaking, reading, creating and sharing in the FSL and Language Arts classroom. Give students a strong model of lifelong learning in myself. Take the advice of other teachers pertaining to the use of tech and its propriety and efficacy in regards to fulfilling students’ needs.

Why? Kids are looking for ways to stand out, and in a world such as ours, with advances coming faster than we can possibly keep up with as educators, it is my responsibility to be as far on the cutting edge of students’ futures as I can possibly be in order to give them a chance at this world they will be creating in the future.  It is our mandate and our responsibility to create ethical, engaged and entrepreneurial citizens. In order to do so, we had better believe we can do this ourselves!

2. What should I do less of?

 I don't do too much of it, but maybe the “Chalk and Talk” teaching style. Perhaps less worksheet-based teaching, in FSL especially. I need to stop shying away from taking a risk with newer technologies. Teaching in an “island” way, where I believe that I don’t need (or am unable to get) others’ advice as a languages teacher. Pencil and paper activities as the crux of assessment, marking everything that I see “the old way.”

Why? Well, this is simply not the way that the world is headed. The way we have been doing things for the last 100 years or so is absolutely, necessarily gone. It is antiquated. It is unfair to our students. In order to be the educators of these future citizens, we need to dig our minds out of the past and step forth into this unknown world….and start paving the way for the adults of tomorrow.

We truly do have enormous shoes to fill…and we have no idea what awaits us at the next turn. If today, we are using such technology as Google Glass, and  is reporting on rollable cellphones coming this year, what is five years away? Ten? Eighteen? It really is mind-boggling.

Tomorrow, I am partaking in a French language PD about technology. This weekend, I head to the Second Languages and Intercultural Council's annual conference in Canmore, Alberta. They are a subgroup of the Alberta Teachers' Association, and are certain to teach me many ways to improve my tech savvy with students. I cannot wait to report back on my discoveries!

As for our journey into the 21st century way of doing things, well, to misquote  The Great Gatsby, "... we beat on, boats against the current, borne forth ceaselessly into the future.”

A la prochaine, mes amis,

Mme Poulet