IMG_3151Inspiration can be found in many places.  I am inspired when I walk into classrooms and see students engaged in their learning or when I sit down with a group of educators analyzing student work and watch them develop innovative ways to support improved student achievement.  I am inspired by what is happening in other school boards and in education around the world.  I am inspired by books, both fiction and non-fiction.  I am often inspired when I go for a walk or a run and let the solitude allow my mind to wander to possibilities in both my professional and personal life.

Last week I was fortunate enough to meet Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield when he visited students and staff at James Hillier Public School and I was completely inspired by his presentation.Brendan's Mom Tweets to Cmdr Hadfield

Colonel Hadfield is a role model to students and an advocate for teaching and learning.  His five-month space mission inspired students in Canada and all around the world.   During his time in space, he filmed more than 100 videos for students on a wide range of topics. In his 20 years of experience and more than 100 school visits, Colonel Hadfield knows how to relate to students through his motivational lectures.  It’s one thing to know this but an entirely different thing to watch Chris Hadfield in action.

What inspired me was the way Colonel Hadfield deeply engaged the students.  He listened attentively to their questions and skillfully wove stories of his experiences in space into things that connected with the lives of the young learners.  It reminded me of the importance of linking teaching and learning to relevant experiences of our students.  The only person in the room who had travelled to space was Colonel Hadfield and yet he was able to relate his experiences in such a way that they were made relevant to the students and their lives.  When students asked if he was ever scared on his journeys into space, including his space walk, Colonel Hadfield spoke to the importance of preparation and practice to avoid being caught in a situation that could be scary.

Just watching the enthusiasm of the students was inspiring – like the SK student who wore an orange flight suit for the event and had Chris Hadfield sign it.  Or the student who himself was so inspired that he went home and built his own version of a Soyuz spacecraft after listening to Colonel Hadfield describe his own experience as the Colonel of a Soyuz.  And equally inspiring was seeing all of this played out in the media and in particular through social media.  Imagine the thrill of having Colonel Hadfield himself favourite a tweet that shared the experience of the student who built his own Soyuz.  And when Colonel Hadfield picked up his guitar and started to sing his song, “Is Somebody Singing”, I was overwhelmed with emotion when our students, without being prompted, started to sing right along with him. That is engagement!

Even though I only witnessed Colonel Hadfield interacting with elementary students, his message also reminded me of our secondary school students and the various pathways our students take throughout school and after graduation.  He also shared his message that students should be deliberate in their choices in life because those choices will take them anywhere. As Colonel Hadfield stated, “the sky is not the limit. . .”  What a perfect way to inspire all of our students to greater heights.

For more on Colonel Hadfield’s visit, here is a Link to our website with the Face Book photos and the singing video:


New Beginnings

CCPS Welcome BAck
CCPS kindiesOver the Labour Day weekend, the media was full of messages about summer’s end and going back to regular school and work routines.  To be honest, I found the tone of most of the messages to be downright depressing.  One quote, attributed to Henry Rollins, an American musician and writer, is very poetic but still discouraging, “. . .we know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage.  We will welcome summer’s ghost.”

And yet with all this talk of things ending and wreckage, what I saw all around me this week were new beginnings.

On the first day of school, I visited Caledonia Centennial Public School and welcomed back both students and staff.  This was a special visit as it highlighted new beginnings for me as the Director, for Linda De Vos as the new Haldimand Elementary Family of Schools Superintendent and for Tom Fitzsimmons who started his first school day as Principal of Caledonia Centennial.  I saw students and staff happy to be back and excited to start a new year full of anticipation of things to come.

I saw Twitter posts of students and staff welcoming each other back.  I saw new school Administrators beginning their roles and staff who are new to Grand Erie embracing their new journey.  I saw primary students playing games, secondary school students being welcomed in the Learning Commons and sports and activities starting up again in all of our schools.  I saw excitement, enthusiasm and a focus on engaging students in their learning.

I saw the Ed Centre sliding into a more regular rhythm as summer schedules moved back to the school year pattern and the work continues.

So for me, and I suspect for many of you, while I have to admit that we did just experience the end of something as we said good-bye to summer break, we also experienced the start of something new.  Our new school year, our chance to engage our students and staff in meaningful endeavours and to continue to do our best work together.