Livia Chan – Livia Chan
 

Author: Livia Chan

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Ghandi

How many times have you read this quote? How many times have you read or heard a quote and thought, “Yes! This resonates with me!” Now, how many times have you absorbed a quote into your daily being and it no longer is a quote that just resonates with you but is you?

I am someone who does a lot of reflection throughout my day. I have no idea if it’s more or less than the average. That’s irrelevant. What is relevant is the action I take as a result of my reflections which brings me back to this particular quote. Read it again. Think about it for a moment. Dive into the words for a longer moment. What does it mean to you?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Here’s my story about what it means to me.

I have read this quote a number of times in my life. Each time, it reminded me to ask myself if I am the change I want to see in the world. If you think about it deeply, that can feel like a big and overwhelming task! But of course, it doesn’t have to be.

I imagine we have different ideas and missions when we think about this quote. What is your change you want to see in the world? Mine? It is to live each day spreading love, kindness, gratitude, and positivity by reaching out to connect, uplift, and serve others.

I am deeply passionate about three things: friends and family, ringette, and being an educator. These are centered around people, making connections, building relationships, and being an active part of a community. I love ALL of it – plus the feelings of welcomeness, friendship, and belonging that go with it.

I view many things as gifts. Every day is a gift. Every relationship is a gift. Every connection is a gift. Time is a gift. What pulls this idea plus my passions all together is this: PEOPLE are gifts to me – how they influence and inspire me, affect me, and love me, all give me the strength to live my calm days and my busiest of days. I am so very grateful to all and how we are connected.

Every interaction is a gift. It is an opportunity to touch someone’s life and to make it better. Uplift their hearts or their souls… or both!

Recently, there were a few things that made me realize that it is time to share something that has been on my mind and my heart. It has been a slow realization and that’s okay but now it has grown to be something I want more than just to hope for and wish to see in the world. I feel a stronger need to move from passive to active.

A few weeks ago during our Teach Better Administrator Mastermind, I was called an “ULTIMATE #reacherouter” by my good friend, Brad Hughes (@brad_hughes). It truly warmed my heart to see those words shared in the chat and have it affirmed by others. Soon after, that’s when it hit me. I was living the “change I wish to see in the world”. What dawned on me shortly after was this: It is now time to do more. I need to go beyond just hoping and wishing that others do the same so if I want to make more of a difference in this world, I need to shout it out. Louder!

As I listen to messages I receive from others and learn more about myself in the process, I am discovering more common themes in what I share regularly. Things like encouraging others to reach out to connect, seeing through a lens of positivity, acknowledging our daily gifts, and practicing gratitude are all important! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to speak about these in a podcast episode with my good friend, Lindsay Titus, on Define YOUniversity in Episode 36: Share Your Story series.

Seeing connections as gifts have given me the courage to reach out to initiate conversations, take opportunities to start relationships, build rapport, and deepen connections that have turned into new and amazingly fulfilling friendships! Most of these were all relationships fostered virtually. The list of people I can now name as friends because I took the initiative to reach out is plenty! And each day, I feel truly blessed and so grateful for my new friends… many of which are affiliated with the Teach Better Team, which I am a passionate Ambassador and as of yesterday, the new Digital Content Editor! Love everyone on the team so much!

Now think back to a time when someone unexpectedly reached out to you. It might have been at a time you were tired, sad, or struggling with something. Perhaps you received an appreciation for something you did. Regardless, how wonderful did that feel to know someone was thinking about you and took that extra step to contact you? Did it touch or warm your heart? I bet it did! In fact, this happened to me just over a week ago! I was feeling exhausted at the end of the night but still had to plan our PD session. Just minutes after I was on Dave Burgess’ website looking up his 5-word GPS idea, he happened to reached out! Through our conversation, he offered something that far surpassed my wildest dreams, and instantly, my sense of overwhelm turned into excitement and my heart was full of gratitude. What a gift I was given. What a gift we were given. It was the gift of time and connection that inspired us all when he spoke live. His message will continue to inspire us for the remainder of the year! So grateful!

We are busy people. We always find more on our plate than we have time for. It’s a fine balancing act that constantly changes as our day rolls on. I recently learned about committing to spend 30 minutes on what we are passionate about on Brendon Burchard’s podcastHow to Achieve an Action Mindset and Stay Disciplined. 30 minutes is like 2% of our day. How long does it take to reach out to connect with someone? Far less than 30 minutes most of the time!

CHALLENGE: TAKE ACTION! When someone pops into your mind, there’s a reason. Some may call it a sign. So spend two minutes to act on it! Send them a short message to let them know you are thinking about them or why you are grateful for them. It may be just what they needed at that time on that day. Two minutes in a day equates to 0.14% of your whole day. I daresay that if we were pressed to prioritize what is most important to us, most would say our friends and family. So aren’t they worth our valued time? Relationships take an investment of time. The challenge is to do this every day for a week. See what happens! Can you turn it into a daily habit?

I have been told many times when I reached out that my timing was impeccable and that it was something they so needed to hear, be it my appreciation, positivity, encouragement, love, or kind words. Let me tell you… each time I have reached out, I have received a deeper connection in return. In my experience, the time I spent pouring into someone else has come back to me in ways that filled my heart manyfold. That is the power of connection! Simply priceless! Go reach out and make someone else’s day brighter! YOU can give the gift of connection, the gift of love, and the gift of your words.

Let’s bring us back to the quote again and review what is in a typical day. This quote is all about relationships. Remember, every day is a gift. Our connections can be broken down into our daily interactions. From the moment you wake up, typically your loved ones you see first, then colleagues at school, next parents and students. Afterward, it might be employees at the businesses you frequent before you retreat back to your loved ones at home be it in person or virtually. Think about the numerous interactions you had over the course of the day. How many opportunities were there to spread your love, kindness, and positivity? How many opportunities can you take to make someone’s day brighter by reaching out to check-in, uplift, or show appreciation? We don’t have to wait for people to pop into our minds like in our challenge above. Here’s a second challenge: EVERY interaction is an opportunity, take it in the moment!


Reflect to discover what is that change you wish to see in the world. Once you figure it out, live it in whatever way you have the capacity for – minimally or passionately. Small steps are better than no steps taken. And when you are ready, take the next step and shout it out loud and proud!

To connect is a gift you can give to others. Your words are a gift to others too.

YOU are the change you wish to see in the world through every intentional interaction. Share out what it is you wish to see. Announce it! Live by it! And ask your friends to help hold you accountable.

If something you read resonated, I would greatly appreciate it if you please reach out and leave a comment or tweet it out and tag me @LiviaChanL. Looking forward to seeing and hearing about how you created an opportunity to connect too! Be a #reacherouter!!

So grateful to you for reading,

If you are looking for a discussion on random acts of kindness versus acts of kindness, I encourage you to list to Hans and Jennifer Appel on their podcast Award Winning Culture. Listen to Episode 25: EPIC Kindness. Their podcast is on my must-listen to list every week! Click here to see how I keep track of podcast takeaways!

Are you a podcast listener? Enthusiastically, I am! I started listening to education podcasts late in April 2020 so I am relatively new to this type of professional learning but I have listened to over 50 since that date. There were so many great takeaways. The more I listened, the more I learned, and the more knowledge I craved. The hosts and guests were quite varied with inspirational messages on interesting topics. As a result, it hit me that there was no possibility I could remember all of the great quotes or valuable insights shared. Any aha moments or subsequent reflections would all be lost eventually too unless I did something with that information – save it!

  • Below, you will learn 3 small changes that will help you be a better educator as you continue to grow and learn from others.

How many times have we attended professional development (PD) sessions in person or webinars, consumed the information, and with no follow-up, ended up only using a very small portion of what we learned? While it is not expected we would use all of the newly learned ideas anyway because it has to fit in with what and how we teach, I would love the ability to easily locate and access my notes weeks or months later if I wanted. The problem is with notes jotted down in a notebook, piece of paper, or package, it often ended up being stored in a “safe” place and eventually rarely came out to play unless it was impactful. If we are to truly honour our own time and PD, then saving notes to retrieve with ease later just makes sense.

Were there many great ideas shared during these PD sessions? Sure! But anything paper-based would end up in a pile or a file folder somewhere. SMALL CHANGE #1: A few years ago, I started keeping my PD notes digitally. Notetaking was done right on my laptop or iPad. I would create a new document in a Google Doc or O365 Word document and insert pictures of slides or images found in the handouts. Later, I might scan a copy of related documents so that I have it digitally. I absolutely love anything digital because I can use the search function to easily find what I am looking for. Admittedly, I have a much better filing system in the cloud than in real life! Can anyone relate?

SMALL CHANGE #2: I created an Excel spreadsheet and called it Classroom Ideas. Anytime I thought of or learned of a great new classroom idea or found a resource, I would add it to the spreadsheet. I slowly added new sheets as ideas expanded. This has been one of the best small changes I made that keeps all of the various ideas in a one-stop-shop. I can’t tell you the number of times I have referred to and added to this document over the course of the year! So handy! I daresay, time saving and life-changing!

So let’s go back to the idea of keeping messages that resonated while listening to podcasts. In April, after listening to my first 20 or so, it became clear that I needed something better than my memory alone! I immediately thought, “I need something digital!” So, I created a Google Form to keep track. Since then, the experience of recording information has been phenomenal. Not only do I process my new learning, I carefully consider how to concisely summarize my notes and reflections. When we analyze and think more deeply about the content we just consumed, we remember it better too! I now have it all in one spot to refer to and can access the best parts of amazing educator’s valuable messages to the world! I have referred to it many times already!

Click here to make a copy of the Podcast Takeaways Google Form. If you use it, I would love to hear how you modified it and any recommendations on how I can improve mine. If there is a fantastic podcast you highly recommend, please shout it out so I can learn more too. Thank you for your time! Click here to read my original tweet when I first shared this idea.

SMALL CHANGE #3: After being a guest on Teach Better Talk – episode 183, I was really interested to hear from everyone what messages resonated most. We often hear at the end of podcasts, a plea to reach out on social media to connect but how many do? For these two reasons, I came to the realization that podcasters and guests probably appreciate what I was looking for too so I started to tweet out two things after listening to podcasts: (1) my appreciation for sharing the new knowledge I gained and (2) something that resonated with me most. Each time I reached out to the hosts and guests, I received a reply that indicated to me I made a difference by taking the time to be an active participant rather than a passive consumer. Then on my spreadsheet, I actually record that I tweeted my gratitude. Helps me keep track!

Click here to read my post about the memorable opportunity to be a guest on a podcast!

How many times have you listened to a podcast, taken away some aha moments or had something really resonate with you, maybe shared with friends what a great episode it was, but then didn’t let the host or guest know? With the number of podcasts I listened to, it hasn’t been easy to tweet out every time, but if you do it even once in a while, you are providing your fellow educators with positive feedback, the gift of your words, as well as the gift of connection. May I encourage you to move beyond just being consumers of information but to step into the next level to reach out? It may be the beginning of a great relationship with an educator you admire. You may be surprised at how your gift of time to share your response can lead to happiness on your own plate too.

Case in point for the value of recording moments! A couple of years ago, I listened to all 22 of Bruce Brown’s Proactive Coaching podcast episodes because I was coaching ringette at the AA level and wanted to learn more. Bruce believes in building an intentional character-based team culture with standards and not rules. I so wish I created this Podcast Takeaways form back then. I am a better coach because I listened to all episodes but I can’t exactly pinpoint any of the particular golden nuggets or quotable quotes from each episode. I took some notes but where are they now? If you are looking to branch out of your education based podcasts, this series is somewhat related and a great one to check out!

I am always appreciative that you spent the time to read my thoughts. I would be so grateful to hear how this post may have resonated with you. Please leave a comment or send me a tweet @LiviaChanL. Thank you for connecting!

Appreciatively,

“It’s about the quality of connections rather than the quantity of connections. People look at views but it’s that one person that connects that means a lot.” My (non-urgent) plea: Be that one person! – Jon Harper (@Jonharper70bd), as a guest on Dave Schmittou‘s (@daveschmittou) podcast Lasting Learningepisode 119.

The world is your oyster.

Here’s a gift. Do you want it?
What is it exactly?
It is an opportunity.
What do I do with it?
You take it!

That’s how the conversation went in my head when Jeff Gargas, the COO of the Teach Better Team first reached out to ask me if I would be interested to join him and his co-host Rae Hughart for a podcast episode on Teach Better Talk. Actually, my first questions were, “Who me? Why me?” But I didn’t let that stop me. I told him I was interested right away. With the gift of time during this pandemic, I dove into what the Teach Better Team was all about and was blown away. Since then, I started participating in their webinars, #MasteryChat on Twitter (Thursdays at 5PM PST), live shows, blog posts, and listening to their podcasts and I’ve been hooked ever since. Everyone on the team has been so positive and welcoming, which completely fits in with what I believe too! (If you read my first blog post, you’ll learn that “welcome” is one of the words I live by.) And as Jennifer and Hans Appel shared recently on their Award Winning Culture Podcast about the Teach Better team, “it is infectious to be around the team” and I so agree! Fast forward to today, I was recently asked to be a Teach Better Ambassador and now have the opportunity to share my story on Episode 183 – Teach Better Talk! I have been so blessed with many people believing in me and supporting me. It has truly been humbling and I want to thank you all for your part in helping me find my joy and being a source of joy. I am on my own journey but I didn’t get here alone – I learned from you and with you along the way, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

Click on image to listen.

Opportunities are circling all around us, all the time, everywhere we go, and in every interaction we have. So what do you do with an opportunity?

  • First step: Open your eyes and your heart. Look around to see possibilities you can turn into opportunities. If you don’t see one YET, you may need to take some initiative to find one or create one for yourself. Sometimes opportunities find you but you also can work towards placing yourself in situations where there will be more opportunities available.
  • Next step: Assess whether these are opportunities you want to take. Can you grow from this? Does it help others in any way or make the world a better place? If so, then…
  • Final step: Jump in or dive into the deep end! Take the opportunity! And if you are not quite ready, a toe dip is still a motion forward.

I could talk about opportunities all day! They are possibilities you have chosen to turn into opportunities with action. In the podcast episode, I talk about various opportunities we can take to grow, be better, and improve our relationships, our teaching, and ourselves by the simplest act of making small changes. We don’t need to make big changes, but instead, make and take the opportunity for small changes. Making small changes will lead to bigger changes over time. In the podcast, I discuss some of the following:

  • We have the flexibility for professional development (PD) every day with who we want to follow, what we find interest in, when we do it, where (platform choice) so consider why and how you learn best. The door of opportunity is always open for you to step through. There are always takeaways when you open yourself up to receive them. I am newer to podcasts as a form of PD so I found it hard to keep track of all those golden nuggets I was hearing so I created a Google Form to keep track. Read my tweet and click here to make a copy to use. I am so loving this small change!
  • Reflect and consider how we can better connect with others, how we nurture the positive actions we notice, how we show gratitude, and how we build community with every interaction.
  • In the classroom, take the opportunity to add the elements of surprise, choice, creativity, and fun.
  • On a personal level, tweak your mindset to see challenges as opportunities. Please read my last post to learn more.

I give my students daily opportunities. I call them “areas of opportunity” and it is presented as an imaginary gift but it’s very real. They can choose to take it or not. When they do, they grow from it each time. My challenge to you is to explore possibilities, assess their value, and then take the plunge – go take those opportunities and run with it. Whenever I have, it has always brought great joy and when it hasn’t worked out as planned, I am better because I learned from the experience. Go find your oyster and discover your source of joy.

Please feel free to reach out to share what resonated with you here or in the podcast episode. I deeply appreciate you for your time and effort to listen and connect by commenting here or on Twitter @LiviaChanL. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

With a heart full of gratitude,

Thank you, Jeff and Rae, and the Teach Better Team for this exciting opportunity to share my story. Love you all!

We just enjoyed nine weeks of remote learning. It was exhausting but rewarding. Next week, we will begin a hybrid of in-class instruction for students who choose to return and a continuation of learning at home for others. So many firsts during this pandemic – first time teaching remotely, first time staying at home in isolation, and first time staying away from friends and loved ones to keep us all safe. I recognize there are many more firsts we have experienced. The next first time is teaching seven students in person while also supporting 17 others at home. It’s another change, another new adventure and that’s where mindset matters. How I approach this will affect my thoughts and feelings about it. Is it a problem, challenge or opportunity?

In a very short period of time, everyone around the world has had to adapt to something new, something different. How well we adapt to that change can be determined by our outlook about it. What is it we tell ourselves about this new situation? Is it a problem? Is it a challenge? Or is it an opportunity – a possibility of making the situation the best situation possible?

I have often drawn this out for not only my students for many years but also my own children at home during our discussions or family meetings. I often think about the things I share repeatedly over the years in different circles and this is one of them. Every day, things happen; it’s a situation. When we interpret the situation, we put our own lens on it – either positive or negative. There is no real in between or neutral and I would be open to discussing this aspect further with you should you like to engage. Depending on the outlook we choose (and I truly believe it is a choice we CAN control and a choice we make), it will affect what we think, how we feel, and how we respond to the situation. So, I am always preaching that we can choose the happy route. Why would you decide to choose to be unhappy? I choose happy.

My husband once asked me if the cup in my world is always half full (and not half empty). I try to live my life with it half full. Do I slip sometimes? Of course! But I truly believe there is a silver lining if you look hard enough for one. Sometimes you just have to look harder than other times.

So this brings me back to when we first found out schools will be closed indefinitely after spring break. It was a situation we all interpreted in our own way. My natural instinct was to see things in a positive light. I almost always try to find a piece of gratitude first. What am I thankful for? How can I use this as an opportunity and make the most out of this situation? Staying at home meant everyone we care about would be safe so that’s a definite positive. Having more time at home meant that I was given the gift of time to dive into my passions of people, relationships, teaching, learning, writing, and leading as I mentioned in my About page. During this time, I have:

  • connected with many people I didn’t have the same time for before to rekindle and build on relationships. I keep a list of people I would like to connect with and mark the dates we last connected. If it’s been about a month, I check in with them again and update my document. It has been such an incredible pleasure to reconnect with some of the students in my very first teaching assignment 21 years ago when they were in grade 2. They are now 28 years old!
  • developed a remote teaching program that I feel proud of and know my students are continuing to grow from the activities and feedback I provide.
  • spent many hours each day supporting colleagues with their questions about different digital platforms and provided training. With my previous experience on the Staff Development Team in Learning Technologies, I have expertise I can share. I loved this extra teaching opportunity to support colleagues because I saw it as a gift of connection and a way to lead. Had I not have spent the time supporting them, we probably would not have had the same opportunity to further develop our relationship. I have said this often, “It makes me happy to help!” and it truly does!
  • continued my professional learning. It has hit an all-time high with the hours of professional development I enjoy each day! I recently discovered the Teach Better Team (They are amazing people with the same passion about betterment. I am impressed with what they offer – podcasts, blog, video chats, Twitter chat, Facebook group, and the list goes on!). I have participated in their free Better at a Distance 12-part webinar series. I learned about the Grid Method and have been using it for our Multiplication unit and absolutely love it! This will continue to be a life changer especially in our new hybrid of learning at home and school because students are empowered with ownership over their learning. The bigger life changer though is the new community for which I now feel like I belong – literally everyone I have met on the Teach Better Team is so passionate. They help educators TEACH BETTER and I am better because of them. Their passion is truly inspirational and contagious! Also, I have participated in more Educhats on Twitter than ever before and am learning so much from others who push my thinking: #MasteryChat #ATAssessment #EdAdventures #EducationNeverDies and loving it! When I tell others about how I have been spending my time, I share how my brain is on fire and my heart is ablaze from all the Pro-D because learning is one of my passions.
  • excitedly purchased my own domain name and started writing here on this blog. I am so thrilled and blessed to have this extra time to dive in to all my passions! Well, all except ringette since rinks are closed and the season is over.

Another thing I always say is, “Don’t focus on the problem. Instead, focus on the solution.” We can expend our energy only ONE way so whether we spend it focussing on the problem or instead, focusing on possible solutions, only one path will bring us closer to a more positive feeling at the end. I also feel the same way about “worrying”. Stop focussing on worry and instead, focus on what you are going to DO about the situation to make it a better one. There is only so much time and energy. I often say, “You can’t change what already happened. What are you going to do about?” Begin taking action.

Does this mean that we should never focus on the problem then? No. Simply put, it is important to dive into the problem to understand it before we can move on to possibilities for solutions. We need to invest time to think about the problem so we can come up with ideas that make sense but while we are in this process, we need to be mindful to live here for the reason of finding possible solutions and not to dwell in the negative too long. I have witnessed people dwell and dwell for a long time and perpetuate feeling miserable. Perhaps this is their process of getting to the solution-making stage so that’s okay but just be cautious and mindful of how long you stay there. Honour the purpose of being there to look for possibilities and to find or make opportunities but then move on.

So what if it’s not in my nature to be positive? How can I become more positive? Is this natural tendency something I can change over time? Yes! Our will and our minds are powerful and plastic; we can change. We have heard many stories where people have faced harsh adversity and have had to relearn how to walk or talk after trauma, for example, but yet they are able to overcome it and rise above it. Why? Is it because they chose to have a positive outlook? Is it because they chose to see the situation not only as a problem but as an opportunity as they adapted to change? Of course it took grit and perseverance too but if they can retrain their brain to accomplish feats once unimaginable, we surely can alter the way we naturally see things in a more positive light. It will take effort. It will take time but you can do it. I believe you can. You just need to believe you can too.

So now that we are reopening schools next week, I choose not to see it as a problem. I have read Facebook threads that go on and on with complaints about reopening and questioning why. I understand some of the reasons why and I don’t need to understand all of them. It is a fact that schools are reopening and no matter how much we talk about why, they are still reopening. I only have so much time in a day. Time keeps ticking every single second. I would rather spend that time focussing on finding a solution (or a plan for the return of students in person) than diving in to more negativity that does not solve any issues. I choose to see it as an opportunity to reconnect with some students in person while also continuing to build relationships with my remote learning students. They are all still learning from home except some are attending school 2/5 days rather than 5/5 days of remote learning. So, I begin by asking the following questions:

  • What do my students need from me and each other in order to feel safe and secure?
  • What are the most important aspects of their social-emotional learning and mental health now?
  • How can I elicit students to be leaders in building up our classroom community further as we are together but apart?
  • How can I best honour the learning for both sets of children?
  • What can we do to make in-class instruction meaningful and memorable?

At this point, I have more questions than solid answers still but regardless, I have seen the whole education community rise to the challenge to flip our classroom from inside four walls to outside in the virtual world within a week. I have seen a lot of sharing of ideas and the drive for collaboration to support each other. I have seen resilient educators who come up with inspiring ideas. So with the new change of reopening of schools, I know I am not alone. My fabulous colleagues share ideas and support me as I do them. We can do this together as we have proven to the world when we moved to emergency remote learning in such a short period of time. Working together makes us better.

I am very excited to welcome my students back to school!

We have been given the gift of in-person teaching time in June as schools reopen. I have taken for granted the time we had with our students before spring break. I have learned from it so I will not take June for granted. My time with them is limited also because I will be leaving the school this year only after being there one year. I only have one month left to teach them, reach them, spend time with them, laugh with them, enjoy them, and love them. So unfortunate that I cannot hug them. I will make the most of this opportunity so I challenge you to do the same and not just fill the time – make it fun, meaningful and memorable. Kids deserve it and I bet you’ll get something out of it too! Your mindset matters. It was always my personal commitment every day to do something fun or to teach something new. I made this pledge to them at the beginning of the year. They counted on it. Every day, they knew we would be doing or learning something new and some expressed this was one of the reasons why they loved school; they looked forward to seeing what the “new thing” was each day. June should not be different. I will choose to see this situation as a new opportunity with many possibilities to not only fill time but to do something memorable with the special time we have left.

Embrace the change. Rise to the occasion. We need to be better and do better for our students. It’s our NEW September together. Choose to do the little things you would do in September – read my tweet about distancing signs. Let’s make the most of this change and new adventure by choosing our positive set of lenses. You can control the outcome of this – choose happiness.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share by commenting on this post or send me an email at livchan.com@gmail.com. I appreciate you for reading my thoughts today! So grateful!

“A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.” – Joyce Meyer

After sharing about the word “welcome” in my first post, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss how we continue to make our students and parents feel welcome at a time when we cannot see them face to face like we used to. How do we continue to build community with purpose and intention?

Community of Learners

We are using OneNote in Office 365 as our platform for receiving and recording daily tasks but regardless of the platform you are using, there are ways to adapt these ideas. Here are some things I started doing with my students since remote learning began (some ideas evolved over time):

  • Inserting an audio or video greeting to listen to in the mornings. One of our first online assignments was to record a positive and encouraging audio message to their classmates. Then over the next few days, when they logged in to see the day’s tasks, they could listen not only to my greeting but one from their classmate too! It warmed my heart to listen to their kind messages to each other.
  • Students receive daily tasks so leaving a personal note to read on their personal page that includes their name makes them feel welcome. It’s just like at the beginning of the day when I open my doors with a smile and a greeting that always includes stating their name. So their page starts with “Hello or Good morning, [name]! How are you?” with other messages specific to them. I have always believed there is great power in using someone’s name to make them feel welcome. [This will be a topic for another post.] If I know that a specific parent is directly supporting the learning at home, I also include a direct hello to their parent and include their name too! It takes just a minute or so but I believe it goes a long way to be greeted every morning by their teacher even though they are at home!
  • In our Collaboration Space, we have the closest thing to our “Community Circle” that we used to have daily in class. Students have shared how this space feels similar and that’s why it’s one of their most favourite things to do. Me included! Truly a highlight of my day! It’s our way to connect every day. It’s an opportunity to share work or thoughts about the questions of the day. I offer choice and they have an opportunity to comment on each other’s ideas too. I have shared some examples on Twitter – Sharing our positive message with the world and our May the 4th (Star Wars) wishes. I loved coming up with different ideas each day.
If you do not have a Collaboration Space, the same activity can be accomplished on a blog through comments, a Padlet wall, or a shared space on Office 365 Word or GoogleDocs, for example. I created a table so each student has their own space to write. Click image to view PDF.
  • At the beginning of every Zoom meeting regardless of the purpose, we always do a check-in and everyone has an opportunity to share how they are feeling and why. The time spent on the check-in is so important to reconnect and I daresay more important than any content we need to cover. It fills our hearts to hear many share how happy they are because they can see each other. Sometimes during class meetings, it could easily take over 20 minutes just for this part to share feelings but they genuinely appear to listen to each other. I have to say, it is easier to keep them quiet as they take turns over Zoom with “mute all” than in the classroom! Even if this wasn’t something you were doing in class, starting now is never too late!
  • Then right afterwards, we always do some physical activity. They love it! There’s nothing like exercising together that bonds you too. This was what we were used to in class so we’ve continued the tradition over Zoom. We have played Simon Says for exercises or chosen from our typical activities:

Exercise spinner

To create your own spinners, go to Wheel of Names (free)

Community of Parents

Ensuring parents continue to feel welcome has never been more important! For decades, we have used the term “parents as partners” and now, they truly are our partners. We need them like they need us and the younger the child, the more we rely on our partners at home. Here are some ways we stay connected as a community:

  • Families were used to receiving a weekly blog post since the beginning of the year with updates about our learning so this has continued to keep them informed. Being informed is very much like being connected and a part of the community. In order to make them feel welcomed back initially after spring break, I created a welcome video so they could see and hear me. It challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone but I saw such great value to comforting their hearts and minds because schools would not be reopening anytime soon. I shared on Twitter one student’s feedback: My video made him feel better and more safe and secure.
  • Before we started remote learning, each parent was called to connect and welcome them “back to school”. It was really a pleasure to speak to every parent and then such a great joy to speak to each student as well. I felt that they needed the interaction as much I did as my soul truly was filled after each conversation. Relationships will help us get through this as we work together so this investment of time was so necessary.
  • Like most relationships, the more time and effort you invest, the deeper the connections and relationships you have. So one of my favourite things to do is to either give a parent a surprise phone call or inform them of how proud I am over how hard their child is working or how they made a positive impact in someone’s day. The more details the better because we want to “notice, name, and nuture” positive behaviours in order to encourage more. This is what I used to do in person at the door after school and so miss – regularly share good news stories! One day, a student this year just decided for himself that he was going to slow down and write more legibly. I felt so proud of his sustained effort to improve. He said something like, “I know you are going to tell my mom. You are that kind of teacher.” Yes, I want to be that kind of teacher who seeks out parents to share positive stories about their child. These stories connect our hearts together because we both can feel proud of successes. It’s these things that add up to a lot at the end in terms of building relationships with parents.
  • Regularly asking for feedback from parents also indicates to them that they have a role to play as they are working with you and a part of your classroom community. I sent home online surveys and emails asking for information about how the family is doing (a check-in), regularly offered my support, and asked for an update on how it has been going at home like a temperature gauge. This gives parents a voice and I have appreciated every suggestion because ultimately it is for the betterment of the overall program for remote learning. I am the one assigning daily tasks but I do not have eyes and ears in their home so I cannot read student’s behaviours and attitudes in the same way I could in person so I need my parents to tell me. We work together as a TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More.
  • Recently, I held a parent meeting over Zoom one Friday night because I felt strongly about the importance for parents to reconnect with each other and for me to thank them face to face. We belong together as a group of parents all with similar interests – their child’s best interest at heart. The meeting was very well attended. We started with sharing how we were feeling with some positives and challenges to remote learning, parents shared some tips, they had an opportunity to ask questions, and we ended off collectively sharing ideas about year end celebration possibilities with some students returning to school while others would not. Anytime you can collaborate on ideas, that feeling of working together helps to build your community of parents.

Last but definitely not least, ensuring that your parents fully understand how much you appreciate their support at home is crucial to making them feel like they are a part of your team. I take every single opportunity to thank my parents for their support and I’m specific about what it is I am thankful for. I don’t think we can over thank especially at a time like this. Gratitude is something that is meant to be shared and if my heart is full of appreciation, I can’t not share it freely! I know it’s a mutual appreciation we share as we work together as a community. Stronger together! Here’s my tweet about thanking my parents during Teacher Appreciation Week since they are their child’s teacher at home.

I would love to hear how you have been building your community with students and parents. Please feel free to share in the comments section or send me an email at livchan.com@gmail.com. Thank you!

“To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community. What I consider mine I will build and nurture. The work, then, is to see in our communities a wider and deeper sense of emotional ownership and communal ownership. It means fostering among all of a community’s citizens a sense of ownership and accountability, both in our relationships and what we actually control.” – Peter Block

Welcome!

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Warmest welcome to you! I started with “welcome” as my very first word for a few reasons. First, it’s a friendly greeting to openly invite you to my blog. I’m thrilled you are here!

Second, it is one of the words I stand by as I live my life as a daughter, sister, relative, friend, teacher, colleague, wife, mother, teammate, volunteer, and ringette coach, which are all roles I gained one by one over my lifetime. Each role has given me opportunities to learn more about myself and my place in relation to others. It is through these relationships that I have discovered one of my greatest passions and that is people. I love making people feel like they are “welcome” in my life by giving welcoming hello greetings, which often include big hugs (where appropriate) or at minimum a genuine heartfelt smile because I am happy to see them. Each time you see someone for the first time that day, it is an opportunity to make them feel like they matter and you are happy to see them so why not express it that way? It might be just the very thing they needed at that moment. There’s more to being welcoming besides the greeting. It’s the practice of being welcoming, which I will elaborate on in a future post. Both bring me great joy.

The third reason is the phrase “You’re welcome”. It’s one of my favourite things to say because it means I have done something to warrant a “thank you.” Maybe it was a compliment, a gesture, a helping hand, or a gift but something I did offered an opportunity to make a difference, big or small. Regardless, a positive interaction or exchange of something happened, and as I’ve said to many, “It makes me happy to help.” And it truly does.

So, “welcome” as a word has multiple significance to me. Thank you for reading my thoughts. I am looking forward to working together to better ourselves, each other, and the world around us. Please leave a comment to connect!

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