Reflection – Livia Chan

Category: Reflection

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!


“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.

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 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

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