Words Really Do Matter

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Words really do matter. I had originally wrote this post because I was developing an online presentation for adults on mental health and wellness so that they may assist students in their Post – Secondary programs. As I thought about what I would say I recognized that my words matter. What I say could potentially influence educators. What they say to their students could potentially transform what happens for the students and their families. Mental health literacy matters, stigma matters , words matter.

This week our students at BCHS released their anti-slur campaign . Real evidence that words do matter . CAkkWFXUwAASC6N.jpg-large CAWd1M6VAAAMKPp.jpg-large Click here for all of their words.

Sometimes I hear people use words way too loosely when describing someone with a mental illness or someone who has special needs or challenges. They may say so and so is an ADHD kid or so and so is bipolar, an alcoholic etc. It matters to me when I hear words used inappropriately as I believe strongly that we are people first ( the labels used like ADHD are only a very small way of telling us something about someone). We are so much more.

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Who we truly are cannot or should not be described in a few words. So the next time you find yourself using the label first STOP and THINK about the power of your words. Jim or Joan may have a million attributes that are positive and when you use one word to define them you are missing out on such huge pieces of who they truly are. 10419043_911951492189094_3575560603208004517_n7075_911952008855709_5968776292462405218_n10676148_911951908855719_9132407601018882210_n Eliminate so and so is a developmentally delayed child etc. and say their name and the many wonderful things about them. When you do this you start to perceive them differently. You also begin to treat each human being , each child in your care with so much more dignity and respect. Words really do matter. Words can bring about acceptance.  Words can change our brains. Words can hurt or heal. Words can hold back or help. Words can break hearts or touch hearts. Words can build others up or tear them down.  Words allow people to tell their stories .             11054330_911952025522374_6761228367194168442_nWords give people their voices . Words can challenge us to be resilient. Words can give us the strength to carry on … to give us HOPE.  Words can ruin someone’s day or make someone’s day . Words have the power to change others and change ourselves. What words will you use when speaking about and to your students today?

5 Things Worth Sharing

Painting I made for my family
Painting I made for my family

1.Family 

Nothing matters more to me than my family. I am at a point in life where our children are grown up and don’t need me as much, but I continue to love every moment I spend with them.  They bring a smile to my face and joy in my heart every time I sit down to a meal with them or get to be around them. I am grateful … oh so grateful. I hope my children and husband realize just how much they mean to me not only by my actions, but also through my words. Part of the reason I blog is for my children so that they can see another piece of who their mother is. My heart is so full of love for them.

“One Hundred Years From Now”

One hundred years from now

It won’t matter

What kind of car I drove

What kind of house I lived in

How much money I had in the bank

Nor what my clothes looked like

BUT

The world may be a little better

Because, I was important

In the life of a child.

Author: (excerpt from “Within My Power” by Forest Witcraft)

“What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life”. This is the song that played at our wedding and it holds true for my children as well as my husband. Seeing this you tube video was a trip down memory lane for me because as a teenager I loved Donny Osmond. We’ll let’s say i liked him,my friend was obsessed with him .I flew to Toronto to see him with my friend Evelyn when I was fifteen years old. (LOL) . I digress. The point I really want to make is my children and my husband have made a profound positive difference in my life.

2. Friends

I am so fortunate to have amazing friendships that lift me up, bring me great joy and fill my heart with love. We have bonds that cannot be broken. We share so many special moments in life. Each friendship I have I absolutely treasure. I value the precious moments I have with them and don’t ever take them for granted.

I moved to Calgary via Nova Scotia and Atikameg in 1981. It was a move that would change the course of my life and so began my story of lifelong adult relationships.

Fortunately for me I have enjoyed wonderful friendships in my life, so I knew how they could make a difference and sustain me. I have lifelong childhood friends from Nova Scotia who remain my dear friends today. Even though I have been away for thirty-five years, we still make a point of seeing each other and celebrating our friendships every summer.

Little did I know when I moved to Calgary, it would become my home or that I would discover extraordinary life giving friendships that would sustain me for life. “The gang” as we would so affectionately call ourselves are wonderful, kind, intelligent, considerate, amazing, loving and caring people. Our connections remain unbreakable.

The thing that I think is so amazing about these people is that we have been friends for over twenty-five years and never ever had a fight or major disagreement with one another.

In over twenty-five years we have missed very little time where we go not seeing each other.  We have celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Years, birthdays, births, deaths, and we often get together for absolutely no reason at all. There rarely goes by a month where we don’t sit down once , twice or even more times together to enjoy a feast.

Every celebration creates fabulous memories. We laugh, sing, play games, tell stories and just plain enjoy each other’s company. Our children have been blessed with such great role models of positive, lasting friendships.

We are there for each other whenever anyone needs something no matter what. I can count on these people for whatever I need. They are my family. No, we are not related, but we are closer than some families. We have made a connection that will last a lifetime.

What do we all have in common? We moved to Calgary to work. We needed to be able to use the skills from our education. It was a place to create a life for ourselves. None of us knew we would remain in Calgary after all these years. There are other commonalities, but this and the fact that we all had no family in Calgary brought us together.

We all happen to be from a place near the water. Prince Edward Island, Vancouver and Nova Scotia. Other friends come to some of our celebrations, but they don’t get to celebrate all of them because they have family here in Calgary. The rest of us don’t ( except for a few cousins who we adore).

I absolutely love these people, and so do our children. We have been blessed with laughter in abundance over the years. I have positive memories that are etched vividly in my mind and will be passed on down to our children and hopefully our future grandchildren. There are stories upon stories that have been shared over the years. We never get tired of telling each other stories.

When I tell people about how much we really care about each other after all these years, they are often amazed. Really, we have never fought with each other about anything throughout the years.

What a gift I have been given. If I could I’d jump over mountains for these people I most definately would. They make such a difference in my life. I have work friends, neighbourhood friends, long distance friends , on line friends ( yes, you can create amazing on line friendships)  and lifetime friends. Each holds a special place in my heart. each is a true gift.

I have been so blessed with all the friends that surround me. I can’t even put into words what they have meant to me.

If I pass anything onto my children it will be this.

Find great friends, not friends you necessarily always agree with all the time, but friends who you love being around and they love being around you.

Friends who :

accept you just the way you are
you can laugh and cry with
would be there in a minute no matter what you needed
the spouses / partners like and respect each other
don’t mind being silly with you no matter how old you are
share the good times and the bad with you
you always know will be there no matter what the circumstances
share your hopes, dreams, successes and losses
find friends who always seem to know the right thing to say or do

I am so happy to celebrate my friends. I want to shout from the mountaintops that YOU have provided me with some of the happiest memories of my life. I LOVE YOU so so much!

3. Life is To Be Lived 

I have believed for many many years that we need to live life to the fullest, maybe because of all the early deaths that have happened to people I have loved or people I have cared for. Zach is an amazing example for all of us. He is a teacher with many wonderful lessons and ones that are definitely worth sharing.

You don’t have to find out you are dying to start living

  • most people live in the middle, but you don’t have to
  • be empathetic and compassionate
  • always look for the good in people
  • things are OK when you believe in something greater
  • what makes you happy is seeing someone else smile because you put it there
  • what’s awesome about living in this world is that you can help people
  • the structure of a family is great
  • to be in the same room with your siblings is enough
  • it is not the life in your years , but the years and passion you put into your life
  • spend time with the people you love
  • it’s ok to dream big
  • celebrate the life you have
  • you can communicate love through music
  • music can heal
  • releasing feelings through music is helpful
  • letting people know you love them is important
  • sticking together as a family is extremely important
  • be happy no matter what
  • treat people the same and everything will be fine
  • smile despite what is happening in your life
  • memories are essential…create positive ones
  •  friendships help
  • fill your heart up with joy
  • it’s ok to have ultimate dreams
  • people we don’t really know can change our lives
  • the way you live matters
  • surround yourself with those people that lift you up
  • LOVE makes life BETTER

Zach says it alll better than I could ever do, his message is one that I will share again and again. Thanks Zach for giving us your gift of life. I know I treasure each day I have been given.

4. Find a Career You Love

I have been blessed with work I love to do. I have felt honoured to be able to be in the presence of so many students who have helped to teach me so much in life. I feel honoured that they allow me to enter into their world. Each day I go to work I am grateful. It doesn’t mean that every moment of every day I am happy, but most moments of most days I really am very happy. My work brings me great joy and fulfillment. I really try to put passion into practice .

5. Have Hope

Life is not always easy and sometimes just downright hard, but having hope has gotten me through all the rough times. Even when I might have felt like giving up I haven’t because I could see a spark of hope. May you find HOPE in your life.

Music can heal the soul and inspire hope. I love music , well who doesn’t.  This last song is one when I hear it , I think of my husband who I am forever grateful for. Finding him is a gift that has made my life better. The words speak what I have in my heart.

This reflective post has been worth sharing for me. Thanks to Maureen Crawford for inspiring this post.

Now I challenge you . What are your 5 things worth sharing?

High School Redesign

IMG_0014 In a system that is more learner-centered, Albertans see the role of the teacher changing from that of a knowledge authority to an architect of learning – one who plans, designs and oversees learning activities. Albertans said the teacher should consider the interests, talents, passions and natural curiosities of the learner. The teacher should inspire and motivate, while planting the seeds for life-long learning. Inspiring Education: A Dialogue with Albertans p. 23

Collaboration is so important and this month I get to collaborate with my Principal Neil O’Flaherty @neilof12 as we co-facilitate a session for ULead 2015 on curriculum redesign.

High School redesign is essential to creating an environment where students can thrive.

Here is a schedule of our day:

9am-10:30 a.m. St. Anne Academic Centre Introduction to HS Re-Design and involvement to date. Here is the Ulead St. Anne 2015 presentation. Norm Martin and Martin Kovack presenting.

10:45am-12:00 p.m.  Bishop McNally High School. Deana Helton and  Desiree Cook Smith presenting. Here is the uLead Conference2015 link to the presentation.

1:15pm-2:30 p.m. Bishop Carroll High School . You can find the BCHS presentation U lead presentation 2015 Banff here. Neil O’Flaherty and Susan Spellman Cann presenting.

2:45pm-4:00 p.m.–Break-out Q & A  (“Re-Design Carousel?”)–delegates can visit all three schools or remain with one at their discretion.

Bishop Carroll High School is part of the Canadian Coalition for Self Directed Learners. CCSDL has been in operation since 1971 based on the ideas put forth by Dr. J. Lloyd Trump in his book A School for Everyone. Even though this innovative school has been in operation for forty-three years BCHS is still working to stay on the cutting edge when it comes to curriculum redesign and we are fortunate to be a part of the team of people working to make this happen. If you have never seen how Bishop Carroll operates please take a look at this short video to get a window into the life of BCHS. This is what 21st Century Learning should look like:

We want students to develop the competencies to become engaged thinkers, ethical citizens with an entrepeneurial spirit.

We need to work together to prepare ourselves and our students for the future. Here is a livebinder created by Peter Damen @naramata22 one of our School Counsellors to assist BCS students in planning for their future.  Here you will find a collaborative doc that we put together with many stakeholders on mental health and wellness. Please click here for a livebinder of resources on High School redesign.

Here is the video from Italy that Neil spoke about in his presentation with the Capetown choir . You can hear the two choirs joining in at about 2:00 mins. in. This is true learning and collaboration at its finest.

It is The Right Time to collaborate and rethink what we do. This post is meant to provide you with as many resources as possible so if you revisit this blog in a week it will be updated from the U lead conference.  We hope you had a great time and please share any resources you have created with us. Please tweet to @SSpellmanCann or @NeilOF12.

Is it time to redesign our curriculum for the digital age ? What do you think? We believe it is the right time to collaborate with our colleagues and to work together for the betterment of all students like was done in OCLMOOC the  The Connectivist Mooc for Alberta Educators. There is no doubt that this is a process, but it is made easier through the use of technology. We can collate information easier and faster than ever before. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just make the wheel better and better so that our students benefit and become better citizens in this ever changing world.

What a great day to spend with colleagues sharing our best practices. Meeting with leaders from across the world to share and connect is always rewarding. There were principals from Reykjavik, Iceland, delegates from Sweden , New Zealand and lots of Albertans.

Here is the storify I created : A short storify from #ULead2015. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your conference. Go make a difference It is the right time ! Lead !!!