Don’t let go…



Recently it has become increasingly difficult to hold onto what I believe in and dream of for public education.* Some days it feels possibility died or is very close to death.  Bright clear dreams, plans and ideas have become clouded and distorted to the point of unrecognizable. You may also have felt this way and had dark days such as these. Over time, my mental arms have grown weary from grasping tightly to what I hold dear. Over time, wisps of doubt have stealthily crept in. Why bother to hold onto something that seems invisible to many? Why protectively carry ideals that at times feel valueless? The uncertainty and deep despair of this thought has hurt my heart, mind and inner core.

It feels as I have been worn down and tapped out…it would be so much easier to just…let go…

To let the dreams and ideals I began teaching with drop, would be so freeing.  After all, back then I was naive to the ways of the world. I wouldn’t have to care anymore. Done. Out. Cut and dry. Just a job.

But…every time I get within a hair of letting it all go…I just can’t. For the past several months this contemplation has both haunted and trapped me.  It would seem that until I resolved this decision, I couldn’t move in any concrete direction, I was at a standstill. This grey no man’s land coloured a part of my life usually bright and full of joy. I was paralyzed by the possibility: will THIS be the time I give in and give up? Will this be the TIME I disengage completely, stop feeling and caring?

Mistakenly I thought it would be easy. Easy to let go. I even thought I wanted to. I don’t want to get all moral and heavy-handed with it either, this struggle comes from my deepest beliefs about what I hold as precious, true and right. But when it came right down to it, I just couldn’t do it.


So take these tenuous threads with which we collectively sew humanity and never doubt your connection to this purpose for one breath, one heartbeat. And if you were as I, holding your breath and holding your beliefs tenderly as a dying lover, I offer this…

Do not doubt yourself and your ideals in these dark moments. Look forward to the light of what is possible. Be sure of what you know as good and true. Imagine your big impossible dreams boldly and loudly.

Hold on. Hold on to what you know to be true and right.

Hold on dear friends, hold on.


* this post is in reference to the challenges of job action in British Columbia over the last several months.

Blogging blocks and long walks.

And the livin’ is easy

                                             George Gershwin

Lots of time, blogging should be easy-peasy, just crank those suckers out!!

OK. Here goes.

Draft 1. Almost done. I’ll finish it up tomorrow. Yup, first thing in the morning when I am fresh.


Hmmm……………………………………………..that kind of sucks. Trash it.

Ok. Start fresh. New topic.

How about a blog on dreaming? Ahhh wrote one on that already, same thoughts. Again. BORING.

I know! How about one on summer goals, that would be good! Yeah let’s do that!

Ok. Here goes.

Typing, typing, typing………………..

Days pass.

Reading. Reading always gets me inspired to write. I’ll read Steven Johnson‘s Where Do Good Ideas Come From today and blog about it tomorrow? Good plan!

Ahhhhh….I’ll just have a little nap, that’s what holidays are for, right?


More days.

Ahhhh…that is boring! No pizzaz to that.


How about one on all the mistakes I thought I made in last month but realized they were good mistakes, necessary ones?

Yeah. Ok here goes……

700 words. Great start girlfriend, you are on a blogging roll now! Now we’re cooking with oil! I’ll come back to it later tonight when it’s cooler. Yeah good plan.

Ahhh there is the dog. We’ll just go down to the Greenway, that’ll clear my head out anyway.  Yeah good plan.

Look at that, David Truss just wrote an amazing post on being busy, yup he nailed that topic shut! I’ll just comment on that.


How about one debriefing CanFlip? Lots to say there!

Ummm, kind of did that in These are Real People?? And Audrey did an amazing post summarizing it. Yeah. I’ll just comment on hers. Solid plan.

Oh look at that Royan Lee just posted something. Jin and Tonic, that sounds interesting. I’ll just go read that. What a heart warming post!! Inspired now.

Back at it! I am focused this AM. 2 cups of coffee and I am raring to go!!

Ok. What’s the topic again?

I really wanted to move blogs, maybe I should do that first?


Oh I know. I’ll do a summary of Will Richardson ‘s ISTE session, lots of meaty stuff there. And I really wanted to listen to it again. Yeah. Solid.

And he had some awesome links…what where they? Margaret Wheatley’s Willing to be Disturbed, that’s it. I wanted to read that.

 I’ll just print those up first. Yeah. I’ll take them out back and read them in the shade. Perfect.

Ahh there is the dog again. She needs more exercise, she sure has put on some heft this winter.

Ok. Back at it. Minute 32. I’ll just make some iced tea.

Want some?

While I’m gone you can watch this.

Where does your inspiration come from?


the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions

Inspiration is the fuel that gets me going. Full of inspiration, I am full of motivation, no should’s or must do’s required. Lacking inspiration and I lollygag around, making lame-o excuses for myself. In my attempt to become self-aware and model self-regulation for my students, I know inspiration to be a key ingredient in trying to answer the always elusive question: what motivates learners? When students are inspired no external regulation, nagging or rewards are needed. In fact the opposite becomes true; they become driven, focused and single-minded.

I take my role of inspiring kids, young adults, seriously. I hope they leave school inspired, deeply inspired. My contemplation and musings on inspiration are both personal and professional. The exact recipe for what inspires one person may be vastly different from what inspires another. As with our DNA, we share common sources of inspiration, but the exact recipe is specific to who we are, our backgrounds, our perspective, our stage in life.

“I used to think and now I know” is one of my most used phrases this year that I picked up from my Twitter friend Bo Adams and it works perfectly here.

I used to think that I needed to be inspired by something/someone external to me, now I know I can seek out and find inspiration for myself. 

In contemplating inspiration 2 stems have become useful in my musings: 1) I am inspired when… and 2) I am inspired by…

The inspired when stem considers the conditions, the settings, the environments that foster and encourage inspiration.

I am inspired when…

  • I have the opportunity to spend unstructured time in nature, hear the sound of the wind through popular trees or the thrill of the hermit thrush.
  • I have the mental space to feel deep empathy for another and I extend to see the situation from someone else’s point of view well beyond myself.
  • I can bring my whole self to a situation and feel valued. I don’t feel I am playing a role or feel forced into playing a role.
  • I can argue with my whole heart. I don’t feel I am “playing a political game” and must be careful. (Not the same as being reckless).
  • I feel heard.

The inspired by stem considers specifics instances of a person or events that deeply inspire me and as a result provoke action.

I am inspired by…

I have seen students get inspired by the…

  • Unexpected. This reminds me to be open to seemingly unrelated ideas.
  • Quirky. Students sense of intrigue and curiosity perks up when the story has an unexpected twist to be.
  • Gross. (Example using leeches in modern medicine is gross but fascinating.)
  • Mysterious. The more mysterious the better. Students love the unknown, the seemingly illogical situation. (Example how does someone hold their breath for 22 minutes.
  • Impossible. Many students are turned off by tasks that are overly easy to accomplish. A goal just out of reach sometimes ignites their inner inspiration.
  • Silly. Laughter and play seem to open mental doors and zany moments are sometimes THE moments of inspiration.

Do we actively inspire students in our schools and classrooms? Do we help students discover how to create lives that will feed and strengthen their inspiration?

What inspires you?

When are you inspired?

Do you know your fortune?

I’m not a fortune-teller, I won’t be bringing news
Of what tomorrow brings, I’ll leave that up to you
I’m not a fortune-teller, don’t have a crystal ball
I can’t predict the future, can’t see nothing at all

                                                 Maroon 5

When I started teaching I became distinctly aware of 2 streams:

1. The stream I move in with my students, that we create together.

2. The larger surrounding stream that includes politics (government, staff, district), professional development etc. Basically anything that does not involve my direct interactions with my students.

I decided early on that I wanted to spend the majority of my time in stream 1. From my perspective, the less I dipped into stream 2 the more true to my heart, interactions in stream 1 could remain. I still feel this way 22 years later, though of course, there is trickle over from one stream to the other.

Over the last few weeks I have been trying to pinpoint for myself where I find value in my work. Sometimes in moments of self-pity, I wallow in feeling undervalued as a classroom teacher. I think I am prone to this wallowing of late as the purpose and meaning of academics (content) and school in general, is going through an identity crisis. Our education system has yet to clearly and consistently articulate what we value and what is valuable. Ghosts of education past still continue to haunt our halls and minds; these further add to the confusion. In this era of transition it takes time for new values to be adopted and understood. Over in stream 1 with my students, I feel new and strong currents ripping through.  It seems readily apparent to students, that static outdated knowledge is no longer valuable and as such they give it little respect.

I get that. I am ready for that.

With knowledge and content devalued and no new collective value set in town, there is a scramble to find and create meaning. Daily. Over in stream 1 it feels urgent; help these kids navigate this stream, quick they are going down! What is mind blowingly confusing to me, is since stream 2 heavily bleeds into stream 1 (good thing I defined that stream idea right off the get go!) the outdated artifacts on how to navigate the stream from the good old days still remain, everywhere. The big, looming framework that defines survival in stream 2 (and by default defines survival in stream 1) still stands, rickety and worn, but still looming over us in stream 1.

So for example when working with inquiry labs or open ended projects with my grade 12 students, there is no external infrastructure that supports the idea that these type of activities are valuable. The structures in stream 2 still speak loudly, high marks are what matter most, find out how to get the highest mark and game the system. The disconnect comes in that students do not intuitively find value in the marks game, they just feel trapped by it, and many feel an immense pressure to engage in the game.

They want something (success) but they don’t really value it (as it is defined). They aren’t sure if they want something else because the societal value is not obvious to them.

A clash, clanging loudly in discordance, between the evidence that times have changed, that students have changed, how they want and need to learn has changed with the Pavlovian triggers strewn across the landscape of both school and society that still point to another time and another value set.

In stream 1 this clash requires crazy glue and a massive clamp, in an effort to keep these 2 wildly divergent parts together. Simultaneously it demands a moving away, an abandoning of sorts, trying to move stream 1 far enough away from stream 2 to find some pure unpolluted waters.


Do you feel caught in the middle? How do you bridge this transitional time?


Somewhere late last night it hit me. I was looking for value in the wrong places. I was looking for my value out in stream 2. Where my value lies is with my students, my time with them. I feel valuable when with them. Regardless of what is valued over in stream 2, I find value here in stream 1.

My value lies in my students, they are my fortune. I will follow their lead down our stream.

Inspired Countdown 2012.

Looking back….2012….what made you sit up and take notice?

What ideas wormed their way in, haunted you and demanded your attention?

What ideas, phrases or songs flavoured your year with zest and spice?

I sat down to reflect on what videos had inspired and influenced me in 2012.

What has stuck with you over this last year? Would love to hear…

10. Where the Hell is Matt? 2012

“We’re gonna trip the light
We’re gonna break the night
And we’ll see with new eyes
When we trip the light.”

Take away: Find joy in daily tasks, be inspired to follow your dreams and dream big.


9. Allan Watts –What would you do if money was no object?

“All retch and no vomit.” 

“It’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on doing things you don’t like.”

Take Away: Don’t get sucked into perpetuating the status quo for the sheer sake of maintaining a norm.


8. Will Richardson – 19 Bold Ideas for Change

“Don’t do work that just exists within your classroom. Do work (with your kids) that changes the world. We can do that now.”

Take Away: Giddy up and get going! We need to keep it real; students need to do real work in real ways to solve real problems. NOW.


7. Chris Lehmann – #140edu2012 Keynote

“We need to stop thinking of school as preparation for life and honour the lives kids are living now by making schools about real life.”

Take Away: “Do real stuff that matters.”


6. Alan November – TEDxNYED

“…it turns out lots of kids like to learn from other kids. In fact, in some schools depending on who your friends are, your progression is very high or very low. Social interaction, peer exchange, if you read the research, turns out to be really, really important. But if you don’t have the right friends sitting at the lunch table, it’s not fair. What if we could combine the social exchange of the groups who are in the right groups with everyone? What if we could make it fair? What if all students began to produce content of tutorial design across the curriculum? Purpose.”

Take away: Kids are empowered when they feel their work is connected to real purpose.


5. PSY – Gangnam Style

“Oppan Gangnam Style 
Gangnam Style 
Op op op op oppan Gangnam Style 
Gangnam Style 
Op op op op oppan Gangnam Style”

Take away: Inspiration lurks everywhere. 


4. Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor – Stroke of Insight

“We are the light force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. We have the power to choose moment by moment how we want to be in the world.”

Take Away: Look for and find situations that allow us to feel connected. 


3. Deepak Chopra – Social Media is the Next Phase of Humanity

“Social networks are the extensions of our minds, they regulate the flow of energy and information across the planet right now.”

“Love without action is meaningless. Action without love is irrelevant.”

Take away: Change is inevitable, but how we interact with the change is our choice.


2. Harold Rheingold – Media Lab Conversation Series

“if like many others, you are concerned that social media’s are making people and cultures shallow…..[then]…teach more people how to swim and explore together the deeper ends of the pool.”

Take Away: We need to work with our students to help them develop skills so they (and we) can thrive online.

*My other take away was to read his book “Net Smart


1. Ewan McIntosh –What’s Next?

“…the thing we are neglecting is to create a generation of problem finders, I don’t want young people who can solve a pseudo-problem, a fake problem generated by their teacher.”

Take Away: Don’t do the work of/for students, students need to connect emotionally to real problems in the world that they want to solve.


Recalibrating…what really matters?

“Action expresses priorities.” 

― Mahatma Gandhi

Have you had a distinct moment in time when a window opens and in blows a cloud of dust that covers your life to instantly reveal the trivial and point at the vital?

Last Friday I had one of those moments and over the past week I have been recalibrating.
Nothing new or earth shattering, no new apps or software, no Pro-D or collaboration needed. Just a reminder to self: “Hey remember…this is what really matters.”

1. Start from love.
When I start from love I leave my ego, my baggage, my agenda, and my superficial needs at the door. When I feel myself getting angry or frustrated in class, I focus on the student or situation outside of ME. And by love I mean “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.
I often think in my head : “I love my kids.”
I want to tap into this and most importantly I want students to feel loved.

2. See EACH student as an individual.
Students can be at times represented by a number, a class, or a grade (like when I say: “Oh those Grade 12’s). I have to remember students are individual people with needs, dreams and aspirations. I need to embrace each one, look each in the whites of their eyes to see THEM.

3. Create celebrations.
Even the smallest celebration creates a sense of joy. I don’t have to hire a marching band but when we take time to sing Happy Birthday, the spirit of the room lifts.

4. Laugh out loud.
When a student said to me a few weeks ago “I love when you laugh in class Ms. Durley” the comment reminded me of how powerful laughter is. When I laugh it makes me let go of whatever seemed so serious and big. I remember anew…right this is life, it is fun!

5. See the future adult.
When I have the opportunity to meet students as adults, I am always amazed to see the incredible and capable adults they have become. They can and they will work life out. I need to believe they can figure it out.

6. Embrace the child.
Although I work with teens, who are on their way to becoming adults and who want to be adults, but I never want to forget that these are kids. I want to extend the celebrations of childhood as much I can.

7. Find whimsy in the mundane.
Heart Donor, Bio Elf, Full of Water, Nervous Nelly are some of whimsical names I use for students. Whimsy loosens what was tight and adds spice to blah.

8. Handle with care.
People are fragile. They can break. They can crack. I need to remember to treat each child like my Grandma’s teapot: treasured, delicate and useful.

9. Create space for ownership.
Who owns this mess, who owns this problem, who owns this class? Is it me or is it US? I have to give it to them. This is ours. I am here to help but it is ours.

10. Get the sillies out.
When the day is dragging or when students have ants in their pants and we do something completely unrelated, get a little loud and a little rambunctious. I am always amazed that when we come back to it, the focus is there. The surest route is not always the shortest.

Dr. Taylor’s TEDTalks is a celebration of what matters.