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Monthly Archives: April 2012

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking of words of poetry about morning. Words like awake, observed, welcomed and others appeared on my mind’s palette. I opened my blog and found this gift from Thelma that spoke words I was looking for to start the day. It was a totally serendipitous moment after reading Father Richard Rohr’s meditation about being our true, authentic self. At a retreat on Bainbridge Island (what a breath-taking place) with familiar strangers based on some of Parker Palmer’s writing and work, this is an amazing way to begin the day. Thank you.

Author Thelma Cunningham


And now, It Is Just Me

I woke up this morning,

I looked all around,

I beheld my environment,

I got out of my bed and bent

my knees to pray,

For you see,

For now, it is just me,


I know that I first should be thankful

about things,

I know that I should start

this communication giving you

thanks and praise,

So help me because,

Now, it is just me,

I do not understand how predicaments

seem to be assigned or some how

unfortunately come to be encountered,

But I know that I have had my share,

And finally,

From them,

I am bewildered,



And exhausted,

Let me not forget to admit in

danger and in a state of crisis,

Since it is just me,

I know that you do not mind and

understand my sincere tears and


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Abundant Community

We talked about community today. Community is organic. Through and in it, we tell stories revealing relationships. It grows around what is held in common. We communicate what is held in common, valued, and shared. Community is breaking bread and being true companions with those who join us. We hold and share vision denoting our shared nature within community and exist in paradox. It is what is today, the present, and what was, a historical memorial.

The poet David Whyte wrote “What we hold in community is loved, because it is offered from the heart; a place of love.” Because it is a place of love, it is a place of abundance. Even in crisis, members of a community find ways to heal and regain wholeness through resiliency.  Its members know there are others to turn to and seek help from. We do not have to ask; it is given instinctively and intuitively. It is the right thing to do and not the easy or expedient thing to do.

Community is a place we identify with and it signals we are entitled to membership. It is a safe place to be and someone wants us there. It is a sacred place; hallowed ground. We share and expose personal vulnerabilities, because those around us love us unconditionally. Community is a place of discovery. We are nourished and nurtured and grow. It is a place of invitation and opportunity due to its abundance. A wonderful metaphor emerged. A community is a garden. You plant a seed and it prospers in the abundance of the place we name home and community.

If you look closely, you can see me up on the rim in some of these pictures. Of course, if you go to the posting called Images to Provoke Thought, you will realize the truth about this.


It was an absolutely crazy idea, but it could be done.

My father-in-law had done it before, and he was the one that convinced my dad and I to do it with him and a friend. A four man team, crossing the Grand Canyon, North Rim to South Rim in one day. It would be like walking a marathon, but through the Grand Canyon. I trained for a few months before, running stairs and preparing my knees. Physically I knew I would be fine, but I was trying to figure out the photo aspect of it. You can’t cross the Grand Canyon and not take photos (especially when you’re a professional photographer).

I decided to walk all 24ish miles with my Canon 5D strapped around my neck, with a lightweight 50mm 1.8 lens. That’s it. It was first and foremost a hike, and we had to keep walking. I didn’t…

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This is a wonderful blog entry from an Australian teacher.  Elke pointed out the roles of our lives are intertwined and are connected dualistic compartments. They complete our lives acknowledging the dualistic nature of being human. We bring the life experiences as a parent to the classroom and reciprocate by using the life experience gleaned from the classroom as parents. Our life story is a rich experiential tapestry lived in the moment as we learn along side our students. Not only is learning messy, it is rewarding and energizing.


I love Alfie Kohn. I stumbled on his work when I had my first child and bought lots of parenting books to read. His book Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes made me rethink parenting techniques and has also had an impact on how I have taught and how I want to teach in the future.

It is painful sometimes to hear my son tell me how he was rewarded with something at school for being good, kind, smart or tidy.  Hey!  You’re a good, kind, smart & tidy kid just because that’s who you are, because it gives you intrinsic value, because it makes you feel good to be good, to be kind etc.  Yeah, yeah, I know I don’t want to be a kill-joy, my son likes the rewards because he sees other kids value these rewards.  I just…

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What Does it Mean to Be in Control?

I arrived in Seattle today and it is raining. I am attending a Circle of Trust retreat based on the writing and work of Parker Palmer. We share stories and look at the lives we live. Today, I shared a story about my fear of flying and its underlying source. This ends up being a humourous story in the end and revealed something I am only beginning to understand.

Recently, Kathy and I flew from Edmonton to Portland. After arriving in Vancouver late, we rushed across airport and just made the Portland connection. The doors were closed before we had our seat belts fastened. I settled in, we climbed to altitude, the captain came on the intercom and announced words fearful fliers do not want to hear, “Folks there is inclement weather en route and there will be turbulence.” We did hit turbulence. It was not the worst I have experienced, but it was bad enough to create apprehension for me. Kathy calmly explained, “It is similar to a school bus on a gravel road.” I was not impressed and continued to suffer. As the turbulence died down, I reflectively asked a question: “What is causing me to feel this way?” Just as I was beginning to explore this intriguing question, we hit another patch of turbulence. Already engaged in an answer seeking mode, I realized I was moving my feet like I was working the pedals in a car. My fear of flying is largely based on a lack of control. When the flight moved past the turbulence, I mentioned this to Kathy who suggested one of us needed to get a pilot’s license to resolve the problem. We were able to laugh. The good news is today I had a relatively good and relaxed flight to Seattle. Being aware of a potential cause, is important and asking that first question was important.

This is not the first time I used this strategy. Driving to a meeting in November, I did the same thing when I grew anxious about the meeting.  I asked myself what made me feel the way I did and realized a lack of feeling in control of the meeting and its agenda was at the heart of my anxiety. I was able to relax and remain poised during the meeting. The lack of control existed in my mind as an imagined narrative I held to be true. I had not mentally rehearsed or visualized how I would handle what I assumed would be a confrontational situation. This was my normal way of dealing with these situations. The result that day was a quieter, more relaxed mind and body; better prepared actually by not preparing the old-fashioned way. Retreats, like the one I am attending this weekend offer opportunities to explore the internal landscape in a different way than normally done in the busyness of my daily life. From a leadership perspective, if a person is always going off the deep end emotionally, how can that be effective leadership? The time to reflect and spend time attending to one’s inner landscape is an essential, but overlooked aspect of true leadership.


Qualities of a Learning Community

What did the World Cafe events reveal? The concept of community, in some form, was the most repeated quality of what engaged people in their learning. There were many descriptors for a community of learning. One that stood out was the community of learning being safe. Safe learners feel comfortable stepping out of their comfort zone and stretching to learn. This could be called the “Goldilocks Paradigm.” Learning is not too hard causing arresting stress; not too easy allowing boredom to prevail; just right, adding to the edges of knowledge the student possesses.

One discussion led to an interesting revelation about the use of technology and what it contributes to a safe learning experience. As a strategy, it might be better suited for older students, but has potential across a range of ages and abilities from upper elementary and beyond. Video and audio files allow for use of pause and rewind, reinforcement of key concepts, time for mindful reflection and response, and opportunities for anonymous questions. The group was clear this should not replace the face-to-face interactions vital to learning, but could provide opportunities for interactions to develop in addition to the teacher-student relationship, such as valuable peer-to-peer connections. In an increasingly digital world, students and teachers can support each others learning outside the existing temporal and spatial restrictions associated with school as a building to attend on school days. School becomes more than a space and the online capacity expands the potential rather than diminishing it. Physical attendance coupled with other points of contact i.e. blogs, online forums, and video formats provide exciting potential for what a safe learning community can mean.

The conversation about community, learning, and the role of multiple points of contact in the learning community resonated with my own learning experiences. I use a variety of digital formats in my learning at Gonzaga i.e. electronic blackboard, wikis, and blogs. They reveal the reality that learning is not place- or time-focused. It is ongoing with multiple points of contact essential to the shifting landscape of what school is and can become. The Khan Academy is a useful Math resource for some students and Selman Khan, its designer, has employed self-directed learning features by Selman Khan in the design of this site. He makes use of the advantages discussed in our group-connections, time for reflection, and anonymity, and makes learning safe..

Winery (Napa Valley)

The picture of the little chapel reminded me of when I was young and living in Northern Alberta. It was a treat to go for a day to Dunvegan Provincial Park. There was a small church there. More recently, Kathy and I visited the five missions in San Antonio and the Chapel in the Rock overlooking Sedona, AZ. There is a peacefulness when you sit in these small chapels that is hard to find anywhere but in nature itself.

miki bong

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