Staying Happy


The start of the school year always seems to bring me a lot of stress and anxiety as a substitute teacher… and this year more than ever! It’s the not knowing about work – whether or not I will work enough let alone where and what grade. I always want to be more prepared to handle this time of year but it never really seems to be that much better. My plan this year was to go away and miss the first couple of weeks of stress but we all know how that turned out here in BC. So I had a few thoughts for my post this week about goal setting and dream jobs but I think what is most important for me right now is to just let it all go and be happy.

So here it is… The 5 ways I’m staying happy during my least favourite part of the school year:

1. Cooking and Meal Prep

I think it is because everything work wise in my life seems so out of my control that anytime I sit down and control aspects of my personal life it feels really great! I am making some of the same food items that I wrote about here and here.

2. Friends and Family

Making time to spend with the people I love is a sure fire mood lifter! Especially after I’ve been away traveling for a few weeks, it’s been really nice to catch up and spend time with everyone.

3. Reading

As soon as the school year really kicks off I find it hard to find time to read. Right now I am really enjoying some of the books I have to read for one of my courses so I can even knock off two birds with one stone on this one!

4. “Me” Time

This is something I have always struggled with – I’m a social personal and often forget to take care of myself by simply spending time by myself. Beyond the stress, I’ve been feeling pretty emotionally drained these days for a variety of reasons so taking some time to just relax and have that “me time” has been very helpful for my stress levels.

5. Exercise

As much as running is usually my go to, never fails, can’t get enough exercise form – I haven’t really been feeling it lately. I’ve gone on a couple runs that are short lived or turned into long walk and talks with a friend. Instead I’ve been spending a bit more time on yoga and some other activities that make me feel relaxed and ready to go.

What are your go to ways to stay happy when you are feeling the stress?

Is anyone having an exciting start to the school year?


Guest Post: Ethan’s First Day of Kindergarten

Hi everyone! Meet my cousin’s son, Ethan.


Ethan on his first day of Kindergarten!

Ethan at three days old.  How is he in Kindergarten already!?

Ethan at three days old. How is he in Kindergarten already!?

Eight (ish) week old Ethan.  Again, Kindergarten!?

Eight (ish) week old Ethan. Again, Kindergarten!?

Ethan started Kindergarten this week and has been waiting a looong time for this special season! In the season of all things new, we decided it would be fun to hear about Ethan’s first day of Kindergarten in his own words.  I texted my cousin, Ethan’s mom, some questions to ask Ethan about his Kindergarten experience thus far.  This is what he has to say:

1) Ethan, tell us about your first day of Kindergarten:  We went on an adventure to the office to find Pete the Cat’s shoes.

2) What was your most favourite part, or the best part, of you first day of school?  The best part was snack time because I got to pack my own lunch!ethan4

3) Were you excited or nervous to start Kindergarten? Why or why not? I was nervous because I wanted to be in my friends Harper’s class and I don’t know if we will be together.

4) If you could give any advice to kids starting Kindergarten NEXT year, what would you say?  (He didn’t want to answer this question, he just kept saying, “No”).

5) Any other comments about starting Kindergarten? I can’t wait for outside time so I can play with my friend Cash who is in grade 2!


Sounds like Ethan is in for a great year of school! Have fun, buddy!




Throw Back Thursday

Since it’s the first week of school here in BC we thought it would be fun to do a little “TBT” post (Throw Back Thursday) to some of our favourite and/or most popular posts we have written. Let us know in the comments if you have any requests for posts to come this year!

Teach It Tuesday’s

1. Poems for Two Voices – A Remembrance Day themed activity that uses the Two Voice poems. This post includes the lesson and an example poem from grade 8 students.

2. Dreams and Ambitions – An activity that works well at the beginning of the year to get students talking and dreaming! Includes a link to a worksheet template on our Teachers Pay Teachers account.

3. Review Games – Well we know what the beginning of the year means… Reviewing! So here we have a bunch of different games to use to review material.

Guest Posts

1. Classroom Environment – A teacher friend of ours shares her classroom set up last year for a French Immersion primary class. It is full of pictures and inspiration for setting up your classes this year!

2. The Courage to Lead – An amazing leader in our district shares her insight into what teacher leadership can look like and most importantly – Finding the courage to lead!

Book Tales

Our book tales are reviews of books that we have read and loved (or sometimes just lists of what we are reading). Here are two favourites:

1. Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

2. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Joint Posts

These are two of our favourite posts that we have written together:

1. Dear Practicum Student

2. You Know You’re a Substitute Teacher When…

Karley’s Posts

1. Speaking Up: My Story – Karley shares about growing up a victim of bullying and how those negative experiences, combined with pressure from the gymnastics world, helped shape who she is today.

2. Letter to my Class – A letter Karley wrote to her grade 8 class at the end of their roller coaster year together.

3. How Yoga Informs My Teaching – All about how yoga on and off the mat makes the academic classroom a better place for both teachers and students.

Meaghan’s Posts

1. Tales of a Shy Teacher – Meaghan shares about the experiences and difficulties of being a shy teacher and how she works to overcome some of the challenges.

2. Coming Undone – Opening up about anxiety and personal struggles, Meaghan shares about how she has learned and grown throughout the process.

3. Strength and Love – After going through some difficulties with the job system, Meaghan shares about how she dealt with a big challenge.



Aftermath of the Strike

Disclaimer: These words, opinions and experiences are strictly my own.  In no way do I intend to criticize any one person or system, especially my fellow brilliant colleagues, administrators and beloved school district in which I work.

I’m sitting down to write this post at 2am because for the past three nights I’ve gone to bed only to wake up a few hours later with a head completely full of thoughts.  What happened? and What did I do wrong? seem to be the two major questions I can’t let go of right now.

Let’s backtrack a bit.  On Monday we finally started school here in BC after being on strike since mid-June.  For most of my teacher friends the start to the school year has been an experience of mixed emotions and their Facebook status updates say it all: “So exhausted already”, “So happy to be back, already so tired”…you get the idea.  Exhaustion combined with elation seems to be the going formula.   As it happens, I am no stranger to this (totally lame) emotional experience.  Going into this school year I thought I had it made.  I thought getting a temporary contract or a start up TOC (teacher on call) gig would be no problem simply because my past two years of teaching have been pretty incredible in the sense of getting work right away.  I thought that having two years of full time seniority under my belt would be a decent advantage going into my third year as a teacher.  As it turns out, I was wrong.  (Side note: I did have a start up lined up, but we were still on strike for three weeks of September, so, much to my disappointment, I never actually worked in that start up). 

Like every temporary teacher in our district, I’m back on the TOC list this year until I get a contract.  I honestly didn’t expect it to be this challenging to get a contract this year, especially because I landed my first full time contract last year at this time with only one year of seniority.  I suspect the whole lack of contract thing has to do with the recent closure of one school in our district, the closure of a juvenile detention centre and the staggeringly large number of layoffs in our district back in May.  I also suspect the extended strike has something to with the seemingly slow start to the year.  I’ve been driving myself mad with this thought: how does a third year teacher end up with nothing and no prospects at the start of the school year?  I even had the requisite complete and utterly disgusting seasonal meltdown (there were other contributing factors, not just school/work) the other night.  My poor husband just sat there and attempted to console me while I took out all my worry, anger and rage on his brand new lululemon volleyball shirt.  Like most of my meltdowns of epic proportions (they happen about three times/year), I did feel better afterward, but it didn’t fix my problems…in fact, my work related problems kind of just got worse.

So the only thing I can think of is to continue to find some sources of happiness and inspiration outside of the education-based realm, because the education-based realm is just so not doing it for me right now.  My brilliant, wise friend sent me a text the other evening suggesting I find the message in all this work crazy.  She said that maybe this season isn’t meant to be all chaotic and work-filled for me right now.  Maybe I’m supposed to ease into the school year a bit less forcefully and a bit more gracefully.  And the Universe sent me this email the other night at about 1.30am (I was awake in bed fretting from 2-4am that night…I should have just checked my email!)


So I’m trying very hard to take the advice of my important life-people, as I like to call them, and the Universe itself, and just put all this work crazy and self-created expectation on the shelf.  I’m trying very hard to patiently trust this process, which has turned into an entirely different lesson of patience and trust than the one I learned from my grade 8 students last year.  Who knew I had more to learn on the same topics?

A few pieces of happiness and inspiration I’ve found that are keeping me going right now include:

This book, given to me a few weeks ago from another very wise and soulful friend in education, whom I admire and adore.  I suggest you find a copy and read it if you don’t already know it.


Our brand new, Pinterest inspired laundry room space, built by my husband (the man is amazing…I now want to do laundry for days!):

Before the demolition.

Before the demolition.

After the renovation.  See what I mean? Laundry for-ev-er.

After the renovation. See what I mean? Laundry for-ev-er.

These two rascals.  Who knew getting a cat, and then adopting his brother ten months later, would be one of the best things for my sanity? Pets are just the best.


And last but not least, our upcoming Thanksgiving dinner with a random assortment of friends.  Good food and lovely friends is always a winning combo.


“Lead me where my trust is without borders” was my main mantra last fall as I entered into my first full time teaching job.  I was warned that asking to “trust without borders” was somewhat of a risky prayer or mantra, if you will, but I dove in head first with that phrase repeatedly running through my mind and heart. I got messy with the whole experience and it turned out beautifully in the end.  So this fall I find myself with the same quote on my lips, asking to trust without borders again, and curiously waiting to see where this journey is leading me…all while trying to stay out of my own head.  Someone should pay me to do this.



Teach it Tuesday: Back to School Version

We are finally back on our regular blogging routine after an extremely extended “break” because of the teachers’ strike here in BC.  Instead of going back to school on September 2nd, we went back on September 22nd, just in time for a Back to School Teach it Tuesday post!  Today we have some start of year ideas that can (hopefully) be easily adapted to suit various grade levels.  We love feedback, so let us know in the comments what works/what doesn’t work, and if you have any other start up ideas of your own that you’re willing to share.

Advisory: Advisory tends to be a very “middle school” term, but it can be practiced at any grade level.  Essentially, advisory is the first portion of the day where students are settling into the classroom for the day.  Some students come in late and always miss advisory, whereas others are always the first people at school and never miss this time.  Advisory is a nice transition time from gathering with friends in the hallway to setting the tone for the day at school.  As teachers we both

Our Gratitude Advent Calendar from last Christmas.

Our Gratitude Advent Calendar from last Christmas.

personally adore advisory because we find we make the best connections with students during these crucial 20 (ish) minutes.  Last year I (Karley) set up a gratitude advent calendar at my house during the Christmas season.  We didn’t take this calendar down until May (I know).  This autumn I plan to do something similar in our house, but I plan to use cut outs of leaves, twine and mini clothespins instead.  We are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for friends this year, so I think we might start our “Vine of Gratitude” then.  This idea can definitely be extended into the classroom and added to on a daily basis.

Language Arts: I (Meaghan) absolutely love language arts at the start of the year because there are so many different directions you can take with it! This year I’m starting a class off a few days a week with a read aloud novel and some different activities to go along with it. The first activity is going to be a simple reflection of the plot through a drawing and then we will move into writing questions about the book. The idea of this is to model some of the reading strategies we use, as well as literature circle roles. For the questioning part I always give students stems from Bloom’s Taxonomy and have them create questions about the plot for each type. Some great read aloud books include: James and the Giant Peach (gr. 5), Elijah of Buxton (gr. 6), Flipped (gr. 7)

Math: Math is sometimes a tricky one to start off with because there is often a list of things you need to do in terms of assessment and review to start off the year. I always like to try to make sure we are making math fun and engaging though, especially right at the beginning. Some of the best ways I find to do this are by using really good problem solving questions and having students address the questions in a group, paying attention to the different routes to solve a problem. Another way to start off is with basic facts review, making sure to go over strategies beforehand, and then adding a game component where students need to answer questions correctly in order to move up a game board or to gain “stamps” on a passport around the world. Some of these take a little bit more prep but they are a lot of fun for students and can often be worked into your math class throughout the year as well.

Science: Science is a tough one to start off with because it tends to be a curriculum dense subject.  Last year I had multiple conversations with my grade 8s about what they wanted to learn in science (ie. more specific aspects of the curriculum) and

Last year's interactive science notebooks.

Last year’s interactive science notebooks.

how they wanted to learn in science (ie. not from a textbook).   We have drafts of a new science curriculum in BC, so I spent some time discussing the new curriculum with my class and we decided which pieces of it we wanted to play around with in our learning.  I was also really keen to use interactive notebooks last year in science, so we started out our year of science by actually creating the notebooks.

Social Studies: A fun activity to get students minds rolling in social studies is this group mapping activity (this is an activity I adapted from somebody at some point and can’t remember who – if you know please remind me so I can give credit). Basically in groups of 3-4 students are given a large sheet of paper and without looking at any maps or electronic devices they are supposed to make the best map of the world that they can from memory. This includes countries, oceans, continents, etc. – anything they can remember! At the end you project a map of the world and see how accurate they were. For an adaptation you can hang onto the maps and redo the activity at the end of the year to see how students visions have changed.

French: At any grade level where French is part of the curriculum, I think it’s a good idea to start from the basics because most FSL students don’t spend their summers speaking French or thinking about French.  Last year I used an idea from a seasoned and brilliant French teacher friend of mine and tweaked it a little bit to fit the needs of the grade 7 students I was working with.  We reviewed numbers by simply counting out loud, adding and subtracting, and learning/reviewing our phone numbers in French.  I had the students write down their phone numbers and their names on a slip of paper and then I collected all the papers and we played a weird version of “telephone”.  I would pull out a student’s number (and I knew whose number it was because their name was on the paper) and called out the number in French.  The student whose phone number I was calling had to get up and run to the phone in our classroom and pretend to have a conversation with me.  At first we just worked on the numbers piece of this game, but eventually we got far enough in our review to start having a mini conversation on the phone.  I started every French class this way for about two weeks and the students really seemed to launch into French review in a positive manner.

Physical Education: Instead of writing a new lesson plan here we are just going to direct you to a couple of the PE posts we have done in the past that still remain good PE lessons: here and here.

Check our our Teach it Tuesday section above for more lesson ideas – Have a great start to the year everyone!


Travel Tales: Indonesia Highlights

I’m back! Well I got back on Monday but this week has been… um… slightly crazy?! Besides just the jet lag it has been a rollercoaster in BC Education (for those of you from elsewhere we won’t even get into it on here, if you are curious there are plenty of blog posts and news articles out there).

Ryan (my boyfriend) and I went on a three week trip to Indonesia at the end of August; we went to Sumatra, Bali and the Gili Islands. So the question of the week has been, “How was your trip?!” And then my brain quickly racks through the three weeks of amazing memories and tries to find a word to sum it all up, failing that it searches for a phrase, and then failing that I tend to sputter off about how it was “amazing and beautiful and challenging and I am happy I’m home but want to go back.” Or some other nonsensical string of words…

I’ve decided to sum up my trip with a few photos and ten memories that I will hold onto forever.

1. Orangutans

IMG_3181This was our main reason for going to Sumatra and it was incredible! We did a two day, overnight jungle trek from Bukit Lawang into the Sumatran Jungle and saw these unbelievable creatures swinging from the trees, feeding their babies, and just hanging out. I will never forget our experiences there and the first time I got a glimpse of that red furry body in the tall green trees… There really are no words.

2. Jungle Trek

IMG_3180I went into the Jungle Trek thinking that it would be kind of cool to hike around, pretty awesome to see the orangutans, a little surreal to stay over in the jungle, and then we would leave with some good pictures and that would be it. The entire Jungle Trek experience was the highlight of our whole trip! We hiked with two other travelers from Holland and Korea, and our two guides, Joni and Dylan. Our guides did a fabulous job of finding the orangutans for us to see – WITHOUT disturbing the natural environment! They were also funny, relatable, and interesting! Camping overnight by the river was the very best part – we stayed up singing songs and playing games from all of our different cultures. My heart was so incredibly full from all of the cultural sharing and laughter. The next day when we were tubing down the river as the sun came out, surrounded by the almost untouched jungle, singing songs with our new friends from around the world – it was an absolutely perfect moment for me.

3. Our Little Angel

This is such a brief and simple story from our trip but it is a story that neither of us will forget and it is a perfect example of why we came to love the Indonesian people so much!

When we got back from the jungle, Ryan notice a weird bite on his arm but couldn’t remember being bit. By the time we had showered and cleaned up the bite was very red and swollen, and there was a red streak making it’s way up his arm. By this point we were both pretty scared, being three days into our trip, in the middle of a jungle, five hours away from the nearest hospital, and having very little knowledge of the spiders, ants, and insects that we had been seeing around. We walked down to town to take a “Tuk Tuk” down to the village doctor, at this point both of us had been running through worst case scenario’s in our heads, although not sharing them aloud.

IMG_3049.JPGWhen we were about to go in the Tuk Tuk the drivers daughter jumped on the front and refused to get off, so he laughed and started driving. This little girl had the brightest smile and kept dancing and laughing with us to keep us entertained the whole way, she even came into the doctor’s office with us. It turned out Ryan was just having an allergic reaction and would be okay with some allergy pills and a cream to reduce the swelling. I honestly believe I would have fell apart on the way to the doctor if it hadn’t been for the little girl. All we have is a blurry picture of her (she was constantly moving) and the memory of the smile and laugh, but this little girl will stay in our hearts forever!

4. Yoga

We did yoga at the Yoga Barn in Ubud everyday that we stayed there. It looks like this, enough said.


5. Friends

While we were on a long, and quite unpleasant, drive in Sumatra we became friends with a couple from Holland. We ended up crossing paths with them throughout our time in Sumatra and Bali and shared some great laughs over delicious food, bad car rides, and beautiful places. Meeting people is hands down my favourite part of traveling and meeting them became one of the best parts of the trip!

6. Gili Air


A father and daughter looking through tide pools

So the Gili Islands are small islands with no motorized vehicles – no cars or busses, scooters or tuk-tuks. We decided on Gili Air because it has the greatest population of Indonesian people who live there (re: less touristy!) On the first night we wandered around the main tourist strip and then rented bikes and took off through the middle of the island, winding our way to the other side through more residential areas. On the other side of the island there is a beautiful beach, a few restaurants, lots of local people roaming the beach and the tide pools, and one of the most unbelievable sunsets you will ever see! This was one of our favourite stops and we both agreed we could go back to Gili Air and live happily for quite a while…

7. Food

Another one of the best parts of traveling is the food and we were not disappointed! We ate so well pretty much everywhere we went. Some of the favourites being the food on the Jungle Trek (they bring in a local cook for the camping part), and the fresh fruit every morning for breakfast. Ryan loved the seafood on Bali and Gili Air (I’m vegetarian and don’t eat seafood but it did look pretty tempting!) One of our favourite meals was at this little local spot around the corner from one of our guesthouses in a residential area of Bali – we were served by the sweetest, middle school aged girl who seemed delighted to practice her English and the food was delicious! We also went to a restaurant that is overlooking the Ayung River Valley and is one of the most amazing views I have ever seen – the food was delicious, the view incredible, and we felt so lucky to be there!


8. Lena


Lena and I in the waves at Ulu Watu, Bali

My friend Lena recently got a job in Indonesia and was able to come meet us for one of the weekends we were in Bali. We had so much fun and it was great to be able to catch up and hear about all of her adventures! She is the friend that I visited in France (read about it here) and although I would love for her to live closer, at least she keeps choosing awesome places so I get to visit her around the world!

9. Sunsets, Sunsets, Sunsets

Bali and the Gili Islands have the most incredible sunsets! There are beaches where you can watch the sun dip below mountains creating cool effects. There are spots where the horizon seems endless and you watch the sunset over the ocean. I couldn’t get enough of the sunsets and wanted to watch every night – our poor eyes were probably hurt from constantly staring directly at the sun though!


10. Traveling with Ryan


This was our first big trip together (besides local holidays and family vacations). We had a blast and it was so much fun to explore a new culture together! In many ways we are great travel companions and balance each other well, especially when it comes to meeting new people. In some ways we are not – we both get overly anxious about certain things. But we got through all the good and the bad together, and there was way more good then bad. All in all, I couldn’t really ask for a better partner in travel or in life…


The Season’s Happiness

(If you are getting bored of me, don’t worry, Meaghan will be back soon with some fantastic travel stories to share.  I promise!)

For those of you who don’t live and work in BC, we have yet to go back to school because of a complex and messy strike in our teachers’ union (and because of a provincial government that is unwilling to budge or bargain).  It’s still uncertain times for public education in BC.  Teacher’s haven’t been working, and therefore haven’t been paid, since the middle of June.  Students didn’t get to finish off the old school year properly OR start off the new school year properly.  It’s tough times all around, really.

Last week’s post was about the uncertainty during this Back to School season.  Writing that post made me a little sad, because summer’s end and autumn’s beginning is by far my most favourite season of the whole entire year.  Back to School excitement definitely fuels my fire during this magical season of temperature changes and pumpkin harvests because it’s just part of the package during this time of year; however, this week little reminders that autumn is on its way have started pop up everywhere and now I am just extremely giddy over that fact that our air conditioning can be put to rest until next June.

The first (and quite possibly) most awesome thing about the season’s change:

Starbucks' seasonal drinks have arrived!

Starbucks’ seasonal drinks have arrived! My eyes literally shone with delight when I discovered this tidbit of information.

I promptly sent a very important text message to my friend, Karen, who knows what is UP when it comes to autumn seasonal changes.  We now have a weekly Jane Austen movie night put in place.



If I had a Pinterest board (I don’t, believe it or not) for autumn it would be full of comfy sweaters and tall boots, infinity scarves, Swedish farmhouse decor options and the occasional salted caramel mocha.

Here are the other small, yet utterly joyful and autumn-y things I’ve been enjoying this week in between picket shifts:

This is the view from my driveway.  Heavenly, right? A few more weeks and all the leaves in the forest behind our house will be brilliantly colourful.

This is the view from my driveway. Heavenly, right? A few more weeks and all the leaves in the forest behind our house will be brilliantly colourful.

Our first pumpkin harvest of 2014! Our vegetable garden wasn't quite as successful as last year's (our corn and peas had some serious issues...) These little cuties are called "Sweet Sugars" and one particular husband is quite stoked for homemade pumpkin pie.

Our first pumpkin harvest of 2014! Our vegetable garden wasn’t quite as successful as last year’s (our corn and peas had some serious issues…) These little cuties are called “Sweet Sugars” and one particular husband is quite stoked for homemade pumpkin pie.

I couldn't resist snapping this iPhone shot.  How cool is that one red leaved branch?

I couldn’t resist snapping this iPhone shot. How cool is that one red leaved branch?

And finally, road side flower and produce stands with my friend, Nicole.

And finally, road side flower and produce stands with my friend, Nicole. All these flowers, including the dahlias, for $8!  Can’t beat that.

This post is somewhat fluffy and has nothing to do with education, really.  That being said, it’s more about self-preservation for many of us teachers in BC right now.  I’m attempting to preserve my eternal optimism and joy for this gorgeous season by doing as many of my favourite seasonal things possible!  I hope you all can find some space in this mayhem to simply appreciate what we DO have.  Breathe deeply, fellow teachers.  We will and can get through this together.

Now go find a pumpkin spiced ANYTHING and treat yourself.