Mrs. Delaney’s Grade Six Class

by Valerie Delaney, Principal, Learning and Development

Some of you have probably picked up on the fact that the “older” Delaney’s are in the midst of some major life changes. We are moving – in a few days – from our Ottawa home of 30 years to a new home in the Okanagan.  Our Ottawa training office has been re-located in Ottawa, too. The excitement stage hasn’t quite kicked in yet.  We are more in the terror stage of de-cluttering and purging.  Anyone who has moved from a house in which they’ve lived for a while, or maybe helped their parents move from the family home, knows what I mean.  It’s physically and emotionally draining, but every so often, you come across a little gem that sets you back on your heels, brings a smile (or tear) to your face, and reminds you of important things you’ve learned along the way.

That happened to me the other day.  I came across a laminated, handmade and decorated thank-you poster from my very first class of more than 20 years ago – a grade six class of 33, with lots of interesting personalities and the unique learning needs they brought to the classroom. Here’s what the card said:

Thank you, Mrs. Delaney for:

  1. Letting us make bread
  2. Doing fun activities
  3. Listening to us when we had something to say
  4. Making learning fun
  5. Being an awesome teacher

Important truths don’t change much over time, especially when they come from 11-year olds.

Whether you are engaging with communities or training P2 practitioners, people will thank you for:

  1. Bringing food. Create a welcoming space with food just like you do when you welcome someone to your home.  It’s about community and breaking down barriers. We hear all the time about budget restraints.  Sure…fine… I get that.  Don’t make people suffer.  Bring the coffee and treats yourself, if you have too. And, remember: chocolate cures just about anything.
  2. Creating a fun learning environment. Adults need to have some proper fun. People are giving their time (the new wealth) and energy (who has any?) to provide input or to participate in your training. Again, don’t make them suffer.  Think about what you’d like to see in an engagement or training setting, and then do it!  Put colorful decorations on the tables, provide gadgets to fiddle with, use ice breakers to create rapport, challenge with quick little quizzes to get people back to the table after breaks, use content-appropriate activities and friendly competition, and give prizes!!! And, don’t say you don’t have time in the agenda.  You do…trust me…I developed our “Managing the Minutes” approach to agenda planning a long time ago, and have yet to experience an event that was not made better because we put a little fun into the agenda.  If you don’t, you won’t get the quality of feedback or learning you want.
  3. Listening. Not re-loading. Books have been written about this. I think it’s an art, which means it takes study and practice over many years. You never get it perfect, but you can practice it with perfect intention.  That’s the whole point of bringing everyone to the table – or to the classroom: listening and learning.  You can’t learn when you are talking. There, I said it.
  4. Repeat number 2. Ha ha….We did have a lot of fun that year.  It was the year I got cow bones – really large leg bones – and brought them into class for our unit about the skeletal system.  I cleaned them up really well, and the kids were both suitably horrified and impressed.  I’m pretty sure I’d get into trouble if I did that today!
  5. Being awesome. Really, I just did my best, tried my hardest, and wore my heart on my sleeve every single day.  I don’t know that this took me to “awesome”, but those kids thought so.  Bring your “awesome” to your work, to your training, to your engagements.  Show up big.  Do what it takes to do that.  Get sleep.  Push off the other stuff till later. Maybe say no. Just really show up and be awesome when you are with people.  “How hard is that?”, our grandkids would say.  It’s really hard, but I hope we all try our best to be awesome.

And, yes, as you said on the card.  You were my favourite class. Mrs. D. xo