A Song in my Head

If you could empower/embolden/excite your colleagues about the new BC curriculum only using song titles, what would you say?  Here’s my message through music:

Let It Go!

Be Brave because We Are The Champions.

Try Everything! And Take Your Time.

We’re Rolling In The Deep but Just Keep Swimming and Don’t Stop Believing.

The Show Must Go On because I am a Survivor.

So Just Stand By Me and Walk!

You don’t need to Go Your Own Way.

Imagine With A Little help From My Friends What A Wonderful World it will be.

Let It Be!


What tunes do you hear when you think about the transformed curriculum?

What melodies do you hum as you make curriculum sing (meaningful) for your students?

If there was a playlist for the pedagogical shifts, what songs would you include?  


Post-Script: This music musing has continued with my contagiously creative colleague – Lauren Citton’s googledoc brainstorm of inspiring lyrics and a Spotify playlist of selected songs.  By the way inspiration of this post was this lip-sync conversation.

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Row On

At the end of June, my office meets for two days of retrospection and preparation.  In reflecting on the year past and reviewing next year’s calendar, the respective teams: administration support, leadership, and educational gather  as one collective of 18 individuals.

After a rousing first day, our superintendent began the second morning reading this encouraging and empowering excerpt from The Boys in the Boat:

The Boys in the Boat.htm

In looking ahead to the new school year, I hope that you and your crew will row on to bigger and better things for the school communities you serve!

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heart-healthSent :               Tuesday, June 28, 2016 4:38 PM
Subject:           Thanks

First Year Teacher:      Hi Rose!  I just wanted to thank you for all the help and support and guidance this past year.  It’s hard to believe a year has gone by!  Looking forward to next year and hopefully finding more balance:) Have a great summer and many blessings to you!

Rose:  I love your ample use of the exclamation mark! Hope it is an indication of fantastic end to the school year? I am grateful for your prayers and well-wishes. Make a memorable summer and I will see you in September.

First Year Teacher :      It was one of the best years of my life:)  Have a restful summer too!

Rose:    Of course now I am curious as to why it was! If you ever want to share with me, I would welcome it! And maybe you could be a guest post on my blog? No pressure, just an invitation to inspire others.

Two days later, with the email subject line: “Love”, the First Year Teacher shared this reflection:

work_of_the_heart“In the blink of an eye and it’s gone.  It really is amazing how quickly this past school year has gone by.  I remember posting up signs on my doors welcoming all the wide-eyed and timid grade 8’s and myself being so full of energy and enthusiasm and hope and excitement.

The whirlwind that was my first year of full-time teaching has finally ended and after letting the dust settle for only the briefest of moments, there are some key words that sum up the past 10 months of my life: process; learning; preparedness; improvisation; trust; curriculum; relationships; balance (which did not exist); faith; inspiration; disappointment; surprise; meetings; surprise meetings!; assessment; patience; exhaustion; fun; growth.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I have so much to learn.  I have grown both as a teacher and a person, despite being so busy that I didn’t think any development was possible.

One remarkable sign that I have found my path in life is that although I have never worked so hard and been more exhausted in my life, I wake up every day with a smile on my face just thinking about spending my day in a classroom with my students.

When you do what you love and when you receive so much love from those whom you work with, it makes it infinitely easier to get up and go through the daily motions of life.  I realize now how much teaching can take out of you and at the same time understand how much love and energy is given in return.

So often I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s words: “You do no great things; only small things with great love.” Her words were part of my teaching philosophy back in my PDP days and they still hold true as a foundation of my teaching.

Love, and great amounts of it, is at the core of what I do in the classroom. Whether it’s French verbs or poetic devices, lunch time tutorials or phone calls home, love is at the proverbial heart of my teaching.  Love of my kids, love for the school, love of what I am blessed to do and love for Jesus and Mary.

I feel blessed to have this opportunity to work in a Catholic school and be a part of a larger Catholic community.  Being able to express my faith and my love of Mary and Jesus and God so openly is such a wonderful experience.

And while popular opinion would believe that it is the teacher who instructs and informs, it was my students who truly showed me what it means to be a person of faith.  Their steadfast and dedicated love and worship of Jesus was inspiring and life-giving.


I was humbled by it all and so fortunate that Mary brought me here, to this school, with these kids and with this staff.

When you set aside your own will and desires and let your heart be filled with the will of God, this is when the magic happens.

I know I will do no great things, but with love and with the love of God I know great things are just bound to happen.”

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Wish Upon a Star

Every so often a tweet will catch my attention for longer than 140 characters.  Tweeted last Friday, The Milky Way is Disappearing was among several videos and articles about the startling effect of artificial light pollution on our ability to see stars.

“One-third of humanity —and 80 percent of North Americans—can’t see the bright smear of the Milky Way, our home in the cosmos. For the first time in the history of our species, entire generations of people have never seen our galaxy.

I wondered what the idiom “to wish upon a star” would mean to those who would never see the stars.

And as the school year wraps up in less than three weeks, I wondered if in some way our own schools and classrooms were “truly dark places” where students could still see and wish upon stars?

Do the students see Hope beyond the haze of timetables, tests and tradition?

Do they look up (to their dreams) more than they look down (at their desks)?

Do the students know that they “are all star stuff”: wonderers and wanderers, and not just worksheet-completers?

In this space, do they see their smallness, sacredness and sameness?

Are they astronomers with telescopes more than archeologists with shovels?

And are they growing into astronauts?

Are they blasting off and not just bubble-filling and bulletin-board-adding?

Are they going on meaningful authentic explorations more than meeting artificial expectations?

Risking more than regurgitating: are they galaxy-gazers more than grade-getters?

Are they more than terra firma test-takers?

And in the end do they grow and glow into stars – finding and travelling by his or her own inner light (especially when they “experience true darkness” in life)?

How can curriculum help keep the constellations visible to our students?

How do we prevent their learning from becoming polluted?

How do we prevent education from emptying out of stars?




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Think of the characters that would emerge from such an environment. Comedians, orators, raconteurs, revolutionaries, magicians, clowns, young people with agency and drive, having fun, not afraid to take risks or make mistakes. Not afraid to be children…

(Learning is a Journey by Johnathan Chase)

My uncle is building from reclaimed wood a tree house for his grandchildren.  Even though it is unfinished and therefore un-inhabitable (due in part to the spider’s web draped across the staircase), I wonder what experiences, exclamations and explorations will echo off the wooden walls.

From sunrise to sunset, imagine the childhood moments that will be savoured and celebrated this summer in and around this tree house.  Stuffed with “What ifs” and “Why nots”, the treehouse is a tickle trunk of endless transformations. It may not be the Tardis but I wonder where this tree house will take them.

The treehouse will be a dreamcauser and a dreamcatcher.

As summer rises on the horizon, the treehouse will become a classroom where serendipity is the syllabus, and learning is assessed by “ahas!”and “awesomes!” and reported as giddiness and glee. The textbook of the treehouse will be read through their fingers, toes and tongues.


Treehouse – photo by Rose Pillay 2016

How do you hammer together a place constructed for hoping and hide-n-go-seeking?

How do you frame a place into a triacontakaiheptagon where jaggedness is necessary for entry?

How do you design for dreaming and delighting?

How do you design a space impermeable to time where childhood is eternal?

How do you design for a place where laughter is the official language?

How do you design a place for making messes, make-believing and magic?

How do you design a place illuminated by imagination?

How do you design a place from where they can still see the Milky Way and wish upon stars?

How do you design a place for childhood?

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Super Blooms

Watch Death Valley Exposed

“Death Valley in California’s Mojave Desert is the lowest, driest place in North America. It holds the world record for the highest recorded temperature – a scorching 56.7°C back in 1913.  The area receives an average of 60mm of rain per year.  Nothing much grows there.

Then, in the winter of 2004, it rained.  In fact, it dumped 150mm of rain in a few months.

What happened next was truly amazing.  In the spring of 2005, for the first time in living memory, wildflowers carpeted the floor of Death Valley.  Death Valley wasn’t dead.  It was dormant, waiting for the right conditions so that it could come to life.

That’s how living systems work.  In the right conditions, life is inevitable.”

(source: http://www.libertychiropractic.com.au/flowers-in-death-valley/)

Imagine that your classroom in September is the Mojave Desert and your students are the dormant wildflowers.

What conditions could you create in September so that learning is inevitable?

What if you didn’t handout a syllabus (or a textbook) at the start of school in September, what inquiry-based, personalized and competency-driven learning would you design for? (see Inquiry-based, Personalized and Competency-driven Learning PDF)

How would you cultivate the classroom for the growth of intellectual, personal and social core competencies? (see Engage Your Planning with Core Competency as Starting Point)


Hello BC Educators: What metaphor guides your planning for September 2016?


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Hello Brick Road

At the BC Council of Administrators of Special Education post-conference evening reception on Thursday April 7, I was invited by the president Deb Mah to be a guest Igniter.  This is the story (quasi slam poetry) I chose to share:


If you had one word to define, drive or direct the 365 days of a year, what would it be?

My word is “hello”.

It is the narrative thread of my professional growth and personal journey. 


From the Kansas of my comfort zone to the Emerald cities of innovation, I travel the “hello “brick road as an educational consultant.

From the grey of “we always done it that way” to the technicolor of transformative practices, I move through cyberspace and across district boundaries.

Photos from: TEDxLangleyEd, TEDxWestVancouver, FISA Convention, and Ignite West Vancouver

I didn’t click my heels, but I did follow a “bluebird” into the Twitterverse.

From lurking and learning, 140-character exchanges led to face-to-face encounters.

Virtual conversations became actual invitations to Ignite Evenings and Saturday EdCamps.

These extracurricular edvents are simply “networking on steroids”.

Restorative, regenerative and transformative teacher time outs.

Chris Kennedy – superintendent of West Van- writes: “This is the new world of affiliation — people connected not by role, not by location, but by passion


Photos: Khalsa Secondary School; Ignite Discovery Education

It is more than friending and following but connecting and collaborating.

Dr. Matthew Lieberman explains “This network for social thinking switches us from being information consumers to information DJs motivating us to share what we learn… Getting more social is the secret to making a smarter brain.

On my “hello “brick road there are no Brainless scarecrows, cowardly lions or heartless tin men.

My professional path is shared by change-agents, cross-pollinators, imagineers, and idea-magnets.


Additional stories and storifies about Yong, Myron Chris Jan Grace and Tony.

Far from meeting the Flying Monkeys and Wicked Witches, I happened upon the wizards of wonder, mean-making magicians and shift-seeking sorcerers.

Hello is my invitation for disruptive doers and divergent thinkers to inspire, inform and ignite my growth.


On the “hello” brick road, enthused educators forge a coalition of expertise.

It’s about being better with.  Not better than.

It ‘s not just finding chemistry but catalyzing a culture of creative combustion.

It’s not about building a mutual adoration club but moving ahead collectively.

(It’s) Fighting the inertia of silos and status quo with the momentum of collective action and innovation.

(So) How do we challenge the policies, practices and paradigms that obstruct meaningful change in education?


How can we better accommodate for the needs of all our students?

How can we invite students into the learning and not just into the classroom?

How do we crack-open cloistered classrooms?

How do we make our teaching porous and permeable and innovative teaching visible?

How do we make teaching a team sport?


How can we grow as teachers not testers; activators not auditors?

From being data collectors to competency developers?

How can we get teachers off the stage and out from the sidelines?

How can teachers “get in the game” as learners?

How can we make teaching about wondering and wandering; dreaming and designing; healing, hoping and harnessing?


How can we move beyond cells and bells; sifting and sorting; rewarding and ranking?

How can school be more about:

Mistaking and making not marking;

Growing not grading;

Learning not earning;

Playing not passing;

Tuning passions not turning pages;

Question-asking not question-answering?


How do we leave behind the narcolepsy-inducing poppy fields of laminated daybooks for the Oz of personalized, passion-fueled learning?

Finding the answers to these questions begins with “hello”.

And just like Dorothy, I learned that no matter where the “hello “brick road took me “there is no place like home“.


The photo on the right is of me and my Ma.

It was taken on Friday August 8 2014.

She died eight days later.

My mother walked the “hello “brick road for 65 years filling her heart with the faces and names that poured into the pews on the day of her funeral.

When grief could have greyed my world, my “hello” brick road became much more.

Saying “Hello” meant hurting less, hoping more, and healing my heart.

Travelling the “hello “brick road, I learned:

it was not where I went but who I met;

the faces more than the spaces;

the people not the places.

At the end of the rainbow, I found relationships.


So why do I walk the “hello” brick road?

These lyrics from Wicked the musical sum it up:

I’ve heard it said,

That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those who help us most to grow…
And we help them in return


If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy, “we shall sometime come to someplace.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

What is your one word?

Where will it take you?

Thank you… and Hello!


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