Monday, June 19, 2017

Fashion Show Phenomenon!

On Thursday, June 15, 2017, my school hosted a fashion show. The students were extremely excited about participating in and/or witnessing the event. I had a host of different emotions churning inside, both positive and negative. In the end, it turned out quite well.

Here are some of the tweets, with photos, from our official school account.

 When I reflect on these events after the fact, I often come away with several "ahas".
This time, I think there were more "hmmms" than "eureka" moments. That's not a bad thing - it just means that there's a lot to process and digest.

1) How much rehearsal is enough?

I used my library and media time with the youngest students to practice the walking route and "pose points", but for the older classes, we only tried it a couple of times in the library. We only had one official, everyone-together rehearsal in the gym, at 11:00 a.m. the day of the shows. Was this sufficient? The fashion show definitely was not as polished as our winter or spring concerts are, but is that a requirement for public events? I'm on the fence about this - practicing in the actual space where it is scheduled to take place means less anxiety for students but removing students from class to spend most of the time waiting for their thirty seconds of speaking or strutting time may not be the best use of the little time we have left.

2) Was the lack of an evening performance helpful or a hindrance?

Using the school in the evening requires obtaining a permit and a lot more supervision. After consulting with my administrator, we decided to keep it simple and offer two shows during the day - at noon and at 4:00 p.m. - with the hope that adults who wanted to attend would be able to make arrangements for one or both of these times. Did this arrangement provide enough flexibility for parents and family members? We set up 120 chairs and most of them were filled at both shows, but I didn't make an official count and students were permitted to come watch over the lunch hour, which may have skewed the numbers. I just hope we didn't unintentionally exclude parents with shift work that were unable to manoeuver their schedules to make it. The parents that were able to come enjoyed the show. Here's a short video of one student. (His mom posted it publicly, so I feel comfortable re-sharing it here.)
3) How much did we defy stereotypes? How much did we enforce stereotypes?

Frequent readers of the blog will remember this post - - in which the students and I tried to discuss the implied messages we receive about who can and cannot be a model. I hoped the students would realize and internalize that you don't have to be a tall, thin, white female to be a model. We didn't have the time or capability to have every student model their projects, so in the interest of student voice and choice, each class voted (anonymously using the Senteo Clickers) their top 5 recommendations for class representation in the fashion show. Even though there were some outfits that I thought were worthy to be included in the show, I refrained from interfering in that way and respected what decisions the students made. The classes also voted on who should be the MCs - we had auditions when there were more interested students than available spots. I think I need to do a follow-up lesson to take a hard look at some of our choices. Why? Because as I look at the list of the models, there are more girls than boys. In two of the classes, 100% of the models were female. Why is this? Is it because the outfits made by the girls in these classes were of better quality than the boys? Or is it because despite our discussions, we/they still subconsciously believe that modeling clothes is a female occupation?

4) How much help is required to run such an event?

My goal was to make this a "no-stress" event for my fellow teachers. This is a hectic time of year and I didn't want them to be pressured into doing extra work that would take them away from the important tasks they still have to do with only 2.5 weeks of school left. No "volun-told" duties for this event, no sir! This was to be a student-led, student-focused time. I was so grateful and pleased that so many of the staff members attended one or both of the shows to support their students. What I quickly realized was that, in spite of my intentions to handle it by myself with student workers, I couldn't do it on my own without other adults. Some folks agreed beforehand to help supervise but not everyone was able to follow through on their original commitment. I really appreciated Renee Keberer, Thess Isidro, and especially Wing Chee Lee (our music and ESL teacher) who sacrificed her prep time and lunch time to help me supervise students in the gym and hall during the chaos that was the one and only rehearsal. (Wing Chee, I hope you found the token of appreciation in your classroom!) I also have to thank Moyah Walker from Burrows Hall Junior P.S., who brought five of her students up to our school to showcase some of their amazing clothing-related projects done during her STEM-focused time with them. I'm sorry that none of the Value Village managers were able to attend the event, but I'll be sending them a copy of the program and some photo highlights.

Like my other major projects, I do not plan on repeating this same assignment, but I was very pleased with the learning it provided me and my students.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Make (friends) at MakerFestival and O(ften) L(ove) A(ssociates) at OLA

MakerFestival is coming, MakerFestival is coming!

Actually, a lot of events are coming up, and I'm really happy to be involved with teams of people who organize things behind the scenes. Let me tell you about a few of them.

1) MakerEdTO

These are just a few of the members of this volunteer crew of educators from various school boards and private schools around the GTA. United by a passion for making in education, they use their spare time to organize a free conference for anyone involved in education to attend. This is the second year it's happened, and I'm delighted to report that after just a single week, tickets are completely sold out! (We had to issue tickets - space is limited and we didn't want to break any fire code regulations!) As you can see by the time stamps on the two group shots (we also had a meeting in between at Sandra's house but we didn't take photos), plans don't come together overnight! Thank you David, Tim, Teresa, Ray, Sharon, Shaun, Mark, Dan, Sandra, Arianna, and all the other names I'm missing.

2) MakerFestival

As I begin to end some volunteer commitments, I choose to start some new ones. This year, I joined the core team behind MakerFestival. It's amazing! I went last year (as well as in 2014) and loved it so much as a regular volunteer that I wanted to do more. I am overwhelmed by the size of the event (15 000 participants) and the size of the hearts of those who devote so much time to making it happen. This is a diverse group of people - and that's good for me. There's nothing wrong with being friends with teachers or librarians (as point #3 will show) but it's healthy to make new acquaintances with people in different fields. In the group we have physicists, event coordinators, and people in between jobs and with jobs that defy description. Nathan and I are the new Volunteer Coordinators (Nathan would say he works under me but my philosophy as part of "Minion Management" is that we are all volunteers!). I love the energy of these people and I am so excited about what we've got planned for the two day extravaganza on July 8-9, 2017 at the Toronto Reference Library. I can't give spoilers, but I wish I was free this upcoming Thursday when members of the core team will be experimenting with prototypes for a cool themed spectacle. I'm still learning the ropes but the people who have done this before are so welcoming, patient, and friendly. Special shout-outs to Jen, Aedan, Eric, Ceda, Simon, Tarik, Jounghwa, Josh, Andrew, Sophie, Mel, Varsha, and especially to Nathan - his enthusiasm is contagious and he is a devoted and dedicated organizer who keeps me going.

3) Ontario School Library Association 

June 10, 2017 OSLA Council photo

June 11, 2016 OSLA Council photo
What would make you give up a beautiful Saturday to spend most of the day in a windowless room working? The answer for me, since 2006, is the people that are part of the Ontario School Library Association Council.

Remember how I said it's important to get together with people different from you? Well, it's also important to meet with like-minded folk. All of us work in school libraries but for different boards and organizations. We enjoy each others' company so much that we spent time in between meetings (the Friday Together For Learning revision team meeting and the Saturday OSLA Council meeting) having dinner together. I salute, Melissa, Kelly, Kate, Jennifer, Darren, Alanna, Johanna, Lisa, Maureen, Joel, and the wonderful OLA staff like Shelagh and Michelle (and the magazine layout gurus like Annesha and Lauren) who make our work a joy to complete - and make it look prettier and professional too! Some of us are moving on - I can't say who because this person doesn't have permission from administration to reveal their departure from their school and board for fantastic new educational adventures - and I'll miss working with this person. I get another teacher-librarian socialization opportunity this coming Thursday with the TDSB TL "Canapes and Conversations" event, which will be delightful.

I've heard it said that it can be challenging to make friends when you are an adult. My solution to this dilemma is simple - volunteer! You'll meet marvelous people and do good things at the same time.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Today is a good day to try something new

I don't wear makeup - not because I'm a natural beauty, although that's what my husband tells me, but because I never learned how. My mom, bless her heart, blinks rapidly when anything goes near her eye, so applying anything like eye shadow, mascara, or eye liner was nearly impossible for her. My daughter was complaining about being mistaken for a boy by strangers, so we decided that one possible solution was to try wearing makeup, and that meant learning to wear makeup. On the weekend, we headed to Sephora at the mall to get a tutorial. Romina was our makeup artist / coach and she was wonderful! We decided to go very simple and discover the wonders of eye liner. Romina explained the two main types (pencil and liquid). She answered our questions, showed us how to apply it, and provided tips on how to put it on. She used a different tool and technique on my daughter than she did with me, because we are two very different people (with 30 years between us). Romina even let me try to finish one of my eyes myself, providing feedback as I made the attempt. Here's the results.

Fresh eyes, courtesy of Sephora!

A selfie of me wearing (gasp) eyeliner!
After returning from our adventure, a new one awaited me on my computer. My good friend Lisa Noble tagged me online and encouraged me to add to this fun Flipgrid, singing a song for a Feel Good compilation. Flipgrid is an easy way to crowd source short videos for a topic. Would you do karaoke for the world to see? It helps that a) I used to sing at weddings and funerals, and b) in university, my friends and I would spend many an evening at our favourite pub singing karaoke. (My signature song back then was "These Boots are Made for Walking".) I'm not sure if I know how to embed it in my blog, but here's the link (and the initial tweet mentioning the link) below.

What do these two events have to do with education? It's all in my blog post title - today can be a great day to try something new. Now that (hopefully) all the curriculum requirements have been covered, evaluated and reported, we still have a few weeks left with our students. Instead of playing DVDs for them to watch, why not try some activities that you've heard about but never had the time or inclination to try before? On last week's #tdsbEd chat, Arianne Lambert and Larissa Aradj led a session on green screen technology. I've done green screen before, but it's always educational participating in this Twitter chat so I jumped in  and learned something new - how to do green screen with Google Suite tools! Here's my sample attempt.

It can be scary, or anxiety-provoking, or nerve-wracking, but think about what might be possible. At my school, we are going to try running a fashion show (on June 15) to honour some of the outfits created by our Grade 1-5 learners during the second term of media studies. This is a new endeavour for all of us (although I modelled briefly when I used to participate in baton twirling competitions) and I'm excited to try this (and wearing makeup semi-regularly!)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Everyone needs to read for fun

Back in 2009, when I first began writing this blog, the topics covered were a lot different. I used to write a lot about what I was reading. The first couple of posts lauded the works of authors such as Charlaine Harris, Melanie Watt, and Stephenie Meyer.

My blogging style has evolved a bit, and I noticed that I haven't written much about what I've been reading. (The last book-related post was in February 2017 when my friend Salma lent me a book called Let the Elephants Run by David Usher. Prior to that, it may have been 2015 - thank you ability to search Blogger for keywords for helping discover this!)

I still read. I've just noticed that a lot of my reading lately has been very purposeful. I'm currently re-reading Trevor Mackenzie's Dive Into Inquiry so I can participate (albeit late) in the TVO Teach Ontario book club about it. I read all the 2017 Forest of Reading nominees so I could chat with students about the books and sign their passports. I re-read parts of The Loxleys and Confederation as well as Louis Riel by Chester Brown so I could use parts of those graphic novels for my intermediate ESL history lessons and as references for a mini-project I was asked to do.

Time is precious and there have been many tasks demanding my time - I needed to finish creating the school yearbook, complete marking the clothing media projects and the reflection sheets from eight classes, and arrange the launch of the Maker Festival volunteer registration form. I still need to make time for me, to stay healthy, and I found out that I could combine two activities and make them enjoyable and productive - I can read on the treadmill!

The book that actually had me excited about my 30 minute exercise was Fire Touched, the ninth book in Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series of novels. You can go to to see a list of all her books. I didn't read it to become a better person. I didn't read it to get informed. I didn't read it for my job. I read it for fun. And it was! It was delightful and made my time on the treadmill fly past. I actually made a pact with myself that I would not read the book unless it was walking time. That made the book last longer, but sadly, all good things come to an end and I finished it this past week.  Thank you Patricia Briggs for creating such a vibrant fictional world, with multi-dimensional characters that readers can relate to despite their supernatural abilities. I may not be able to wait for the tenth and might have to borrow it from the library before buying it in paperback. (I'm somewhat obsessed about having my book series look the same on the shelf.)

When I googled "reading for pleasure", I found plenty of articles about how teachers can encourage the habit, but I didn't see much about them doing it for themselves. We need to practice what we preach. I searched for a tweet that was on my timeline that reminded us that graphic novels, audio books and wordless picture books are all real reading. (Lost it in the flow of communication.) Same goes for what some might consider "fluff" - let adults, and that means teachers too, read what brings them joy. It's good for us - for our mental health (and if you read on the treadmill, for our physical health too!)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Exhilaration and disregulation

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat - or, more accurately, the delight of smooth success and the discomfort of chaos - was my "Forest of Reading Week". For the first time ever, the Red Maple Marketing Event AND the Festival of Trees AND the Silver Birch Quiz Bowl were all held during the same week. What were we thinking? I can tell you what I was thinking when we were first trying to select days for the local events - boy, are May and June busy!

The sticky notes indicate a day that one of the schools involved said was already filled with something important. June wasn't much better and we also tried to avoid Ramadan (which would impede the pleasure of the ice cream truck for some of our students), so the Marketing Campaign was Monday May 15, the Festival of Trees at Harbourfront (for Silver Birch) was Wednesday, May 17, and Quiz Bowl was Friday, May 19. It was challenging for me to be involved with all of these events and not have my regular program suffer (and teachers' prep times disappear) so I spoke to my administrator and decided that I'd do prep payback for the 19th so I wouldn't need a supply and classes didn't miss their time with me. We obtained a supply teacher for May 15. For the first time ever, I had to stay at school instead of attend the Festival of Trees. I had three competent teachers taking their students, and I volunteered to keep their students who weren't going.

Red Maple Marketing Campaign

The Red Maple Marketing Campaign was FANTASTIC. I have to say that it was even better than last year. In 2016, it took the student teams excessively long to set up for their five-minute presentation and it negatively impacted our schedule. I think the improvement came because of a combination of factors - the teacher-librarians that were there last year really hit home the message to their students that things had to speed up with transitions, and we told students in advance what the order of their presentations were (by drawing random numbers). We also moved the author talk to the afternoon, so that all the presentations and judging were done in the morning. Our judges, Hart and Victoria from If Manifest, arrived on time and gave excellent feedback in person to all students. There is something wonderful about being a bit hesitant about the execution of a project and having it exceed your expectations.

"Glass" cookies from my students' "Shattered Glass" campaign

Hart, Analisa (TPL liaison) & Victoria

Our judges with our teacher-librarians

From Mackin PS - the winning campaign!

From Alexander Stirling PS - their first year at the event!

From David Lewis PS - including bannock!

From Milliken PS - the runner up!

Another Milliken PS entry!

The second David Lewis PS campaign entry

Brookside PS made a splash!

Agnes Macphail PS represented Shattered Glass
What was just as delightful was the reaction by authors to tweets about the representation of their Red Maple nominated books. Some of the authors that took the time to like, retweet, or reply to the Red Maple Marketing tweets were:

  • Kevin Sylvester (@kevinarts)
  • Karen Bass (@karenbassYA)
  • Frank Viva (@VIVAandCO)
  • Teresa Toten (@TTotenAuthor)
  • Caroline Pignat (@CarolinePignat)
  • Stephanie Tromly (@stephanietromly)
  • Kelley Armstrong (@kelleyarmstrong)
  • Richard Scrimger (@richardscrimger)

(In other words, every single author that had a book marketed at the event made some sort of acknowledgement or recognition! Sorry Arthur Slade @arthurslade and Lorna Schultz Nicholson @lornasn - the only reason your books weren't represented was that we didn't have ten teams enter this year.)

Silver Birch Quiz Bowl

The Silver Birch Quiz Bowl was just as AMAZING. Last year, our ice cream truck vendor did not show up, disappointing many children. This year, he came, and made a lot of money from the participants. We started to worry when the lunch hour was nearly over and the line still stretched past the truck; however, my absolutely creative and ingenious fellow teacher-librarians came up with a plan - we brought the line inside and therefore, students could still watch the competition while still receiving their frozen treats! Brilliant! This was the second year that Percy Williams Junior Public School hosted the event and Jacqueline Burrell is a wonderful host. Tables were set in the library for students to place their lunch bags and coats. The gym was decorated. Her office administrator handled the payment for the guest author (- every school contributes, but organizing the transfer of funds was so smooth). Our author, Kira Vermond, was delighted to be with us and she entertained the students with her interactive presentation. I really appreciated how the parents of Percy Williams Jr. P.S. helped out with the book sales, counting Kira's float, tracking her sales, and keeping the purchase line calm. The Quiz Bowl itself was enjoyable. There were some questions that had no guesses, an unusual new trend, and we had to watch for reports of unlawful assistance from the audience, but it felt like a team effort paid off. Congratulations to Berner Trail Junior Public School for winning the non-fiction Quiz Bowl, and C. D. Farquharson Junior Public School for winning the fiction Quiz Bowl.

TLs from 9 schools + author Kira Vermond!

Me with our "host with the most" Jacqueline Burrell and ICE CREAM!

Missing the Festival of Trees

It's no big deal if I miss the festival, I told myself. I've been so many times before. I didn't realize how much I *would* miss it, how much I'd be missed by others, and how stressful it could be to keep 17 extra students (in the morning, about 21 in the afternoon - long story) from three separate classes occupied and properly supervised while *still* teaching my regular classes.

 At one point, when I had a Grade 1 class in the library, who were equally as distracted by the extra bodies, I had children acting up and others screaming because of the noise from those misbehaving at the carpet.

"STOP. IT." I practically hissed, with a lot of venom in my voice.

Their classroom teacher happened to pass through at that moment, and she said something like, "Use your strategies. It looks like Mrs. Mali is looking disregulated too. Help her."

She hit the nail right on the head. Students are not the only ones to become disregulated. It was harder for me to use self-regulation strategies I might prefer (like getting away from the situation!) because as a teacher, I'm supposed to be the one in charge. I had to remind myself that the mess, or noise level, or lack of focus was not meant to make me upset. It was not as productive a day as I might have liked it to be, but we survived.

The students that went on the trip had a wonderful time. The weather was ideal and I saw some marvelous photos of their experiences thanks to the teachers that went. It's always a lot of work to organize the trip, but their happy faces indicate that it's not something they want to miss.

Monday, May 15, 2017

You can't say that!

Last week, in between all the special events happening at school, I had my media students undertake a relatively simple task. We talked a little bit about fashion shows, because we plan on holding one in June to share selected outfits that the students created as part of their major term project. We discussed what models are and what they do at fashion shows. Then, I showed them a few of the images I found when I Googled "fashion show". (I embedded it in the IWB file I used to help with the lesson flow - some of those Google image results were a bit risque for my primary and junior division students.) We described the people we saw in these images and talked about implied messages - that these pictures suggest that only certain types of people are models. We listed these characteristics and talked about whether these implied messages were true. I was excited about this lesson because it provided a great opportunity to talk in age-appropriate ways about equity issues.

I discovered that for some classes, talking about equity issues and implied messages was easier said than done for one, big reason. The students had no problem sharing that most of the models were female, tall, and thin. When I asked what was the colour of their skin, or if a student mentioned that most of the models were white, several students would gasp as if someone said a "bad word".

"You can't say that! That's racist!", many students told me.

I found myself giving the same explanation to almost every class - it is not racist to talk about the colour of someone's skin. In fact, if we don't allow ourselves to bring it up in conversation, then how can we deal with it when truly racist things (like being unfair to someone because they are black or Asian/Chinese) happen?

Many of the students were still uncomfortable. On the short question and answer sheet I used to check for understanding, I asked "Who is often a model?". Students had the list we created together to refer to for ideas and spelling, yet lots of students were more likely to write the word "attractive" than "white".

There was a class that didn't seem as hesitant to discuss race, gender, or even sexual orientation. I suspect that a lot of this comfort and awareness has to do with their teacher. Siobhan Alexander is the Grade 5 teacher and the staff lead for Student Council. She has a real passion for social justice and does not shy away from controversial or uncomfortable topics. For instance, she and her class have spent a lot of time examining the horrors of the Canadian residential school system, and Siobhan encourages her class to find their voices and become passionate about issues that impact our global community. In fact, one of those special events I alluded to at the beginning of my post was our "We Walk for Water" Student Council fund raiser. The members of the Student Council visited each class to make a presentation explaining about the water crisis in Haiti. They sold rafiki bracelets made by Kenyan women to support their entrepreneurship as well as the Haiti water initiative. On Friday, each class was given a ten pound jug of water (which is just a quarter of the weight that Haitian women carry) and students took turns carrying it around on a neighbourhood walk. Students gained some empathy about others' situations as they mirrored a small portion of the daily duties of Haitian women collecting water.

Mrs. Alexander addresses the student body prior to our walk
I think that the students' reaction of "you can't say that" would be met as a challenge by Siobhan. Why not? We need more Siobhans - teachers courageous enough to deal with sensitive issues head-on and in creative ways that students will understand. There's more I'd like to say, but I can't. Thanks Mrs. Alexander for organizing this event and leading the Student Council. They raised over $2000 in a school with just 300 students to help Haiti, and this doesn't even include the other charity work the student council has undertaken this 2016-17 school year. Even better than the money is the compassion the students have developed - and that can make the world a better place.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Oops I Did It Again

Today's click-bait-worthy title refers to my return to Montreal for a wonderful conference - but it's so much more. In late March I was in Quebec for the QSLiN conference. May 4, 2017 was the wonderful ABQLA (l'Association des bibliothecaires due Quebec / Quebec Library Association) 85th annual conference. Here are a few photos I took while I was in town for ABQLA:

Here's the day's schedule ...

and here's some of my workshop participants during the "Milling to Music" section of my talk ...

and here I am showing some folks how to use DoInk on the iPad to do "green screen filming" ...

and here I am wearing a hospital gown in the Emergency department ...

Wait a second, you may be wondering - how did I get from the Gelber Conference Centre to the Jewish General Hospital? It's not that far, actually. It's only a three minute taxi drive, thank goodness. Sarcasm aside, I've taken a similar journey before, thanks to my anaphylaxis (aka my peanut and pine nut allergy).

This is what happened, in a nutshell (pardon the pun): at the ABQLA conference, they had a wonderful buffet lunch set up. I ate many wonderful things, including something not-so-wonderful - s pasta that had sauce that used pesto. I had about 2-4 noodles and stopped eating them quickly after that because it didn't taste good (and I had yummier things on my plate). My lip began to swell and then my throat started to feel funny. I checked with the conference site manager and sure enough, he confirmed that the pasta contained pesto. Pesto is made from pine nuts. Allergic reaction in process.

I've been to the hospital thanks to my allergies twice before - in 2015 with my good friend (and fellow teacher-librarian) Francis Ngo, and many years earlier where my good friend (and also teacher-librarian at the time) Peggy Thomas saved me. (This confirms that teacher-librarians are heroes.) You'd think that by now I'd be an expert on what exactly to do in this circumstance. After all, as teachers, we take the training every year on how to deal with using Epi-pens and life-threatening allergies. Yet, I was quite foolish. Here are several things that I did wrong. Don't do what I did!

1) I didn't inform my dining companions that I was having an anaphylaxic attack.

The irony of this action is heavy - we had just been talking about food allergies and one of my companions was being extra careful because she has a nut and soy allergy. Why didn't I tell anyone? The excuses are rather trivial - I didn't want to alarm anyone. I didn't want to make a fuss or ruin anyone's lunch. I didn't know people well and I didn't want to inconvenience them. Doesn't that sound ridiculous when it's written out like this? Yet, one of my fellow teachers (Kerri Commisso) said she's heard of people who are choking do the very same thing I did - slip out quietly to try and deal with the problem themselves. It was May 4 - my Star Wars lesson should have been not to go Solo!

2) I went by myself to the hospital and only told one person I was going.

It was only a short distance away, but I was in a different city far from home. What might have happened if I had collapsed en route to the emergency department? Silly me - I was quite confident that I had twenty minutes before my throat would close up, because that's what occurred the last two times I had a serious reaction. Because of this "I have time" attitude, I made a third error.

3) I did not give myself the epinephrine shot.

I've never stabbed myself. I tried the first time I had a severe reaction, but I was too weak from lack of oxygen so Peggy did it. The second time, Francis did it. This time, I waited. I felt like I had time and, to be honest, I didn't have the courage to inject myself. (Remember in an earlier post, I said I have a fear of needles?) I also knew that after having an epi-pen shot, medical personnel will keep you in the hospital for observation for four hours. I felt, with a terribly skewed sense of priorities, that I didn't want to have to wait that long. I had planned on driving back to Toronto right after lunch. I never considered that if I waited too long that I might not be in a condition to drive - period. The emergency room doctor told me that I should not wait to give myself the needle. I was more annoyed at myself than scared during this ordeal, but the one moment that did frighten me was when I was being seen by the triage reception person and I realized that twenty minutes had passed since I first ate the contaminated food. I thought to myself that this is the part when my throat will close up, just like the other times, and I haven't taken action yet. I spoke to the person checking me and he reassured me that if he saw that I needed it, he'd stab me himself. He said that they'd treat the reaction in a slightly different way and they did - I had an intravenous of Benedryl. I had to be kept under observation for two hours to see if I was okay.

Once I was feeling more stable, I texted my friend in Toronto. Poor Julian Taylor, the ABQLA conference coordinator, sent me some worried texts and emails, because he had heard second hand that I was in hospital. (Sorry Julian!) I waited until I was out of the hospital before calling my husband. Despite offers of extra hotel nights and supply teacher coverage, I just wanted to go home, so I drove myself back to Toronto (in the rain, in the dark, by myself - I'm stubborn and not always smart).

I need to learn from my mistakes. I really need to be more careful with what I eat (and avoid foods that might contain pine nuts and peanuts). I need to be brave and give myself a shot without angst or hesitation. I need to throw concerns about social niceties out the window and tell people (even strangers) when I might be in trouble. It could be a matter of life or death.

P.S. It's not all about me. Check the #abqla17 Twitter feed for some highlights from the day.