Monday, March 2, 2015

4Ever Friends




What better way to end off a cold Canadian February than with four friends having a blog date?  



On the last Thursday of the month, I met with my colleagues/friends Trista Dutt, Jocelyn Schmidt, and Vanessa Bianchi at the Indigo in Yorkdale Mall.  I remember sitting together at the Starbucks with our colourful accessories/technology, and an employee approaching us to complement our style.   Of course,  I couldn't help myself and had to share with her that we were bloggers blogging about our meeting! She was interested and looked forward to following our posts, which made us instantly recognize that we were indeed onto something very special...





To say our brainstorming sessions was inspirational, would be a very strong understatement!  I totally wish that I could bottle up our energy and ideas to share with all of you.  Hopefully this blog post will do it justice!



For those of you who don't know who we are/our blogs, the four of us work for the York Region District School Board, as teachers.  We are all bloggers, who connect often through social media and my #CTInquiry network (Connected through inquiry: A curious community of learners).  These interactions paired with online/face-to-face collaboration have brought us all closer together as friends.  I admire their work and feel very fortunate to know them!  




The reason why I called this blogging date, was to celebrate friendship month.  I like to spend time with like-minded educators who are positive and push my thinking/learning foreword.  It is always a joy to inspire and leave feeling inspired!  After we started chatting, our session turned into more than I could have ever hoped for!  We made the decision to meet bi-monthly as a blogging community and to call ourselves "Four-Ever Inspired."




Who are we collectively and what do we stand "four?"


#4EverInspired: A Mosaic of creativity, learning, and dreaming.


One day a group of four educators and friends came together with a common desire to search for innovative experiences. Follow their stories, as they collaborate and share their unique perspectives and personalities.  #4EverInspired hope to take you on a colourful journey of art, inquiry, classroom design and more…


Prepare to be inspired, challenged, and most especially surprised!!!






Now, meet the faces behind the blogs:





-Trista Dutt-


Trista Dutt has a degree in Early Childhood Education, as well as her Bachelor of Education in Primary/Junior divisions, Intermediate Qualification and Kindergarten Specialist. She is currently in her fifth year of FDK at Moraine Hills Public School, where she is a K-2 Lead Teacher and Learning@Schools Classroom. She is passionate about the early years and enjoys exploring the world of play- and inquiry-based learning.


I met Trista at several professional learning opportunities from our Kindergarten Network to my annual Open House Events.  She later enrolled in my Kindergarten Additional Qualification course at York University #yorkukaq and was inspired to transform her practice, as well as begin her very own blog.  What drew my attention to Trista was her smile and sweet spirit.  She is calm, positive, and always so willing to learn (and a fast learner at that)!  Over the summer a friend of mine’s daughter attended her Building Blocks for Kindergarten program, and shared with me how impressed he was about her approach and understanding of early learning.  I felt like a proud parent, but cannot take credit for her hard work and dedication…



-Jocelyn Schmidt-


Jocelyn Schmidt has her Bachelor of Education in Primary/Junior divisions, her Intermediate qualifications and Reading Specialist. She is currently teaching her fourth year of FDK and is excited to be a Learning@Schools Classroom for a second year. Jocelyn is excited to be teaching at a brand new school this year, Robert Munsch Public School, since it is also a unique  K-3 school in our board. She is passionate about the early years, play and learning through inquiry and is an innovative explorer of technology to promote 21st Century learners.


I met Jocelyn through Twitter and her amazing blog, “Our Kindergarten Journey.”  She also attended my Open House Events with her teaching partner Heidi Theis, a fellow Reggio-inspired educator.  It impressed me how they collaborated as a FDK (Full-Day Kindergarten) team.  I often saw them together at conferences, network meetings, and school visits.  What struck me about Jocelyn, was her incredible knowledge about technology and her strong collaboration skills.  She opens up her practice through her blog/for face-to-face visits and is truly dedicated to her own quest of lifelong learning while supporting that of others teaching Kindergarten!  Jocelyn is a relatively new teacher, but her beliefs about inquiry are well beyond her years!  I look forward to seeing where her journey leads...




-Vanessa Bianchi-


Vanessa Bianchi is an educator for the York Region District School Board, who is currently serving as a Grade 5 Homeroom Teacher. Through various leadership opportunities, workshops, conferences and collaborative efforts with colleagues, she has gained an interest in building positive and collaborative climates within the school environment. This collaboration allows for the design of intriguing spaces for students and teachers to learn, as well as construct curricular expectations around student-interest and passions, allowing for a dynamic educational experience.


I met Vanessa through Jocelyn, and really got to know her when the two of us joined forces at the new school we moved to, Anne Frank P.S.  It is easier for me to remember our first interaction, as it is fresh in my mind!  Vanessa came up to me during a staff/community event to say hello and congratulate me on my acceptance into York University’s PhD program.  We quickly realized that we had a lot in common and often spend hours chatting about education and life in either her classroom or my library!  Vanessa is enthusiastic, an outside-the-box thinker (like myself!), and a creative artist.  Together we are collaborating on a Kindergarten and Grade 5 inquiry about colour.  I wonder how this project will unfold…




-Me (Joanne Marie Babalis)-


Joanne Marie Babalis is a Teacher-Librarian, Early Years/Inquiry Lead Teacher, PhD student, and Kindergarten Additional Qualification instructor at York University.  She is passionate about designing spaces that inspire inquiry-based learning and creative innovation for twenty-first century learners.  Her blog, "TransformEd: Transforming our Learning Environment into a Space of Possibilities" www.myclassroomtransformation.blogspot.ca continues to reach educators throughout Canada and beyond.  With each post, she hopes to make visible the power of inquiry, as well as the strong potential of all learners.


Pretty awesome group right?!  How lucky am I that they agreed to go on this adventure with me?






During our blog date, I noticed that we all had fun accessories that covered our Starbucks table! I was curious to find out what was inside everyone's workbag…  Aren’t you wondering the same thing?




I brought my favourite Great Gatsby Kate Spade Bag with the following materials:

  • Colourful markers from Chapters/Indigo
  • A pencil case filled with post-it notes, papermate pens, and sharpies
  • My tech: iPhone with a bride/groom case from my recent wedding and iPad in a striped black and white case (both cases from Kate Spade)
  • Professional resources, which included the books "Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives," "Inquiry Circles in Action: Comprehension and Collaboration," and the Professionally Speaking magazine.
  • M.A.C. cosmetics for a quick touch after a long day
  • Yellow Great Gatsby Notebook (also by you guessed it Kate Spade!) that I felt had good energy, as the first half of it was used to plan my creative Great Gatsby Masquerade Ball (see previous post for more details)
  • Two shirts that I needed to exchange size wise at the mall from H&M and Forever21 (HOWEVER, was so engrossed in our conversation that I completely ran out of time to walk through the mall.  You know that I am engaged and invested when shopping does not even distract me!) (Wish I could insert some fun emoticons here… Guess that's why I love Instagram so much!!!)






Can you feel our excitement brewing? Hope that you enjoyed our first post! A huge thank you to Jordan from Indigo Yorkdale who took the photos of us together, as well as the lovely ladies who were willing to tag along with my crazy ideas!!  




Reflectively yours,


#4EverInspired xoxo






“Four” more on…


…what was in Trista's workbag visit her post, “The Start of Something Truly Inspirational.”


…what was in Jocelyn's workbag visit her post, “Always learning; Four-Ever Inspired.”


…what was in Vanessa's workbag visit her post, “Fourever inspired: A collaboration.”




Around here we don't look backwards for very long…


We keep moving forward, opening up new doors,


And doing NEW things because we're curious…


And Curiosity keeps leading us down New paths.


                                                                                           -Unknown