Being blessed is a good thing. It can mean to be endowed with a particular attribute (“Edmonton is blessed with a fantastic river valley.”) OR to express/ give gratitude (“I bless the day Amy joined my class.”). In this post, I use both versions of ‘blessed’ – intentionally and purposefully – to refer to the way I feel after spending the better part of two weeks with this crew in the picture to the right: the inaugural 2018 #hpeMEd cohort in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. Let me explain further.
A graduate level cohort for Health & Physical Education (HPE) has been a dream of mine for 8+ years. Over that time, I have talked with numerous educators across the world about their wants and needs for such a cohort, reviewed countless other programs and degrees, made several failed attempts and finally, with some key support, made it happen. I feel blessed to work at an institution that provides room for dreams to take flight.
As mentioned, I have had critical conversations with many people over the years that helped to create the structure, content and philosophy of the cohort. However, there are two key people that I need to call out specifically. Dr. Maryanne Doherty – Maryanne has been a mentor to me for over 10 years. She supported my PhD as chair of the defence committee, was the best Interim Department Chair I have ever had (the only one really, but still the best!), convinced me to dip my toe into academic leadership (still not sure if that was a good thing…) and, has been a stalwart supporter of the HPE cohort concept. Dr. Lauren Sulz – Lauren has become a stellar colleague over the past 3.5 years and an even better friend. She has been a much needed sounding board for lots of crazy ideas, can always be depended on to question those ideas critically – then add her own and, has been a hugely valuable addition to her Department, the Faculty and the University. I am blessed to work with friends and colleagues who can critique a dream, make it better and then are willing to come along for the ride!
Once the cohort application was approved (June 2016) we had to do the most important thing – recruit students! This process involved a mailing list of over 120 people, several webinars, numerous phone conversations and countless emails – all leading to an application deadline of December 1, 2017 that resulted in 24 brand new MEd students and the launch of our first ever HPE MEd Cohort in the Summer term of 2018. We are blessed to have a supportive department and the structure to deliver a blended MEd program.
We (officially) began this journey together on July 3, 2018 with two intensive, on campus classes over the course of eleven days. Our student group comes from across Canada (and 1 beyond!) and includes teachers of all sorts (specialists, generalists, public schools, private schools, etc.), an administrator, department heads and several consultants. For an overview of the cohort and profiles of students and instructors, check out our website. We are hopeful that the next cohort can begin in the Summer of 2020 – details will be on the website. Lauren taught the first class, Physical and Health Literacy and I taught the second on Knowing and Being: Foundations of HPE. After the first week, which included debate, discussion, tears, reflection, peer coaching, lots of laughter and even more learning (I know I wasn’t teaching but I had a hard time staying away…), Lauren asked all the students to describe their experience with one word. Although I can’t recall exactly what everyone said, there were certainly words like challenge, relationships, questioning, learning, etc. That moment was actually the inspiration for this post because the word that leapt to my tongue was, you guessed it, BLESSED. In addition to the blessings already mentioned we are also:
- blessed to spend 2 weeks alongside 24 professionals who took a risk and joined us on this journey
- blessed to work with instructors who share a vision of excellence, challenge, critique and growth
- blessed to learn FROM 24 stellar people in all sorts of ways
- blessed to watch professional relationships grow and prosper in peer-coaching pairs, small groups and as a whole cohort
- blessed to laugh, move and cry together
- blessed to disagree, debate and discuss
- blessed to reflect and then reflect on those reflections – alone and with others
- blessed to have these very special 24 people involved in the education of children and youth in a myriad of ways
Looking forward to next eight tenths of the MEd (that was for you Lindsay!) that we have left together, the blessings to come and the relationships that will continue to grow long after!