Tech Integration: Are you mapping it?

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

A few weeks ago I was on a campus, but not my campus. I was speaking with some technology teachers. They would prefer to be called tech-integrators. After a short and very succinct speech about their beliefs in the technology integration model, I ask them two questions. In both cases, the answers were not what they should have been.

Question 1: Is the integration scheduled, or do you wait for teachers to come to you? 

The answer was a very common one, teachers come to us. This model has some very defensible merits. The driving force is that a few technology integrators can focus on class projects, over longer periods of time, and use their own initiative to improve technology in the classroom.

This main issue with this model is learning accountability. The is no accountability for what students need, and no metric stating what students need.

For example, the IB Design Technology SL programme recommends 150 total teaching hours. This indicates that a group of people looked at the entire course experience and the desired outcomes can concluded that students need 150 hours.

A technology integration model needs the same discussion and it needs some metrics. Since technology integration is not a new concept, determining how many hours students need to be engaging with a differentiated curriculum in a “knowable thing”.

Without determining the metrics, how can anyone conclude an on-demand model is the best way to proceed?

The school should have a core set of technology related standards for teachers and students. The technology integration program needs to be able to add metrics to these standards, set standards for contact time, and track how all these requirements are being met. This is normal accountability.

Aside from accountability within the integration technology curriculum, another major issue with the on-demand planning is that people tend to work in their comfort zones. People tend to develop patterns. Because of this, they will often want to engage students in a routine and predictable way. Routine and predictable does not equal learning. Trial and error equal learning.

Breaking routine and creating opportunity takes a plan. A plan in a school needs some type of schedule so that people can jump in and join. Just like any class (in school and out of school) students need to find a time to explore, and finding time means knowing the options.

Question 2: How are you mapping or tracking what you are doing?

The answer was not straightforward. I do believe, if under the scope of certification, there would be evidence in lesson plans and emails. However, as a school administrator I want to be able to have a quick snapshot of what is happening in any and all classrooms. Whatever tools the teachers are using for curriculum tracking and mapping, the integration team should be using as well.

Let’s talk about Atlas Rubicon.

I am not an Atlas Rubicon pundit. However, when I work with their developers, and I have a clear report driven goal, I get results. In other words, my school gets results.

If a school is running a technology integration model, and the school is using Atlas or any other curriculum tracking system, there should be a mandate to track integration technology and cross-curricular integrations. The latter is often forgotten, but it goes hand-in-glove with integration technology.

This what modifying an Atlas template to track technology integration and cross-curricular integrations would look like:

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Here is what a simple report looks like in terms of data entry on every subject, and every map:

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I can run this report for all year levels in about 10 minutes. I can review the work planned and the work that has already been done. The cross-curricular report is great for discussions. The data is simple, and could easily be part of monthly department level meetings.

With systems like Atlas, the integration team can have access to all the maps. They can make certain this data is collected, they can add notes, and they can contribute to the reflections.

Question 3: Whose fault is it?

This is the question that was on my mind for a few weeks after the initial experience. Upon reflecting on programs that I have been involved in, and programs I am currently involved in, I decided the blame was always clearly on my shoulders when accountability was lacking. As the administrator providing oversight I should require accountability on a level that is reportable, encapsulated, and not taxing for the educational technology team.

If I am the person who leads or supervises the educational technology planning, I should be assigning metrics for minimum contact time, maximum exposure, and differentiation. The technology integration team should be focused on delivery an excellent program to meet those metrics.

I guess the question is, do we know what we don’t know and how can we find out?

 

 

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Should I raise my own children internationally… or settle down?

Title: Should I raise my own children internationally… or settle down?

I have heard this question stated in many forms by both veteran international school educators and those who never worked overseas as educators.

Educators seek out positions overseas for a variety of reasons* (more on the catalysts for this move in a later blog) and often go as singles or couples with no children.  At some point during their career and migrations, they partner-up and/or wish to have children.  When the conversation about ‘starting a family’ floats across the kitchen table (or the bedroom), the discussion then switches to, ‘should we go home and … settle down?’

Other educators have taken their families overseas for a short experience, and when it morphs into a decision about a longer time frame, also begin to question the impact on their children.

I have also met educators stateside, who, after hearing about the world of international education, are intrigued by our lifestyle living and working overseas. When I tried to encourage them to consider a similar career move and lifestyle change, the response often is “oh, I couldn’t do that to my children.” They were paralyzed by the fear of the perceived ‘harm’ they would do to their children.  “We’ll think about it after the youngest goes off to college” or “  …  after we retire.”

Indeed, these concerns were the prime reason for my research**, as an international educator—both to answer the questions in my own head and heart – and to help others who question this lifestyle-career decision.  We all want to know the potential effects on our children.

Responses from readers helped me realized that my subsequent book*** touched on a sensitive and necessary topic. The responses were often emotional, as complete strangers described their personal experiences and expressed their thanks for identifying, analyzing and addressing so many of their own issues – as children growing up as EdKids or adults who are raising EdKids while on their international journeys. Most indicated that they were rarely able to discuss the issues openly in the past.  They told me how cathartic it was to ‘hear’ the voices of the children-students, the parent-educators and the counselors. Some administrators wrote to tell me that they are using the book for new teacher orientation and staff development.  Wow!  I was flattered, humbled and pleased that it has been so helpful.

No, this is not a pitch to sell more books, as I will be writing excerpts from the book in this blog. I truly believe that learning more about this topic will help international school administrators, counselors, parent-educators, colleagues, students, Board members and other community members better understand the dynamics of the educator-family unit. Thus, they will be able to enjoy the pleasures, identify and learn to avoid the pitfalls, reduce the angst and improve relationships, communications, well-being and quality of life/work for all members of the community.

In fact, I would like to use this blog as a platform for your comments, observations and experiences.  Please write to me as a parent-educator, an administrator, a counselor in an international school and/or a educator-child of educators (yes, 30% typically become educators themselves).  I’d love to hear your ‘voices.’

Dr. Zilber is available for seminars and training on a variety of topics. She enjoys receiving comments from readers and colleagues in international schools. Contact her at ettie.zilber@gmail.com

Citations:

*Zilber, E. (2015). The Catalysts for a Career in International Schools. Unpublished Independent Research. InterEd, p. 29

**Zilber, E.   (2005): Perceptions of children of International School Educators: An Exploratory Study of Third Culture Kids. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA.

*** Zilber, E.  (2009). Third Culture Kids: Children of International School Educators.  UK: John Catt.

**** Zilber, E., (2005): International school educators and their children: Implications for educator/parents, colleagues and schools, in Journal of Research on International Education, 4, (1), pp5-22.

 

Posted in Ettie Zilber | 2 Comments

Embracing Regret

        So I’ve been going through the interview process a lot lately, both as a candidate and as a recruiter, and one of the questions that keeps coming up has to do with the idea of mistake making and regret. It’s a good question honestly, as it gets you to reflect critically on your approach to failure, and whether or not your past has impacted your present in a positive or negative way. Mistakes and regrets can be framed very differently I think depending on your mindset…they can be opportunities for growth and action, or they can be a hinderance and debilitating both personally and professionally…it’s all in how you respond, and how your frame the experience.
        Because of these recent interviews I’ve been thinking deeply about this, and it’s given me the chance to look back on how I’ve reacted to the many mistakes that I’ve made, and how the regrets in my life have impacted who I am as a person and as a leader. I’ve come to realize that the more you embrace your failures, the more you grow and the more you learn. It’s the mistakes in your life that shape who you are, and as long as you open your mind, reflect, and do better the next time around, your mistakes, regrets and failures can ultimately become the most powerful opportunities that you have in your life.
        Luckily, I don’t have many true regrets in my life but I certainly have a few. One of them, which I still think about on a regular basis, has shaped who I am as a leader in a very profound way. You see, almost ten years ago, during my first year as an administrator, I had the opportunity to advocate for a student who needed my support. This student was being bullied by a teacher and needed me to stand up for them. The relationship was negatively impacting this student’s ability to be successful in school, and it warranted a hard conversation and some quick action from me…but as it turned out, I lacked the educational courage to do what I needed to do. I’m not proud of that experience, and it haunts me to this day, but looking back on it, it may just be the most important leadership lesson that I’ve ever learned. From that moment on, every time that I have been faced with a hard conversation, or a difficult decision, I think of that kid…and the conversation becomes easier. Because of that one incident, that regret, I no longer lack the courage that is needed to be a true student advocate, and ultimately, dealing with difficult situations has become a strength of mine…it’s all about learning, growing, and becoming better…and seeing a regret, or a mistake as an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
        I’ve since reached out to that student, and we talked through the incident from both our perspectives, and I apologized for not being there when they needed me. Our relationship is stronger now than it was and they have forgiven me, which is the next key ingredient to growing and becoming better…forgiveness. People will make mistakes, and it is easy to hold grudges or to judge, and to let it affect you in unhealthy ways. The way to move forward, and to truly own your life is to forgive, and to let it go. I know it’s hard but it’s freeing for both parties. I’ve made a practice of forgiving in my life, and I’ve learned to say what it is that I need to say to people. One of the biggest forms of regret are the things that go unsaid. The times in your life when you didn’t thank someone when they deserved your appreciation, or when you didn’t tell someone you loved them enough, or when you held your tongue when you really should of spoken your truth. Well, it’s not too late…
        I’m asking you all this week to do two things…First, think of a person or persons in your life who deserve to hear from you…either a “thank you”, or an “I love you” or an “I’m sorry”… say what you need to say and get it off your chest…don’t wait for it to become a regret down the road. Secondly, think of someone who has wronged you in some way and forgive them…move on. I guarantee that it will be freeing and it will ease our mind in many ways. Let things go that are bringing negative energy into your life and take control. For my part, I’m off to write a couple of emails to people who need to hear from me and I’m excited about it. I hope that you will take some time this week to do the same. Mistakes, failures and regrets don’t have to be negative experiences…they can be framed as opportunities for growth and powerful learnings…embrace them…hold them close to your chest, and do better. It’s all about your mindset and approach. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind – C.S. Lewis

 

Interesting Articles/Websites –

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious/201008/5-key-things-weve-learned-about-regret

http://www.womenunlimitedworldwide.com/how-to-move-on-from-regret/

http://thinksimplenow.com/wisdom/how-to-deal-with-regret/

http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/why-its-perfectly-okay-to-have-regrets/

http://www.spirituallivingforbusypeople.com/embrace-regret

 

Great TED Talk – Embracing Regret (Kathryn Schulz)

https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_don_t_regret_regret

 

Inspiring Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxyxywShewI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t186tlhjvMk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghk-nDJB3Tk

http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning?c=tpstream

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Best Practices : Do they really exist?

Dedicated teachers are always looking to be informed by current thinking, and to live up to what educators often call ‘best practice.’ But that’s a surprisingly complex idea, and it may even be that there is actually no such single thing. Maybe ‘best practice’ is a phrase that means different things in different contexts.

Best Practice: Just because we have common words for it, doesn't mean it exists across all contexts.

Best Practices: Just because we have common words, doesn’t mean they exist across all contexts.

For example, what’s ‘best practice’ in teaching mathematics? Many educators are familiar with the numerous US studies showing the efficacy of cooperative learning in terms of raising attainment. And it makes sense – we know that there is nothing that helps you learn something as well as having to teach it; and that having peers explain sometimes puts ideas in familiar language. So are collaborative practices ‘best practice’?

In this article three researchers report on a series of well-designed UK studies which show that students in those classrooms where collaborative practices were adopted did no better than control groups. This flies in the face of accepted wisdom; and the message we can draw is fascinating. The researchers identified two crucial differences between UK and US schools; firstly that they used interim assessments in very different ways; and secondly, that they approached differentiated instruction in very different ways. And these differences were intertwined with the differences in the success of collaborative practices.

The conclusion is that the effectiveness of a practice cannot be judged in isolation; one practice rests on a whole system. They write “Teaching methods proven to be effective in one culture and system cannot be assumed to be effective in another. We remain convinced that the cooperative learning strategies that have been found in North American research to be effective in mathematics can be made to work in England, but they are going to require further adaption to the traditions and expectations of teaching in English schools. Given the many similarities between North American and UK contexts, this cautionary tale should perhaps give even more pause to those who propose importing approaches from much more exotic locales.”

For me, this is fascinating, and it shows that it isn’t always possible to identify a ‘best practice’ because it all depends on context. This basic fact – more familiar, perhaps to students of the humanities than of the sciences – explains many unresolved controversies; whether to group by ability in mathematics; whether to offer awards; what maximum class size should be. There is no single better answer – the right thing depends on the context. So while research can tell us a lot, the ultimate touchstone must be our strong sense of identity and vision.

This explains why, with so many different backgrounds, we will have different views. It explains why great schools will be achieve greatness – as measured by student learning – in different ways, and it explains why we need to address issues as systems, in all their complexities, and not simply treat them in isolation.

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By Nicholas Alchin | Follow me on Twitter @nicholas_alchin

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Election 2016: The Day After

November 9th, 2016.  As is so common at this time of year, weather changes and busy schedules create teacher fatigue and weakened immune systems. As such, I stayed home today in my pajamas in order to get some much-needed rest.

Instead, I found myself glued to the CNN election coverage from the moment I woke up (at 5:00 a.m., like always–go figure).  I was hanging on to the incoming results of each congressional district the same way I hung on to every pitch of World Series game seven last week.  Unfortunately, today’s results didn’t provide me the feelings of relief and jubilation that I experienced for the Cubs. Rather, I sit here dismayed, sad, and wondering what I will say to my students tomorrow.  

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, most Americans will agree that something needs to change in the way politics works in the USA. That sentiment is precisely what led to today’s outcome.  People are angry, frustrated, and feel that their voices aren’t being heard.

But what do I say to those fifth graders I greet tomorrow morning?  When we have our morning meeting where we share and laugh with each other, what will they want to talk about? I have a pretty good idea…but how do I respond?  

During the results coverage, political commentator Van Jones asked, “How do I explain this to my children?” He is certainly not alone in seeking the answer.  Like most teachers, I work to teach my students compassion and integrity.  I guide them to respect and celebrate their differences, rather than frown upon them. I teach them to accept others, embrace mistakes and failures, and live by The Golden Rule. Their emotional growth and well-being, as well as their place in society, are just as important to me as their ability to multiply fractions…if not more so.  But it’s not just me that feels this way; this is why so many of us became teachers.  We don’t do it just to increase students’ knowledge–we do it to impact their lives and enhance their character.

And yet, here we are.  The United States has just elected into power someone who has shown a pattern of bullying behaviors that we would never accept from even our youngest students.  We have elected a person who has spoken unkindly of others based on physical appearances, gender, race and religion. A person who, time and time again, has demonstrated the opposite of the leadership qualities we hope to instill in our students.  

So what do we do?  Well, I am going to start by doing what I do every day: model the same values I aim to teach my students. I am going to treat all of my friends and colleagues with kindness and respect, even if they have different views than me.  I am going to remain positive and believe that the world will keep moving forward, even when it might feel as though we’ve taken a giant step back.  I am going to refrain from arguments with friends on social media.  I will show my students how to demonstrate compassion, use kind words, and be empathetic. I will continue to teach them to question, argue, and defend their positions.  Perhaps most importantly, I will teach them to listen to each other.  It’s time we adults learn to do that as well.

Posted in Shannon Fehse | 8 Comments

Hour of Code: It Is Not Enough

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By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

The Hour of Codeis a very popular event and activity hosted by Code.org. Millions of students around the world participate in the large coordinated events, and continue to use the website to learn programming. Code.org is a good resource to get students and teachers interested in programming.

In the last year I have listened to numerous educators and administrators comment how their school participated in The Hour of Code. In many instances, I felt that these people believed this single event, and or uncoordinated participation of classes on the Code.org website, constituted a real effort in problem solving, computer science, design, and programming. I have news for everyone, an hour of programming, or even a month on Code.org, is only a half-step on a very long journey.

The Scope

When an educator thinks about the word mathematics they will cycle through categories of mathematics. These include, but are not limited to, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, applied math, statistical analysis, etc. Computer programming, no matter how graphical, has always been based on mathematics. If a student asked if they could do math for an hour once a year would that be celebrated?

The IEEE, which sets standards for engineering and technology worldwide, recently listed the top 10 programming languages in use in 2016:

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Students would need to be exposed to at least three of these languages in order to find meaningful understanding outside of the classroom environment. In a balanced programming curriculum, students would spend at least a year with a new language, while incorporating any other languages they have learned.

The scope is immense. Within each language are tools and nuances that need to be explored. A student does not need to master three languages, but they need to know how to read them, research within them, and implement solutions by following best practice design patterns.

Programming (Coding) is not Computer Science (CS)

In a programming module or course, students can freely create, and create for a variety of audiences. Students can solve problems, make random games, or simply create a utility to improve a user experience.

In a computer science (CS) module or course students need to look at a problem, study a set of data, create a hypothesis, and test that hypothesis. Here is an example of a computer science activity.

Spending small amounts of time exploring programming does not develop the skills needed to engage in CS driven initiative. K-12 curricula need to specifically define CS modules and standards. Educators need to be cautious of students working without testing ideas and well articulated theories. Accidents happening outside the context of understanding will often be confused with competence.

10,000 Hours

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

There are 52 workweeks in a year. The standard North American workweek is 40 hours long. That is around 2080 workweek hours a year. In roughly five years, a person could develop a new mastery if they solely focused on that endeavour.

Students, however, cannot do the same thing everyday for five years. Students need a well rounded education, and time is in high demand and short supply. In fact, if students used only their scheduled time for programming, they would need 17-21 hours a week for 13 years, to reach 10,000 hours of mastery.

I am not an advocate of an unbalanced and obsessive lifestyle. To help students choose a healthy and steady path to mastery, the curriculum needs to encourage independent study, portability, and third-party opportunities.

Independent study is critical to develop competency in programming or CS. Independent study requires students to find problems and propose solutions. Teachers giving students problems to solve on a flexible schedule is not the same as a true independent study.

Portability simply refers to the students ability to work anywhere. Students are people, and people find inspiration in the most random of places. When inspiration hits, work needs to happen.

In 2005-2007, I developed a partnership with Sun Microsystems in the Middle East and my school. They had a training division (and separate training company). I wanted my computer science students to learn Linux with corporate professionals. This third-party relationship was the first I had ever created for students, and it was one of the best opportunities I have ever given students. Schools need to make these relationships, and if possible, allow the experiences to happen off-campus.

Programs like The Hour of Code are fun and engaging. However, as educators and professionals we cannot lose sight of the goal. All of us must help students find new opportunities, choose a path to mastery, and keep them moving after 100s of potential hours of disappointment.

Mastery does not mean you are finished learning, it means you have accepted you will never stop learning.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Itchy feet. Less-than-ideal work environments. Hyperinflation of currency. Disagreements with policy or administration. Being closer to family. Safety and security issues. Dating opportunities…or lack thereof. Stability for the kids. Desire to try something new.

No matter your reason for wanting to move on from one international teaching post to another, there comes a point when you feel it is “time to go”. But what constitutes an optimal length of time to stay at a school?  Most international educators sign initial contracts for two years, with the opportunity to stay beyond that contract if both parties (teacher and school) are willing. Is that enough? Or do schools expect more than that without requiring it outright in the contract?

This has been a topic of conversation amongst many of my international colleagues recently; one which has stirred up many differing opinions and experiences. The question we’ve been trying to answer? “What do schools think about [hiring] a teacher that has stayed two years at 2-3 schools in a row?”

The answer is complicated, obviously. It depends on the school itself, the views of the administrators who are doing the hiring, the resume of the job-seeker, and his or her reasons for leaving schools after only an initial contract, among other factors.

Schools generally want to see some longevity in their faculty. Sure, many of us are travelers by nature who want to explore the world and try out new countries, cultures, languages. But when we sign a contract to teach overseas, our primary responsibility is to our school and our students, not sticking pins in a map.

Only since this conversation began with colleagues a few days ago did I first hear the term “teacher tourist”, but I immediately knew what it meant. In fact, I’ll admit that when I first went overseas in my mid-20’s, I may have fallen into this category. I was excited to see the world and didn’t want to become stagnant in any given place. I signed my first one-year contract not even considering the possibility that I’d want to stay for a second year. I was eager to gain experiences, but at that time, professional growth was not my primary goal.

It wasn’t until an interview in which I was specifically asked about my 1-year, 2-year, 2-year resume that I realized maybe it was time to stay a bit longer in a place. After all, the administrator said, “Staying longer doesn’t just show that you are willing to commit, but it shows that the school is willing to extend your contract.”

Of course, there are often solid reasons for not extending a contract. When personal safety is a concern, or one’s host country is experiencing political turmoil, even the best-laid plans may take a rapid turn. When a family member at home becomes ill, or financial concerns take precedence, a teacher may decide that it is time to move on, even if their intention had been to stay a longer period of time.

If a resume shows a pattern of short-term stays in several different countries or schools, administrators are likely to mention this during an interview. By providing a strong rationale, a teacher may be able to convince the administrator that this does not reflect a lack of commitment; rather, that extenuating circumstances contributed to leaving. However, there is also a chance that an administrator may not even be willing to interview a teacher with such a pattern on their work history. Some teachers who chimed in on this conversation said that their administrators would simply discard resumes that showed multiple short stays in schools or countries.

International schools make an investment in their teachers, monetarily as well as for the program in which they work. Dee Norman, a theater teacher who spent eight years working in Mexico before recently relocating to Dubai had this to say, “If you are not going to stick around for long, then why would they invest the visa money, housing, and PD time to work with you, when they can find an equally qualified candidate who will give them 3+ years? I am not admin, but it sounds like good business to me.”

On some annual government reports on schools in the United States, one of the indicators of stable and higher-quality schools is faculty retention. While some international schools are places of high turnover–for faculty and students alike–many schools pride themselves on the average number of years their teachers remain at the school. When faculty stay longer than their initial contracts, it provides much-needed program continuity, which in turn helps student learning and staff morale.

On the other hand, if teachers are not invested for the long-term, it is very challenging to create any long-lasting positive change.  As many of us are well aware, during the first year of a contract, a new teacher is settling in, becoming acclimated to the school environment, curriculum, and expectations. If that same teacher is already seeking a new job in the second year (often within the first two months of the school year), he or she has never truly had the opportunity to settle in before they are already on their way out the door.

Because the key decision-makers in the hiring process are school administrators, I asked my current principal, Jonathan Johnson (known by many as Zeb) his perspective on this topic. He told me that “recruiters are definitely looking for teachers who are committed, and teachers who are successful.  When people stay in a school for just 2 years, it usually signals that something didn’t work out.  Either the person just saw the opportunity as a chance to live in a new place–which is important, but is not why people are hired, or they didn’t feel they could fit in the school’s community–also not a great sign.”

Ultimately, teachers need to determine the course of action that makes the most sense for them, their family, safety, and finances, as well as consider the school and students for whom they are working. Job-hunting can be emotionally exhausting and moving is expensive, but deciding to stay in a difficult or unhealthy environment may not be the best choice.  Weighing the pros and cons of this decision can be extremely challenging. However, teachers who have had a few short “stints” at several consecutive schools may strongly consider signing on for an extra year at their present location.  Doing so helps demonstrate commitment and shows that the school itself is willing to continue a professional relationship.

Leaving a school after an initial contract is often a difficult decision, but there is no question that longevity among faculty is better for the consistency of the school. Moving every 1-2 years just for the sake of moving, without strong reasons, can eventually cause challenges for a teacher in search of a job. Administrators in international schools are generally understanding of the desire to travel and gain new experiences, but they also have to consider what is best for their programs. According to Jonathan, ”Wanderlust hits us all, but we have to weigh the desire to see the world with the desire to make a difference in a school community, which tends to happen after the initial year(s) of the contract.”

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Kindly Perfectionism

I have heard it said that the happiest person on the Olympic podium is usually the bronze medallist, and the saddest is usually the silver medallist.  The former is delighted with the medal he got, the latter distraught over the medal he missed (apparently the gold medallist is often just relieved!).  So attainment and happiness are not tightly linked.

The same can also be true in a school context.  I saw a student skipping around yesterday, looking absolutely delighted with herself.  She told me that she had just received a 7 (the highest grade in our system) in a test in her favourite subject, in which she has worked so hard.  I congratulated her, really pleased to see her hard-won delight.  Later on in the day I saw her again, and she looked rather miserable; I assumed something else had happened.  When I asked her, she told me that she had been thinking about the test, and was now upset because she realised that it was only a low 7!

I didn’t know what to make of this situation – on the one hand, I was delighted that the student was looking beyond the grade; she was seeking to be the best she could be and I sensed and admired her ambition.  On the other hand, seeking perfection can be a route to constant dissatisfaction and misery.   I fear for the perfectionists, but never want to discourage the right sort of self-drive.

How then do we help students learn to have high standards while still allowing them to enjoy their successes?  How do we ensure that those who make enormous progress are justifiably proud of their achievements, and do not feel overshadowed by those who do a little better?

There’s no simple answer here, and home and school both need to play their part.  We mustn’t always seek to be the best in everything – but nor must we accept low standards.  It’s a difficult balance, and ultimately, one that the students must make for themselves. For our parts, we can consciously and explicitly celebrate effort over achievement (of course the two usually go hand-in-hand), and we can ensure students experience a wide range of diverse areas, so that they all experience success and failure, and learn to deal with both.

So as as we approach reporting time later this term, we need to balance aspiration with realism, and to talk to our students about tempering ambition for themselves with kindness to themselves.  And it’s OK to be pleased, even completely delighted, with a low 7!

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By Nicholas Alchin | Follow me on Twitter @nicholas_alchin

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AASSA GIN Conference 2016

So we just finished hosting the AASSA regional GIN conference at our school, and it was 3 days of amazing! To see student leaders from all over South America come together to dream, plan, educate, and collaborate was one of the most inspiring things that I have ever been a part of, and I’m super sad that it’s over. An event like this will transform our community in powerful and profound ways, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue the work that began with our students over 6 months ago. I am so proud of our kids, and our faculty and staff, and of our parent community for bringing this weekend of change to life, and because of the passion and hard work of all involved, we will never be the same…changed for the better.

 

It began on Thursday morning with our entire elementary school out in the courtyard welcoming the visiting schools…they held up their beautiful signs, they sang and danced and cheered, and the kids from 7 different countries poured off of the buses smiling and energized and excited to begin the conference. From that moment on the event just kept getting better and better as the students showcased their incredible projects, shared their passions, collaborated together, and built strong and lasting relationships that will last a lifetime.

 

There were several inspiring and thought provoking keynote presentations, many student led workshops, art projects, a coastal earthquake relief project, daily film festivals, and so much more. The incredible thing about all of it was that it was entirely student led, and watching it unfold made my heart want to burst. It never ceases to amaze me what young people can do when they are allowed to lead their own learning, and to find ways to bring their passions to life. It really made me wonder why we don’t do more of this in schools, and it made me think about how we can turn the last 3 days into an approach that lasts throughout the year.

 

I have to admit that when we agreed to take this event on back in May of last year I was feeling pretty nervous. Pulling off an event like this takes so much work from so many people, and it really brings to life what a community is made of. Well, the lesson I learned yet again is that when you empower your students to lead, they step up in remarkable ways and they can accomplish almost anything. With our students leading the way, and with the leadership of one of the best educators on the planet, Andrea Stadler, keeping it all together along the way, the conference was a tremendous success. It did just what we hoped it would do, which is to change our school and community in immeasurable ways, and to move us in a direction that leads to service, sustainability, student agency, innovation and change.

 

I cannot wait to see the kids tomorrow and to reflect on the past several days. Now it’s time to dig even deeper into our projects, and to use this conference as a jumping off point for many exciting initiatives. Thank you to Linda and Ashley Sills (Directors of GIN) for their support and confidence in us, and thank you to everyone involved…what an amazing 3 days at Academia Cotopaxi. If you are keen to see some pictures and videos from the conference, check out #ACGIN or #learnincommunity, or my twitter feed @DanKerr1. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

It is pointless to complain about the problems of the world as long as we continue contributing to them – Auliq Ice

 

Interesting Articles/Websites – 

http://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/global-warming-climate-change

http://www.livescience.com/topics/global-warming

https://ssir.org/articles/category/global_issues

https://www.stuvoice.org/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/sammamish-2-including-student-voice-bill-palmer

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-strategies-more-voice-choice-students-rebecca-alber

 

 

Inspirational Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCsrWoC2oDg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koSf4TJ_Dno

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Jobs, Careers and Callings

Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness. Sigmund Freud

For most adults, work constitutes more than one-third of waking life, and the psychological study of work is a large academic field. We know that there is huge variation with job satisfaction, and furthermore, that work satisfaction seems to account for a substantial part of the subjective quality of life. Quality of life can, in turn, have a major effect on life stress and on health. So finding the right work is a major life decision.

The Difference is Important
The Difference is Important

We are, for better or worse, in an era where no decision that our students take in this respect is final. Most of us have worked, or will work, in many jobs, and perhaps several professions, and our students will be able to do the same – or perhaps even move to professions that don’t even exist at the moment. So there is, perhaps, less pressure to ‘get it right’ immediately, and there is some comfort there. Nevertheless, the choice is still a big one, and I think it’s important that students understand generally what we know about work, from the research literature.One particularly fascinating study (1) is based on three distinct relations people can have to their work: as Jobs, Careers, and Callings. The distinctions, drawn starkly, are these (I quote directly from the study here):

Jobs: People who have Jobs are only interested in the material benefits from work and do not seek or receive any other type of reward from it. The work is not an end in itself, but instead is a means that allows individuals to acquire the resources needed to enjoy their time away from the Job. The major interests and ambitions of Job holders are not expressed through their work.

Careers: In contrast, people who have Careers have a deeper personal investment in their work and mark their achievements not only through monetary gain, but through advancement within the occupational structure. This advancement often brings higher social standing, increased power within the scope of one’s occupation, and higher self- esteem for the worker.

Callings: Finally, people with Callings find that their work is inseparable from their life. A person with a Calling works not for financial gain or Career advancement, but instead for the fulfillment that doing the work brings to the individuals. While the modern sense of calling may have lost its original religious connections, work that people feel called to do is usually seen as socially valuable—an end in itself.

The Job–Career–Calling distinction does not map neatly onto any occupation. Within any occupation there may be individuals with all three kinds of relations to their work.

Now all this would be of passing academic interest were it not for the fact that we have evidence that there are significant differences between people who have each view. In survey and interview responses, the self-reported categories of Job, Career and Calling yielded important differences.

Compared with those who described themselves as Job and Career respondents, those who described themselves as Calling respondents were significantly better paid, better educated, and had occupations higher in both self-perceived status and objective prestige level. Callings were consistently associated with greater life, health, and job satisfaction and with better health. Calling respondents reported notably and significantly higher life and job satisfaction than Job and Career respondents. Calling respondents also ranked work satisfaction significantly higher (relative to hobbies and friends) than did Job and Career respondents

For me this is very positive news indeed. It tells us that we are absolutely right to be telling students to follow their passions, to find something they believe in and to which can commit . It means we can say this safe in the knowledge that it is not some vague platitude, but one that is more likely to lead to health, wealth (in all senses) and life satisfaction.

I am struck by the Zen-like parallel here; there are some things that are best sought indirectly, and that arise as by products of a life well-lived. And wealth is the obvious thing here – the understandable desire for financial security can loom large in all our minds. It is, therefore, interesting to read another fascinating piece of research (2) on precisely this topic. Researchers examined the aspirations of 12,000 college freshmen at elite universities and colleges in 1976, and then measured their life satisfaction nearly 20 years later. Those who had expressed materialistic aspirations as freshmen were less satisfied with their lives two decades later. Furthermore, the materialists were more likely than non-materialists to suffer from a variety of mental disorders.

All this adds up to the need to give a good deal of thought to what we want in our work. If we doing the right work, it won’t be something we leave behind when we step out of the workplace. I once told an extremely hard-working colleague of mine that he needs to learn to say ‘no’ – and was humbled by his reply when he said that he had tried that, but then he ended up sitting at home wishing he was doing whatever it was that he said ‘no’ to. If we find something we are committed to, that genuinely has value and that means something to us, then the work – that is, the calling – isn’t what we do, it’s what we are in some sense. So choosing the right line of work is part of the process of being the people we want to be.

(1) Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C. R., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21-33.

(2) Nickerson, C., Schwarz, N., Diener, E., & Kahneman, D. (2003). Zeroing in on the dark side of the American Dream: A closer look at the negative consequences of the goal for financial success. Psychological Science, 14, 531-536.

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By Nicholas Alchin | Follow me on Twitter @nicholas_alchin

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