Transgender Children Deserve a Warm Welcome Back: Here’s How (and why this benefits all students)

The roster says they’re a she, but… they look like a he. What do I call them?

I’ve met numerous educators who express annoyance at not getting a heads-up from administrators that they have a transgender (or gender variant or gender creative or gender nonconforming) child in their class. And, understandably so. We care about our students, and want to treat them all with respect. Calling her ‘him’ can be awkward at best, and deeply offensive in many cases. Pronouns are incredibly personal, so it’s important that we know what our students want to be called.

We can’t necessarily tell someone’s gender identity (internal; how they feel) by their gender expression (external; what they show through dress/appearance/behaviour) or their assigned gender (assigned at birth; usually based on external sex characteristics). Additionally, some of the software programs that schools use to keep track of student records are outdated and don’t include a function to update students’ gender data as necessary. This could lead to inadvertently outing a transgender child to their peers. Don’t rely on your roster to give you the correct information about gender pronouns.

Instead, let me suggest a simple, but powerful getting-to-know-you routine for the start of every term: ask students (all students) what their pronouns are. You can begin by offering yours as an example (i.e. I use she/her/hers or they/them/theirs, etc.) This exercise eliminates gaffes without singling anybody out.

I gave a training to graduate education students on this topic. One participant wondered aloud whether it was worth the “trouble” for the “zero point zero, zero, zero, one percent” of students concerned. First, I answer that sure – this is a fairly simple strategy to create a safer space for your students, even if it’s only a small number who benefit. Second, however, this person’s statistics were way off. Many more people (about 0.6% of the U.S. population, which equates to 1.4 million Americans) identify as transgender[1]. I can assure you that, over the course of a full career as an educator, you have taught, and will continue to teach, numerous transgender and gender nonconforming children. You may not always know who they are, but there are transgender people in every culture.

The practice of recognizing students’ gender identity can have a significant impact on their well-being. Transgender kids are some of our highest risks for being harassed at school[2], a range of related risk-taking behaviours, and both physical and mental health issues, including suicidality[3]. Research shows that supportive school contexts can mitigate this disparity[4]. Asking students about their pronouns suggests that you are supportive of gender diversity, and could be a literal life-saving gesture for a child in need.

Plus, all students benefit from learning about diversity. Consider if we only taught minority groups about issues of oppression, and excluded dominant groups from this conversation. White children would not learn about slavery. Christian children would not learn about the Holocaust. That would be absurd, and avoiding gender identity issues with your cisgender (gender identity matches assigned gender) students is similarly exclusive and nonsensical.

It is a privilege for cisgender people to be fairly certain that others will correctly guess their pronouns just by looking at them. When we, as professional educators, question socially-constructed assumptions about gender, we exercise cultural humility, we establish that our classroom is a considerate place, we take a step toward rejecting gender hierarchy, and we set a positive example of inclusivity for the students in our class. This enhances the learning environment for all.

I recommend repeating this welcoming routine at the start of each term, and letting students know that they may update their pronouns with you at any time. If you’re still uncertain about how to get started, some resources with tips and FAQs are available here, here, and here. Proactively asking for students’ pronouns is best practice, and should be systematically implemented in all international school classrooms.

[1] Flores, A. R., Herman, J. L., Gates, G. J., & Brown, T. N. T. (2016). How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States? Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

[2] Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Giga, N. M., Villenas, C., & Danischewski, D. J. (2016). The 2015 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth in our nation’s schools. New York, NY: GLSEN.

[3] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

[4] Poteat, V. P., DiGiovanni, C. D., Sinclair, K. O., Koenig, B. W., & Russell, S. T. (2012). Gay-Straight Alliances are associated with student health: A Multischool comparison of LGBTQ and heterosexual youth. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23(2), 319-330.

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Redefine PD with the 80/20 Principle

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

A very significant part of Educational Technology Leadership is devoted to professional development, new systems implementation, and the long term planning of support.

Every year as the semester starts-up, administrators around the world are planning for professional development (PD). There is pressure during those initial weeks to try and rapidly develop the faculty within new areas, to help everyone review all current requirements, and to re-train in areas of concern. Many of these areas rely highly, or solely, upon technology; technology is often the center of the professional development process.

Year after year, group after group, and plan after plan, results tend to be the same. There is never enough time to meet everyone’s agenda, teachers feel rushed, and confidence among many is low but silenced. So why do organizations follow this same pattern?

After many years of asking this question, and proposing options, the answers seem to come down to:

  • This is the only fair way to expose EVERYONE to EVERYTHING.
  • The goal is not mastery; the goal is introduction; mastery comes later.
  • Large groups working together help to create future support groups; the process is team building.
  • Support and resources for PD are easier to manager in mass; the first week or two of the new year shift support to critical needs.

Everyone is 100% and 100% is Wrong

The Pareto principle (80/20) is taught in economics, business, marketing, etc., because when tested, it tests true.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity)[1] states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. (https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Pareto_principle)

For example:

  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of the software bugs cause 80% of the crashes
  • 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
  • 20% of users create 80% of the technology support tickets.

80/20 is often seen as a negative metric, when in fact, is a great opportunity to improve PD outcomes.

Following the 80/20 rule, any given PD item needs to be mastered by only 20% of the organization in order for the entire organization to benefit.

As an example, an international school wanting to implement a new system like Google Apps for Education only needs to formally train 20% of the end-users in each user group (Administrators, Teachers, Students, etc.). This 20% can then work with the remaining 80% to achieve the desired results; results which are often very niche and vary by division and department.

In another case, consider a school purchasing Microsoft Surface Laptops for their staff. Only 20% of the end-users need to have the full training on the hardware and software in order to fuel the future deployment.

The optics of 100% are not really fair when the majority of the 100% are not actually gaining the information and skills need for mastery. In education there is always pressure on students to reach mastery. That same expectation should be placed on everyone, and embedded in every initiative. Organizations working towards a good introduction, are not working towards their full potential.

Words to Actions

Randomly selecting 20% of a group to master a new PD initiative is a mistake. That would only work if the entire group were known equals. New and existing staff should be surveyed to identify their current knowledge and aptitude. Identifying aptitude is essential. New initiatives tend to have a limited experienced population within the organization; but aptitude is around every corner.

Years ago I took the 80/20 approach when switching a very large campus to Apple. I made certain all required hardware and software was available for 20% of the staff before summer. I selected the staff based-on their current familiarity with Apple and their ability to work with their colleagues.

The switch went very well, and after about three weeks the technology support issues declined by 75% from the previous year. The switch to Apple while following a 80/20 implementation plan reduced the non-Apple issues as well as the issues with the new hardware.

Recently, using an 80/20 plan, I sent a core group of people for training on a new school information system. Those people were tasked at training, and evangelism, within a hostile environment.

Knowing the system was actually in competition with other plans, a final meeting was held to determine if the school would continue with the new information system. The option was on the table to remove the new and bring back the old. The old was rejected. I do not believe this would have been possible without the core 80/20 group.

Keep in mind during each of these difficult transitional experiences the remaining 80% were not always happy. They new change had arrived, they were being delayed access at different stages, and they were not being trained or equipment immediately. This was noise. And noise should never dictate a plan or process.

The optics of 80/20 do not look as “nice” compared to working with 100%. However, the outcomes will be fair, balanced, and better. Most importantly, those suffering in silence will have a smaller more agile group for support.

Take a chance. Make a change. Go for 80/20.

More 80/20 Resources

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Take What the Mountain Gives You

Nireki Mountain Adventures

Satish Man Pati makes me feel like a thimble of a man. Not because he’s full of great quotes like the title of this essay. Not because he climbed Mt. Everest like I decide to canoe across a lake. Not because he just looks like more of a man than I do. It’s because I watched him sitting with a tin cup filled with hot tea, smiling at 4000 meters as a fading sunset settled behind him on the Annapurna Range (Nepal) and he took the time to ask how I was doing. He watched with calm competence as his team methodically set up camp, assembled cooking stations, and prepared all that was needed to support myself and twenty six people during a trek in his native country. He was the captain of the ship, his love of the mountains surrounding him with good karma, a gentle smile creasing grizzled, unshaven cheeks even as countless details likely ran through his head. This guy who was responsible for so many people at the top of a mountain sipped his tea and asked how I was doing.

I am constantly trying to learn from people that I think are great leaders. And what I loved about Satish was that I knew he had a million things going on, but had that humble majesty of being able to focus on the happiness and safety of the people around him. He was really tuned in to everything, but never seemed to show it. He knew I was nervous about the safety of the students that had never been in the mountains but he took the time to check in to see if I was okay. He was on an emotional intelligence scale that was off the charts.

I took him aside as he sipped his tea, looking contentedly out onto the distant horizon. “Satish,” I asked. “What makes you such a great leader?” He laughed and of course said he was not such a great leader. I disagreed and told him that his team worshipped the ground he walked on. “I’m willing to do any job,” he said. “And I have. They see what I’ve done to get here and I treat them fairly. And I know each of them as people and they treat me the same. We are like family,” he added. “It’s more than a job.” Then what I observed from him that was absolute genius was that he knew his team so well he knew exactly what to expect from them and to put them in a position to be successful. He knew the guys that were the best left to be behind the scenes and the ones that could deal with my students. He knew the ones that could take on the leadership roles and the ones that needed to be told what to do. Not only did he have everyone on the bus, he had them in the right seats. They knew his expectations too. One of the members of the team left a new tin coffee pot that he had purchased at one of the tea houses at the top of the mountain that we had left the day before. It was a five hour climb back. Rather than tell him that it was okay and that they’d buy a new one, he made the guide go back and fetch it. And he did. Satish laughed at my amazement. “The details matter in the mountains,” he laughed. “He’ll remember that.”

When I asked about his relationship to the mountains, he looked past me into the distance and gave me an explanation of the ranges behind us and their connections to the local people. When he was finished, he looked right at me and said, “You have to take what the mountain gives you. You cannot fight that. If it rains, snows, fog, sunshine, whatever. You have to understand it and take it. You cannot fight that.” It sounded so simple, but I thought of how it went against just about everything you heard from adventurers. They fought, resisted what came at them and battled to overcome the obstacles in their way. Satish was not defeatist. Of course, his acceptance was similar to what you hear from great sea captains and those that listen to what their circumstances are telling them.

When you start this new school year, especially if you are going to a new school, take what the mountains give you. When there is chaos all around and you’re responsible for 30 people at a metaphorical 4000 meters, sip some tea from a tin cup, smile with grizzled cheeks, look out onto a setting sun, and realize that by the grace you show towards others and the gratitude you have for what you do in the majestic surroundings of wherever you are, that you got this.

Best of luck this year. The kids need you more than ever.

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International Schools as Community Hubs

There is an old cautionary Chinese fable about a rather witless soldier who while crossing a river in a small boat, loses his sword over the side.  He scrambles to grab it, but acting too late…he watches in horror as it sinks out of reach to the bottom of the river. In the hopes of retrieving it later when safely on the other bank, he marks the side of the boat with a dagger to remind him of the precise spot where his prized weapon went overboard. One can only imagine the confused sadness of the solder once reaching land, who cannot fathom why despite his best care in making his mark, it no longer serves the poor fellow in guiding him back to his sword.

There is a growing awareness among leaders of international schools that in the face of accelerating change both within and outside our institutions, we must evolve quickly, and with a more open mind to new and more innovative ways of organizing and sustaining ourselves.  Yet many schools could be forgiven if they at times might be operating under the same misconception as our water borne soldier, assuming the long standing routines and operating norms that reign within our walls still serve us effectively in gauging the shifting reality around us.

The explosion in the number and diverse types of international schools in recent years has not altered the underlying reality that such institutions still generally rely on certain tried and true approaches to planning, managing and financing their organizations.  These may include long standing tuition based fee for service models, curriculum and programming concentrated almost exclusively around student performance within the classroom alone, and finally, at least in a majority of cases, interactions with the local community that remain limited to a variation of traditional student service and charitable endeavors. However, the question is not whether a continued reliance on tuition fees and classroom centered programming will remain core elements of our operating realities, but rather that they will no longer stand alone as the sole methods of financing and justifying our schools’ continued reasons for being. In essence, if we are to truly innovate and reinvent our schools, our obligations can no longer be confined to what can be academically achieved within a classroom context alone, nor may we look only to our students and their families for the resources needed to build and sustain the future sustainability we seek.

In the same way that John Dewey so long ago laid the foundations for our contemporary understanding of the entire child, it is now time to begin viewing our schools in a similarly holistic and multidimensional manner.  If for instance, we embrace the whole child, why would we not extend that same broader understanding to schools in both how they operate, and as importantly, whom they serve.  Whether it be in finding new structural and financial models, or through the creation of more ambitious and far reaching programs that before may have been seen as out of our purview, schools must now reimagine what our new boundaries of action and impact will be.

Take for instance our experience here in Quito at Academia Cotopaxi, and our work in transforming our existing on campus language center into a broad based community outreach, partnership building and student led service vehicle for change.  The newly launched ONE Institute serves our mission, expands opportunities for student learning, rejects disciplinary silos, increases revenue, builds external partnerships and breaks down boundaries between our school and our larger community.  Here we have established a ground breaking lending library that will address both the challenges of economic inequality and illiteracy in our community, while also providing authentic student leadership experience.  We now offer SAT and TOEFL test preparation services and have been certified as a TOEFL testing center.  The ONE Institute designed an entirely new corporate and business English program for companies in Quito, and we now plan to expand English training for AC parents, as well as our summer camp programming to include intensive IB academic English courses across the full spectrum of disciplines, a program available to students of both AC and other surrounding schools.

Whether like our experience at Academia Cotopaxi, a school chooses to repurpose and redirect the energies of a satellite organization already on campus, or through a new program or initiative created with a broader mission and focus in mind, schools as community hubs will need to grow into places where sustainable external partnerships are created and new opportunities for learning and revenue are realized.  The role of the school now expands and concentrates the community’s combined energies, which makes for more authentic connections and stronger families. The benefits for the school also include a more energetic curricular program, tangible hands on learning and actionable experience community problem-solving. For our institutions as a whole, rather than detached “cities on the hill,” with walls that at times separate as well as protect, international schools now become vital centers of community activity, awareness and enrichment.

The challenge before us now is to truly reimagine our schools as more than academic institutions in the time honored sense.  We must enlarge the reach and imperatives of our missions beyond the students in our classrooms, but to families; and not just to families that pay tuition, but to our communities as a whole.  In this way, we can open vast new worlds of discovery and authentic learning for our students, reach beyond our walls and into the homes and neighborhoods of our local communities, and in so doing, unlock exciting new revenue opportunities and means for sustaining our institutions.

If on the other hand, we remain committed to our most traditional and long standing assumptions about what the role of our schools should encompass, we could find ourselves marking the gunwales of our boats, only to find that our ultimate goal of better organizational health and relevance remains stubbornly out of reach.

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Technology Surveys for New Hires

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

Since 2008, I have been working with groups of new hires. There is much stress and confusion when people are relocating to another country. I always try and provide the information new hires need to understand the technology culture at the school, and within the country.

Initially, I was simply doing Q and A, and creating FAQ documents. One year, I realized that I was missing a huge opportunity to do some data driven decision making. I began to develop a set of surveys.

Survey data helps to shape the professional development for orientation and possible configurations for IT systems. Additionally, the data aids in the team building process by identifying new people with higher level skills. These people can then immediately contribute at the level they should be contributing instead of being sidelined because they are new.

Meet Them Where They Are

Many schools are hesitant to do surveys because new hires have a tremendous amount of paperwork to complete. Schools often do not want to add any additional communication to an already very busy process.

I do understand this view point, however, new hires will not be overwhelmed if a technology survey is incorporated into an already required technology process.

In the spring, I recommend all schools setup and activate the email accounts for the new hires. The moment they sign in the first time, they are a captive audience. The first email they see in their inbox could be the technology survey. New hires usually like getting their new account in the spring, so they will not be irritated at the process.

If the school has setup social media for new hires, such as a Facebook Group, those accounts can also be used to share links to surveys.

Survey Platforms

The only important thing to remember when choosing a survey platform is that it must support branching. Another way to say that, is it must support “if-then-then-that” (ifttt). Therefore, email based surveys are to be completely avoided.

Branching allows people to skip questions that are not relevant to their experience. Branching prevents the survey from wasting their time.

For example, if my school uses PowerSchool, I might want to know if new hires have used PowerSchool. If they have, then I want to know more about their experience, if they have not then I want them to move on to another section.

Both Google Forms and Office 365 Forms support branching. Both of these free services also help tally and graph responses. Remember, saving time needs to be on both ends of the equation, and email will always be a mistake laden waste of time.

Open Ended Questions

Having long form paragraph style open ended questions seems like a very politically correct way to make a survey. However, these questions are very difficult to measure, and they are extremely time consuming.

I firmly believe these types of questions should be optional, and only at the end of sections with structured questions. For example, asking someone to rate their experience with Google Drive on a scale of 1-5 is a structured question. Following that with an optional opinion would be good use of an open ended question about Google Drive.

Check Multiple

Most survey systems allow people to check multiple options to answer a question. I find these question types to be the most useful for broad group planning; and hitting larger professional development targets.

Here is an example:

Assuming the participant response rate is high enough, I could use this single graph to align their most recent experience with the technology culture at my campus. Knowing the similarities and differences among these services is a requirement, but that happens to be a requirement for my profession :).

Choose the Best Statement

Using questions that direct participants to choose the best statement, or the most correct statement, allows for them to show a weakness or preference in a more positive context. For example, instead of asking someone to rate themselves on Apple computer proficiency, I can offer them these options:

Instantly, I know that 50% of this group can help support the other 50% in learning how to master Apple hardware and software. I can now go into the individual responses, find those 50% who are very confident, and ask them if they would be willing to help lead in the professional development. Instead of wasting their time, I am utilizing their skill set and asking them to lead.

Survey tools are easier than ever to access and use. Every year consider making surveys for new hires part of the process, and use the data to make decisions. You can evolve over ten years and have ten unique experiences; or you can repeat the same year ten times. I try and avoid the latter.

 

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Changing tack… slightly

Hello all,

 

Greetings from Poland and Lithuania…

 

I am sure that most of you are relaxing – hopefully with family and friends, perhaps on a beach, climbing a mountain, cycling or sitting with a book near a pool.  I hope you are getting a chance to read all those books that were piled up on your night table for the last 10 months.  I know the syndrome.  During the school year, we all have the best intentions to read the latest bestseller, for personal or professional edification, but after the second sentence… hmmmmmm…… we find the book on the floor next to the bed when we wake up in the morning.  Sound familiar?

 

So, right now, I would like to take advantage of your relaxed state and free time to introduce you to my latest research: Catalysts for a Career in International Schools.  This was a labor of love. I truly enjoyed receiving and reading almost 100 narratives from educators like yourselves. Categorizing the stories was very tedious, but in the end, I found 8 categories, which describe YOU.

 

 

https://issuu.com/ecischools/docs/infocus_ettie_zilber

 

 

I hope you enjoy reading the stories and the findings as much as I had writing it.

And… I would LOVE to hear your comments.

Keep enjoying your holiday

Ettie

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What kind of experience do we want for our children?

I have been absent from blogging for almost a year.  This has been due to a sudden and unexpected change in our family status.  My wife and I have three daughters.  The oldest is out of college, the second just completed her second year of college, and the third is a senior in high school this year.  We were preparing ourselves for the next phase of life, when we came across a nine-year-old street boy – Max.  Through a series of circumstances, we ended up taking him into our home.  We didn’t initially plan to have him stay, but we very quickly found ourselves attached to him, and several months later went to court to gain legal guardianship of him.  He has now become a central figure in our family, with much of our time and attention focused on him.  For quite a while, I’ve been thinking I need to do some writing about our experiences and adventures with Max, but have been grappling with exactly where to start.  To be honest, it seems like every day with him brings a new adventure of sorts, and just when I think I want to write about one, another pops up that dominates my attention.  However, recently, I read an article by Diane M. Hoffman, Raising the Awesome Child.  It had me pondering a number of important topics related to Max, as well as to the early years with our daughters.  I realized the place to start is with a topic I am passionate about…..schooling.

The circumstances of Max’s life are such that though he was nine when he came to us, he had only attended a minimal level of schooling.  As educators, my wife and I believe there is a value in an education.  Therefore, though we didn’t initially plan to have Max stay with us, we did think it would be meaningful for him to further pursue an education, so we hired several tutors to work with him to bring his level of learning up to speed and to learn English.  Within a very short period, he was spending several hours per day receiving individual instruction.  Outside of those hours, it was a different story.  Daily, he would come by my office on a bike we provided him to check on me, and usually he and I had lunch together.  After school, he would wait for my youngest daughter to come home to have snack with her.  After my wife and I finished at school, we would swim with him in the pool, ride bikes, and review his studies.  Dinners became more animated as Max struggled with English to communicate with us, and we looked forward to a family game or a video each evening.  Occasionally, there were issues to be dealt with, but that was by no means the norm. As I said earlier, he became the focus of much of our time and attention, and we in turn had become the focus of his whole world.

When we finally became legally responsible for Max, our benefits provided it was now possible for him to attend the school we worked at.  I have to say; the decision to have him start school was one we made with a certain level of reticence.  In reality, there was no doubt in our minds he needed to go to school, but we questioned how school might change him from being the boy we had come to know and love.  Hoffman describes American, or Western culture as being obsessed with cognitive development to the detriment of other qualities.  This is something I recognize in many international schools we have been involved with, and I often question this particular value.  I remember when my second daughter was young.  The spring before she was to start preschool she had a chance to visit school for a couple of hours.  I remember when she arrived she was standing at the top step of the school entryway.  She spotted me, and immediately and gleefully shouted out, “Daddy, today I get to go to school!”  I remember thinking I wanted to remember that moment forever because I was confidant that joyful desire to learn and go to school wouldn’t last for very long.  It was this same sensation contributing to my reticence around Max starting school.  Here was a boy that had a level of maturity that went beyond cognition.  Life experiences had taught him to solve problems, read others, resist defeat, and appreciate the value of little bits of enjoyment that came his way.  In starting school, I wanted to believe this would be appreciated and valued, and I found myself thinking about what kind of experience we want for our children when we watch them go off to school that very first time.

I recently watched a TED Talk given by Tim Carr, the head of JIS in Jakarta.  In it, Tim discusses the creation of joyful schools for the future, and the need for fun and balance to exist in schools.  In listening to Tim, I found myself nodding my head a lot.  He spoke about wanting to revolutionize learning when he became an educator 30 years ago.  I’m sure when he said this, he spoke to the heart of many educators.  Many teachers, myself included, enter education because we want to make a difference.  We may have had some great teachers ourselves, but we recognized there could be so much more to learning, and we wanted to be part of that.

Unfortunately, the classrooms our children go off to and grow into usually do not reflect that revolution in learning so many of us wanted to be a part of.  As educators, we often find ourselves constricted by the latest, greatest trend in education, or confined by the desire to “fit in” with the educational process occurring in the classrooms around us.  Still others find themselves teaching in a world of educational isolation, lacking the ability to collaborate and explore new ideas with others.  In these situations, we often find ourselves relying on those tried and true methodologies that came before us, or finding an instructional strategy that achieved some level of success with one, or a few students, and then applying that across the board.  The challenge that exists when this happens, says Hoffman, is though some strategies might have some success, this doesn’t recognize individual students come to school with entirely different sets of experiences and what might work with one child may not carry over to another.  This is a particularly important factor in our international schools, or the diverse classrooms we serve overall, as different cultures and families most likely have different ideas of what a good educational experience looks like.

So, what can and will make a difference for Max and other students like him?  What can change school and create that joyful school experience?  I believe there are many aspects of a school that can contribute to this general condition, from leadership making children the focus of the school, to schedules that encourage teachers to interact and explore new ideas.  Ultimately though, it has to be the teacher.  Paul Tough tells us many schools respond to behavior outside the norm by increasing control, and reducing the sense of autonomy.  However, “if teachers create an environment that fosters competence, autonomy, and connection rather than control, students are more likely to feel motivated.”  As a school administrator, I try to regularly visit classrooms, and have had the opportunity to visit hundreds of classrooms over the years.  When I visit a classroom with an environment like the ones described by Tough, you can feel it.  There is joy in those classrooms and it has a clear impact on how students seem to view themselves and the learning they are engaged in.

Getting back to Max…his first day of school was an interesting experience.  As I prepared to take him to class, he told me he didn’t want to go.  I took a picture of him, and when I look at it now, I see a boy who is clearly unhappy, even petrified about what he is about to encounter.  I didn’t blame him.  His short previous experience with school had not been too positive.  Plus, I was nervous for him.  I didn’t know how school would change him.  How would the expectations for learning, as well as the pressures he would face from other students impact the aspects of street culture and self-reliance in his personality we had come to love?  The boy I saw a few hours later was a different one though.  He was beaming from ear to ear – with joy.  I asked him why he was smiling.  He told me he loves school.  When I asked him why, he was very clear in saying, “because of my teacher.”

We are now on summer break, and it has been several months since Max started back to school.  I’m happy to report, he still loves school and can’t wait to return.  Even more important, he seems to love learning.  We bought him a bug box, and he has been thrilled to collect different bugs and learn about them.  He has been tutoring with my older daughter and looks forward to it each day, and he is constantly exploring and asking questions.  Tony Wagner says play, passion, and purpose drive innovative learning.  It is the teacher in the classroom who creates this.  When I think about what I want for Max, and other children, as they go off to school, it is that joy, that passion and that desire to learn and be there.  I will write more about Max in the future.  For now though, I’m pleased to write the teachers in his life have provided that experience I hoped for him.

 Gregory A. Hedger’s Blog

Works Cited

Hoffman, Diane M. “Raising the Awesome Child.” The Hedgehog Review Fall (2013): 30-40.

TEDxTalks, and Tim Carr. “Creating Joyful Schools for the Future | Tim Carr | TEDxJIS.” YouTube. YouTube, 03 Apr. 2017. Web. 23 June 2017.

Tough, Paul. “How Kids Really Succeed.” The Atlantic June (2016): n. pag.

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Closing off, not closing down

We are approaching the long vacation and I have been giving thought to the rhythm of the school year.   Especially in today’s ‘disrupted‘ world, there are probably few institutions that have the same annual cycle that schools have, and I see the luxury of predictable cycles as one to cherish, not to take for granted, and to plan for, and to make the most of.

For us, that means approaching the holiday knowing that the long break is a rite of passage for students and colleagues, and to plan for it carefully and intentionally.  Just as we start the year with orienting students to the year ahead (planning the activities, deadlines, trips, exams etc) so we need to close off the year with equal care and attention.  I have been in schools where the two options have been either  (i) watching ‘fun’ videos and eating lots of chocolate for the last few days (ii) full speed ahead until the last minute.  Neither of these is what we now want; the former is profoundly disrespectful to everyone’s time, and suggests a mistaken view of learning and ‘fun’.  The latter misses an important opportunity to improve student learning for the current year overall, and indeed the next year to come.

We have a three-part approach to helping students and colleagues closes the year in a meaningful way – one that consolidates the progress that has been made, and focusses us on the things in ourselves that have allowed us to make progress.  It’s based on research from a very wide range of sources, and can be used at any point, wherever learning is wanted  – and therefore applicable far mode widely than schools of course.  The steps, as listed here, may sound rather abstract and vague; when I case across them I was skeptical about them.  But having used them over the years in class to end units, with leavers to frame graduation thinking, and with colleagues, I now see the power of devoting time to this process.

The first step is to be aware of what has happened to us over the year.  The question is: Considering your aspirations for the year, your experiences elsewhere, and the events of this year, how would you describe the year?

The second step is to analyse what we have become aware of.  The questions are: What have you done that you have been most pleased with?  What capacities in yourself were most important in your successes?
 

The third step is to see how the analysis can lead to application. The question is: What might be some of the most valuable things that you most want to remember for next year?

We believe that education for our children should be engaging, demanding, challenging and at times uncomfortable. There’s no denying that this can mean that it is also very intense; likely far more so than when we parents were at school. So ending the year well, making space to enter the vacation having ‘parked’ a lot of thinking, is an important process.  It provides closure, and marks a re-entry point for next year.  The power of carefully scaffolded, focsussed conversations is hard to overestimate, because even a slight increase in self-awareness or self-efficacy yields a hundredfold return or more.

Happy Holidays! My next post will be in August.

Posted in Nicholas Alchin | Leave a comment

Understanding The End of Year Process: Tech in the Spring Determines Tech in the Fall

By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on Twitter @tdeprato

In August or September, the first week of a new school year, do you find that your campus seems to have problems that are unexpected and out of line with the status quo from the spring term? If so, then there is probably one or many problems embedded in the execution of the school’s End of Year Process (EOY). Although this post is going to focus on technology EOY, the fact is all systems and departments have (or should have) an EOY.

Any system, department, etc., that is not practicing a well thought out EOY will not only struggle, but create a cascade of problems that will spread through out the community. This cascade will feel like a sudden and unseen wave of chaos, or a series of seemingly small disconnected problems.

An Example of a Technology EOY

Here is a list of EOY processes/jobs that must be completed before the end of the first week of July. I have simplified some of them as most have multiple steps to complete.

Active Directory access for all non-returning staff needs to be removed.
Active Directory accounts and groupings for all new staff needs to be created
Active Directory Student Accounts Need to Be Moved to the Next Year Group
New School Student Enrollment Complete/Check/Verify
Leaving Grade 5 Students in PowerSchool
All other Primary School Leaving Students Transfer After RollOver and Remove AD Accounts
Destiny needs to be updated
Powerschool Roll Over and Back to School Update (If Required)
Powerschool Records must be Cleaned- teachers/students/etc/ use PowerTools to Check Data Issues
PS Database Backup to Test Server
Make Primary School School Teams
Primary School Backup Report PDFs Generated
Secondary School Backup Report PDFs Generated
New Courses for Primary School Imported/ Old Courses Off
New Courses for Secondary School Imported/ Old Courses Off
PowerSchool- Plugins Update
Office 365 users and groups need to be adjusted to match the schools AD
Turn-It-In, and Naviance Updates/Staff/Students/Etc
ATLAS- Add new Hires and Remove All Old Accounts
Prepare all laptops, printers, and other necessary equipment that have been damaged sent for repair
Prepare all laptops, printers, and other necessary equipment to be recycled
Year 17-18 Orders – All Paperwork completed so items arrive in August
New Constructions/ Building – Checked and Tested
Websense Sync and Configure
Filewave Sync and Configure
Secondary School School Server Room Cleaned and Placed in Correct Working Order
Secondary School Switch Rooms Cleaned and Checked
Primary School School Server Room Cleaned and Placed in Correct Working Order
Primary School School Switch Rooms Cleaned and Checked

This list does not include the procurement process, as that connects to other EOYs in other departments. 

This list is share as an online dashboard. Jobs are assigned to team members. Each job has a status, due date, and comment box.

Many of the systems on the list above have embedded EOY processes as well. For example, PowerSchool and Atlas Rubicon have steps to follow every year to close out the school year.

If any of these jobs is not completed, or not completed with enough time to repair problems or make some adjustments to the fall planning, the start of school will be rough.

The Myth of the Summer Staff

Many schools assume that EOY processes can be done slowly during the summer because they have summer staff. This is a myth, and it usually does not work well because the logic is flawed.

First off, summer staff are always fewer in number than the staff during the normal year. So unless the school is completely closed down, then they will actually have less time to focus on meaningful work. For example, unless the schools avoids summer camps, conferences, admissions tours, etc., the summer staff will become distracted. Their jobs many seem less demanding, but EOY processes take hours to complete, and require large blocks of time. Large blocks of time require more human resources than are available during the summer.

Secondly, summer staff tend to work a different work schedule. The hours are reduced, and oversight is lacking. Knowing it takes 4-6 weeks at 40 hours a week to complete the EOY, how is it possible for fewer people working fewer hours to complete the same job in 4-6 weeks? The math simply does not work. Departments trying to fulfill EOY with limited summer staff will be setting the stage for an anxiety and problem ridden start of the year.

Finally, unless summer staff have 100% full signature authority and empowerment to make decisions, many jobs will be partially done and awaiting a manager to return. Not only will this cause delays, but it will also cause project fragmentation. Think of a multiple puzzles missing multiple pieces in order to visualize this problem.

EOY is End of Year not The Beginning of Next Year

EOY processes are designed to allow the time needed to make upgrades, backups, repairs, etc. These processes need to finish no more than a few weeks after the last day with students (and many need to be completed on or before the last day with students).

Do the EOY on time, prevent the cascade of problems, and start the year on a forward moving pace that exceed the status quo. I firmly believe a good start leads to a good year.

Further Recommended Reading:

The Systems Lifecycle

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Systems_development_life_cycle

 

Posted in Tony DePrato | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

You’re So Lucky to Have Summers Off

Follow Me on Twitter @msmeadowstweets

No educator I know actually takes a full summer off. Many, justifiably, use part of the break to recover from a demanding school year, but most of us continue to hone our craft from June to August. My husband and I are both educators, and I cannot remember ever using the entire holiday just for fun. The summer we got married, I took six graduate credits and did an out-of-town International Baccalaureate workshop for counselors. The summer after our baby was born, my husband and I completed a cumulative eighteen graduate credits while living, with our infant, in a college dorm. Summers off – ha!

If you’re traveling this summer, catching up on reading is a flexible means of professional development and mental stimulation that fits in your carry-on. Lest we fall into our own summer slump. Here’s what I’ve got in my Amazon Smile[1] cart at the moment, divided into three categories: Professional, Parenting (in my role as a school counselor I often suggest literature to parents), and Pleasure.

{Professional}

Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools
By Elizabeth J. Meyer
Meyer contributed a solid chapter to Queering Straight Teachers: Discourse and Identity in Education by Nelson Rodrigues and William Pinar (Eds.), so I anticipate that her book will be excellent as well.

LGBTQ Issues in Education: Advancing a Research Agenda
By George Wimberly
I keep waiting for this one to be required for my doctoral work so that I can justify the hefty price tag, but nobody has put it on a syllabus thus far, so I may just need to splurge.

Solution Focused Practice in Asia
By Debbie Hogan, Dave Hogan, Jane Tuomola, & Alan K. L. Yeo (Eds.)
Full disclosure: I contributed a chapter to this book. I am eager to read the other chapters, though, as my counseling practice is heavily influenced by a solution-focused approach.

{Parenting}

The Talk: Helping Your Kids Navigate Sex in the Real World
By Alice Dreger
Who doesn’t need more help with how to do this gracefully? I am a fan of Dreger’s work, and my work as a counsellor has put me in touch with more than a few parents who would like guidance on talking to their kids about sex. The audio version for this book is less than 3 hours long, so it promises be a quick read.

Gender Neutral Parenting: Raising Kids With the Freedom to be Themselves
By Paige Lucas-Stannard
The Kindle version of this mini-book is free!

Teaching Overseas: An Insider’s Perspective
By Kent M. Blakeney
I also contributed excerpts to this book, and ought to get around to reading my copy.

{Pleasure}

En Finir avec Eddy Bellegueulle (The End of Eddy)
By Edouard Louis (Translator: Michael Lucey)
This novel (by a 23-year old author!) earned rave reviews in France, and has already been translated into twenty languages, including English. The story promises to shine a light on gender stereotypes and the experience of growing up gay in a traditional, working-class community.

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
By David Sedaris
I relish pretty much everything this satirist publishes, and look forward to a peek into the diaries he has been keeping, daily, for the past forty years.

The Handmaid’s Tale
By Margaret Atwood
I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never read this classic, but the recent publicity makes it an irresistible addition to my list.

Push
By Tommy Caldwell
Tommy is a local hero in our summer home of Estes Park for being one of the best rock climbers in the world (you may remember his Dawn Wall accomplishment in 2015). Now he is also a New York Times best-selling author.

 

This summer, I will be hiking in the Swiss Alps, and visiting friends and family in Colorado and Michigan. I am also enrolled in two graduate courses, and will attend a residency on LGBT health policy and practice at George Washington University. I hope to get through as many of these books[2] as time allows (and do feel fortunate to have summers “off”).

How do you make the most of your summer as an educator?
What’s on your reading list?  

[1] Amazon Smile is exactly like regular Amazon (and Amazon Prime), except that they donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organization of your choice.

[2] Fellow TIE bloggers, David Penberg and Daniel Kerr, have also shared their reading lists.

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