Spring has Sprung!

So I wrote a similar Springtime post to this a couple of years ago, and to be honest I love the following poem and quote so much that I thought I’d share them again. There’s something about this time of year that puts a wider smile on my face, and breathes some extra life into my soul. As an educator, I have always loved the months of March and April because I begin to reflect on all that has been accomplished with our students since the beginning of the year, and I know that there is still some time left to accomplish all of our goals before June rolls around. We’ve entered the fourth quarter of the year if you can believe it, so it’s time to shake off the winter coats and cobwebs, and open your hearts to Spring. I want to thank you all for working so hard during this long ten week stretch of winter, and for keeping student learning as your focus.

Make sure to keep smiling everyone, and embrace the change of season and all that comes with it. We only have a few more days until the Spring holiday, so I want to wish you all safe travels and a relaxing, energizing, and well deserved break. It’s a beautiful day outside so I’m off to the field with shorts on to kick the ball around with my boy. Spring has finally sprung and life is good. I hope your smile is as wide as mine, and I hope you know how proud and honored I am to be working with such outstanding educators and people…get out there and enjoy the day everyone, and get ready for arguably the best part of the year which is now upon us! Have a fantastic short week and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…………..
It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want —oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
—Mark Twain

TED Talk – Louie Schwartzberg (Perfect for Spring and Beautiful)
http://www.ted.com/talks/louie_schwartzberg_the_hidden_beauty_of_pollination

Flower God, God Of The Spring
FLOWER god, god of the spring, beautiful, bountiful,
Cold-dyed shield in the sky, lover of versicles,
Here I wander……
Cold, grey-headed; and still to my
Heart, Spring comes with a bound, Spring the deliverer,
Spring, song-leader in woods, chorally resonant;
Spring, flower-planter in meadows,
Child-conductor in willowy
Fields deep dotted with bloom, daisies and crocuses:
Here that child from his heart drinks of eternity:
O child, happy are children!
She still smiles on their innocence,
She, dear mother in God, fostering violets,
Fills earth full of her scents, voices and violins:
Thus one cunning in music
Wakes old chords in the memory:
Thus fair earth in the Spring leads her performances.
One more touch of the bow, smell of the virginal
Green – one more, and my bosom
Feels new life with an ecstasy.
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Senses Working Overtime

Hey, hey the night fights day
There’s food for the thinkers and the innocents can all live slowly
All live slowly…

I found myself humming an old XTC song this afternoon and didn’t know why. And then it hit me when I was doing my end of term grades. Ever have one of those moments when your subconscious provides you with the perfect tune to match a feeling you didn’t know you had until later?

My senses were working overtime on a beautiful Swiss Alpine Spring afternoon when I should have been yodelling in my backyard but was instead doing end of term grades and comments. My senses were working overtime because I always look at grading (and yes, the letters are intentional) as a bittersweet moment where I am judging, sorting and cajoling my students to do something, be something, aspire toward something that they may or may not understand.

This is what goes through my mind, whether or not they have done the “work” that I have deemed important.

A) Providing an affirming snapshot of a child’s progress that is a stepping stone towards a potential that he or she has
internalized, is motivated by, and embraces.

B) He or she is ticking the boxes, doing what is asked for the most part, and wants to get by but could aspire to so much more.

C) An external judgement based on a set of practices that the adult has deemed important and the child does not entirely understand. In other words, “I taught it, she didn’t learn it.”

I embrace the psychology of grading because I am a firm believer that teenagers are motivated by feeling much more than grades. Yes, our top students may be motivated to turn that A- into an A, but for many, the gentleman ‘C’ crushes a lot more than it inspires.

That does not mean I don’t have high standards. I give zeroes, I have arguments about what they think is good and what I think is average. The difference is for me (after 20 years) is that they always get a second chance, they will always have a shot at redemption, and here’s the most important part; they will always know I believe in them. I fret over grades because that psychological balance is so critical. I am sorry teachers, but the truth is that they don’t love or hate history. They love or hate YOU. Yes, it’s that personal with kids and grades. I am not a straightforward, “they get what they earned” type of teacher/grader. It’s a currency. It reflects so much more than “that assignment that was due.” It reflects ideas, improvement, inspiration, and helping others. A second chance. A first chance. An act of bravery.

This afternoon, as I finished my comments, I looked out the large glass window that looks out onto our horizon and thought of each one of them as I participated in this exercise that is so outdated but so important to these kids. I thought of each one of them and what young men and women they were becoming, and what I wanted them to realize in themselves, not what they thought about that grade.

Oh, and I didn’t exactly sit inside all afternoon. My son and I got out for a little bit. Talk about authentic assessment.

IMG_3815

Checking for Understanding

So over the past several months, my outstanding Vice-Principal Bret Olson and I have made a point of getting into classrooms to watch our Middle School kids in action. The best part about this experience for us has been the debrief sessions that we share together on an almost daily basis. Lately, our discussions have turned to the incredible range in the developmental level and maturity of our students, not only throughout the entire Middle school, but from class to class within a particular grade level. Bret also touched on this issue in his latest professional blog post, and our recent discussions have really got us thinking about how difficult it is for us as educators to effectively differentiate the learning in a class full of students, each with their own set of specifically personal needs.  If you think about what you’re asked to do each and every day with your kids, it’s easy to see why education is without a doubt one of the most difficult and demanding professions on the planet…if not the most!

Often times, particularly in International Schools, you have a class full of roughly 20 students, and in many cases over a quarter of them are in an ESOL program, and working hard to achieve in an academically rigorous English environment. You have students who are developmentally advanced and flying high so you need to extend for them, you have kids who are developmentally delayed so you have to provide intervention opportunities for them, you have students who need academic support to deal with their various learning issues like dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, dysgraphia, or mild cases of Asperger’s or autism, and you have students who have social-emotional needs, which impact their ability to learn effectively for extended periods of time…wow. Couple this with the issue that most teachers are asked to plan lessons for students in more than one grade level or subject area, and it’s a wonder that your heads don’t explode! So with all this in mind, and not lost on any of you I’m sure, what can we do to ensure that our kids are really and truly learning?

Obviously, schools need to properly support their teachers and students, and provide the necessary resources so that educators have the tools readily available to them to effectively reach each and every one of their kids…but let’s assume that this is happening. The only way to ensure that a student is learning what you expect them to learn is to be regularly checking for understanding throughout each and every lesson. Bret and I have witnessed first hand how the teachers who are successfully managing the individual needs of their students, are the ones who make sure to check for understanding before each student leaves their classroom at the end of a lesson. When they find that a student doesn’t understand, they arrange for extra help sessions, or they set up individual conference sessions at the end of class to make sure that the student gets the concept. They assign developmentally appropriate homework, which is purposeful and used to for feedback with the student, and they give regular and multiple opportunities for retakes and redos for kids to showcase their learning, and most importantly they don’t let any student off the hook. The teachers who have difficulty differentiating, and who struggle with their student learning results are the ones who are leaving it too much to chance. Giving a lesson and hoping/assuming that all students are understanding what is being taught. Heavy lecture based lessons with the odd “does everyone understand” comment thrown into the mix…lessons delivered at a quick pace, and at an adult language level with the onus placed on the kids to listen, learn, and keep up. The old “I taught it so it’s their fault for not paying attention”.

Anyway, I’m sure you know what I mean, and I’m sure you also know that in order to become that “Master” teacher, one who inspires and gets the desired results for all of their students, you need to put in the work. You have to be constantly checking for understanding, and constantly providing opportunities for your kids to show their learning at their developmental level. It’s demanding work, and it’s an every day battle. Bret and I will continue to be in classrooms, and we’ll continue to have these conversations with all of you…lean on us for support, advice, strategies, or coverage if you want to watch another teacher in action, and we’ll get to where we want to be together. The great news is that the majority of our debrief sessions end with smiles and pride and high fives because we know that our Middle School team is definitively putting in the work. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other…Spring is almost here!

Quote of the Week……
In each stage of development, it is important for teachers to understand the relationship between neurological development and learning. This understanding is particularly important when there is a mismatch between development and educational expectations.

  • American Psychological Association


TED Talk – The Mysterious Workings of the Adolescent Brain
http://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_jayne_blakemore_the_mysterious_workings_of_the_adolescent_brain

Bret Olson’s Professional site –
http://bretolson.wordpress.com/

Great Professional Articles and Websites –
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/ten-ways-to-slow-down-teachers-elena-aguilar
http://www.edutopia.org/formative-assessments-checking-for-understanding-strategies
http://www.education.com/reference/article/nature-nurture/
http://www.apa.org/education/k12/brain-function.aspx
http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/education/DLiT/2000/Piaget/stages.htm
http://www.thedailycafe.com/public/662.cfm
http://www.caroltomlinson.com/
http://www.differentiationcentral.com/

Forgiveness

So one of the reasons that I love spending all day with Middle School kids is because they are constantly reminding me about what really matters in life. A day doesn’t go by without me being inspired by their openness, their honesty, their awkwardness, or their desire to do the right thing. The learning that happens at this age is so pure, and I think it’s beautiful that they live their lives so eager to find their place in this world. I marvel at how innocent most of them are, and how accepting, and how easy it is for them to move on, and to learn from situations that we as adults seem to regularly struggle with. I don’t know at what point, or at what age that we start to lose this innocence…or when cynicism and sarcasm begin to creep into our grown up lives, but I have to say that for me, it’s super refreshing to spend eight hours a day surrounded by teenagers.  Just this past week for example, I had my eyes and heart opened up by a thirteen year old to the importance of forgiveness, and to the realization that forgiving someone isn’t about doing something for them…it’s about doing something for yourself.

You see, there’s this boy in our Middle School who has been regularly picked on for most of his life for being “different” that the other boys in his grade. He’s effeminate, he doesn’t like sports, he loves to sing and dance, and he prides himself on being super stylish. As you can imagine, this doesn’t always get him the kind of attention that he wants from the other kids who are more concerned with fitting in than with sticking out. Being “different” in Middle School is not always a good thing for your social life as you know, and in many cases these type of kids don’t tend to look back at the Middle School years as the best years of their life but this kid simply doesn’t care. He is mature, self confident, and unashamed of who he is, and he inspires the hell out of me. He came into my office the other day for a chat (like he does from time to time) and we got talking about how he handles the kids that simply don’t understand him, and who go out of their way to remind him of how “different” he is from the rest of them. He told me that he forgives every one of them for their hurtful remarks and for their snickers and sneers, and that he understands that their ignorance has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with them. I told him that it was very mature of him to forgive them, and to let them off the hook so to speak for their mean spirited ways. It was then that he sat up straight, looked me in the eyes and said in a voice much older then his years, “Mr. Kerr, I’m not forgiving them for them, I’m forgiving them for me”.

He went on to talk about how he used to have all this anger and resentment and stress toward all the kids who picked on him, but he found that all that did was make him unhappy. When he decided to try another approach, and to let go of all that negative energy his life changed for the better. He started to accept who he was and even embrace it. He said by doing this he’s found that the number of kids who tease him has drastically reduced because they don’t get the reaction from him that they want. Now, he says, most of the kids leave him alone and strangely enough, he’s begun to gain their respect. I was floored by the wisdom that was spilling out from this “kid’s” mouth and I got thinking about myself, and my own approach to forgiveness. I started to think about some silly grudges that I was holding on to, and to the negative energy that comes with being angry at someone for something that they did to me…and you know what, he’s right…it simply isn’t worth it.

Forgiveness is difficult for many people because we want to punish the perpetrators for their wrong doings. But often times is has the opposite effect, and we end up only punishing ourselves. People make mistakes all the time…I certainly do, and if you can learn to let go and forgive like this amazing Middle Schooler then you might just find that your life will get a little bit happier. It’s funny how many life lessons you can learn just by hanging around teenagers, and it’s curious to me why some people find them immature and annoying. I guess they just aren’t paying close enough attention to the beauty and wisdom that comes from the struggle. If you really want to learn something about life, or if you want to be reminded of what’s really important in this world, then have a conversation with a Middle School kid…they’re guaranteed to inspire if you just give them a chance. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…….
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.

  • Paul Boose


Interesting Articles on Forgiveness –
http://www.happiness-information.com/importance-of-forgiveness.html
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
http://stress.about.com/od/relationships/a/forgiveness.htm
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-slavin/the-importance-of-forgive_b_1556629.html
http://www.uwhealth.org/news/why-learning-to-forgive-is-important-to-your-health/29525

Upworthy link – (Not that we’re unaware of this)
http://www.upworthy.com/12-things-you-should-never-ever-say-to-teachers

Embrace the chaos: A lesson in disruptive innovation

Is this my time or your time, Mr. Hand?

There’s no shortage of great classroom moments in the movies, but Mr. Hand’s management of the chaos in this classic is pretty good. (Hard to believe it’s almost thirty years old).

One of the most humbling experiences a school administrator can have is to teach a class. The students don’t really care about your position or what kind of suit you are wearing. In fact, many don’t even know WHO you are.

I have written a couple of times about how I am teaching a new class called digital literacy. For me, the content has been a distant second to the learning process for all of us. I wanted it to be conceptual, project based, somewhat organic, and most of all skills and not content driven. When we talk about ‘disruptive innovation’ I understand that we mean giving up the whole model and doing something off the charts. That’s okay. But it starts small and is happening around us every day in baby steps.

I learned how to teach in the 1990s so old habits die hard even though I embrace all of the research about being a ‘guide on the side.’ I get all of that and agree with it. But practice is another thing. The underlying thing that holds me back is the underlying assumption that teenagers are going to slack off if things are student-centered. Do we ever talk about that? If we give them choice, what will the choice be? One of my 11th graders said, “How come this is not a chill class?”

Enter chaos.

I presented them with what I thought was choice today. They were going to design a web site addressing one of five topics on digital literacy that I thought were relevant and interesting (to me). Privacy, social media, etc. etc. They flipped out. “You know what I am going to do, “Jerome” said. “I am going to Wikipedia and Google. I will do it in two seconds and cut and paste a bunch of stuff. You want that?”

And then the coup de grace. “We know all this stuff. Twitter, hashtag, Instagram. Why are you making us do stuff we already know?” (that hurt). I wanted to straighten my tie and ask him if he knew who I was. But I didn’t. I loosened my tie and said. “Okay, you want to step up? Then tell me what you will do and how you will design a site so that it is NOT just another glorified PowerPoint about cars.” He reflected, and then said. “Okay, remember my project on peak oil? I will make it about that and how it will affect the automobile industry.” The class waited with baited breath. My project outline blinked at me on the white screen.

“Alright.” I said. “I’m posting a Google Doc and you need to have what web site you’re using and why your topics are relevant by the end of the day.” He smiled and stood up. I told everyone in the class to stand. We put our hands in the middle of a circle like the beginning of a football match. I told them this better be good and that I was making the mother of all rubrics to grade it. After they cheered, they scattered to corners of the room and started pinging me with ideas.

“Jose” took a photo of us and posted the moment on Instagram.

I embraced the chaos.

‘When will we ever learn’

Just back from an another international education conference – where international school heads came together to once again attempt to unpack the sticky issue of teacher evaluation.

And I just don’t get it. Did I miss something? How is it possible that we STILL debate whether or not student learning results should be included as pivotal data in determining the effectiveness of a teacher? How is it possible that a ‘profession’ would even remotely consider the idea that its bottom line (learning) would not factor in when examining the most essential ingredient (teachers) for its success?

We either accept the research of our own profession or we don’t – I see no middle ground. Every single study conducted that I have managed to get my hands on says the same thing: in the school context the quality of the teaching is the single biggest determinant for learning. Yet until today we have teachers and principals who are outraged that we would even THINK of looking at learning results when it comes to evaluating (or even just supervising) our skillful, PAID professionals. This is a profession, not a job. Professions have standards for their practitioners and those practitioners are held accountable to them – and the standards get raised as the profession’s own research brings new understandings to light.

Our standards in the education profession have been raised. All those research studies strongly indicate that teaching is the most critical factor in LEARNING. They have measured the effect of teaching on LEARNING not on how teachers behave professionally, or who they ‘collaborate’ with or how they plan units. We know unequivocally that what teachers do matters… and ‘mattering’ can only be revealed through examining the learning that each teacher’s kids achieve.

The major argument against using learning results as even a small part of a teacher’s evaluation data is well known. There are too many factors that affect learning that the teacher has no control over. It would just not be ‘fair’ to draw any conclusions about a teacher’s effectiveness and therefore professional next steps based on what the kids have learned. Better to just look at all the ‘inputs’ from the teacher and assume if he is doing all those things, then regardless of learning results, we will stamp him ‘effective’.

What kind of reasoning is that? We can’t have it both ways. The research is conclusive the teacher IS the most significant factor in learning. So it is completely fair and logical to use learning results as the primary indicator of teacher effectiveness– and shall I go out on a limb and say that it may actually border on UNETHICAL not to do so?
If, as many educators would like to claim, the learning results are too ‘contaminated’ by other inputs, rendering the teacher a small part of the learning of any given kid (not!), then why set up a system where teachers are the centerpiece of the school? Let’s disregard the research, dismantle that practice and turn our full attention to those ‘contaminating’ inputs that are causing learning results to be such unreliable indicators of teacher effectiveness. Shall I rant on?

Of course it is important to collect evidence of WHAT the teacher is doing – because those are the things that can be modified IF the learning results are not what they should be. And of course the tools used to collect evidence of learning need to be valid and reliable (and who makes those – yes, teachers). But relying solely on examining instructional and professional behaviors which SHOULD lead to learning WITHOUT looking at the learning results in tandem is somewhere on the continuum of completely stupid to downright damaging. No wonder teacher growth , appraisal, evaluation , supervision schemes – the whole lot – whatever you call them – have never worked and still don’t’. We are looking in the wrong places, driven by faulty assumptions. In the words of the late Pete Seeger, ‘When will we ever learn’?

Surviving a Recruiting Fair: A Game of Musical Chairs

Musical chairs

Now that February is safely behind us I can look back at the recruiting fair I attended last month, and let out a sigh of relief.  For anyone who’s ever attended one, they can understand that describing it as stressful is an understatement.  For the uninitiated, the best way to describe the stress level is to think of the nervousness one feels when going on a job interview . . . and then multiply it by ten.

Any Job Interview is Stressful
Preparing for an interview is a whole process in and of itself and as any job seeker knows, it’s critical not to overlook anything.  First it starts with lining up the interview, researching the organization, learning about their products, services, history, values and mission, and then preparing yourself to be able to answer any and all questions that may come your way.  You must be prepared to explain how you can contribute to the organization and why you’re skills and experience are just what they need.  As part of any interview you must demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the company, can make valuable contributions and can back it up with references.

Make a Good First Impression
In addition, you have to take care of your outward packaging by making sure that you’re dressed and groomed professionally, your shoes are shined, your nails are trimmed and you’re well rested.  (Dark circles under the eyes can belie your claim to possessing tireless

International teaching job fair
First impressions count

energy levels and concealing them is not such an easy task when landing from a 24 hour flight from the other side of the world!)  Even the most painstaking preparations can be rendered meaningless if the little things are not taken into account.  Arriving to the interview on time, making direct eye contact, and having a firm handshake are also important details not to be overlooked because as the old adage states: You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

The good news is that’s not entirely true at a job fair!  Here you have several chances to make a good first impression depending on how many interviews you have lined-up.  During a job fair you could be going on as many as five to ten interviews back-to-back for two days straight, all conducted in the same building.

Supply and Demand – A Competitive Environment
To magnify your stress level, you are constantly reminded of how competitive it is because at the same time you are surrounded by hundreds of other people who are also going on interviews, many of whom who will be interviewing with the same employer you met with, some even, for the exact same position.   The principle of supply and demand stares you in

International school recruiting
Competitive environment at job fairs

the face at the interview sign-up tables, in the elevator and in the lobby as you make small talk with other candidates.  How awkward when you find out that you’re new best friend at the job fair has to run out for an interview and you wish her good luck only to find out that she’s interviewing for the same position that you just interviewed for!  Do you still hope you get the job or do you start the sour grapes dialogue in your head, so that you can root for her by telling yourself that job wasn’t really meant for you anyway?

Check your GDQ (Geographic Desirability Quotient)
Then there’s the geography trick . . . “Yes, I would love to work in Korea!” “Yes, I’m dying to go to Argentina,” and “Yes, Dubai sounds thrilling!”  If someone heard the geographic

International school jobs around the world
I’ll go anywhere!

shifts I made in one day they may think I’m a liar, but the truth is I do have great interest and enthusiasm for all of these varied locations, and can get equally excited about relocating to any one of these places.  That’s what makes the job fair so exciting; you walk in the door with no idea of where you’ll be relocating to in just a few short months, but wherever it is it’s a place you’ll call home for the next two years.   Being open to anything and everything lends an air of mystery to the whole process leaving you with the fatalistic notion that where ever you’re meant to be is where you’ll end-up.

When the Music Ends
Speaking of endings, that’s where the musical chairs comparison comes in.  At the start of the game, all the players begin with optimistic enthusiasm that they will remain in the game.  It’s still fun with a high level of energy and hope.  But as the job fair winds down, just as in the game, the chairs are removed one by one and you’re wondering if you’ll secure one of the few coveted seats, or if you’ll be left standing when the music stops.  This stress hangs like a cloud over the candidates who have not yet secured an offer, and it’s a palpable feeling that feels like a strange combination of desperation and hope.

small school chairI am happy and relieved to report that I ended up with a seat, and I know where I will be living and working for the next two years.  Despite the stress and anxiety associated with the job fair I can say that it was all worth it in the end.  I am thrilled to be heading to the Gems International School of Dubai and know that this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Taking a Day

So I love Sundays…it’s the one day of the week that I take time for myself and do the things that I really want to do. I forget all about my job, the deadlines, my work stress, and my professional obligations (for the most part) and I just relax, enjoy my friends and family, and re-energize for the week ahead. Usually I start the day with a nice long sleep-in until around 6:30 am, which is the time that my kids come bounding into the room to make sure that I’m up and ready to play. I then hop out of bed and take our dog for a long and leisurely walk. When I get home the coffee is made and I eat a nice, slow breakfast with my wife and kids, I Skype with my family, I go for an invigorating run, and I spend the rest of my lazy morning reading, checking interesting websites, watching basketball, and basically doing whatever I want. By the time that the afternoon rolls around I’m ready to write these blog posts, which I love to do incidentally, and then I head off to play soccer with some friends, some colleagues, and my son, Max. To finish the day we eat dinner as a family and talk abut the favorite parts of our weekend. When it’s finally time for bed I feel great, and I’m ready to take on the mad rush of a Monday morning, as well as the issues that always come with the start of a new school week. I love Sundays…but it wasn’t always this way.

It used to be that I packed so much into the weekend that I’d often go to bed Sunday evening exhausted and out of breath…I used to have real difficulty saying “no” to anything that came my way, either personally or professionally, and I’d feel so guilty if I sat down and relaxed for even an hour. In my mind there was just so much to do… and so much that I convinced myself that I needed to be involved in for the sake of myself as a parent and as a leader. My “me” time dissolved away into nothing, and it started to affect my mental health, as well as my relationships and my mood. I finally woke up to the fact that everyone needs a day…one day a week where you can tune out, spend some time on yourself, and forget all about the stresses in your life. Obviously, getting to this point is not that easy…it takes discipline, commitment, courage, and strength of character to learn how to say no, and to learn how to let things go. As educators we are programmed to give of ourselves almost to a fault, and we struggle to not take our work and our professional lives home with us. We want so badly to be there for our students, and we want to be involved in so much that happens all throughout the school community…I get it. For most of us, our work is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week commitment to our school, and we are always “on”. I love that about educators, and I know that in the short term it can feel great to be so involved…but…if you’re not careful, this passion and commitment can easily lead to burn out. I want you this week to think about how much time you are spending on yourself, and your mental health, and your peace of mind. Are you finding time, or making time to re-energize…to read…to exercise…to be lazy…to spend time with friends outside of work…to learn something new…or to do “nothing”? Learning how to say no, and spending some valuable time on yourself might just be the most important thing that you do for your career…and your life.

My father once told me a long time ago that true self confidence, or a true measure of a person’s self assurance is the ability to say no to someone or something without offering up an excuse. I literally struggled with this for decades, but I’m getting better, and I’m happier. I’m also a better educator now because I carve out time for myself and the things that are important to me outside of my work. Look at how you are spending your time, and try and find ways to capture a few hours throughout the week, or a full day… for yourself! I promise that it will change your life for the better, and help you become the educator that you’ve always wanted to be in the long run. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
You have to calendar time for yourself even if you have no idea what you’re going to do with it.
– Susie Bright

Interesting TED Talk – Roselinde Torres (What it Takes to be a Great Leader)
http://www.ted.com/talks/roselinde_torres_what_it_takes_to_be_a_great_leader.html

Learning How to Say No –
http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/11/learning-to-say-no-is-part-of-success/
http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Learn-to-Say-No
http://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2014/01/10/do-you-need-to-learn-to-say-no-this-year/

The Importance of Taking Some Time for Yourself –
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/emotional-fitness/201311/the-importance-allowing-yourself-relax
http://www.papersalt.com/blogs/news/5994804-the-importance-of-making-time-for-yourself
http://tinybuddha.com/blog/40-ways-to-give-yourself-a-break/

It’s not always logical…

The Logical Song

Yes, that’s Ringo on the drums. Yes, this song is as overused in its reference to schools as “We Don’t Need No Education” by Pink Floyd, but Supertramp is one of my all time favorites and deserves a place in at least one blog. And it’s relevant to the topic. Play it loudly with good earphones, it’s much better.

I threw out my first student last week. I used my famous line from when I was teaching in the 1990s, “You are no longer invited to class today.” There was something about the ‘de-invitation’ that always worked for me, like we were having a party and me as the host decided things were out of control and the social contract had been broken. It was time to go. “Ivan” grabbed his belongings and walked out, not putting up an argument. The suit works, sometimes.

As a Principal who teaches, you’d think I’d get the instant respect that comes with the position. You know, the man in the suit who looks important. Logically.

Not so with ‘A’ block digital literacy. The first line in the song is so pertinent to my boarding school students.

When I was young it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, it was magical…
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, oh responsible practical…

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Our students have it pretty good. Perched on the side of the Swiss Alps, they don’t have much to want for and are well looked after. But a lot of them come from very traditional systems of learning. And when I tried to experiment with a more student-centered approach, something that put them in the driver’s seat of choice, responsibility, and assessment, I felt the teacher control slipping out of my hands. It was exhilerating and alarming. Some of them, like “Ivan” took that as permission, even with the Principal.

It all started with a project using Instagram. At first they did presentations using various mediums like PowerPoint to talk about an issue they cared about. But they were so dry and one dimensional that I came up with the idea of using Instagram. Three pictures, one story, convince me that this is important. It actually went pretty well. Until it was my turn. I put myself in their shoes, and thus became one (of them). My three photos were of a girl in Haiti who had no where to go to school. There was the picture of her, her village, and then a photo of her finally having someplace to go to school. In the middle of it Ivan pretended to cry, mocking both the girl’s plight and (I thought) my presentation.

After I threw him out, we had a heart to heart. I didn’t get a lot out of it other than my own reflection that I was trying too hard and I was invading their medium (read prior blog ‘Hands off my Hashtag’). Maybe I was reading too much into it, but I took what was their expression and I co-opted it, putting myself again in the teacher/Principal seat. I should have just left well enough alone and gave them all the attention. Ivan made me pay. You want student centered? You got it. Mockery and all.

And they showed me a world
where I could be so dependable
clinical, oh intellectual, cynical.

Okay, so Ivan got me there. He treated me like a ‘student’ in student centered teaching and I should have expected the outcome. But I reacted and disinvited him to the party.

The good news is that I made my way up to his MUN presentation the next day and watched. He was so handsome in his suit, and I wearing my casual sweater that we took a photo.

Yes, we posted it on Instagram. Sepia. He smiled and hugged me.