Tag Archives: education administration

Fata ‘Magana’

(Joshua Nowicki – Photography)

NOTE: This post is a follow on of my review of Sonny Magana’s book. The previous post entitled Not So Hot for Teacher?


A Fata Morgana is a mirage that is seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. Early associations of the effect were said to resemble “fairy castles built in the air.”

A Fata Magana is a mirage suggested that by making tweaks to how they teach, teachers can disrupt all of the highly interdependent status quo fixtures of “Education” itself and double student achievement. Like the Fata Morgana, it is suggestive of fairy castles built in the air.


TLDR: Polymath believes his interpretation of Hattie’s meta study of technology’s effect size on student achievement afforded him insight into creating a framework that doubles student achievement while requiring far less teacher effort. This is purportedly achieved by combining “high probability teaching strategies” and tracking student emotions about their work solving “wicked problems” using whatever technology they deem appropriate. While there is no shortage of dramatic descriptive detail, Magana leaves out how the framework integrates within Education’s core subjects.

Magana’s Entry in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, Education

I learned a great deal from this experiment of doing research, writing a critical review and then seeing the author speak about the work in person.

The first jolt of the process was the instant feeling of camaraderie and collegiality walking into an education conference with a hundred and fifty other people. Seeing all the smiles ostensibly all there to “educate better” it was hard to imagine being critical of anything or anyone in that initial moment. As humane and comforting as this feeling was, I noted this is also related to why it is so hard to maintain an independent voice in a school.

Sonny’s Session for Teachers

I went to Sonny’s presentation for teachers first. There were about ten of us. I was familiar with his sessions as I’d seen and read so much online already, nonetheless I was surprised just how exactly the session went like a copy of what I’d seen online. His message discipline was remarkable.

He has obviously read Dale Carnegie and made sure to have everyone introduce themselves upfront so he could immediately begin using our names. As in his writing, he comes off as a clearly intelligent practitioner, of…? His background is somewhat hard to parse; he told us he was a “researcher”, but didn’t let on that before that he spent seven and a half years in various sales roles for Promethean, a whiteboard company, and before that an unexplained three year gap on his profile, and before that a principal of a “Cyberschool”, and so on.

A “difficult” child in his own youth, he related that his career took the path it did after taking on kids who were failing in “the system” and helping them to succeed. Once you understand his “alt-school” background, it makes his approach towards traditional teachers and schools much more understandable. You can see why he formulated a framework that fit much better outside “the system,” given his previous roles had effectively allowed him free reign to design his courses and assessments as he pleased.

After hearing about his bona fides, he moved to the story of how he came to the seeds for the book. It all started when he was around a campfire in his teen years, strumming open chords on a guitar until for the very first time he heard…BLANG!!!!! Magana queues Eddie Van Halen’s song “Eruption” to play as if he did not know it would be coming on.

Magana uses Van Halen’s frenetic guitar to demonstrate his framework and how its three stages culminate in transcendant learning, as in the type exemplified by Mr. Van Halen. It was an effective demonstration of the core pillars of his framework and Magana would (effectively) come back to music concepts and clips again and again to explain and his work.

Beyond music analogies around the genesis of his thinking, Magana is less clear….How to lead the transcendent pursuit? How does each kid learn how to learn?  Can it be generalized? All great questions and where those answers fit into a school’s curricular program is a mystery that Sonny does not speak to.

Sonny’s first session activity for teachers was to set the four tables off reading a couple pages of his book summary. Fair enough, but when he asked us to not only come back with three “things that made us think Aha!” from two pages of his writing but also at least one thing we’re going to implement in our own classes, the presumptuous/pretentious request immediately made eyeballs both dart and then roll slightly between teacher attendees.

While he waited for us to read, he noodled in the background on an acoustic guitar while his favorite classic rock jam band tunes played in the background. It was a bit much given only once briefly in about 15 minutes did he walk around among the tables, but even then he did not engage. Next, when we had finished, instead of just discussing the work as a group, he had us type our work into our digital tool of choice and send it to him on email, which seemed bizarrely overcomplicated until later you realize this was to goose the next step in his book promotion/sales process.

When we pulled back together, the responses were not what he was intending. I think with so much of his work being with public schools in the US, he was not at all used to the depth and experience that Tier 1 international school teachers who self select into a technology session possess.

In other words, things got awkward.

A 10th grade social studies teacher politely but firmly told him she was already aware of the strategies he referenced and used most them at different times with her classes; there was nothing new under the sun here. Sonny quickly moved on, and the rest of the responses were tepid at best.

Sonny then went in to describe the stages and reached the final goal of the T3 Framework, Social Entrepreneurship.

Sonny holds “Social entrepreneurship” as some kind of deep, universal human desire that all students will want to participate in at every opportunity if we would only just let them. Sonny’s framework also assumes that changing the world and making money doing it is viable in 6-8 different classes each day. Even if this was the only worthy goal for students (and it is not) I would argue there are not as many kids with the kind of endless creativity and drive Magana assumes. Not every student is Elon Musk, nor should they feel they need to be.

Magana came up to me during a break after the first session for teachers ended and asked about me. I was the most engaged in his sessions in some ways. I said I was a former teacher, involved in digital integration most recently who would really like to see a framework like his work, but that I was concerned that it had a lot of earth to move in terms of the status quo. Sonny interpreted that to mean I was talking about teachers and he did what I was wondering if he would do– he gently threw teachers as a whole under the bus.

Sonny said “You know, so many teachers, like we had today, say that they are doing the things in the framework, but they are not.” He then indicated he had to go, and later in the day he sent me an email with a copy of his Oxford Research paper as a gift to share with my colleagues. Not really a good look at a teaching conference. I felt relief that my initial judgements had born out.

Sonny’s Session for Administrators

I attended Magana’s session intended for Administrators on the final day of the conference. I was not surprised that his presentation to teachers and admin was nearly identical, but what was different was telling. Instead of Van Halen, he used the Beatles and US President Kennedy’s “Moonshot” speech along with a stirring video montage to relate his framework as Education’s “moonshot”.

Again, as in the first, he glazed over the details on the studies; let’s just all assume Hattie’s massive meta-study is a stone tablet from on high. The rest of the presentation steps were generally the same, only without any reading activity and collection of emails for his marketing machine. It was less on explaining the framework and more on selling the whole package…the association with Hattie, the book, the classroom walkthrough Google form tool, the T3 Leadership Academy. Interestingly, none of the non-theoretical practical tools were beyond early iterative stages of a basic Google sheet and form.

I asked what he felt the top three or four things administrators would need to do to implement or encourage the implementation of the T3 framework. Here’s what he said:

  1. Belief in collective efficacy.
  2. Have to talk about it. You need a common language for transcendent learning
  3. Common set of strategies to establish examples
  4. Need to evaluate it

I thanked Sonny when it was over. I then took a seat, went into the initial blog post/book review, added a question mark in the title and let the rest stand.

Success in School and Life

How would you answer the following question: What are the factors that most influence how children achieve success in school and life?

Several EAB teachers are currently attending the annual AASSA teachers’ conference with a focus, in part, on answering this essential question. To that end, our teachers are spending three days engaging with professional colleagues and internationally renowned educational specialists. Two of the specialists, Dr. Michael Thompson and Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, both highly recommended authors, have offered insights towards answering this question.9580068088_02ced873c8_o1

The psychologist, Michael Thompson, challenges adults to remember what school is actually like to better understand the psychological journey that students experience during their K3-12 school years. Thompson argues that children are constantly searching for three things: connection, recognition, and a sense of power and highlights that children are able to find these three needs in a variety of ways within the life of a school.

Thompson further describes the different student needs by elaborating on the “three types of children in school:
I. those whose journeys are characterized mostly by success,
II. those whose journeys are characterized by a chronic but manageable struggle,
III. those whose journeys are characterized by fury and despair.
Each journey has its own different pressures. Every child is constantly developing strategies for coping with the pressures that he or she feels.”

Thompson uses the metaphor of a person preparing for a long hike and the importance of finding just the right shoe “fit” to facilitate the hike and avoid painful blisters. While there is an important element of resilience and persistence associated with the learning process, the shoe metaphor challenges schools to find the right educational program to “fit” student needs so that the three types of children in schools are not subject to unnecessary “blisters” and are able to achieve personal success.

Returning to the need of children for connection, recognition, and a sense of power, Catherine Steiner-Adair’s book, The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age, addresses the impact technology has on the relationships between children and adults. While Steiner-Adair advocates for the use of technology and the benefits to be gained, she also shares research findings that highlight how the ubiquitous presence of technology in our lives can result in serious negative implications for our relationships. Steiner-Adair offers insights and advice that can help parents and educators to determine how best to integrate technology in our daily lives without diminishing our personal connections. She asks us to question how we interact with technology when engaging with children (e.g. Do we give children our undivided attention when they are speaking with us or are we continuously looking at our cell phones?) and how our need to access technological devices frames our days and lives.

If we are to respond to each child’s need for connection, recognition, and a sense of power, then we must not only question how well our educational program is addressing these needs, but also review the degree to which technology may be adversely affecting our relationships with students and adults alike. The further integration of technology into our lives is a reality that will not go away. Therefore, it is our responsibility to control how technology affects our lives to ensure that we are taking advantage of the tremendous benefits and available opportunities that technology provides, while also addressing the inherent challenges to our relationships and overall wellbeing.

Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com (Twitter: @dequanne)

Featured image: cc licensed (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) flickr photo by Matt https://www.flickr.com/photos/d35ign/9580068088

Mentor ME

How can you help your leader get better at his/her job?

Have you ever been asked that question? If you have been, and if you made suggestions, were they used? Did the leader in question actually improve his/her craft? Did you help support or coach that person on the journey?

While recent research points to the importance teacher mentoring has on improving instructional practice, what I feel is less often considered is the need for developing high-quality administrators. How many of our leaders have a mentor, a coach, or another active way to be supported in their growth?

Four years ago, as an instructional coach, it was my job to respond to and help teachers improve their practice. Sometimes my efforts were mandated. However, many, many more times my work with teachers was desired. They wanted to get better, appreciated the support, and were willing to learn.

The funny thing about that time in my life was that there was never a coach for me. I wasn’t getting feedback on my craft. I didn’t receive much training. I wanted it, but there was not a model in my school. I fell into that void where counselors, librarians and sometimes other leaders fall where feedback is often less frequent and hardly ever followed up with coaching.

What I got, I had to go get. So, Mr. Kindle, Mrs. Twitter, and various blogs became my central teachers.

Currently, as an administrator, I still have to find the time to sharpen my own saw. While on-the-job training is part of being an administrator, it shouldn’t be confused with real training. For myself and others, I know, beginning your admin career is more often a “trial by fire” (on a daily basis). Not a learning cycle where you decide what you want to work on, practice it, and get feedback.

Part of the problem is time. Administrators struggle to fit it all in, just like the rest of the folks in our organizations. Believe me, if I had to choose between my own PD and providing it to others through observations, facilitation work or even leading sessions, I feel duty-bound to support rather than receive.

Another is about perception. Although we often say we are schools where everyone is learning, it is another thing entirely for the leaders of a school to be accepted as, not having the skills or answers- but learning them. Many aren’t comfortable saying they don’t know how to do something, because saying it might cause others to wonder about their ability to lead.

The last issue is our lack of a network. I’m one of those people whose career is internationally grounded. I grew up (literally and professionally) over here- in our schools. I have never benefited from a “district office” or a cohort of comrades who I’ve been able to move with, together, through a school system since our early teaching years. The network I do have isn’t necessarily HERE.  My feedback angels are not easy to collect together because they are in different countries and at different schools. I can’t utilize them as a sounding board for a problem I’m facing or to ask them to watch and comment on how I’m running a meeting or communicating with staff or parents.

So, here is what I’m looking for- from you. From us.

Can we use technology to expand our feedback network across schools? Can we make time at regional conferences for case studies of current principal and administrative practice. Can we come together within our buildings, to find ways to gather feedback for our administrators, and then follow it up with active coaching?

Can we find the courage to ask for and receive quality feedback (not simply an anonymous survey at the end of year) and make the time to support every learner- even our leaders-  get better?

Photo Credit: http://beyouonlybetter.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/mentor-corkboard.jpg

Sebastião Salgado: Genesis Project

I was grateful for today’s opportunity to visit Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis exhibition at Centro Cultural Banco de Brasil (CCCB). The legendary Brazilian photographer worked on the Genesis project from 2004 to 2011, engaging with the most remote locations on Earth. He describes his project as “my love letter to the planet,” with the goal of raising awareness about the beauty and majesty of remote regions of the world and the communities who still live according to ancient traditions. The following is a sampling of Sebastião Salgado’s photo exhibition.

Genesis Overview
From http://www.amazonasimages.com

Genesis is a long-term photographic project, in line with the main bodies of work carried out previously by Sebastião Salgado; for example, the series of reportages presented in Workers or the series on the theme of the population movements around the world, that appeared in Migrations. This new project is about our planet earth, nature and its beauty, and what remains of it today despite the manifold destruction caused by human activity. Genesis is an attempt to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions. Genesis is about seeing and marvelling, about understanding the necessity for the protection of all this; and finally it is about inspiring action for this preservation. The shooting of this series of photographic reportages began in 2004 and is due for completion in 2012.

Sebastião Salgado Biography
From http://www.amazonasimages.com

Sebastião Salgado was born on February 8th, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He lives in Paris. Having studied economics, Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris, working with the photo agencies Sygma, Gamma, and Magnum Photos until 1994, when he and Lélia Wanick Salgado formed Amazonas images, an agency created exclusively for his work. He has travelled in over 100 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these, besides appearing in numerous press publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas (1986), Sahel: l’homme en détresse (1986), Sahel: el fin del camino (1988), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world.

Sebastião Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. In 2004, Sebastião Salgado began a project named Genesis, aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.

Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990’s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Instituto is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.

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Profile: I am currently working as the Head of School at the American School of Brasilia and publish a weekly blog at www.barrydequanne.com.

Photo Credit: Sebastião Salgado

Mind the Gap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Crossposted on http://literacybytes.com/)

There is so much going on right now in schools and education in general. My strategy for coping with the onslaught is to sit down and make a plan. Larger than a to do list, more refined than a hopes and dreams paragraph, a good plan reaches for the stars while laying out “the build” or how to get from Point A to Point B. It helps me mind the gap between what is happening now and where I’m trying to head.

Often the biggest complaint I hear from teachers is that there isn’t enough time. I understand that. I feel the same. Especially if we are thinking of using our time to create, go deep, fully understand and get good at something. However, I think what we’re really feeling is that there isn’t enough time to run from thing to thing and still find the space to do the good stuff. That is what the people I work with- educators in general- want to do, the good BIG work of teaching and learning. It’s why we got into this gig in the first place!

What can we do to ease the feeling of needing to run, run, run while still getting over the gap and on to what is next and maybe more important?

As an administrator, I believe it is my job to control the floodgates and to help keep the unnecessaries or low priorities from gobbling people up. To do that, the organizational leaders need to know and be focused on those vital few top priorities. Three is enough. From there we need to work to make sure everyone gets a chance to focus on those too. As leaders, I believe our job is to hack a path through the grass with our “three top things” machete so everyone else can move through with ease. This is good work for a leadership team. It is playing defense to win the game (always less glamorous than shooting all the shots) but essentially more effective in the long run.

As teachers, I think it is imperative to find and focus on those three big things too. Whether it is dictated by organizational goals or by a personal focus, knowing what is most important and then being able to sink thought and time into it and really get good at doing it… well that might just be a luxury in some schools. The thing is, when the organization is moving quickly and doesn’t have a set sense of priorities; it is difficult for teachers to grow, learn and change while (and this is the important part) keeping up with the day-to-day needs of their students.

As people: parents, spouses, colleagues and friends- I think we need to support each other as we negotiate this world full of work and distractions. I watch my daughter juggling that balance on a daily basis. She can Skype with her best friend Hannah in Shanghai as easily as she can tweet out to her followers about Taylor Swift’s newest song, however she is also still asked to follow the school path of my generation. I don’t see these two aspects of her life as being in opposition exactly, but it does mean she is navigating two ways of work, and that isn’t efficient. When time is of the essence, efficiently moving toward your goals is important. We need to help those around us navigate all that is part of the work now. (Strengthfinders 2.0 being my newest obsession, I wonder if taking the time to develop strengths might ease the need to do it all.)

Instead of being bumped around by all that is out there, it is time to grab on and get going on the most important “three” we can see. Change will take time, of course. But the longer we wait to begin, the larger the gap seems to be growing. It’s one thing to know it’s there; it’s another to be actively working to get across.

Photo Credit: http://preducationblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/mind-the-gap.jpg

TEDxHongKong Thoughts

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The following post is cross posted from Expat Teacher Man


“There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.”

Aristotle

I  attended TEDxHongKongED  event to “exchange ideas, discuss thoughts and ask questions.” I listened to some influential people speak about learning and the power of discovery. Below is a series of questions that I wrote in my notebook during the course of the day.

Parents

Why do you send your kids to school each day? We haven’t always taught children in a classroom setting…why do we now? Are you satisfied with your child’s academic growth? Is the classroom setting the best avenue for learning? Can we do better? Does sending your kid to school each day makes economic and intellectual sense? Do your kids complain of boredom? Is educational technology used often and appropriately in your child’s classroom? Is your school doing what is right for your child? Is your school doing what is right for the future of the planet? Does your school preach classroom management over individuality? Are you aware that nearly 20% of American students suffer from some sort of mental disorder? (Merikangas KR, etal. 2010)

Teachers

How do you feel about your career path? Does the digital age frighten you? Is this possibly the golden age of teaching or will only the best, brightest and luckiest be well compensated? Are schools truly future focused?  Do teachers develop a curriculum that above all else, keeps them employed? Why do you still teach inside a classroom setting? Can you effectively reach more children online? Could you be better compensated online? Do we let kids truly discover? Or rather, do we set them up to discover what we consider is important? Do we censor too much? Is the school day too long? Do we pay enough attention to physical fitness and the arts? Do your students look bored? Do your kids complain of bullying? Do your kids receive individualized and proper services? What percentage of your students need counseling support?

Administrators

Do you treat all with fairness, dignity and respect? Do you offer multiple ways for student learning? Do you trust your staff? Are you effective in conflict resolution? Are families involved in improving curriculum? Do you support continuous improvement? Are you using your time wisely? Do you have effective communication skills? Are you willing to hear bad news? Do you inspire your staff to do great work? Are you socially innovative? Is creativity a part of your school’s mission? Do your students create music? Do you allow students to discover mathematics? Do you offer an environment where students can learn from failure?

TEDxHongKongED was most definitely time well spent. I look forward to the speeches being uploaded so that I can share them with my professional learning network.

 Reference:

Merikangas KR, He J, Burstein M, Swanson SA, Avenevoli S, Cui L, Benjet C, Georgiades K, Swendsen J. Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2010 Oct. 49(10):980-989.

 

Inspiration

I’ve been incredibly inspired lately by a number of different things, and it has opened up my eyes yet again to one of life’s undeniable truths……..which is that inspiration is all around us, in every moment of every day, just waiting to be found. The truly challenging thing however, is to have your eyes, heart, and mind open to all of life’s beauty, and to the inspiring moments that continually present themselves to us. More often than not, we get so busy as educators with our report writing, our lesson planning, our weekly meetings, and all the rest that these special and simple moments can quite easily sneak by sadly without notice……and that’s a shame. So with that in mind I’d like to talk this week about inspiration.

Since I began thinking about this a few weeks ago, I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed by how easy it is to gain strength, energy, enthusiasm, and hope just by stopping for a moment and taking a look around. I’ve been inspired by so many things over the past few weeks that I don’t really know where to begin honestly. First off, there’s the inspiration that can be found in the moments of adversity that so many people struggle with on a personal level. My brother for example, who has been recovering from a stroke with an incredible amount of determination and optimism, and our dear friend and colleague who’s struggling with cancer but doing so with such unbelievable strength, poise, and courage.  It’s not hard to be inspired when you see this kind of fight in people….it makes you want to do all the things that you’ve been putting off, and it makes you want to say all the things that you’ve been meaning to say…….inspiring.

I also recently came back from an EARCOS leadership conference, which literally made my head spin with excitement, and inspired the hell out of me. Living in this day and age of education is amazing, as we’re in the midst of some long overdue transformational change. What schools are doing right now with technology, project based and experiential learning, authentic assessment, and non-traditional timetabling is astounding in my opinion. Schools around the globe are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in education, and it has inspired me to think hard about how we can do better for our students and community here at SCIS. The opportunity to hear a few of the world’s visionary leaders in education talk about how they’re bringing educational change to their schools has made me want to work harder, and think bigger for the future of our kids……inspiring.

I want you all to think about what has happened in our own environment over the past several weeks. The UN Day and International Food Fair, the Zombie Love performances, and this past weekend’s Dynamix music festival have all been ridiculously inspiring for our students and our community. Think about the experiences that our kids are receiving that are not only transforming who they are as performers, but who they are as young adults. It’s not hard to be inspired by all that our students have access to, and by all the wonderful, future shaping work that you (their teachers) are contributing to their young lives. If you take it down to more of a micro-level, look at what’s happening in your own individual classrooms on a daily basis, or down the hall in a colleague’s classroom, or out on the soccer field or up in the gym……..inspiration is happening everywhere, all the time, and it’s there for all of us to feed off of…….take a moment and take a look around.

I’ve been inspired lately and I wanted to share this with you…….I also want to encourage you all to slow down and open your eyes. It’s as easy as meeting the kids first thing in the morning and being inspired by the energy, innocence, eagerness, and joy that they bring to school each and every day. I meet them every morning coming off the buses, and it’s rare that I don’t have a belly laugh due to the pure beauty of who they are and what they say as they high five me on their way to first block. Inspiration is all around us….everywhere….in everything that we do……..don’t get caught with your head down and your eyes closed everyone. You’ll miss out on what’s really important in life and education, which is us……the kids, your colleagues, and the natural world around us. Take it all in and be inspired!

Have a great week everyone and remember to be great for your students and inspired by each other.

Quotes of Week……..
Remember that life’s most treasured and inspired moments often come unannounced
– Anonymous

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working
-Pablo Picasso

Inspiring TED Talk – Chip Conley
http://www.ted.com/talks/chip_conley_measuring_what_makes_life_worthwhile.html

Thought Provoking TED Talk- Matt Killingsworth
http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_killingsworth_want_to_be_happier_stay_in_the_moment.html

A few inspiring Websites and Projects…..there are so many!
http://www.ligercambodia.org/liger-learning-center/

www.edibleschoolyard.org

 

www.achievement.org


 

 

Teachers teaching Teachers

Less than two weeks ago we rolled out our new “SIPS” initiative in the Middle School, as part of our attempt to take advantage of the incredible amount of educational expertise that we currently have on staff. We set up a situation where monthly, we carve out some time to allow teachers to teach other teachers, and to infuse some internal professional development into our working lives. I’ve heard it many times before (and I tend to agree) that the most powerful form of professional development is the utilization of the amazing talents and skills that a faculty brings to an organization, coupled with a format that sets it up in a way that is relevant, regular, and sustainable. I had a chance to sit in on and videotape two of the first four sessions, and to be honest, they were outstanding. The feedback that we received from teachers was extremely positive with the only real criticism being that they were too short!  I’m very excited to showcase the next four sessions in a few weeks time, and I believe that this initiative could quickly become part of the fabric of our Middle School…….

If you’re looking for an acronym for SIPS, it’s “School Improvement Program”, although we’ve been using the following analogy to get the idea across to our community. Essentially, if you view all of the Professional Development opportunities that are open to us as educators each school year as a big jug of PD water, we are looking to drink from this jug one “sip” at a time. A once a month showcase during our sacrosanct Wednesday Faculty meeting schedule, where we set up either half hour or hour long mini PD sessions that are led by faculty members with something to share. Like I said, the first four were fantastic with Joel presenting Garage Band as a assessment tool, Ross presenting on the effective use of Smart Boards, Bret presenting on Power School, Grade book, and our new engagement rubric, and finally, Jason and Dominic presenting on the educational value of SAS Curriculum pathways.

We’re also in the process of setting up a collaboration blog of sorts, which can house many of these videos and podcasts (with teacher permission of course) so that we all have access to each session, because unfortunately you can only view one or two of your choices on the actual day. The call is out already for the next set of presenters, and I’m excited to lead a session myself during the next round on November 14th. I’m encouraging you all to think about a possible “sip” that you could deliver at some point throughout the year. I’ve been into each one of your classrooms and I see the wonderful things that are taking place…….please try to find the courage to share one part of your teaching talents for the betterment of us all! It’s a powerful and empowering thing to sit and watch a colleague present, but another thing altogether to get up there and present yourself. Talk about professional development! Here’s a brief list off the top of my head as suggestions and examples of potential upcoming “SIPS”…….

6 traits writing and rubrics
Reading comprehension strategies
Intervention strategies
ESOL in the mainstream
Differentiation
Anything Technology focused (prezi, word press, podcasting, iMovie, ect)
Classroom management techniques
Collaboration techniques
How to have hard conversations
Inquiry based learning
Proper Research and citation procedures
Experimental learning
Literature circles
Interactive read alouds
Setting up a professional blog/portfolio
Assessment strategies
Using Drama/Dance to aid in student understanding
Service learning
Curriculum development
Rubicon Atlas
Teaching non fiction writing/different genre writing
Balancing your school life and personal life

As you can see, the possibilities are immense, and after looking at this quick list it’s not hard to recognize how much we could potentially learn from one another. Thank you to those of you who have already presented, and thank you in advance to those of you who are about to step up….I cannot wait. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…
Ultimately, we hope teachers will not only retain what they learn in professional development encounters, but also transfer that new knowledge into action.
– David Sousa

The following articles are taken from Kim Marshall’s weekly roundup, which can be found at www.marshallmemo.com
Article #1 – Seven Keys to Effective Professional Development Seven Keys to Effective Professional Development
Article #2 – How to Make Professional Development Stick  How to Make Professional Development Stick

Teachers Teaching Teachers Article
http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin459.shtml
Professional Development Website
http://www.teachervision.fen.com/pro-dev/resource/5778.html
Professional Development Conversation
http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2007/10/25/01chat.h01.html

 

 

Meaning and Purpose

So recently I had the wonderful opportunity to re-read one of of my favorite books, as well as the chance to have my eyes and heart opened by some unexpected people, in some unexpected places. Collectively, these experiences got me thinking a lot about the importance of meaning and purpose in our lives, and the responsibility we have as educators to instill this life focus in our students and children. Hopefully as teachers, we have eagerly and specifically chosen this profession because of the unmatched and unlimited purpose and meaning that comes with the territory. In my opinion, educating children and young adults is not only fulfilling, rewarding, and extraordinarily meaningful but hugely daunting as well. It’s not enough to simply teach our students the course content, or all we know about reading, writing, and arithmetic…….we NEED to teach them about courage, love, service, empathy, and all that goes into leading a life of meaning. We have a deep and urgent responsibility to prepare our kids for life outside of the school walls, and we need to be held accountable for ensuring that each student has opportunities to see, and find, purpose in their lives.

In Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive”, he talks about the power of intrinsic motivation, and how leading a life of purpose and meaning is a fundamental need and want of every individual. He goes on to say that a person’s happiness is directly related to how much meaning they find in their work, and how there is an increasingly significant shift in what young people are looking for out of their lives. It is no longer about how much money they can make, or how successful they can be, it’s about the positive difference that they can make in the world and in other people’s lives. Pink often talks about how “meaning” is the new money, and I wonder how much we are doing to emphasize this in the contact days that we have with our students. Are we really looking to connect and relate what we are teaching in a way that allows our kids to see the purpose in it…..or the meaning? Are students leaving our classrooms with a better understanding of who they are, and a better sense of who they can be? I know that they are becoming better readers, and scientists, and mathematicians but are they becoming better people? If it’s not a confident and resounding yes!, then I think we should re-evaluate our own purpose and meaning as educators.

I was in Cambodia again over the holiday, and we decided as a family to go on a tour of a local floating village. I was talking with our guide about the abject poverty of the
people, and how sad it must be for them to live like this when he told me that I had it all wrong. He just happened to be a retired teacher and what he said brought me back to what is truly important in life. He said that even though they have no money and live in make shift shacks with none of the amenities that we take for granted, these people are happy! They are fishermen and farmers and each one of them has meaning and purpose in their lives. They provide food for their family, the teach their children how to farm and fish, they come together as families and a community at night, and each one of them is thankful for what they have. They all value each others contributions and worth in the village and they  understand their place in the world. The kids see a purpose in their lives/future and are intrinsically and intensely motivated to contribute back their surrounding community……..these children want for nothing and are truly happy he said! I wondered about how many of our students are this genuinely happy with their lives, and how many have the same level of confidence in who they are, and where they are going in life?

I also had the opportunity recently to go recruiting at the Queen’s University job fair, and the overall experience made me ridiculously excited about the future of our profession. I interviewed a dozen or so young teachers and to be honest, I was blown away by the questions that they were asking of me. It wasn’t all about the salary, or the housing allowance, or the opportunities for travel during the school holidays……….it was all about the vision of our school, the commitment to service learning, the opportunities to coach or provide after school clubs for kids, and whether or not our faculty had a common purpose. They were acutely aware of what they wanted out of their careers and it inspired the hell out of me. I think that this week we should measure the amount of meaning and purpose that we each currently have in our lives, and ask ourselves if we’re getting what we need out of our current situations……..are our students getting what they need and deserve out of their school days, and are they aware of it? Are we really helping them find their meaning and purpose in life, and are we truly taking advantage ours?

Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
“No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness, and the generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure.” ~Emma Goldman

Article #1 – Purpose Driven School Work Purpose
Article #2 – Helping Young People Find Purpose Helping Young People Find Purpose

Meaningful Website………..
http://www.teachersmind.com/Education.html

TED TALK……….
Victor Frankl on Meaning and Purpose
http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning.html

Accountability

So this week I’d like to start off with a quick little story to help illustrate the importance of teacher/administrator accountability in schools. I first came across it when reading Peter Senge’s, The Fifth Discipline several years ago, and if you stop to think about it, the sentiment quickly becomes crystal clear. It goes like this……. One Sunday, during a Little League Baseball Game, a young right fielder dropped three or four fly balls in a row which cost his team the win. After the final run scored, he came running into the dugout and yelled, “Man, NOBODY can catch a ball out there!”.Obviously, the point of this story is to showcase how easy and common it is to look to (or blame) other people, or factors, or the circumstances outside of your control, for the issues that are prohibiting an organization from reaching their goal or vision.

In my opinion, accountability is a difficult thing to talk about for many people and schools because if it’s not going well, then it needs to result in hard, awkward, and confrontational conversations that most people like to avoid. One of the best lessons that I’ve learned over the past couple of years however, is that there is nothing more detrimental to a worthy cause than a serious problem that goes unaddressed (thanks Greg). So, with all that said……I’d like to talk about accountability.
As I see it, accountability in schools can be broken down into four parts (kind of like our C.O.A.R. Initiative, which accountability is such a huge part of)……..
  • Accountability to our students – This in my mind is the most important one and has many, many layers. Things like modeling professional and appropriate behavior, preparing educationally sound and engaging lessons that align with our vision, challenging each student intellectually, using our laptop program effectively and responsibly, setting high expectations for all students, using formative and summative assessment strategies to authentically assess a student’s learning, monitoring classroom behavior, doing your supervision duties with an eye on student safety and well being, celebrating our school’s diversity, being thoughtful and honest when writing report comments, and being passionate about education each and every day……and that’s just a start.

 

  • Accountability to our colleagues – Being responsible and accountable to each other is huge, and is an essential component to building a great school. Things like sharing your expertise through peer evaluations, presenting mini Professional Development workshops, posting videotaped lessons, attending and actively engaging in department and grade level meetings, doing your partnered supervision duties, helping to write and align curriculum both horizontally and vertically, living up to your contractual obligations, being an effective communicator and active listener, developing strong relationships, building trust, and supporting each other both personally or professionally….all the time.

 

  • Accountability to our parent community – As a community school, the parent piece is paramount as I see it. We need to be responsible for keeping parents well informed about their child’s progress/struggles, being willing to discuss issues with behavior, asking for support on the home front, keeping your web presence updated and inviting, being communicative and proactive with any and all learning issues or celebrations, taking your job as an advisor seriously and being that child’s mentor teacher in its truest sense, welcoming parent feedback, looking for ways to bring their professional expertise into your classrooms if possible, and asking them to help promote the sparks that you see in their child.

 

  • Accountability to ourselves as individuals – This is where it all starts….We need to be true to who we are as educators by being passionate about our work, and coming to school everyday with a positive attitude that inspires. We need to look into Professional Development opportunities so we are continuously learning and growing, as well as seeking out our colleagues with an eye on collaboration and peer sharing. We need to have educational courage and have the necessary difficult conversations with positive intent, and we need to go out of our way to develop professional and collegial relationships which will positively impact the learning of our students. We need to question our current practice, and challenge our current thinking, and share our expertise, and be the best educators that we can for our kids…you owe it to yourself!
I recently joined a wonderful on-line Professional Learning Community through the site, CONNECTED PRINCIPALS. It was created by a Canadian Principal named George Couros, and it is a wonderful resource for educators. There are fantastic articles and discussion points and topical conversation threads that keep you thinking and growing, and it’s interesting to see how we are all going through the same issues regardless of where we are around the globe. One particularly interesting post about being an effective Principal (by George Couros incidentally), lists six ways that you can truly make a positive difference in students’ lives. After reading and reflecting on it, it is easy to see that it doesn’t just apply to Principals, but to every faculty member that is engaged with students. The six ways are…….
  1. Welcome the kids when they arrive, say goodbye to them when they leave
  2. Your first interaction with a student should always be a positive one
  3. Talk as little as possible!
  4. Use humor to deal with situations any chance you can
  5. Do the Walk (be present throughout the day outside of your classroom)
  6. Kids will love you if they know that you love them
Anyway, as we look to showcase our Open House Night for parents on Tuesday, think about how you’re doing with regards to accountability, and look for ways that you can step up your game, so to speak. We all have room to grow personally and professionally (heaven knows that I do), and this is a good week to recommit to ourselves, our school, and each other. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…….
Don’t spend your precious time asking “Why isn’t my school a better place?” It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is “How can I make my school better?” To that there is an answer.

– Adapted from a quote by Leo Buscaglia
Article #1 – Six Critical School Success factors (Douglas Reeves) Douglas Reeves on Six Critical School
Article #2 – What Makes Superstar Teachers Effective? (Neil Bright) What Makes Superstar Teachers Effective
Article #3 – Passion Pays (F. John Reh) Passion Pays
George Couros Blog
Connected Principals Collaborative Resource

http://connectedprincipals.com/