Category Archives: Sharing

Possible: Kids Get It

My last post Possible: A Frame of Mind touched on how we as educators need to shift our mind sets to context in order to inspire change in the system. We must understand our “why” and encourage others to find theirs before we ask teachers to change their practice.

Last week, I had an awesome conversation with my students. I asked them what they liked about our class and what they would like to change about school. Here are some of their responses…

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Photo Credit: Nanagyei via Compfight cc

I think teachers should be closer with their students. It makes it so much easier to learn when you are connected with your teacher.

I really like how we have a lot of freedom and choice in our class. I’ve never really had this much freedom in school before.

I really like how we learn in different ways like in Math we use manipulatives and whiteboards and iPads. Math is more fun and easy to understand with manipulatives and it’s so much easier to show my thinking on an iPad than on paper.

Sometimes I think teachers forget what it’s like to be a kid. School is so much more fun when your teacher gets to know you and understand you.

I think more teachers should think about the physical space in their classrooms. How a room is set up makes a big difference in how I feel at school and having different spaces to learn is really helpful.

Honestly, I wish I had recorded the conversation because my kids were SO insightful! Their ideas were extremely well articulated and more powerful than I expected. Everyone was engaged in the discussion and wanted to contribute. We talked about making a video this year to share our experiences and what changes we would like to see in education moving forward. It was a very exciting day for me as an educator and a very powerful group activity. They have since asked if we can have awesome conversations every Thursday.

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We can’t be afraid to have these conversations with our kids. There is so much we can learn from them.

Kids get it. As long as their voices are valued, they will always see what’s possible.

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Possible: A Frame of Mind

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Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations about the need for transformation in education. There are so many incredible educators out there – people who are building strong relationships with their students and making learning relevant in a variety of ways. My PLN is a wonderful source of support in this respect as they have so many tools, ideas, and stories to share with the education community.

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However, I can’t help but feel lately that we are preaching to the converted.

How can we broaden our circles of conversation to include more and more educators?

I think there are endless possibilities for how we can connect with others. Face to face within our schools has always been a possibility, district initiatives, and obviously connecting online through blogging and social media such as Twitter and Google +… and yet it doesn’t seem like enough. It is still a very small minority of educators that are working towards a new and different model of education.

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend the day with Will Richardson (@willrich45) as part of my district’s IML Innovators group. Although many people made insightful comments that day, one of Will’s has stuck with me. He said that it is not enough to focus on our practice; in fact, we should forget about changing our practice. Until we have dedicated the time to discussing the CONTEXT, the reasons for which we believe education needs to change, there is no point asking educators to change what they are doing in their classrooms. Students are not being harmed by anyone, so let’s spend some time understanding the why before we jump into the what and the how.

This was brilliant! It made me realize why I often feel like people think I’m nuts. Although I shifted my advocacy focus away from specific tools long ago, I still feel that tools are what most educators want to be given. They think it’s about the technology, that there are teachers who use tech and those who don’t, when really it is about improving students’ learning experiences. I want to transform education, not mass distribute new tech tools into our classrooms. But Will made me realize that perhaps it was bigger than I thought; maybe they don’t understand the context or the possibilities that changes could provide to education. Suddenly, the “problem” seems much more manageable. Although it may be time consuming, we must value reading, sharing, and discussing educational issues with our colleagues. We devote a lot of energy to building relationships with our students, but we often forget to do the same with our colleagues. Possible is simply a frame of mind; I want all educators to be able to envision what’s possible.

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So I urge you to ask yourself: Is possible your frame of mind? Because if it’s not, if we continue to look for faults in transformational ideas rather than strengths and possibilities, then I think we have already failed. The choice is up to us; we all have the power to put a little more possible in education.

C3 Inquiry and Assessment for Learning

I am embarking on a new learning journey. A few short weeks ago, I met my M.Ed. cohort for the first time. For the next two years, we will be learning together, exploring the concepts of creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration and how they relate to the inquiry process. I must say that my initial reaction was a positive one as everyone seems open to respectful dialogue and listening to new ideas. I was challenged and I felt excited! However, I was also overwhelmed on the first day with social anxiety, worries of inadequacy, and wonder about how this would relate to my professional practice. Before we left on Saturday, we were assigned learning tasks to complete in between sessions.

I left my first weekend of classes feeling totally energized and inspired because of my colleagues and our rich discussions. However, once I had time to sit down and review our learning tasks, I felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment that I was returning to my days as a university student with readings and assignments that were not relevant or meaningful to me. Although we had said that it is all about the learning process and not the product, it seemed like another case of talking the talk but not walking the walk.

Tonight we began our second session together, and I am so relieved to say that this is not the case! While we had each written a critique, the importance was not at all placed on what we had written, but rather on sharing, discussing our work with colleagues, and self-assessment. We spent several hours constructing meaning as a group about the many conceptions of creativity that exist and how our personal and social contexts influence our conceptions. We practiced how to offer a balanced critique of someone else’s thoughts while being fair and charitable. But most important of all, we were given time and space to reflect and self-assess our own thinking.

No assignments to be handed in or graded.

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It is such a relief to know that there are education programs out there that are actually using assessment for learning. This past week, I felt some of the anxiety about assignment criteria and expectations that many of our students experience when something is to be graded. While I thoroughly enjoyed thinking critically, reflecting on my own conceptions of creativity, and discussions with friends, the thoughts of submitting my ideas on paper to be assessed made me nervous. I was reminded that many students feel that way all the time and it saddened me to think that my learning might be limited because of assignment format or criteria. Tonight, it was freeing to hear that there will be no grades given until we have mastered concepts and can submit our best work. We will continue to share, discuss, and transform our thinking and when we are ready, share and submit our best. We will all be involved in each other’s learning to help provide guidance and feedback. We will all help each other make our learning relevant to our teaching context.

I am excited to experience assessment for learning firsthand and the power it can have to transform student learning. I know the experience will help me grow as an educator and I hope I will learn how to make formative assessment more impactful for my students.

As part of an ongoing learning diary, I will blog about creative, critical, and collaborative inquiry using the tag C3 Inquiry. I look forward to sharing my learning with you 🙂

Two Words: “What’s Up?”

“Hey, you’re not quite yourself today… what’s up?”

I have learned more from my students by asking this one simple question this year than any other. Family and friend issues, fears and anxiety, hunger and stress… it all comes out if you just remember to notice. Our students experience so much more in their lives than what we see at school; however, we do see them for a significant chunk of their day. Shouldn’t we be able to tell when something’s up? If we’re not willing to notice and listen, will they ever truly enjoy learning?

I recently attended ConnectEd Canada and finally had the pleasure of hearing Joe Bower speak in person. He explained that too often, we talk too much and we forget to listen. We try to fix problems rather than waiting to find out if our students even need our help. We ignore other problems that mean a lot to our students in favour of using class time for “important things.” How does this affect our relationships with our students?

I think not taking the time to notice what’s going on in their lives is the worst thing we can do to our students. Relationships are the foundation of what we do and how students learn. As Rita Pierson says in the video below, “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Every child is someone’s little boy or girl but it’s our job to make them all feel as though they are our children as well.

When is the last time you asked “what’s up?” How did this impact your relationship with your students?

Inspiring Others to Flourish

On May 11, I was lucky enough to attend TEDx West Vancouver: Rethink Education. It was a very inspirational day full of amazing speakers. However, there is only one that I have not been able to stop thinking about.

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quantumlars via Compfight

Katy Hutchison is an amazing, inspirational woman. Following the murder of her husband in 1997, Katy spent five years waiting for a conviction. Despite her tragic situation, where many would seek revenge, Katy developed a sense of compassion and a desire to support young people who, because of upsetting or unfortunate circumstances, end up making poor decisions.

Katy shared her story of how she met the man who murdered her husband, asked him why he did it, and then, when he began to cry, proceeded to hug him. She spent time visiting him in prison and getting to know him. She remained calm and compassionate. She used her tragic situation to practice forgiveness. She watched him recover slowly and re-enter society. She did what I am not sure many people could do. She gave him a “time in.” Katy is a remarkable woman for whom I will forever have an immense sense of admiration.

Katy now travels the world sharing her story about how her experience has taught her that restorative justice is the most effective way to deal with poor behaviour and decisions. I was very much impacted by her story and I began to think about how her philosophy applies to our education system. Rather than reprimanding bad behaviour, shouldn’t we spend time trying to get to know our students and why they may be making poor decisions? Shouldn’t we try to understand their perspective? Perhaps if all educators were a bit more like Katy, we could help students grow into the people they were meant to be.

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AlicePopkorn via Compfight

Katy influenced me to reflect on my everyday interactions and experiences both with my students and with everyone else I come across in life.

Perhaps if everyone were just a little more like Katy, our schools and our world would be better off.

When did you last help someone flourish into the person they were meant to be rather than what they appeared to be on the surface?

 

Stepping Just Outside Our Comfort Zone

Last night, I moderated a Twitter chat for the first time. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, and it wasn’t really, but it was a new experience for me. As I sat there anxiously at 7:59, I was reminded of how vulnerable we all are as human beings. This was the first ever #sd36learn chat, and I was worried that people would be expecting something wonderful and that I somehow wouldn’t deliver. They would be wondering why my questions weren’t thought-provoking enough, or why I was moderating a chat anyway. For 10 whole minutes, I was shocked at how anxious I was about something so small. I’ve participated in lots of Twitter chats and I know how they generally work; however, I wasn’t prepared for trying to read everyone’s ideas and assess the conversation as it took place.

Having said that, I think it is so important that we do step out of our comfort zone on a regular basis. We need to be reminded of what it’s like to be slightly uncomfortable, briefly out of our element. It is only then that we can continue to develop as learners. It’s the only way that we can be genuine when we tell our students that risk taking is a critical component of learning. We need to model what we ask of them. It’s not about being terrified, it’s about slight discomfort and the right amount of challenge pushing us just a little more outside our box.

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cc flickr photo shared by gillicious

Thanks to everyone who joined in the first #sd36learn chat! It was great to see so many supporters of the work that we all do, both from within and outside of our district. I’m sure these weekly chats will lead to many more meaningful conversations. Join us for the next one on Sunday May 5th at 8 pm PST!

You can check out our conversations here.

Good leaders inspire leadership in others. That is what George Couros (@gcouros) did for me this past week, for which I am very thankful. We all need a kick in the butt once in awhile (especially if we’re still working on putting ourselves out there)!

Why I Became an Educator

We all have our reasons for becoming educators. Whether it is an inspirational teacher in our own lives, a desire to inspire the world’s future leaders, or a frustration with the school system, any reason that makes us passionate is a good one.

My reasons fall into the third category.

I wouldn’t normally think to share my inspiration to become an educator, but thanks to two wonderful pro-d opportunities with @gcouros today, I am inspired to share my story.

I was always a “good” student. I fit the mould of what everyone thought a good student should be. I listened in class, I (usually) completed homework, and I always had a knack for knowing what would be important in test situations. I found school easy and I also enjoyed it. I wasn’t much of a concern one way or the other.

My siblings, on the other hand, did not fit this mould.

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Morguefile photo shared by kconnors

Teachers thought my brother needed discipline; what he really needed was a challenge. Honestly, he was BORED. There was nothing motivating about completing trivial assignments he already understood. So when he didn’t see the point, he didn’t bother.

My sister suffers from ADHD as well as other mental health issues and has struggled with self-regulation all her life (she is also one of the most caring, sensitive people I know). Labeled early on as a “difficult” student, she was never well supported by the school system. Being 11 years older than her, I have always played a sort of mother role in her life, so it has been difficult to step back and watch the lack of resources and innovative solutions time and time again. She is still struggling to get through the school system today.

I chose a career in education because I was frustrated with the system. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those who didn’t fit the mould. Music Education was my first real passion in university; I thought music would be the way to connect with all those struggling, misunderstood students. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to teach Music, but I will be forever grateful for the creativity and innovative thinking that I developed over the course of that program. I’m not sure that I would be so willing to take risks if it weren’t for exploring Music Education.

I became an educator so that I can reach those kids that other people can’t or won’t. I make it my mission to touch base with those kids who need me most every single day. I like to think it makes a difference. I hope I will always uphold my mission to engage the unmotivated, inspire the uninspired, and encourage those who have lost hope. I believe that our role as teachers is not so much about teaching as it is about listening, loving, and engaging. It’s about developing relationships with our students and inspiring them to want to be the best they can be. Whether they are struggling or needing a challenge, it’s about helping them discover their strengths and their passions.

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Morguefile photo shared by Scarletina

In some ways, it saddens me that I don’t have a nice little story about an inspirational teacher in my life. It’s not necessarily that those stories don’t exist; they do. But without my frustration with the school system, I likely would not have become a teacher. I likely wouldn’t have the passion for change in education that I do today. For that, I will be forever grateful. As long as kids need an advocate for change, I will always be inspired to be an educator.

Why did you become an educator?