The Half Way Mark

I was sitting begrudgingly cleaning my den last weekend when I stumbled on a pension wise pamphlet. I have to admit I usually set them aside but, in full procrastination mode, it seemed like a perfect time to have a closer look. And there in the front cover popped the number 16; 16 years down – 16 years to go. This is the half way mark of my career.  

Then the internal dialogue starts swirling:

16 years! Oh my goodness. What have I done in 16 years? Is it enough? Have I had an impact? How do you measure impact? Could I be doing more? Was it worth the time/energy/money? What will the next 16 years look like? I should have done…..

I stopped myself from the comparisons for a minute to think about what I wanted my legacy to be. It’s easy to get caught up in numbers, awards, accomplishments (they are all nice and greatly appreciated) but is that what mattered? Is that the legacy I want to leave behind? And then I read a quote from Carol Ann Tomlinson in her monthly reflections in Educational Leadership:

That’s it! I found my measuring tool. I don’t want to measure my impact in the number of publications, likes, people in attendance but rather in how many gentle nudges sparked growth. Sometimes you nudge a system in looking at resources differently, sometimes it’s nudging a friend in a class to see their potential, and other times it’s nudging friends to share their amazing stories or try something a little different. Each nudge a small seed requiring different supports to grow. I realize as I write this I’m choosing the harder path. These seeds are often not glitzy or glammy. It may not always be the popular path. It often happens in the small one on one moments, not big events. Nudges and growth are hard to quantify. Sometimes it takes years to see the impact if you get to see/hear of the impact at all.

I realized I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for the educators in my life that nudged me along, planted the seed and supported it’s growth. So here at the half way mark I’m grateful for the nudges and will check myself as I think of my impact. As I start fixating on the numbers or accomplishments, I’ll pause to count the seeds.

I stand

on the sacrifices

of a million women before me

thinking

what can I do 

to make this mountain taller

so the women after me

can see farther

-legacy

 

RUPI KAUR

the sun and her flowers

What is Teacher Leadership? – Our First Week

This summer I was asked to facilitate our first run with a new Additional Qualification course, teacher leadership with OISE. I was excited for the opportunity as well as a little nervous. My mind went back to our open space activity at OCT as we were writing the guidelines and the richness and diversity in the conversation. I found the hardest part those days was defining teacher leadership. It meant something slightly different to each of us. What could we all agree upon?

So as we tackled just that question of what is teacher leadership and the various roles it can take on on Tuesday, I thought I would send the question out on Twitter. I am so grateful for a PLN that is so willing to jump in and support. Check out all the responses here.

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Going through the responses and knowing a bit about each path, I can see that uniqueness come through. I loved how Maddie jumped in after Chris had done his reflection. It was interesting to see the two words broken down and Maddie working through the definition.

Going through the clips there are so many different skills we tap in to as teacher leaders from modelling to listening, leading to supporting. Mike pulled out a great set.

As I listened to the responses and reflected on our conversations this week and the various readings/clips in the course I realized it may always be hard to define teacher leadership but there will always be common skills we can agree upon.

Teacher leaders

  • understand the power of relationships
  • they listen attentively
  • provide support when needed
  • share a passion for learners
  • are always learning and they show it

What does teacher leadership mean to you? Leave a comment or add to our flipgrid collection. 

Empowered Modern Learners – This is It!

I mentioned in my last post that as a school board in Peel we have just released our vision for Modern Learning. It was a long journey from our first conversations to the final twelve page glossy document. I wonder sometimes if the glossiness deters from the message. It’s easy to see the words on the page as static and not as a living.  Maybe I’m too idealistic but as I stood in the Steam Lab at West Acres yesterday Wednesday afternoon, I could see it come to life. Full disclaimer here we broke all the rules including those on the often retweeted Edtech posters. We didn’t have a particular curriculum link or a clear overarching goal other than to explore. This was our inquiry to see where learners would lead us. Sometimes the best learning comes when you break the rules.

I walked in to Westacres Public School yesterday afternoon with my bag of #makeymakeys, fruit and foil. In conversations with Trish, the teacher librarian, we thought the Makey Makeys could be a great way to build on all the awesome designing and creating learners had done to date with digital and physical materials. A chance to see that the two, the digital and physical world, could collide.

The Spark

We started with a simple prompt having one of the Makey Makeys set up with fruit connected to the Makey Makey Drum Machine on Scratch. As learners came in I’d invite one or two to help me test it out. With our first group it took about a minute before one of the friends started explaining that we were creating a circuit (using those exact words) adding on how we were transferring energy through our touch. All it took was this small spark and carefully laid out materials to have students get started. In the past I would have set up the Makey Makeys, I would have given detailed steps to get started but yesterday I realized it wasn’t needed. From that one spark we could say try it and they would figure it out. Those that needed support would seek it out.

A spark of curiosity, an invitation to learners is all that was needed.

Noticing and Naming

After setting up their Makey Makey and exploring some different conductive materials (the fruit is always a hit) we wanted to add another layer with code. We worked through how the code could help us create our own response looking at the sounds and notes blocks in Scratch (which was new to some friends). Again, honestly a minute or two after the mini-lesson, I could overhear one group say “We should use B A G so we can do one of our songs.” I moved a little closer and prodded with some questions. Why B A G? They replied that they are the three notes for their recorder songs. After some success with Hot Cross Buns and the like they were ready to add another note. Trish was listening in to a group at the back of the room. They were frustrated and all wanted to play their instrument at the same time and the one alligator clip grounding their circuit wasn’t cutting it so they discovered that they could use the Makey Makey tin to create a larger earth to ground them. I fear that if we went in with a detailed checklist we may have missed the opportunity to notice and name the learning.

Listening closely & asking questions allowed us to revel in our competent, capable learners.

100 Languages

One of the best parts of my job as I support educators, is that I can come in to a room as a blank slate. I don’t know what is in the OSR or the details of last year’s report, or those friends that we have just not been syncing with that day. I always find it is fascinating to debrief the learning and find often student’s who do not experience success in other areas of schooling find their voice in making. We noticed just that as we listened closely to their designing, creating and making. A colleague reminded me of  the 100 Languages of Children that the Reggio Emilia approach .

Making, creating and designing let us see the 100 languages of our learners.

This is it!

img_4030-1.jpgAs we started reflecting on the day I could see the elements from our Empowering Modern Learners vision document come to life. As learners collaborated and communicated, questioned and wondered we could see the work through out the year in their STEAM lab had created a culture of curiosity. Our role as educators was to observe and notice the learning. Our observations let us see learners in new lights, finding their strengths and jumping off points. Access to the technology made the learning possible, but the learners powered the experience it as they collaborated, problem solved, persisted through the challenges and their disagreements in their flexible environment.

I left my afternoon with the Westacres crew with a feeling of this is it. This is what the glossy words look and sound like. It is learners taking the lead. It is seeing a room of capable, competent, rich in potential learners. It is curiosity and wonder. I’ve seen it as we explore green tablecloths on floors with Kindergarten friends or coding Dash to meet Dot in grade 1. I see it as we design our own worlds for retelling and in creating dual language books with newcomers.

It isn’t about the tools but the tools often push us to a place of discomfort. They push us to a place of exploration, wonder and curiosity. They force us to take a different stance then we are used to. And in the process they bring out the competent, capable, curious empowered learners we sometimes miss.

You may see glossy words on a page, but this is it

Failure – the Dirty Truth

It was the fifth session facilitating an exploration of our new vision document for Modern Learning in Peel. Having had the opportunity to be a small part of the creation of the document over the last two years, I was excited for the conversations ahead. We had been preparing for months. The first four days seemed to go well and we had positive feedback. The scene was set for another day of the same and yet…

I stood there in front of 100+ lovely colleagues and for the first time in my life I went blank.

It probably seemed like a second to others but it felt like an eternity to me. I couldn’t shake it for the rest of the day. It put me off quilter. I kept trying to think what I could fix, worried it would happen again. Sometimes the lesson you try to avoid are the ones that keep coming back. This spring has been full of failures or mess ups, some small, some not as small from missing a few days of #the100dayproject to not keeping up with the Design Thinking MOOC. The mess ups probably didn’t hurt anyone and I know I can justify it with timing and projects but the guilt and disappointment are real.

We love to share the catchy quotes about failure and the FAIL: first attempt in learning poster but do we share the uncomfortable parts? Do we share the overwhelming feeling of defeat that can come along? Do we make sure our learners (big or small) don’t just live in that place of failure where we keep asking them to persist and pick themselves up.

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog and two of his posts came to mind as I was thinking about the lesson I should take away. One, like in his story with the dislike button on Youtube, is that it’s easy to focus on what didn’t go well but I liked his post on dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction isn’t a bad thing, neither is discomfort or disappointment. I guess the key piece is being ok with that feeling and looking to what is ahead.

 

I thought I was good with change

I may be guilty of romanticizing change once or twice before. It’s hard not to get carried away and paint change with a pretty brush like blooms in the spring or colourful leaves in the fall. Then you hear that age old saying:

The only thing that is constant is change. Heraclitus.

I feel I lived the quote growing up. Change has always been a constant in my life: different countries, different school systems, different apps. It is what my job is all about after all: helping educators make changes in their practice.

Naively I thought I was good with change. Then the tweaks started happening.

Change of schools, parents moving away, step off a board, new team, step on a board, and the list goes on and on.

The changes were not necessarily bad.  They were often necessary and healthy but as they started piling up I could feel my roots unearthing. It suddenly became just a bit harder to focus, to keep up with the mad race, to take the risks I was used to. The changes seemed to play with the safety nets I had established, the roots I depended on. Change was great when I could control it or space it out. All the changes at once felt like I lost my footing. I question my choices, actions and how they are received even more.

Maybe it isn’t as much that I’m not good with change but that I needed a more realistic picture of change. Maybe we all need a reminder sometimes that change is a messy process not just the glossy capture once or twice a year.  Maybe it’s time to share the messiness and take the time to find that safe steady core.

I will be good with change again once my roots have settled.

 

Believe Again

I was sitting one Sunday morning listening to a speaker share how we need to Believe Again. How sometimes we get into such a routine that we miss the wonder, mystery and beauty all around us. We are weighed down by the to do list we think is expected of us instead of the passion that should drive us.

I wrote myself a note to blog about it and then never pulled that note back up.

Sometimes you can’t escape a lesson.

Last night I was going through a few new posts of a fav series on Youtube when it popped up again. Listening to this young diver share his reflection, the same idea came up again. Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we need to fix, what went wrong, we lose our reason. We need to believe again.

 I think it’s really important to remind ourselves why we do what we do.

So in a season of to do lists, sessions, details, reports, a season of structures, systems and plans I want to make sure I remember the why.

I want to believe again.

The Bread Crumb Trail: Power of a PLN

It was one of those serendipitous moments when the connections fall into place.

I was at one of our new teacher training session on assessment on Thursday. As we were wandering around checking in I was able to reconnect with a colleague. As she was sharing about finishing up the STEAM LABS educator boot camp that we had chatted about before, I shared the Design Thinking for Leading and Learning MOOC. Then the question came: “How did you find out about it?”

The question has been posed many times and more often than not it is always comes back to amazing colleagues willing to share.

I could see the bread crumb trail that led us to the Design Thinking for Leading and Learning MOOC.

  • Going back a step to Mary sharing it in an email and tweet to the #launchbookchat folks.
  • Stepping back once more to when we first met Mary through the Twitter Chats looking at Launch. I think she found us from the official hashtag for the book. We never thought we would have someone join us from the states.
  • The bread crumbs kept leading to the crew that was willing to chat about a book (there is always a fear that no one will be interested).
  • Finally I could see the beginning, chatting after our sunrise meeting with a few colleagues that got the book saying would you be interested in a book chat.

It’s amazing when you take a moment and look back at all the connections, people and moments that are part of one single learning moment. All it took was one small share and then another and then another…

Time to drop some bread crumbs. 

 

 

Weaving a Story

I loved many of the sessions at SXSWedu. The problem was that there were so many to choose from and of course the ones I was most excited to check out overlapped. I was debating whether I should go to the session on Designing for Digital Natives by the IDEO crew or not. I had followed IDEO and IDEOu as an organization on Instagram for awhile. Hearing some of the team in person was exciting and it was bringing design thinking and our students’ lives together (perfect for a IT Coach). Seemed perfect except it was in the farthest hotel (a whole 5 minutes but heh) and there were 3 other sessions on my list.  I trudged along grabbing a seat at the back if I needed an escape route. Within the first few minutes of their presentation I was hooked and I didn’t want it to end. The 25 minute session was an artfully designed story woven together with visuals, take aways, humour and more.

There were so many take aways:

  • I need to up my Keynote game.  From an animated title screen to snapchat videos for their introduction page, to funky personalized fonts the slides showed the teams understanding of design and that visuals tell as much of your story as your words.
  • The team shared their design for an app for first generation college students and the process to making something that high schoolers would actually use and check in to often. As the story evolved you could see each step of the design process come to life, always with the user at the centre, sharing the failures and subsequent re-iteration. The learning was woven through a story.
  • And the story always came back to the learner, the user. As we are designing tasks, learning experiences. As leaders as we talk about change do we take a user centred design approach?
  •  IMG_2832 
  • As I was sketching out the 5 design tips for designing for digital natives, the take aways from their experience, I realized they each could be applied as we design lessons especially online learning experiences as well.
  • I think more than anything I was reminded how a well constructed story can affect change, innovate, try something new even in a limited time frame. More than a how to, more than a rally cry, a story often allows us to be completely human, completely authentic in our lesson.

So thank you IDEO team for sharing your story in such an amazing way. I’m off to weave my own story and play with Keynote!

 

 

Complexity, Consortiums & Maladjusting: Lessons from Dr. Chris Emdin’s keynote at SXSWedu

I don’t know how I stumbled upon the clip the first time I saw Dr. Chris Emdin. I do remember being so enthralled I ended up sharing it with the AQ course that night and then jumping on Instagram and Twitter to share a few quotes. So when I saw that Chris was going to be the opening keynote for SXSWedu I was pretty excited.

It has almost been a full week since his keynote. 5 days later I’m still digesting it all, reflecting on the ideas shared and questions that remain. There were so many take aways and just as many questions. Was I a frenemy at times? Getting stuck in traditions that were no longer essential? Was I lulling kids to sleep?

You can watch the full keynote address here:

 

As I listened and scribbled down ideas to remember a few have weighed heavier on my mind.

Beauty and complexity

Sometimes (often) in education we try to simplify things. Maybe it is just me. I know I can get caught trying to simplify content, approaches, even learners in an effort to stream line an experience and see success for students. How many times in that simplification was I missing the beauty and complexity of the context of my learners? Was I valuing the uniqueness they each bring to the activity? Was I valuing the beauty and complexity of the knowledge each learner was bringing? Chris’ talk again was a reminder that we teach beautiful unique individuals with which we need to engage in authentic conversations.

Are we as educators going to be humble enough to create spaces to allow young people to teach us what we need to do? Chris Emdin

It’s time to be maladjusted

It’s my 16th year of teaching this year and I think I may have been called loud & passionate a few times in those 16 years. I hope I have been. Now that I am in a type of leadership role (although a smaller one) I can see how the system sometimes takes over. I have seen how you can get stuck in structures and protocols that have been established. How you can get caught in the repeating traditions that may no longer be essential. More than anything I could see moments when I got scared and tried to make my point more palatable, to ask the tough questions or speak up. As loud and passionate as I can be especially over modern learning, was I afraid to have certain conversations? Was I so accustomed to the system that I may be missing moments to be maladjusted?  As Brene Brown mentioned in her closing keynote it’s time to be brave, have courage and be vulnerable.  Time to be uncomfortable.

If we truly want a I need to do what I need to do. I’ve been called to do what I need to do. Chris Emdin

We need a consortium

I think this take away was the most unique. Sometimes we look for a charismatic leader, a leader to take the helm and push us forward. We wait for the one individual who will be able to curve the movement, inspire change and rally the masses. Chris’ notes about martyrs reminded me that not one of us can do it alone. The ideas and approaches that were championed and then passed over. How can I foster a consortium, a collective that is willing to champion education for all and isn’t afraid to be maladjusted?

More than anything Dr. Chris Emdin started off the conference with a battle cry, a cry to action. No more excuses. High expectations for all our learners, following their leads. And if someone gets in the way we will just have to say…

Thank you for your service…we got it from here. Chris Emdin

As a side note I tried to catch some of the ideas from the keynote live in the sketchnote below:

 

#listenclosely for the big/small moments

Anyone else wonder how we got to March  2017? Feel like the year is flying by and you just want to push pause? I find the busyness can take over at times; swept up in my to do list, the grand plans that haven’t quite fallen in to place, wondering how to affect the most change. Then I have these BIG/small moments that remind me education always comes back to the learner and there is no better place to learn than right beside learners listening closely.

BIG/small Moment 1

The week started off co-learning with a grade 6 friend and her co-spaces creation. We often say we are co-learning but this was it. It reminded me of some learning moments with our jr media production team at Fallingdale. Two learners going back and forth trying to figure out how to code two characters to walk together. She figured it out.

BIG/small Moment 2

Then there was the passing comment to a friend that if he wanted to help me out he could make me a cheat sheet. He stopped everything to go find a piece of paper and make sure I knew the keyboard shortcuts for WordQ. Now I have a reminder on my fridge that kids can teach us and to not underestimate our words.

BIG/small Moment 3

The biggest learning this week came from some grade 1 friends. The librarian and classroom teacher had already done a lot of coding with Dash so we were going to try to push the thinking further adding an IF code block and have Dash and Dot interact. I don’t know what I expected but they definitely exceeded all my expectations. I listened to a grade 1 friend finding her own strategy to manage counting by 20. I listened to another groups of girls debugging their code so Dash and Dot would see each other. We may have had a small learning goal in mind but our grade 1 friends were showing us so much more and all it required was a small prompting question. How do you know? Can you justify? What could you change?

The big/small moments kept happening through out the week. A quote from How Learning Happens popped to mind.

edsurge-ignite-5

I can’t shake this feeling that if I want to impact change I need to make the time to  #listenclosely.