Day 137 (of 185) refocusing via a “call to action”

Day 137 (of 185) refocusing via a “call to action”

Our district principals (and vice principals) met with our new superintendent and our single-trustee for a planning-retreat.  I really liked an opportunity to clarify/refocus thinking:

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Day 136 (Of 185) personal view on 4/20

Day 136 (Of 185) personal view on 4/20

“Marijuana has gone mainstream” claimed one headline on drudge report. And as an educator, this worries me – especially when so many “truths” are one-sided, and for the most part, my personal view is significantly one-sided.  Some of the key topics that rise to the top of my list include:

 

Addiction

Side effects

Availability

(Unseen costs)

 

Societies continue to evolve – that is good, especially when it focuses on equality for gender(s) and cultures(s) and race(s). But for some reason while the focus on health has decreased tobacco use and changed some awareness around alcohol, what was seen illicit drug use has become more acceptable. So I have some concerns knowing that already we have students entering school under the influence of drugs (and under the influence that drugs aren’t harmful) – and in many areas, marijuana is the clear choice – and wondering what the issue is…what happens if/when it’s normalized….that it’s used for more than medical purposes (so….does that mean a teacher can come in and teach after using legalized marijuana….with a prescription? without?) and know some tough choices need to be made before Canada’s government makes a decision this summer.

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Addiction:

As much as some say marijuana is not addictive, I’ve seen evidence that seems contrary to that – along the lines of coffee and other additives, it is easy to be psychologically as well as physically addicted to any substance (and actually addictive: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/marijuana-addiction-rare-but-real-072014 ). But of course, living in an age of alternate-news, it is tricky to keep facts and fictions separate along with fears and hopes. As a “for instance”, I remember growing up hearing news reports about babies being born addicted to crack cocaine – we received our cable signal from Detroit – and following the after affects that were surprisingly positive after a very difficult start http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/booming/revisiting-the-crack-babies-epidemic-that-was-not.html  It turned out that the long-range impact of babies born addicted to crack was not as horrific as was feared. The impact of second-hand smoke (tobacco or marijuana) is often worse than first hoped http://www.livescience.com/55587-marijuana-smoke-affects-blood-vessels.html

 

I’ve also been in schools with children born under the influence of meth – and I was very concerned because some teachers who were very skilled working with FASD admitted that this was new, more complex and difficult.  And I know some will say – those are different……but having seen children as young as kindergarten having interactions with “weed” leads to difficult thinkings – if they are smoking early (which does have an impact on the brain, and unlike the lungs recovering if/when someone ‘quits’, the brain does not re-heal) they tend to try “others” as well….which has led to a recent crisis connected to fentanyl: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/a-killer-high-how-canada-got-addicted-tofentanyl/article29570025/

 

 

Addiction is a tough word to deal with. I’ve seen too many friends and family succumb to the effects of drug use, even though they believed they “could stop at any time”….even though they couldn’t. My fathers passing was strongly linked with smoking, I lost another relative to alcohol. One of my “uncles” ended up living on the street with dependency issues- and when he was finally found and did show up for another relatives funeral…..well it was hard for everyone to see how much he had changed.

 

 

Side Effects are also tough to deal with. My struggle with pain has always had me aware of how some things (mainly chemicals) interact with each other. Some medicines to not work well when mixed together. There can be better health benefits to walking down a forest path than taking a white pill. Mindfulness matters when making choices on what to do to/with your body. I have done a lot of talking and work with anxious children using prescriptions by making them aware that adding self-medications can be disastrous – anxiety with drugs that have paranoia as a side effect? Mis understanding how chemicals mess with each other and then impact how the brain actually functions is one of the reasons that many deaths are not directly attributed to the drugs but instead to the weapons used (guns knives & jumping off tall structures were chosen by people I lost – along with too many over-doses).

 

One of the ‘positive’ side effects people like to talk about is taxation and revenue! But there is a significant offset to this as other regions that have legalized marijuana have noted the increase costs of other departments (such as health care). As our own province is closing in on 1000 deaths a year just linked to fentanyl (not necessarily including the far too many suicides that may have a link to drug use – and misuse)……how much tax revenue are these lives worth?

 

 

Unknowns are tricky. It is easy to use a lot of the same information (especially statistics) both as a positive and negative. But the ‘unknowns’ I am going to focus on now are what can’t be seen: candies and edibles. I was warned early on to always ‘pour your own drink’ and this relates very much to anything being made “for you”. When drugs are mixed with baking, it is impossible to gauge how much of an impact it will have on the person – and more specifically for schools, to determine what/if something was added in. My biggest fear is the adult planning a 1/4 brownie as a serving vs “2 bite brownie” mindset that so many have – especially children: https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/conditions-and-symptoms/conditions/acute-marijuana-intoxication/

 

Availability is a weird mix – but it is a mix of the old saying: buyer beware….more so than ever before….and my approach to “consequences” has changed over the years as I try to better understand ‘why’ students are using rather than simply focusing on what they did. But this is much more complex and difficult than having a “zero-tolerance approach” (which doesn’t work….)

 

And with the availability there is another set of unseen factors:

  1. it’s bad enough to know how many people are driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol. Trying to identify who is under the influence of drugs is even more complex.
  2. child development is under-studied. It is difficult to do purposeful studies on minors, but what has been explored is not good – especially on developing brains: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/your-kids-brain-on-pot-the-real-effects-of-marijuana-on-teens/article21127612/

 

Medicinal? I’m not going to debate this because I am not a doctor. But I liken it to the myriad of other prescriptive drugs – they need to be taken cautiously and with an understanding of why they are being used and what will happen….and what might happen. I know that a shot of demerol helped my back feel a LOT better….but I was also mindful that while it made me feel really good….that it wasn’t something that should be used on an ongoing basis. I also trust my doctor and pharmacist to help me know how the medicines mix with each other as well as with other products – its why honesty is important when a health professional asks if you are using recreational drugs. I know that alcoholic beverages, even though it might feel good at the time, can have longer term impacts on me – both on the outside and potentially on the inside. There is a reason why medical marijuana is prescribed for specific maladies: it is mindfully compared to other medicines looking at pros and cons of all options to help maintain a certain quality of life – these are big (debilitating) medical issues, not a sore throat or broken arm.

 

 

So this 4/20 I am very disappointed to be in a country that is moving forward with discussions about further legalizing of controlled substances without being mindful of the consequences that need to be thought about and discussed more openly than ever before….and fortunately some school districts are using the legalization discussion to focus on topics such as why there are age restrictions being talked about: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/what-will-legal-marijuana-pot-mean-for-schools-1.4044583 because while we shouldn’t be going to dramatic as the movie Reefer Madness, we can’t also pretend that it’s the universal cure to all ails.  Mindful decisions matter.

 

 

 

 

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Day 135 (of 185) outdoor learning

Day 135 (of 185) outdoor learning 

Sure my twitter handle emphasizes the TECHNO, but I’ve always been a strong advocate for balance – being outside; connecting with nature; having fun; learning in a variety of ways – all key elements in having time learning outdoors. And today our learning community took ourselves on the road, down the street to our nearby provincial park to spend a day….outdoors.

Our spring has been very wet, but our weather forecasts both on apps and on websites have indicated that today was ‘between storms’ and a day where we should experience a mix of sun and clouds…..not too hot (no sunscreen) not too wet (umbrellas don’t enable a good game of ‘capture the flag’) but just right…..okay – 5 degrees warmer woulda been nice – and Facebook memories certainly indicate warmer adventures a couple of my ears back on this same date!

But when organizing an outdoor learning day, it was a chance to practice heterarichal leadership (via @dpontefract https://technolandy.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/notes-from-flat-army-by-dan-pontefract-dpontefract/ ) where we create situational hierarchies – not always the same leader. And collaboratively, though on a day I was away, a plan was formed:

Multi-age groups blending:

Nature house exploration (the facilitator was sadly suddenly unavailable but the house has SO much to explore)

Nature Walk (with a POC – principal-on-call who covered for me recently and liked our school so much he offered to come lead hikes for us!)

Kekuli study

and Mandalas: 

Then groups travelled the trails to help clear our winter branches and brushes that may have fallen (and we realized that we maybe shoulda scheduled our visit after the washrooms were open-for-the-season as the only facilities were some outhouses – also not quite prepped for the camping season…..). 

Then our weekly hot lunch arrived (our community provides a weekly hot lunch to all students courtesy of our local Lions club, PAC, Super-Valu and food bank) which was appropriately: hot dogs!! With pickles and chocolate milk….needless to say, a big hit!

After some free play at the playground (something I strongly advocate: https://technolandy.wordpress.com/2014/06/11/day-176-of-184-free-deep-play/  ) we did some reflection journaling and then the older learners arranged a game of capture the flag (and rules vary from teacher to teacher – so first of all was organizing which rules were to be followed). Across the field the younger learners were being introduced to new (to them) outdoor learning games like a local classic The Thicket Game (I don’t know the rules yet  sorry!)

Finally a clean up and the buses took everyone home….and the adults all prepared to take naps and get caffeine, because a “fun day in the park” takes a lot of work!

I liked that there was a range of structured and free activities. Last night our family was watching one of our favourite sitcoms – American Housewife (Goldbergs is still #1 as the kids ask us if life was ‘really like that in the 80s’) which had the topic of helicopter parenting and restricting movement of kids. Now I freely admit that we want to make sure kids are safe at school….even if/especially when the school isn’t in the brick & mortar building. But there’s also a notable push for outdoor learning – including discussion of creating more outdoor learning environments in our own district: https://www.outdoorlearning.ca/ , so there needs to be a balance of risk/reward/value to being in places where accidents can happen (only two bandages today). 
In a time where we want to be doing what is best for Learning, and I foundationally believe that technology is the best differentiation tool, balance is key – so having moments to see that Learning occurs outside of the walls of a school helps also create the MindShift needed to see that Learning is a 24/7/365  360 degree experience….and authentic experiences matter. 

Bonus update – one of my families from a previous school just shared an article on risky-outdoor-learning: https://www.facebook.com/amber.mackie3/posts/10154508404760686
Hmmmm is a Facebook share on WordPress that is tweeted out the ‘new’ mixed media?

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Day 134 (of 185) time for a reconnection?

Day 134 (of 185) time for a reconnection?

 

 

Sometimes serendipity happens. This weekend I bought a fidget cube from a lady who happened to remember me…..because I once worked with her husband!  I took a call from a former music teacher who was hoping I’d still be a reference…..and a job posting reminded me of a friend so I sent it to him (why was I looking at postings? I just like to keep an eye on what is happening where – it’s how I got a substitute teacher from my current district a full time-ish gig in another district I used to work in…!

 

 

There is great value in maintaining relationships – asynchronously as well as real-time; and seeing how educators evolve and change over the years can enable some interesting perspectives and discussion and debates!

 

 

It’s always fun how some conversations (even one-off statements) can last for years. Agreeing to disagree….challenging to figure out a ‘best practice’…..re-iterating how tough/important/exhausting/challenging/rewarding/difficult/motivating/etc the career can be…..and how important finding like-minded attitudes can be.

 

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The wheels in education continue to turn….and just like the image I stumbled upon today….sometimes the cogs reconnect…..at just right – sometimes even significantly important – times.  Whether it is a text at the right time. An email or a note…..sometimes these ‘random timings’ mean a lot…..

 

……so……is there someone that you should reach out and reconnect with? Take a chance – it might be the right time…..for one of you!

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Day 133 (of 185) mindset of letting mistakes happen 

Day 133 (of 185) mindset of letting mistakes happen 

In exploring some work and writings around as an Olin college engineer said: it’s not failing, its iterating <– what about this mindset in learning?

I know I hated the editing process,and that angst continues in students – but I knew my errors of good copies would be on the final line and then I’d have to redo it…..but each time was shorter so the redo would be less painful (a side effect of the mis-understanding of what ‘rigor’ means. But with tech, adding in punctuation or making changes does not seem as much of a burden as ‘starting over’ – iterating and having different drafts (aka alpha & beta testing) is a much more supportive model and mindset. 

In my principals office, I always value honesty and truthfulness – even when a bad decision is made – so that we can understand ‘why’ something happened and solve the problem. So when a girl game to my office for throwing rocks, I could’ve just assigned a consequence, but I can’t. That’s no longer my mindset. Instead by finding out why, we were able to create a different plan (re-iteration) for when a similar scenario happens again – learning from one ‘fail’ to change the end result next time….hopefully!

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Day 132 (of 185) Learner Profiles as summations of efolios? Asking for help

Day 132 (of 185) Learner Profiles as summations of efolios? Asking for help
* oooh update at the bottom!

 

I like the idea/concept of Learner Profiles as part of the ‘quick look’ for student information as connected to eportfolios. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of efolios, but I am also aware that schools not familiar with this methodology sometimes have ‘concerns’ about how to gather the information (other than looking at the eportfolio). Likewise I have heard concerns from parents about not knowing how their child is doing……compared to the rest of the class (yes, I re-explain that we do not compare learners to each other….we use performance standards and rubrics) and remind them that checking with the teacher is a very good idea (since they should know best and be able to clarify any questions….or find answers that will!)

 

 

But I get it – as we are shifting practices and looking more at best ways to ‘Communicate Student Learning” rather than reporting on achievement (based on task completion too often), there may be a need/desire to help create a ‘rosetta stone’ to help see the reason for the change – because as much as some people like to say that they understand what a “B” is or what a percentage means (<– haha average joke built in to the statement) I know I often have more questions….what percent of the content (or strategies or big ideas or…) are the kids missing, and what is the plan to fill in that percentile gap? Likewise, how can a student change their performance grade – “they’re just a C+ student” doesn’t cut it, likewise it doesn’t make sense to focus on “they need to complete more work” (why aren’t they is the bigger question – is it reading? writing? home? school? creating an obstacle?)

 

 

But….perhaps it can be helpful to “check the oil” once in awhile (not necessarily at the traditional ‘report card times’) and create a summary of where the learner is at in order to help others translate the descriptive feedback into a more traditional summation (and I’m hating this more and more as I type this….ugh)

 

 

But here is where (and why) I’m looking for some help. Over time I have started to build a Learner Profile, I keep adding to it and then worrying that putting something summative into it will distract from the work being done on (formative) descriptive feedback loops. I also worry about “at grade level” comments because you can have one student born January 1 and another born December 31……and (especially in primary years) that can be a significant percentage of their life experience…..is this fair? <– I’m starting to digress and distract myself……

 

So, the most recent draft is below, please share some of your thoughts and insights!

 

Learner Profile.png

Update: 
In thinking about our provinces focus on Competrncies, I think we figured out that we can use the competencies descriptors to assign a related number representing the description of ‘what can be seen:

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Day 131 (of 185) satisfied being unsatisfied – is this an innovation-educator mindset?

Day 131 (of 185) satisfied being unsatisfied – is this an innovation-educator mindset?

When waking up at 3:30 in the morning, you can only hope it’s for a worthwhile reason. That being said, sometimes it’s an intriguing mystery that gets your attention, as it did for me. A mysterious text asking about my schedule. An email invitation. Me checking in with someone attached to it who doesn’t reveal much other than re-stating that it would be an “interesting opportunity to talk about innovation”……they had me at ‘interesting’!

And the day was just that – arriving in Richmond I saw a group of people milling around and like me, were educators who weren’t exactly certain what we signed up for. Even better was seeing some people from my #pln – it is always reassuring to see some friendly faces when entering the unknown!

Today focused on brainstorming a few different “what if” scenarios around schooling and innovation. 
What has been specifically required to enable innovative practice in schools?

What specifically has raised slowed or stopped innovative practice?

What is the best possible future of schooling?

What might be the worst future of schooling?

The answers can be/are/were very diverse – the workshop had a range of urban/rural big/small schools (and even an acknowledgement that what might be ‘small’ in one place may be ‘big’ in another! But…as was also recently confirmed at a Rural Education workshop I attended, key themes emerge. 

Some key needs: relationships, support for risk-taking, 

Some key ‘blockers’: fear of change, worried about what colleges will say/want

But discussions led to. A commonality – there are pockets of innovation happening across our province/country/continent – but there have always been pockets of awesomeness – but geographical or mental isolation meant it was difficult to gain momentum and reach a tipping point. Technology has helped. No longer are radical outliers….outliers. #PLNs help in virtual and actual space and time – an idea can spread….and as has been said….an idea is bulletproof – it can’t be stopped but can spread and inspire others. 

My takeaway was an affirmation that we have reached a terminal velocity that will provide a pathway for innovation (not ‘the’ pathway as that would make it non-innovative!). Disruption is happening, and as long as we become aware of some of the ongoing ‘blockers’ and focus on what can be done…..good things are happening. I feel validated in the work we have done, and excited to see what further collaborations may yet enable!

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