Day 109 (of 185) sometimes a single statement from my kids can make me cringe curiously….

Day 109 (of 185) sometimes a single statement from my kids can make me cringe curiously….

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Day 108 (of 185) reflecting on @sirkenrobinson Creativity Challenge

Day 108 (of 185) reflecting on @sirkenrobinson Creativity Challenge


My oldest daughter is in grade 11 and I just read via a tweet that eleven years ago, Sir Ken Robinson challenged education to think about creativity in ‘the’ Ted Talk:


It was inspiring. (and still is)

It was challenging. (and continues to be daunting)

It……was uncomfortable. (for some!)



But…..what has changed in the decade+ since his observations started pushing some educators (but not all) to rethink the way we do school…..the way we set up the rules to “the game of school” <— of which my girl is a very good participant because she knows what to provide her teachers in order to achieve a high score…….but not necessarily showing her learning…..


Because the “checklist” is a mix:

Our future was “uncertain” eleven years ago….and has only gotten more interesting!


He claimed that we squander kids talents – especially in schools – especially around creativity – and I know my oldest girls experiences has ranged from creating an original score to the English Civil War (her initiative on a 20-mark task) to writing a 250 multiple choice question final exam.  So have her own talents been challenged? Occasionally….but she is looking forward to attending a SHAD event this July (I hadn’t heard of it before she applied, but I’m intrigued in learning more about this!) to push herself and think more creatively with other collaborators!



Sir Ken reflects well on ‘benign advice’ that was mistaken in previous years from school “guides” around: don’t do that, you won’t find a job for ‘that’.  And as a result, talented creative people were stigmatized and defeated because their talent wasn’t what was valued in schools (memorization and regurgitation of facts). It used to be that a degree = job….becoming less so –> it was less so 11 years ago, and I wonder about the educational paths of my own kids and they may be each end up being very different than the approach (K-12 –> post secondary) that has been ‘the way’ for the past four generations…..



The work in education in the past years has led to a range of successes…..and failures….. and overcoming obstacles <– but I wonder if the obstacles are what led to some achieve success AND are others unable to make it past the obstacle and we will never know ‘what may have been’…..



I know I’ve been doing my part of disruption to help out with the ecology of humanity – and the richness of human capacity:


I’ve been working with students on #geniushour (passion projects, inquiry lessons – call it what you will) to empower students to explore areas of personal interest –> both as a way for students to explore topics that they’ve always wanted to AND to eliminate topics that may seem interesting….but aren’t sustainable.


I’ve helped my learning communities explore using eportfolios instead of report cards – because they help show personalized learning journeys so much more completely than scores on tasks and marks on a template.

Sir Ken Freshgrade.jpeg

because ongoing descriptive feedback loops help build on student strengths and focus attention on their talents…..not making sure that they accomplish the same tasks as each other because it makes data easier to computate.



I have been working on helping creating personalized approaches to coding (a recent ‘push’ by BC Education) to help engage the brain in thinking in different ways – coding centres that are expandable and scaleable based on achievement and interest, not ‘date of manufacture’.




Some of my work has ben nicely ‘confirmed’ by the thinking and actions of educations like (and inspired by) Sir Ken. Seeing him live in Dawson Creek a decade ago remains a highlight moment for live performances. I know many of my colleagues sitting in the audience were likewise influenced and encouraged to do ……. different(iated) education.



But why after 11 years, is the grade 12 year my daughter is going to experience not so different from the one I did? Some of the material has changed (at least I hope we don’t teach the tongue having ‘zones of taste’ – although a quick google images search still confirms many images indicating that there are areas specialized to taste bitter, sour, salty and sweet….incorrectly….oops)


So….a few years ago I wished that all my kids might graduate without a traditional transcript and instead have efolios (my oldest will likely have a traditional transcript, but many of the schools she is applying to want to see efolios as well/instead). The system is moving….but it’s moving slower than what many of us would like, because the change is uncomfortable……even when it is what we should be doing.


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Day 107 (of 185) talking anxiety

Day 107 (of 185) talking anxiety


My Slideshow: anxiety-vernon
The video clip from Man of Steel that helps illustrate what an anxious moment can feel like (and these moments can occur frequently!) can be found here:


Tonight I had an opportunity from the Vernon Montessori Society to give a talk on Anxiety. I always appreciate the opportunity to talk Anxiety because I strongly believe that the more we talk about mental wellness and issues such as anxiety, the more normalized the “process” can be.



It was a great audience. And I don’t just mean “laughing in the right places”, I mean they felt comfortable asking questions along the way – it wasn’t just the “sage on the stage talking & leaving” but some very tough, detailed questions asked along the way…..including some very difficult questions about what to do when either schools or homes aren’t “ready” to help learners through anxiety – because it is difficult. It takes time (which there is never enough of) and it takes a team (which may be stretched within the school) but I never say that working with Mental Wellness/Anxiety is easy…..but it is worth it.


I appreciate the stories that were shared…the concerns that were raised….and most of all thank everyone who came out because it was clear that they want to help make a difference in someones (including their own) world….and the power and importance of relationships cannot be over-appreciated. For 100 people to come out in the middle of the week to hear one principals approach to working with learners with anxiety…..sometimes descriptive words can be hard to find….!

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Day 106 (of 185) think pink #pinkshirtday

Day 106 (of 185) think pink #pinkshirtday



I’m of two minds about “event days”. I do like them as they help bring focused attention onto a specialized topic. But I prefer when these ‘special events’ become things that we just do each and every day.  But I know we need to start somewhere, so having a highlighted day can be a very good start.



I do really appreciate how events like #pinkshirtday started as a student initiative. Again, not something that was meant to be a media event or turn into a movement, but a way to support a new student who wore a pink shirt on their first day of school. It started as a way to symbolically support a new student – everybody wearing a pink shirt means…..everybody can wear pink shirts. It also helps show that bullying is as much of a behaviour that when called out…..can change.



Indeed, most of my “bullying” conversations have been around bringing up a complaint or observation to the “bully”, very often they are unaware. And that’s the tricky part when dealing with bullying behaviour: what is intended vs what is interpreted. When specific behaviours can be described, it can help create an empathic awareness so that “feelings” can be better respected.



Once the first steps have been taken, then the “special days” can be repurposed to have a fun feel to them. It’s easy to see music videos, assemblies, games et al being shared to help recognize the days emphasis on anti-bullying behaviour….but you still need to walk the talk each and every day….which is why I like to encourage my learners to see days like today as being more than just physically wearing a pink shirt, but “thinking pink” and having the mindset that promotes positive interactions and limits bullying-type behaviours…..for learners of all ages.

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Day 105 (of 185) presenting on coding

Day 105 (of 185) presenting on coding



Friday Feb 17 was a great day of sharing about coding:


Impressive because of how many people attended because they really wanted to see what coding can look like at all ages – and impressive because of the ideas that were shared and expanded upon!



One of my shares focuses on the fact that “we” (as educators) already do a lot of activities that activate a coding mindset….the shift is that we need to be mindful of these opportunities and expand/follow up in the right ways! I appreciated one lady sharing that she was nervous about embracing coding because she worried it was going to be all about using screens – something I continue to emphasize that it doesn’t have to be. There is a right time and place for coding to actually be done using technology (in order to see it in practice) but when working on the mindset, there is a wide range of tools that can be used!




I am (more and more) happy to “push” and encourage ‘those things that can be done with just a pencil be done with that tool’, but acknowledging that the right tool for the right user at the right time can get a lot more done than just the minimal necessities….but the wrong tool may be just as ineffective….



Which is partly why I like the use of centres to address coding and ADST

It allows learners to try a few different strategies and approaches out and figure out what works for them, and what does not…..and what they may need to work with whether they like it or not —> wanna build a video game? lego is great for design thinking, but is not the right ‘language’ for that!



I still encourage “Coding is a way of thinking”. This means that a lot of what we “need” to teach can be done so in a variety of ways. I would love to have a class set of iPads in order to push more into the games that are leading into proper coding, such as Swift (and it’s app Swifty) –> apps/languages like this that start out with a “game mode” and then scale up by revealing more and more of the language behind it can be invaluable as it allows differentiation “at the right time” – so the learner, no matter what the age, can take on a greater challenge when the time for them (not the calendar) is right!



I am really enjoying some of the conversations that can get started when questions are asked about coding. I am even happier to see that the work that I’ve been doing on a centres-approach has spread to other districts (some great pics and shoutouts via twitter) as more and more educators are taking greater and greater risks embracing a coding mindset, and sharing their successes so that more and more centres may become available as an à la carte selection process to determine what works best for the user!

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Day 104 (of 185) Reading Out Loud #WRAD17 #WorldReadAloudDay

Day 104 (of 185) Reading Out Loud #WRAD17 #WorldReadAloudDay


Today is World Read Aloud Day. Kind of a fun time – to focus on reading stories using out-loud-voices.


This is important because it acknowledges that not all stories should be read using “inside voices” and that not all students can process ‘reading’ only using sight. The “read aloud” concept has been used forever – sharing stories to a group…..only comparatively recently have we been able to include ‘texts’ to create a common experience – almost every canadian student is familiar with Robert Munsch – and his books almost HAVE to be read out loud.



And I know that there are concerns – especially around the ‘audience’. It seems today that children have a difficult time sitting and listening. And it may be true – there aren’t many opportunities to have a story read to you except at school, and sometimes at night. So having times to “practice listening” is ever more important – especially when expecting (introducing?) students creating ‘pictures in their minds’ <– needing to scaffold this reading concept for some!



But it’s also important to realize that read alouds aren’t for everyone. My youngest daughter recognizes that she likes stories to be read to her, but she only really understands them when she can follow along on the page at the same time – or when she reads out-loud to herself (apparently a tad embarrassing in middle school). This is a recent acknowledgement of hers, and I am trying hard to balance that now when I am doing read alouds at school, sometimes using my iPad and AppleTV to broadcast the pages/words in a ‘bigger’ format! I continue to be guided by my students (part of a large descriptive-feedback-loop) to do better “next time”.



To recognize World Read Aloud Day this year, I opted to Read Dahl Loud (sounds the same) via The Enormous Crocodile – a book that I get to read in very loud voices with all the students in the gym! And when there is a good story being read, the audience can be very good! It’s nice because it’s not a long book, and while I do read books to classes in the library, it’s not usually the same book – so it’s nice to get everyone together to read all together (and even my grade 8s seemed to enjoy the break in their day!)



Reading aloud is fun. It’s not always easy. It’s good to have some water nearby. But it’s fun to bring a large group together to read aloud and remember:

a) how important this skill – both as a reader and a listener – is

b) that as much as it is fun, it still doesn’t ready “every” leaner because every student is unique!



A big thank you to the teachers, librarians, principals, teachers, etc etc that have made a commitment to make Global Read Aloud Day a reality for so many listeners!

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Day 103 (Of 185) a worry about community organizations

Day 103 (Of 185) a worry about community organizations

I am part of two boards – one working on supporting children and families in the Shuswap and another that is working on bringing music into places where it needs to be (from classrooms to retirement centres and all points in between). And I love the work of groups like Rotary, Lions, the Legion….but…. 

This year I had my student take part in a legion Remembrance Day contest and just found out that our students did quite well! But I also found out that in our zone, my school was the only one that participated…..and that hurt. We are seeing some organizations struggling to get members (my father-in-laws group is starting to plan what might be ‘next’ if they don’t have a minimum number or participants) and I worry that some community groups are becoming “distant” from school communities – in large part because there are so many valuable groups wanting to work with schools in a variety of ways. A mix of providing services (sometimes quite discretely) and raising awareness (sometimes hoping for some fundraising support) but always trying to help students! 

But there is an increase in (friendly?) competition. Writing opportunities/contests that traditionally were held “only” by the Legion have spiralled out into community groups (Shuswap Writers Conference) and there are many regional/provincial/national events that can attract (but mostly distract) schools attention. 

I may miss our I am so thankful that these service groups remain committed to being part of our learning community. I love having representatives from the Legion come to our Remembrance Assemblies and I will always adjust our start time to meet their travel needs! Our Lions group currently supports a lunch program and is looking at ways to enable our community to travel to events in other parts of our district. I still remember Rotary building one of the schools I was at a playground in record time (honestly the timeframe will never be matched). 

It is amazing when people dedicate their time to service groups and then make amazing things happen – and I hope that the various groups continue to find ways (and new members) to make unique differences in the lives of our learners. 

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