Summer of Learning (2018) #4 Michael Bennett. Things that make white people uncomfortable @mosesbread72

Summer of Learning (2018) #4 Michael Bennett. Things that make white people uncomfortable @mosesbread72

I’ve liked the saying that “change isn’t hard, it’s uncomfortable….” and a lot of what Michael Bennett says emphasizes the point of “conversation” both talking AND listening….and if anything, “active listening” (where you confirm that what you think you heard is what the other person is wanting you to hear).

In my opinion, Michael Bennett’s book is mistitled. It should be “Things that make white people change”…..becasuse it’s a conversation that leads to better understanding. It isn’t about “one person/story being right and everything else wrong” – it’s not a condemnation of “all” white people….it’s about sharing a story to provide greater understanding. It’s about when you reflect on what your history classes taught “us” about the evolution of North America….not a lot about non-white/european “development” even though there were a LOT of other ’colours’ involved over the centuries. And if you don’t think people need to change…well we have seen that not all white people think & do the same….kinda like every racial group – there is no “one type” or “common behaviour”. There are powerful leaders and evil racists in all size shape and colour.

I know (and agree with Michael) that life can’t just be about escape (community home etc) but about facilitating change – acknowledging that which would rather be overlooked (eg how Manifest Destiny impacted Africans and North Americans) – especially of you are part of a group that needs “superhero’s” to look towards for inspiration.

What is “uncomfortable”? Incidents such as what happened to Malcolm Butler at college (when his student ID not being easy-to-see-enough led to a confrontation at university: http://www.espn.com/blog/tennessee-titans/post/_/id/26447/malcolm-butler-refuses-to-be-defined-by-his-super-bowl-moments ) I know that I never had to worry about something like this…

What is “uncomfortable” is the power of words (and not just the “unmentionable words”) but mindset words as black athletes relationships with “owners” – and the power of sports magnates reframing their terminology to C.E.O. (or other designation) – and Michael suggests (as a way to begin some empathy) going to work and referring to your boss as “your owner” if it seems ridiculous…..that’s the point. The use of words in a way that shows not just a misunderstanding (which is fine and fair on an ongoing learning journey) but a dismissal of wanting to learn how people grew up …. again as I say: kids do what they see. And as much as I’ve never been a fan of affirmative action (and I believe the opportunities I have had in hiring decisions reflect my willingness to look beyond the face at the other side of the interview table) I have to be aware (and this is the uncomfortable part of what is referred to as ‘white privilege’) that not everybody has the same mindset….and sometimes it’s a stereotype that gets in the way….and there is a need for “affirmative action” (or native ancestry or ….. ) to help change up the cycles of misunderstanding and have a realistic variety of “leaders to look up to” for kids in school and throughout the community.

Disagree but understand his attitude towards drugs like marijuana- as a pain reliever over regular use I can support – but again ideally with medical awareness rather than self-prescription. I won’t use Demerol for a Friday night no matter how it feels. I would hope that anyone using marijuana does so with their medical doctor & pharmacist knowing so that they can help be prepared for any side effects (ie anxiety + paranoia from drug use = bad after-effects)

But….the bigger picture of uncomfortableness:

Such as: sometimes you don’t know you’re on a chain until you try to move…..

And: are we authentically aware of how some words (you know the ones) are used to de-humanize other humans so that inhuman things can be done to them. It’s more than hurtful….and unfortunately that when a group uses the words themselves, it confuses matters because does it then mean that the sports teams in Washington DC, Cleveland, Edmonton, Atlanta et al are “okay-ish….? Because “we” would like those names to not be as hurtful as they likely are…

Is the most uncomfortable part about this book coming to an understanding that more understanding is needed – and in the US while there is Black History Month, it doesn’t mean the lack of a “white history month” is an insult, but an acknowledgement that too often, we haven’t/don’t get chances to know more….especially in history where those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it…..and in Canada, that’s the role of our Truth and Reconciliation process for our First Peoples whose history has been avoided…..and only recently been seen as being very “local” – as in there can’t be “a” textbook because each nation is so unique and too often we want to to take one cultural piece (ie totem poles) and attribute it to “everyone”…. and much as white groups don’t always like being mixed up (especially during the World Cup!) “we” (as white people) need to be uncomfortable by being aware that while there are no “universal truths” (not all white folk had things easy) it’s also not a competition either…..and whether or not anyone wants to admit it, the concept of “white privilege” does exist – and we often cringe when we see it applied blatantly, but “we” need to be uncomfortable that it also exists in ways many of us can’t see (biggest example is the feeling you get when pulled over – do you think “what did I do wrong” or “how bad is this going to be…”).

I have taken “white privilege quizzes” and thought that I’d be further “ahead” than I ended up being (because being a white male is not always an advantage…) on the”step forward/back quiz, but I was also mindful that there were many much further back….and I’m also mindful that there may have also been advantages that I wasn’t aware of – and again, communication matters! I grew up in a community dominated by two skin colours and misunderstandings were the key reason to many conflicts and confrontations between people. I was lucky that my dad had to overcome preconceived judgements so that skin colour & cultural backgrounds were secondary (or thirdly or never) considerations behind the actions of individuals; your actions spoke louder than words…though certain words would definitely raise alarm bells…..

I appreciate Michael Bennett’s skills on the football field. I even more appreciate his willingness to be a social advocate in a time where there is pressure for “athletes to just be athletes” yet a time where athletes have more power for possible changes to/with society than ever before we need people like Michael to share his stories and experiences, because through understanding the experiences of individuals, “we” better understand that no one social/cultural group is monolithic….and understanding is what leads to change….as uncomfortable as that may be to some.

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Summer of Learning (2018) #3 a name by any other name…..

Summer of Learning (2018) #3 a name by any other name…..

Came across another tweet congratulating a sports team with a name that made me stop….a term that many find a tad offensive (and others find quite offensive). The I-word. Even if it’s been used for “several years” – Mindsets change. And I know it’s tough because a friend of mine who works in a prominent nation admits that “names” change depending on whom he speaks to. He has an uncle who still refers to himself as an Indian – because the Canadian Federal Government still uses that term in the Act that tried to assimilate and define who the indigenous peoples of Canada were to be http://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.1056988 but others in his family don’t like that term and have other “preferences” (as Canada has tried on a couple of “bigger labels” to try to encapsulate nations that are very unlike each other in so many ways (which is why we’ll likely keep trying and changing terms until we realize that we won’t ever find “one” term other than Canadians – acknowledging that it’s not a great name for who we were, but perhaps can be be for who we will be) – from First Nations and First Peoples to Aboriginal and Indigenous. Each has a sense of being right and being wrong.

But some names hurt – whether intentional or not – especially when assigned to mascots of sports franchises (Chief Wahoo hasn’t been seen for awhile…..and the “C” is a much nicer symbol than the previous incarnation of the Cleveland baseball team). So I have realized that I need to support and recognize that there is a difference between teams such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida State Seminoles that recognize (and have some support from) local nations/traditional names (albeit English phonetics) and are better than some that are dismissive to entire cultures

And even though high schools, universities and professional sports clubs may have long traditions connected to their name, sometimes names change (Washington’s basketball team changed its name as a nod to gun violence) And it should be possible that we can change a name…..especially as we become more aware of how names (and nicknames) may not hurt some who use it, but can hurt those that have been called it…..because if it’s fun/funny for one but not the other….

So it might be a small thing, but sometimes bigger things are made from small starts. And I feel fortunate to not have been at a schools whose name made me cringe a bit (even the split of gender teams can go awry – golds/jewels are explainable as a split, but sinners/saints…? Who wants to be on the girls sinners basketball team?!?!

So where possible, I will point out possible “awkwardnesses” (aka names that I wouldnt use to call or describe the kids in my school) You can’t give yourself a nickname but you can decide that one given to you may need to be “shaken off” after awhile….

So, I will instead use bland names such as

Washington football club

Edmonton football club

Cleveland baseball club

Atlanta baseball club

I’m undecided about some others …..but I believe if some of the professional teams start making changes, it will be easier (and more accepted by the fans) for collegiate and high school teams to make a change for the better. Because a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a name can still make you think twice 🤔

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Summer of Learning (2018) #2 reclaiming edtech

Summer of Learning (2018) #2 reclaiming edtech

When google classroom announced its latest upgrade was an easier way to create quizzes, I groaned…..and it came off another’s concern about the death of edtech. Because I gafawed it until I thought about it. I started to wonder and worry that maybe edtech is doing a better novof solidifying prior strategies than it is being a disruptor…

Google, ISTE, and the Death of EdTech – Mike Crowley – Medium

It saddens me when the greatest differentiation tool gets used to maintain a “one size fits all” approach to learning:

  • Grade books (especially those focused on task completion)
  • Typing final drafts (when they can be an important part of the start & edit process as well as allowing for differentiation in types of writings – not simply 5 paragraph essays)
  • Lock-step assignments where the final result is already known (creativity matters!)
  • Locking things down

I know that I benefitted from a computer – from completing writing assignments (that had been becoming shorter and shorter because of the focus on quality of my font rather than the quality of my content)

I loved doing my “menu assignment” using my Apple IIe with clip art to make “Computer Hut” a success (still liked calling appetizers ‘bits & bytes’). It allowed me to be creative in a way that my hands and pencils can’t do as effectively on their own….

If I could’ve used keynote/PowerPoint as an organizer for my presentations, I believe my “grades” would’ve been significantly higher (they were good…but not at my daughters level) because I do like blending images with words….but those aren’t always embraced in essay-cultures. I’ve probably lost out on job opportunities because I’ll push a bit on “tell us about….” writing prompts by using infographic approaches rather than a straight monologue (yes….my blog is hypocritical at times 🙄)

Sigh. My Edtech fight has regularly been about choice – and biasedly promoting my Apple-ness in monolithic MS environments. Often being chastised for getting iPads with the threat that “there will not be support from the tech dept” – and me still wondering what support I would need? As a tech helping teacher I ran a school with about 60 iBooks, Mac desktops and a few PC desktops…..care to guess which ones I needed to do the most work (and work orders for…?). I got locked out once because I had “too many devices” on the network – but with limited support for mobile devices (and good mobile devices as small MS laptops crashed and burned in ways that the iBooks never experienced – even in kindergarten classrooms – not labs!!) I had my old devices all hooked up to the wifi, so maybe 10 devices or so may be a “lot” to some people, but not so much for tech promoters. Okay. Maybe it was 15….

Edtech needs to be nimble and enable schooling & learning to be done in ways not done before:

  • Efolios organized by learning outcomes (or big questions in B.C. curriculum.gov.bc.ca) not based on tasks
  • Differentiated so that students are “practicing” at an independent level (reading is about 98% accuracy math is whatever is “easy” – for now while we better break out how to differentiate this subject that is too closely connected to “textbook purchases”)
  • Finding ways to show learning that may be different from others (with some guided gradual release of responsibility such as: showing a life cycle without any words; coding challenges; video prep work; audio sharing; MP3 books – old favourite of mine was a Lion Witch and Wardrobe “whole class novel study” with my struggling and over achieving readers listening, a group using the regular novel, some using an adapted novel and the test using a pre-set variety of picture books –> led to great discussions and grade level synthesis and thinking but all the “reading” was at an “independent” level – levelled book clubs with larger group discussions and questions – wouldn’t’ve been possible without some iPad touches (version 1) to help create an MP3 library and a way for them to ask Qs using a burner email address and Notes to keep their thinking organized

In the past I’ve teased: iLandy Or how I learned to stop worrying and love single platform https://technolandy.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/day-67-of-183-ilandy-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-single-platform/

But even when asked what my thoughts would be towards single platform….Apple only (even by a Supe who I think was goading me to being able to use some of my words against me – I had said at every conference I had been at for “forward thinking educators” it was about 10:1 ratio of Apple to windows – and some of the windows users admitted they didn’t like what they had, but it was what they had) I still prompt diversity. I know that one platform doesn’t fit all, and there are aspects I like about google and android (I know my daughter uses google for her cooperative projects and mocks O365 strugglers) – adults still default to the Microsoft experience they (mostly) grew up with (I distanced myself after the dissolution of Publisher and the debacle that was the 2000 suite – not being able to export ppt to a movie???) but “kids today” use google and trust the cloud. I like how the Apple-verse lets me put one device down and start up on another, so I’m admittedly a curmudgeon….but for things that work. Not for things that “can work if……” (always hate that anti-Apple argument by MS devotees who claimed that anything I could do on my Mac could be done on a Lenovo/dell/etc. We never saw anyone prove it, but in theory……)

So….while others may be looking around at edtech and are seeing the death of the innovation we were hoping for….I am calling for a rethink of a rethink of edtech and calling out when it is being used for – revitalizing the call: viva l’edrevolution libre!

It is time to put away our preferred OSs and instead focus on what we do with them. How can our iPads, surfaces and other mobile devices help transform our education system? Not prop up old systems (gradebooks) and instead promote personalized learning opportunities (focus on the learning outcomes and performance standard indicators rather than one-size for all tasks).

As the staff sergeant said in Hill Street Blues, “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us!”

EdTechies Unite!

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Summer of Learning (2018) #1 Soccer and World Cup & Learning

Summer of Learning (2018) #1 Soccer and World Cup & Learning

Yet again, another World Cup without a Canadian team (and not even the US of A made it) and we look around at other countries….and even other genders (US & Canadian women do quite well) and wonder why our men’s teams aren’t as good in world events.

I want to hate to say it, but in my opinion and observation, there is a common connection to the increase in noticeable anxiety: too much structure and not enough unorganized play.

We have lots of soccer academies in our continent – and leagues stacked on top of leagues – from house to development ($) to select ($$$). All with fees that slowly weed out many potential athletes while bringing in more and more middle+ class kids who don’t have a “hunger” to be excellent. Not that they don’t want to win, but if they don’t they know that there is a support network for them. Kind of like when I chuckle when middle class dance groups try to dance to hip hop and rap – they may like the music but they haven’t lived the culture. There is a disconnect. And we need to include more athletes that “shouldn’t play” because they can’t afford the registration….or the travel obligations….or the matching uniforms because they know that soccer can be their “ticket out” – either to university or to a pro contract (even to an elite academy, but in their mid-teens).

Why have our Women’s programs been successful? Because they’ve been clawing their way to respectability. Often seen as “second to the boys” (I’ve heard many athletic directors arrange preferred practice times and game locations based on gender – and been frustrated by it when coaching/assisting girls teams) many of “the girls” on my daughters team make fun of the boys because they take inspiration from Neymar when a bump (real or imagined) occurs and the girls point to the women in the World Cup with blood and turf over their faces, no cards issued and they play on….

I look around and see so much organization. My last year coaching House with my daughters team (as their skill set began to surpass my knowledge of the game) had me team up with a great role model for the girls. She played ATA high level and knew the ins and outs. And during her practices the girls got good skill development. When I ran them, we still had some standard drills, but I also included “creativity times” where they had to juggle….or flip the ball onto the back of their neck…or something….because so many of the players in the World Cup were doing that when they were ten. They had fun. They were learning how to be creative. They were building unique skills that the academies would later help fine tune -they didn’t wait for a lesson – they play and explore.

The level of soccer organization in North America is affective. It’s probably the level of structures that helped the three biggest countries land the 2026 World Cup – and the connected “host country qualification berths”. But while qualification by bureaucracy may inspire some kids to try harder to qualify in 8 years…I think the way we will qualify more frequent is to help support the times and opportunities where kids can play without adults getting involved. It’s why I like to “accidentally” leave sports balls on fields after school and on weekends.

Talent and love for the game shows up. A kid o used to teach was invited to a WHL hockey draft evaluation camp even though he “only” played house league. For many kids -sports can be a way to see themselves be successful. Basketball and football (even baseball) have been good at breaking down the walls os socio-economics and getting everyone to play. Even though soccer should be like basketball (where all you need is shoes and a ball) it ends up being more like golf where you can only play at certain places and times (and we are in an era where a group of kids playing on a field without an adult being there may result in a phone call to the local police).

Want to win a World Cup? It’s the same as with learning: make it fun. Want kids to succeed in school and sports, let them explore. It doesn’t have to be “all the time” but “drill and kill” does erode enthusiasm for any topic or sport if it goes on long enough.

Oh, and the impact of me emphasizing “play” both at my school and in my house teams meant that even though I think we lost every game – 5 of that squad of 8 are currently playing in Development – in a provincial tournament (another 3 from my school where “play” was heavily encouraged). They’ve all chosen to take part in extra conditioning & skill events…and one of their coaches is the lady I co-coached with and she is continuing the attitude of “having some fun” blended in with the practices.

We gotta be more inclusive and have more fun…otherwise we’ll need to host a lot more events if we hope to qualify – both in sports and in classrooms.

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Day 186 (of 186) so long and thanks for all the fish

Day 186 (of 186) so long and thanks for all the fish

“Look” said my son, “they’re so happy we’re leaving they are throwing a parade!” …..It was Canada Day….and that was our old community’s Canada day parade….

Transitions are uncomfortable. They push our senses of safety and belonging. Whether it is from one grade to another, one school to another or in the case of the Landy family this year, one community to another.

The past six years have allowed me to do some piloting of strategies to support eportfolios (rather than the vagueness of traditional report cards) and enhancing some of the skills needed to champion mental wellness.

My kids have experienced great successes (top overall grade 12 girl) and the lowest of lows (uninvited from middle school). We have all experienced moments of leadership and inspired by the role models around us.

As with every learning community, we had some eye rolls and some thumbs ups. Lots of smiles a couple of tears and met some fabulous people. The students I’ve been working with are hoping that I keep updating my “virtual assignments” page….and I will!

We are becoming a “ferry family” as I fully embrace my #westcoastbias as we move right onto the coast (which is partially why I think Lebron signed with the Lakers😜). Looking forward to meeting new people and pushing into new directions!

We are adjusting (or getting ready to adjust) as our oldest is off to university – in a “tough to get into” engineering program our east. The family structure is going to change – and that’s going to take some time to get used to!

But to help support change, I always reflect on a lunch I shared with Andy Hargreaves ( @hargreavesBC ) who had just written his book on Change – and we talked about frequency (3 years when a lot of turmoil up to 7 if things are calm) and geography (cultural change of district vs changing schools) which made me

A) comfortable to change and experience different geographical regions (school boards)

And

B) when dealing with “weird/stressful times” make a change sooner rather than later -essentially make sure you leave happy – and as I liken it to skiing: it is better to be finished thinking you could squeeze in “one more run” because it is often that last one that doesn’t go so well….

At the time, we had just gone through an process of blending two schools into one and then pushed forward with a 1:1 laptop program (or darn close to 1:1) and as I shared the story of our district and the school, Andy said I should’ve left the past September.

And though change and transitions aren’t always comfortable – they do bring a sense of adventure and “newness”….my son won’t have the same anxiety/autism = teen house presumptions. My youngest daughter will still be able to play band in a district that supports a strong music program. I get to do some pushing in the areas of tech and mental wellness. And my wife gets to explore and do something new….close to the ocean that she grew up so close to and had spent most of her married life away from.

So long to the Shuswap and thanks for all the Salmon! Hello to Powell River and all the excitement that we are anticipating in “what’s next”!

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Day 185 (of 186) graduation = just smile and be happy

Day 185 (of 186) graduation = just smile and be happy

As my oldest girl graduates – I am reminded about an “award” discussion I had about my daughter. For the fourth year in a row she has been selected as the female “overall top student” <— which is an amazing accomplishment, though I did push my colleagues a bit about what the criteria is….

I cringe when awards are based on reflection rather than having outlined criteria (behaviour, attendance, whatever) and finally one of my friends asked me to stop. Smile. Go congratulate your daughter.

It was a good point.

I may not be a fan of “awards events” (that the kids didn’t choose – I’m fine with sports banquet etc) but I can only do what I can do. I do know that my daughter was surprised this year because she did not do sports as she previously had thanks to a bad knee (and work and taking an overload class schedule) but again, I teased her and asked what the grad class was told about year end awards and how to get them? Because the school does a very good job about communicating the criteria for being an honours student (though I was surprised she got a done arts one with her math & science one until I realized that two of her “bonus courses” were music – way to pay attention dad!) so I know it can be done….

I just think (and rethink) and wonder if awards should really be “surprises” (and are we like Highlander where “there can be only one!!)

But. Upon graduation, I will smile for my daughter has accomplished great things and I can’t wait to see what she (along with her siblings…) are going to do next!

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Day 184 (of 186) “finished”

Day 184 (of 186) “finished”

Love how the last day of June is thought of as “the last day”…..

Philosophically because learning never ends and we should be able to continue to celebrate achievements and learnings via our efolios (its only tasks for a mark on the report card that “end”).

The agrarian based school calendar should be changing. If what I see in papers and online about the “summer brain drain” is real, we have the ability to make changes to address this. If two months is too long (and everybody being on vacation at the same time means a spike in gas and hotel prices) – let’s switch things up if that’s going to help the conditions for learning.

The only thing that really “finishes” is contracts. Thinking reflecting planning always goes on. Opportunities for pro-d continue. Sometimes a period of sleeping in and even having some afternoon naps is needed too. Kinda depends on the person and what they’ve gone through. As we don’t acknowledge enough, kids gotta be ready to learn before they can actually learn. Conditions need to be right.

And perhaps a look back to our agrarian ancestors who set up school for this change: too much or too little (rain sun heat etc) can impact the crop – it may not excuse what the finished product may look like, but it sure helps explain it!

Even as my oldest daughter “finishes” school and graduates, her learning journey isn’t over. But then again, neither is mine. Curious how the summer break will affect and effect us…!

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