Day 184 (of 189) Stamped (the remix) by @jasonreynolds83 based on @dribram Stamped from the beginning (so I had to read that too)

Day 184 (of 189) stamped (the remix) by @jasonreynolds83 based on @dribram Stamped from the beginning (so I had to read that too)

*I don’t like some of the language I use in here, it is reflective of the text, so, much as I had to, get over it and focus on the ideas over syntax and word choice.” Also while it doesn’t feel right to say I “enjoyed” the book(s), the remix made me want to read the original…. and has me highly recommending these reads!

Love the introduction starting off right away admitting this is what Dr Ibram wished he learned from history class at a younger age… my connection is the shame I felt about not learning about Canada’s residential school system until my final years at university – even though I grew up in a community hugely impacted by it and took Canadian history courses that did not talk about it. We need to know the past to do better.

A couple paragraphs in and I am adding Stamped from the Beginning to my reading list!

Race. It’s worth talking about. Not the r-word. Not forbidden. And not just for a “special day/month/event”.

And three key words to keep in mind while reading: segregationists. assimilationist. antiracists.

The way-too-simple definitions:

Segregationists are the haters – hate you for not being like them.

Assimilationist “like” you because you’re like them…or could be….

Antiracists like you because you’re like you.

The three identities do interweave as well… can be “both” and … “and”.

And a great call-out (and naming names) of the Worlds First Racist. Who first shared that enslaving people was missionary work to civilize African “savages”. Slavery had of course happened before this, and often included Eastern Europeans, but this guy (not spoiling the name – for that you need the book!) one-upped the competition with his skin colour focus and defending Black human ownership.

More history books need to be written like this…especially as student-used “textbooks”.

Because other books pointed out that black was bad (bible) and that the slave was just a part of the family (1590 Ordering a Familie) it also led to the creation of a human hierarchy – as the puritans who came to the America’s wanted a purer form of Christianity and with the opening of the first school (Harvard) the founders, Cotton and Mather, built off Aristotle’s ranking of Greeks then non-Greeks, to the Puritan hierarchy of: Puritans, Native Americans (sic), Anglican (English non-puritans), everyone else non-puritans, especially last: African people.

Harvard helped this get woven into the education systems of the America’s to parallel the religious shares…all that as needed was more slaves…

Yikes. Pretty rough when it comes right does to it.

Speaking of rough, there are also important add-ons to the highlights I remember from my textbooks. I remember we talked about the philosopher John Locke. His views that Whites had perfect minds while Blacks had dirty brains didn’t make that text summary…

And I appreciate the reminder that this was not a global mindset and many fought against slavery as well. But the opposition made it pretty simple. They needed slaves to make $$

And the shoutout to the Native Americans (sic – ooh, in case you wondered, “sic” is used to cover up word choices as not necessarily the word/tense/term “I” would use, but that the author of the text/quote used. I won’t use it all the timed, but in reference to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation agreement, I feel it necessary here.) is greatly appreciated.

And I can’t even begin to summarize the contradiction that is Thomas Jefferson (except that it is making me think of the real time question in the media about changing the name of some US military bases that were named after generals and leaders of the confederacy….the slave state’s…the rebels) contradictions abound.

An intriguing look at Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Toms Cabin and how it helped be the gasoline needed for a rights fight – empowering the often unmentioned “other group” in inequity stories: women. And I find it interesting that a “story” was more of a catalyst than speeches or non-fiction writings. There is power in story!

Thinking of complex people – Abraham Lincoln was a bit more complicated than being “the great emancipator”. There are some great reflections on the evolutionary road towards the Emancipation Proclamation and the ending is roughly: is it a coincidence that three days after Abe said “Blacks (the intelligent ones) should have the right to vote” that he was assassinated…?

This book is likewise complex: I should not be “enjoying” reading about the slavery process, but Reynolds is a master storyteller – bringing out some good, tough reflection but also feeling like I am understanding the whole process much better than I ever did via textbooks and encyclopedias. It feels wrong to say that I love this book because the story is so incredibly wrong, if it weren’t so true.

Really like the reflection that early rights activists had the same destination in mind, but often varied greatly on the route to take on the journey to get there!

Awkward to really get the bigger message about the USA as a “land of freedom” when so many had no freedom – the WWII call for Double V – victory over fascism overseas and victory over racism at home just further illustrates the depth of the systemic – or really multiple systems, at work to divide people because of race.

Not to mention things like white flight – where I have heard recent podcasts talking about first hand stories of families selling houses and moving in the middle of the night the first time a “black family” moved into a “white neighborhood “.

And then the shift to non-violent protests (sit ins et al) that paralleled the rise of Dr King. Not waiting for a “white saviour” that wasn’t coming, but making points of equality. But not all were content with the non violent protests leading to violent reprisals, which led to an acknowledgement of a split in methods with the rise of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. Polarizing but after seeing events such as bloodhounds attacking youth in Birmingham, change needed to happen (parallels to the world I am seeing in the after affects of the police killing of George Floyd).

It led to civil rights legislation, the March of Washington and despite a “white washed” (choosing that word deliberately) speakers list, led to the powerful “I have a dream} speech. Mind you, the enforcement of the Civil Rights ACT of 1964 was still in doubt (actually, not doubt – it wasn’t going to be universally enforced).

If we who do not learn from our history are doomed to repeat it…. we need to do some better learning. So many names being persecuted by authority because of their skin colour – and so many more unnamed. At the end, as you reflect on its history/not history book-ness: “it leads back to the question of whether you, reader, want to be a segregationist (a hater), an assimilationist (a coward), or an antiracist (someone who truly loves).”

So of course I had to dig deeper and get into Dr Ibram X Kendis “Stamped from the beginning” to further understand the stray behind a Jason Reynolds “remix”

And wow. From Aristotle holding the Greeks superior to barbarians (all non Greeks…all) there is a cascade of betters get to enslave the others (in Europe starting with the Slavs, before the slave traders noticed that different looks weren’t as easy to hate as skin colour (way over simplification admittedly). And the justifications they used were certainly “fast and loose” and not surprisingly, amazingly made up. Anti slavers were able to be ignored and kept quiet because money talks and slaves were making some people…enough people…rich.

And an interesting tidbit that “race” did not make it into a dictionary until 1606 as “means descent”. And from the first inroads of slavery to the americas, it was clear they were “stamped from the beginning” as racially distinct people and lower than others…

And some looks into the ways of some historical figures that no history book I went in to: I was a fan of Voltaire with his statement “I may not agree with you, but will defend your right to say it”, but his views on “peoples” has me rethinking some thoughts, much as some writings may like to emphasize the words: all men are created equal, but that didn’t mean they agreed that groups of “man” were equal… except for criminalizing “runaways” and silencing women – more of a Declaration of Independence for some….

Oh the complexities of Thomas Jefferson.

Oh the narrow mindedness. The comparison I seem to come to is temperature and measurement. Fahrenheit rather than Celsius and imperial over the metric system, slavery instead of non-slavery because just because the rest of the world thinks that way doesn’t mean “we” (United States) should – just because “we” fought for freedom doesn’t mean freedom should be for all….. It feels juvenile when I type it out, but the arguments of the centuries “for slavery” seem to fit that….

So many “facts” that weren’t/aren’t factual.

Frederick Douglass “Narrative” – that’s my next turn down this rabbit hole!

OMG. The origin of the “hair” topic that I too often see on Twitter – white hair good, black…well, not even hair, but wool…. <— seriously?? 1850…how ridiculous.

How could the land of liberty, the land of freedom… have slavery

Interesting how “land rights” became an issue when land for freed slaves were being discussed more so than it ever did when land rights of Native Americans (sic) had been debated…

Cincinnati Enquirer story about the end of the civil war: “slavery is dead, the negro (sic) is not, there is our misfortune”. ouch.

Turn of the century: “In a poem printed in McClure’s Magazine in 1899, the literary prophet of British imperialism, Rudyard Kipling, urged Americans to “Take up the White Man’s burden— / Send forth the best ye breed— / Go send your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need / To wait in heavy harness / On fluttered folk and wild— / Your new-caught, sullen peoples / Half devil and half child.” To promote further imperialism expansion of the United States and bring “civilization” to more “barbarians”. Sigh. But then again, his other writings are similarly “white imperialist in nature” and help further racist thinking.

Fabulous (disturbing) shares on the roles of media – initially books – the power of story – both in terms of anti-racism and outright racism. I don’t think I’ll be able to hear the “Tarzan yell” with innocence anymore. And then the turn of the 20th century had “Birth of a Nation” – the shame that it was even shown in the White House – a building by the way, I mis-learned as having been named after the white coating was the only thing that could cover up the scorch marks from the War of 1812, but now find out it is likely Teddy Rosevelt named it such after inviting W.E.B Du Bois for dinner at the house and received huge backlash for inviting a black man to the Presidents House as if they were social equals (I know, right!?!) and to try to appease segregationists, officially named the presidents residence the “White House”. As (and I’m hugely paraphrasing here) the country had been built by white men for white men….

Anyways, the embarrassment of a movie that is entitled “Birth of a Nation” is named after a book called “The Clansmen” – yep, KKK (and why in our own province of BC while I am reading this, the nickname of SFU – the Clan – is being discussed, because even thought it has absolutely no connection to Klan – and is based on Simon Frasers Scottish heritage and the Clan system there…. it sounds similar enough in these times to …. need to be thought about. But it was clear that movies were much more effective ways to expand racist thinking than minstrel shows ever were. Empowered the Ku Klux Klan to be revitalized and terrorize Jews, immigrants, socialists, Catholics, and of course: Blacks.

Ahhh, and then after WW I came and emphasis on eugenics and arguments for maintaining racial purity – led books such as The Passing of the Great Race which emphasized Nordic blood as the key ingredient for the rise of civilizations (or lack of it for their fall….) which of course inspired a certain Austrian who became the leader of Germany…

Oh yeah, eugenics is also what helped popularize things like the IQ Test and many other standardized tests. Racial hierarchy, that’s what they were all about.

(Are???)

And when King Kong came out, it was subtly a remake of Birth of a Nation, bringing in much of the same thinking’s just using a giant ape in place of a black man….without ever saying a word about black people….

It snuck by mass criticism, but Amos ‘n Andy sure got blasted…as it should’ve! Popular as it was with some of the audience laughing at the program, others “with” the program…

Very nice points around mis-education; both in terms of stereotypes, but also about what was not included – if you can’t learn truth in history, you can’t know what you don’t know….

And (a poor but blunt synthesis on my part) it can’t be up to black people to teach white people to be antiracist.

I really appreciate how well Dr Kendi navigates some very triggering language thought the evolution and progression through the years in this book – very skilled to ‘normalize’ some language without being offensive, but also not making it too easy to gloss over.

Because the social media hits just keep coming: Jessie Owens being treated better in Nazi Germany during the Olympics than he was at home. Gone with the Wind redefining and further fuelling inaccurate views of slavery.

And after WWII, by declaring the US as the leader of the free world – an inward look was needed to see if the US was actually as free as it wanted other nations to be….

Desegregation finally was taking hold. In the army. In Major League Baseball with Jackie Robinson (whose #42 is rightly retired league wide)

Brown vs Board though. School segregation. Sigh.

Then Dr King and another book: To Kill a Mockingbird that showed more ways that civil rights was a serious national (international?) topic. That it was not just a “southern issue”.

And then George Wallace and his segregation forever political stance. 😶

Letter from the Birmingham Jail. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_from_Birmingham_Jail

The reminder of Bull Connors reaction in Birmingham on May 3 1963 unfortunately makes me think of recent events around the US (and world) in reaction to the death of George Floyd – and specifically when President Trump wanted to do a photo op at a church and park near the White House. Unsettling.

Angela Davis ♥️

JFK conspiracies? Different book for those – but the timing after some of his statements…. the civil rights bill kinda had huge memorial momentum and couldn’t be stopped though…. even though 57 days of filibustering tried…

Ahhh. Then the “private clubs” to ignore segregation and instill “whites only” rules.

The assassination of Dr King….. and the reaction that had to come from the killing of the non-violent leader of the civil rights movement….

So much turbulence that Dr Kendri weaves – decades and politics and media and how the issue of race kept being kept…being an issue. His sharings on elements like the CIA backed infiltration of drugs like cocaine into the nation remind me of watching TV as a youth and…weirdly in rural BC our cable system provided us with TV stations from Detroit…. watching the heart breaking stories of crack babies – and the assumption that these kids stood no chance in life (1986 crack was time magazines issue of the year) yet few reports highlighted the triumphs of these people who grew up with less issues than those born with alcohol and nicotine impacting them. But that wasn’t a story with a clear enough racial divide I guess…?

And then Dr Kendi shares similar: poverty has more negative effects on kids than being a crack baby did. Like so many myths, crack babies and their lack of humanity was just a myth.

So,e fabulous takeaways and troubling thinking’s from this book. Also making me think about the importance of learning and doing better. Whether the scandal of our own Prime Minister wearing blackface at a Halloween event decades ago, or the coach at Oklahoma State wearing an OAN shirt – there needs to be opportunities to allow people to do better. Not just cast blame, but learn, think, synthesize and do better. Not just lip service.

I freely admit that I wish organizations such as NAACP and affirmative action did not exist – because there is no need for them, much as I wish we did not have job postings “giving preference to people of xx background” because that has not been part of my world – in that I was taught to look for character (what people do when no one is watching) and I realize now that there are systemic pieces that are exclusionary and may have benefited me in ways I don’t even see.

The remix by Jason Reynolds is a fabulous read. And I think accessible for a broad audience. But exploring the Dr Kendi original is like a deep dive down into the deep cuts of an album anthology. The hits are there but likewise so much more. He may not have intended to write this book, but we are all better because of it. Thank you Dr Kendi for opening even more rabbit holes to explore to be a better antiracist.

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Day 183 (of 189) aka Day 12 (of 16) The more accurate the percentage the less accurate I think it is

Day 183 (of 189) aka Day 12 (of 16) The more accurate the percentage the less accurate I think it is

I got teased during a preview look at a new tool to use for school (and district) growth plans: it has progression scores. Percentages towards completion. I hate these things because it is about the number of tasks connected to a goal not really differentiating which tasks are more complex/complicated than others. Fortunately this one also has a sliding scale that can be manually manipulated. But our local tech guy pointed out “we know Landy hates grades and percentages so those methods can also be turned off”. Loved it better. But I still don’t trust grades and percentages even less so. 

And I am happy to have that reputation. I have stories – my friend who was stymied at 85.49999999999 percent and a teacher unwilling to acknowledge a question marked wrong that was right, which would have given him an A – but he was a bit of a talker…. so I guess that meant his academic achievement should not have been acknowledged…. okay more than a bit of a talker, but no matter what – the grade and percentage should reflect what was learned. And he was an “A” student.

Then there is the debate I want to start more often: Why do we bother with 50 being the typical academic divider between pass and fail. And why do we use the same scale with different learners. Students preloaded with some content not having to learn much more rewarded with top marks compared to a student who is starting with minimal schema having to actually “learn” much more and being compared to the other. More and more I am becoming comfortable thinking that for some kids – getting 25% on scores on traditional tasks may be a huge success because of the unseen burdens they are likewise carrying – and at the same time, I don’t think any of us would be happy to be in the plane with the pilot who landed safely 95% of the time….

Numbers are weird and don’t tell us the learning story that we wish they would. With more and more students disengaging from learning – we can no longer put on summary reports “student needs to better engage in class” and take more seriously reflections that “student was not engaged in learning” <– not a learner problem. This is something I saw a lot in remote learning – better connections with some 1:1 and small group visits that allowed teachers and students better understand each other. Relationships only matter if they change the views and attitudes and approaches of those in the learning relationship.

Averages are often misused. Too often the mean is used because its the easiest to remember and use if you have a bunch of unrelated tasks. Add things up, divide by the number of tasks. But there are different averages that can likewise be used, and often should – especially when a “0” unfairly taints any average to an unrecoverable level. Looking for patterns and trends tends to help out significantly. Learning is not an exact science. Kinda like the pirate code – more guidelines than actual rules. A lot of room for interpretation.

Each learner is on a unique journey. With the covid pandemic impacting the “traditional learning journey”, we have an opportunity to take advantage of this and do some things for the better. We have an obligation to do some reflecting and not return to the same old same old. Many students will have the covid slide – much more than the usual “losses” of a summer not practicing certain skills (and if you don’t use it, you lose it) and we can’t wish learners were doing more while away from school. More than ever before we have a responsibility to meet them where they are, not where we wish they were. To personalize the reading, maths, writings more so than ever. To have more “fun” with the sciences and social studies. To acknowledge that some things are going to be harder, but also worthwhile. To provide feedback that is meaningful and relevant – not a statistic that measured what they did.

If I do have “a certain reputation” – I’m glad it’s this one!

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Day 182 (of 189) aka Day 11 (of 16) wonder wednesday: no more tests?

Day 182 (of 189) aka Day 11 (of 16) wonder wednesday: no more tests?

Okay – so maybe I was an early adopter on this one – or at least relatively early and about a bakers dozen of years ago or so…. When I was still doing “tests” I wasn’t happy with them, so a friend and I were challenging each other to do “different” – and weirdly took this on through math. Changed the questions so they were more around “understanding” based on the learning outcomes that we covered – for example, in addition 2+5= 12+37 = 1378+4432 = 568+3324+87+7823 but this did not equal a score /4, but instead just descriptive feedback based on their effectiveness or something they may have missed, or a mis-understanding…. common calculation error….etc etc – the score stopped mattering.

Because I knew that really, much like the points in Whose Line Is It Anyway, the scores don’t matter.

After all, I also knew kids who knew the content, but would experience stress and not be able to put the information down in a testing environment. Yet I also knew kids who in tests, showed that they did have a different understanding than would be otherwise expected to show (a kid who did well in multi-step math problems, but not in single step queries). The scores didn’t show the whole part of the learning…..

My own experience in not-taking-tests came through the now-dispatched “provincial exams” – that everybody in BC “had” to take. My father passed away, and I got an exclusion from provincials from a friend in the ministry (I think – some of the details of that time still remain a tad unclear) anyway – I didn’t do the “final exams”. I still got into university. I even graduated and got my teaching degree!

Not having “tests” did not harm me. Aggregate score ended up being ‘good enough’.

Which is good as we evolve through covid messing up the best lain plans o’ mice an’ men…. and some institutes are correcting previous mis-steps of education leadership. The grand daddy of them all (and the institute that makes a few poor appearances as I read Dr. X Ibrams Stamped From The Beginning) Harvard is not requiring a particular “exam” that used to be thought of a sacrosanct for any who wanted to attend….

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/16/us/harvard-sat-act-coronavirus-education-wellness/index.html

no more SAT requirement “this year” (and optional in other old-school Ivy League institutes) and what will they discover? No SAT = no problem. Even more so as schools stray further from their own “recall and regurgitate” approaches to higher education and focus more on hands-on (labs) and exploratory (problem based learning) classes. Much as letter grades don’t give much detail other than a “range” of their abilities to do something based on ??? <– different in different regions, standardized tests essentially tell how well a person will do…writing a standardized test. How students can show their learning is much more diverse than what can be shown in a traditional (standard) test.

More universities are publicizing their options of entering without those misleading % based transcripts – and worrying more if the students are going to be successful at their school. It is not true that universities (colleges, et al) like it when kids fail so they make more $ – because just like in our secondary schools – if you have a senior taking a freshman class, that is one space less for an incoming student – inconveniencing and possibly delaying their route through the school. Okay – one “fail” will not derail another pass, but we can’t pretend that universities are okay with hideous four year (2 year, take your pick) graduation rates. They do want their students (and eventual alumni that they can phone for donations) to do well and be successful.

So, why don’t we better embrace this and do less tests?!? I don’t say ‘no tests’ for two key reasons: I am an advocate for specialized standardized tests – they help identify students with a learning disability, giftedness… sometimes both at once… but are not meant to be written by everybody. Second reason is that some kids do well showing their learning by writing tests. Though I would prefer that they actually create a test than hope they remember the questions that I hinted would be important to remember later and look shiftily around when asked “will this be on the test”. <– spoiler: focusing less on grades and %s actually leads to kids taking risks and focusing more on…. learning – and not worrying about what they may need to memorize for a 24 hour period in order to earn a certain score that gets averaged out – oooh:

sidebar on averages: my kindergarten teachers are meeting next years kindys in the school garden to get their Welcome to Kindergarten bags. Monday was cold. Spring cold, but the wind was coming off the sea and I think they regretted declining my earlier offer to bring them tea or coffee….. but yesterday (and today) were relatively hot – especially sitting in the sun (we had a canopy tent set up et al so nobody would burn) and they didn’t like me pointing out that if we average the two days, the temperature was actually pretty much perfect. Got the scowly evil eye and the confirmation that the average actually did not represent either actual day. Sorry.

Students this year are missing a wide variety of “final exams” that have been a habit….err right of passage…. err relic of a bygone era? that previous generations of learners had to (rather than got to) write and hope the questions linked to the learning they actually did.

And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it won’t surprise me if many “annual assessments” aren’t able to be fully done again next year – and after two years of students not writing finals still getting into university, I think the test-creators are gonna be looking for a different job.

And if we get rid of final tests, why not then take a look at some of the others that “feel good” but don’t actually do much – the spelling tests (that I am told are being done to help keep families doing something at home) that help remind students that you can get good scores if you can remember something for a short period of time and then never worry about it again (had a learner who would make mama proud by acing spelling tests and then never spell any of those words correctly almost as if on purpose…. and I shifted to a “making words” spelling program – google “fowl words” for the perfect game to build on spelling using common combinations – okay, it’s also in my virtual assignment list: fowl words)

And then we can take a look at other tests that may not tell us what we think they are telling us. Not to say we can’t offer “test pressures” still: impromptu writings that we base against a performance standard. A cold read that we measure against a ….. performance standard…. that’s right, the answers may not be at the back of the book, but they also can’t be accessed via google…. okay now I’m wishing my earlier reference to google was more of a “ask Jeeves” ….. what, out of date? oooh – kinda like …. the topic I started writing about. And not new. As I wind this up, I will include an inclusion from my dads journal from ….. here is where I don’t want to do the math since I was still in utero and I don’t want to do complex subtraction 😇 but just pointing out, this ain’t a new thought, not even a middle aged thought… but something that we should better embrace as we read our Michael Fullan and Yong Zhao on their claims for change – because we can and we should!

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Day 181 (of 189) aka day 10 (of 16) sometimes its just about listening

Day 181 (of 189) aka day 10 (of 16) sometimes its just about listening

I go for a walk and talk with my son pretty much every day. Now that he is about to graduate and not going back to school during covid “remote learning”, he really wants to walk daily as that helps him with his mind being able to have something predictable and regular as a part of his routine. Sometimes we walk home (when I walk to work and then my wife drops him off at the end of the day) sometimes we go to the seawall (especially if I drive to work because I need my vehicle that day) and sometimes we do both – there are times when one walk & talk just isn’t enough…. that is to say, we walk – he talks. I sometimes get a couple questions in, but mostly reacting to death battle scenarios, anime updates, etc.

Kinda similar when my youngest, for the first time in a long time, asked for a walk. The three kids like to go for walks – but not together….at least I am getting my steps in!! And much like her brother, we walked – she talked (though she did let me get a few more words in….) about music and school (we are going to record some of our conversations and create a bit of content as we “look at school” – she is not seeing a good reason to keep up the “habit of school” – I think there are good reasons to stay connected, but she is the 1 in 3 kids both in my family as well as in Michael Fullans stats that are not seeing relevance in school. (my son is another 1 in 3 who is highly stressed by schooling due to his anxiety and autism, my oldest girl is the 1 in 3 who likes school “however it is”). But during this walk, as with many others – I am just listening.

I am listening in part to validate the deep learning they are doing into a topic that is passionate to them. I tease them a bit, but I don’t devalue it. I joke that I have pre-set questions to ask after a set amount of time, but they know when I am actively listening and when I am not…

I’m considering that sometimes the best “feedback” is indeed active listening. For the past couple days, I have a G6 student popping in to see me on his way out to share some of his lego creations – I prompted the class to consider doing geniushour/passion projects and he decided to share what he’s been working on….

I like that he his humble – his creations are important to him as story prompts as they are for actual creations (spending 6 hours or more on some!) I prompt him with some ideas around packaging some of his creations as kits… he created some puzzles and I likewise thought they could be packaged and sold with or without instructions!

Much as I do with my own kids – encouragement, positives, and then sneak in some feedback to move forward with. I am a big fan of “two stars and a wish” with descriptive feedback, and likewise I am working on “listen twice, suggest once” – be it a prompt to know more information; a question for better understanding; or an idea that the chat got my brain thinking about. 1:1 connections are important. So as the third kid just texted me for a walk…. can’t say no…! wonder what we/she will talk about!

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Day 180 (of 189) aka day 9 (of 16) I didn’t know what I wanted/was missing

For the first time since I went to university, I got a new computer. I have had devices, but mainly used the Apple Refurbished platform and always been happy. But when my daughter took my usual device for friend connecting and remote learning (not much there, but she is planning for the fall), when my 13 year old “backup” machine finally started making the bad sounds and the ?/harddrive icon made its appearance…my wife convinced me that perhaps this time I should look at the “new MacBooks” instead of the “best deal macbook”. It felt wrong. But after a few days, no regrets. Love the magic keyboard (my oldest girl has the ‘other’ keyboard and there is a difference – maybe not a big one, but for those of us who do a fair bit of typing, the right keyboard can make a difference – also why I love the touch keyboard of my iPad over the old clunky press-hard keyboards on my district provided tools.

But its the little things that you sometimes don’t know you want. Like the touch pad for passwords. The Touch Bar with its predictive text and changing toolbar depending on what you are working on <– okay I know I wanted this because I loved it when I got to touch my daughters machine – a little different than a touch screen, and that’s by design! I always give Apple credit for pushing users forward before most are ready. The first time there wasn’t a floppy disk drive, questions were asked. The removal of a CD/DVD drive was almost unthinkable. No 3.5mm jack for mobile devices. Refusing to use Flash before it ended up being on its last legs. Sure there have been missteps along the way, but usually in attempts to innovate – when things are “right” we just have to move forward – USB-C will take some getting used to….

But of course, this also made me think about schooling-during-covid. What do we do that we do because we’ve always done (the same way because change is tricky). What can we do a bit different? I am in the @chriswejr camp of de-emphasizing the award shows that focus on one/few instead of the majority – okay, really all or none. Sure there are changes that make people uncomfortable – with self regulation on the radar, I tend to lean to “less pretty” classrooms to start the year and decorate with the class so they know why things are where they are. But I’ve taken criticism from others who like to make their rooms “pretty” for the start of the year.

How do we emphasize play in a time when we also need to encourage/ensure social distancing and “less touching”. In a very real sense, kids need more mean/rough play in order to learn how to figure things out on their own – can’t always expect an adult to intervene – sure at school much of the time, but…

Can we get rid of the “standardized test” monster? They are racially and socio-economically biased at the best of times, and if I learned anything from getting excused from my own provincial (final) exams as a student, aggregate marks can be enough to allow for further learning success! Even district assessments (of which I am helping out with) make me cringe a bit depending on what/how we are using them. We are aiming for “check-ins” of progress (writing using our performance standards, reading and math using something ‘similar’ but not ‘just’ the performance standards….yet) because if we wanted to see how the cohort was doing, the data can be just as relevant doing a random sampling of students rather than “test everyone”. Gotta know what the data is for and it can’t be “for reasons!” gotta be specific.

What can we “miss” in education that we won’t really miss? Bells? Everyone onsite at the same hours?

More mental wellness focus? 1:1 time for relationship building (can we do this within the structure of ‘a day’ – the one to one zooms definitely helped accelerate relationships, even late into the year….)

Do we need more physical wellness and play as the covid slide is only matched by the recent look at the covid belly…. not just obesity as a risk factor for catching covid, but the lack of outside time and movement that many kids are experiencing.

Are these things that schools “need” to work on and teach? I continue to channel the thinking I’ve been doing since reading Michael Fullans Devil is in the Details; and a change is needed by schools to help society…. it’s not just about factual recall… (it never was, but standardized tests certainly don’t help that) and it needs to be about “more” in order to better engage and de-stress the 2/3 of students that are not engaging in their schooling.

What is the “cd drive” that we can omit in education?

What is the bluetooth instead of 3.5mm headphone option that may be better?

It is not that I have all/any of the answers (I know what “I” wouldn’t miss) but sometimes we need more eyes being critical on what can be let go. And as Apple often shows, sometimes we’re going to be uncomfortable for awhile while we adjust to what’s “new” – force touch…. only USB-C… I’m surprised that there is still a 3.5mm jack on the MacBook…almost be better for an HDMI port…. oh yeah, appletv makes that unneeded too…. Now I’m going to see if the sidecar option can let me show the year in review video on two projectors without me needing a 50 foot vga/hdmi cable!!

update: yep it does! love the mindshiftings I can continue to embrace!

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Day 179 (of 189) innovate inside the box by @gcouros with @katienovakudl

Day 179 (of 189) innovate inside the box by @gcouros with @katienovakudl 

Love the reminder that while many journeys include overcoming obstacles at school, many more stories are made better because of a connection made to an educator… along with the find that every student needs at least one adult at school who is crazy about them…but then does the math:

how many years does a child spend in school?

How many adults will that child interact with in their school career?

Based on whatever number you come up with….is one, or even five… “enough”?

Also appreciate George talking about Carol Dwecks growth mindset vs fixed mindset – when we learn, our thinking grows – and right now with covid19 and protests occurring around race and authorities…. we need more flexible growth mindsets….

The book is set up with 3 questions to keep in mind (and are good for life in general) and great questions to internalize with each chapters conclusion!

  1. What has challenged you?
  2. What has been reaffirmed?
  3. What will you do moving forward?

It’s not an exact recipe for success, but ideas and strategies that work!

The core of innovative teaching and learning….

The key elements:

Relationships

Learner-driven, evidence informed practice

Empowering learning experiences

Educators who serve as master learners

(For me each of these are necessities as I push for more personalized learning journeys…)

Do we remember the teachers or tasks we did in school…. both +ve & -ve

Every single day we can make or break a students day without ever meaning to – in either case.,.,

Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?

George repeats his stance that “data driven is the stupidest term in education”. Evidence informed is more accurate though when talking about learners. There is evidence that can be used that cannot be easily measured for a pure data-stream analysis. 

School is about more than a future of work, if anything instead of asking kids what do they want to be when they grow up, the better wonder is how do they want to live…?

 Love that the question that Michael Fullan likewise poses (as does my grade 9 daughter…) do students see a larger purpose in their learning? If it’s just facts, that can be presented in a very assembly line approach – facts, memorize, regurgitate, repeat – and if test questions are “the most important takeaways” why aren’t we only focusing on that material – what is the point of the red herrings?

Are students only doing what they have to learn/do to earn a credit and then clearing that memory space? 

Is schooling a habit? Something learners get to do or have to do….

I tease that when my oldest daughter went to Central America on a Me to We trio to work on building a school, the kids there were so excited about going to school, but there were groans from the Canadians when they “got” to head back home for school. I asked my kid what textbooks the school was using to have such excited learners but only got a death stare…..

Students will do “good enough” for teachers, but will ‘good’ when it is for a wider audience (YouTube tik tok etc)

George also nicely emphasizes why descriptive feedback is so important and what strategies like “delay the grade” (if you’re still using those archaic relics of the past) because the grade ends the discussion on that leg of the learning journey.  When I first shifted to graceless descriptive feedback, I’d have students worried because they didn’t know how they were doing. 

Empowering students is likewise mentioned in a few books I’ve been reading lately as more research is “catching up” – sorry but classroom practice can’t just be based on “what’s researched” because too often we need to be like jazz musicians and improvise rather than concerto performances refining a prepackaged symphony… sometimes the research ain’t there – get over it (okay, enough of me ranting)

We need learners to feel empowered – will they (and we) go through change or grow through change. 

We need to ask better questions in education – ones that lead learners to have more questions than answers… curiosity matters. We need it to grow through schooling…. it’s why we need to ask more why….

Reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling (Yong Zhao)

Student ownership of learning:

  1. What will I learn?
  2. What will I solve?
  3. What will I create?

How accurate is: a teacher can never truly teach unless he [sic] is still learning himself [sic]. What is the difference between learning and knowing. Knowing is static, learning is active.  

And love the affirmation that we need to be doing more deep learning yep, this is part of the Fullan change/cure for education! Echoing more frequently in my brain!

Likewise, data tends to look at “scores” not what authentic learning actually happened. I had parents who loved rote spelling lists because traditionally (aka before they came to my class where I killed bad habits like that) he would do perfect respelling those words and mama was happy – even if he couldn’t spell them the next week….and that didn’t make teacher happy…. but score data would say the craptacular weekly spelling word memorization worked for him while the descriptive feedback linked to a performance standard would show that his spelling still needed improvement…

Educators need to keep learning… 

Learning about our students – who they are, not who we wish they were… Raymond Wlodkowski shares his 2×10 method: for 2 minutes for 10 days in a row, he had a personal conversation with each student about what they were interested in (g-rating required)

Learning for our students – how do we learn “new” things to stay relevant to our learners? I’ll be honest: for teacher appreciation week I offered to buy any book each teacher wanted. 4/12 took me up on this. 3 were teacher books one was fiction (as we were in covid19 crisis I was happy to get fiction books this year as a “distraction to focus”) from any pro-d day there should be two questions: 1) what did you learn today? and 2) how will your students know what you have learned and benefit in their own development?

Learning with our students – three key words: figure it out. The “mantra” in my learning space: if you don’t know what to do, do something!” trial and error is better than nothing! 1000 bad lightbulbs before it worked… and Bill Nye reminds us, everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t….

And a great interview question: share an area where you received feedback and used it to improve. So much that can come from this!

Be mindful of the 8 characteristics of the Innovators Mindset

Empathic

Problem finders/solvers

Risk takers

Networked

Resilient 

Observant

Creators

Reflective

One size fits all doesn’t work. UDL has three principles to design experiences that provide options for students. Provide multiple means of: 1) engagement, 2) representation, 3)action & expression

And important reminders:

Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is about developing people, not just students. We need to proactively eliminate barriers (as a tweet rang out as I was reading this: what can we do as teachers in the coming school year to dismantle racism in our schools?) – let’s not derail learning journeys! Help students speak out; teach emotional vocabulary (it is not innate); let students take ownership; UDL; practice perspective taking. 

Problem Finders-Solvers: we should not have an answer to every question, but a question to every answer. Identity days continue to be powerful. The best way to develop the leaders of ‘tomorrow’ is to give our students opportunities to lead today.  Are the problems they are solving meaningful? Or assigned? Age is no longer a barrier to make the world a better place. 

Risk takers are the ones who bravely ask their kids to look up Canadian bands for poetry assignments – such as the Barenaked Ladies. In George’s defence he did realize what this web search may lead to before anyone finished finding all the letters…. “risk” is moving from a comfortable average to the pursuit of an unknown better – this is often when the Twitter folk emphasize the importance of only using strategies that have research to back them up, and I groan and point out the value of a “jazz mindset” where we need to experiment blah blah blah…😜 and as a child shares: the longer you wait, you’ll be more scared…. but we gotta model what we want to see in order to build trust that we actually want learners to take risks and maybe mess up.  If we don’t, they won’t…  and I love that George shared the New York Times article “Do you keep a failure resume?” because I had an assistant superintendent question my own “oops” section on my blog/portfolio…. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/03/smarter-living/failure-resume.html

Networking has been invaluable to me. The connections I’ve made, learnings I have done have pushed me as an educator. I hate things like #followfriday because there are too many great people to mention! I also recall the first time I met George. He was on the “undercard” of a BCPVPA conference. My friend and I both agreed about 5 minutes into his session that he shoulda been on the main stage. We were twitter geeks and I had to ask: did he program tweets or were they live-streamed. I know he laughed – as do I now as I see how much writing and tweeting I have done since that meeting, especially since a later chat led to me starting my “days of learning” blog which is winding up year 7…but not a method I encourage others to try without a lot of thinking about “audience”. I am glad that it is now nearly impossible to get George to come to our conferences because he is such a draw – and his work continues to inspire my work. 

It’s not good enough to discount social media if you didn’t have it as a kid. The connections made are valid and if “we” discount it, we are telling them that part of their life is not valuable/valid/etc.  With the work of youth like Mari Copeny and Greta Thunberg, you cant deny that this learning generation is not prepared to be leaders no matter what their age…

Connection and Collaboration come out of networks. The digital platform allows great asynchronousity. And I really wish my dad (a disruptive principal in his day, bringing in computers…and microwaves…and inclusive of all communities… was here to share – and see how far we’ve come since he used the phone modem (look up the movie war games) to “talk/type” with one of his teachers who lived up the hill – the tech was such that it may have been faster to drive to each other’s houses than to do this process…but damn if he wasn’t an early adopter…. his frustration was that he could really on,y “connect” with others at yearly conferences (still remember him being shocked to learn a principal in San Francisco made less than he did in Lillooet)

But networking isn’t/can’t be “one and done”. It takes time and opportunity (thus twitter!)

Observant. When we were pregnant, we were surprised to see how many other pregnant people there were… so many examples of what you become aware of when it is of greater importance to you… so when we talk about “innovations” we should ‘stumble’ on more innovations! My sidebar is as I have been thinking more of the necessity for education paradigm shift, the more writings like at his book, and a Fullans Devil is in the Details keep hitting me over the head with strategies like deep learning and more…

Countless resources exist. How can we model and learn how to slow down… and focus… and use… those that will inspire and motivate our learning?

Creators. Owning learning ties in with creating… things, opportunities, events, stuff. Heck, my own daughters university engineering program liked her grades, but was more interested in what she made…. rocket cars, musical scores, etc. What “we” create matters. It’s why when people start talking about the evils of tech and mobile devices, one of my rules is around their use – because creating is different than consuming – though both serve important roles (during Covid I have crushed more candies and streamed more Star Trek than ever before…mindfully… and my takeaway via Star Trek is that there is a symbiotic relationship between them) from Chris Lehman: if you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that’s not a project, it’s a recipe. 

George’s daughter (G2) wants to make robot puppies – not part of mist curriculums – and I love to share my own sons reflections on school with “if schools are preparing us for the future, where’s the class on YouTube (noting the theatre, art, woods and metals programs among others”. 

Resilient. You can fail at what you don’t want to do…so why not reframe the question – how do you want to live? Instead of bouncing back, we bounce forward. As my youngest has done many times: sets a goal and works away at it until she can do the dance, the cartwheel, the ukulele – really whatever she sets her mind to doing. 

And mistakes are learning opportunities after trying something! We need to encourage the “try” mindset – as the saying in my classroom went: if you don’t know what to do, do something (you might get unstuck!). 

Reflection. I know all to well that reflection takes time. We need time to think on things to appreciate (or appropriately respond to) events in the day. I know I started my “days of learning” blog after a George challenge/idea about sharing learnings all 180ish days of learning at https://technolandy.wordpress.com

Reflection allows for better processing and understanding and as it is key to learning, I carve out time each day to do some reflection.  It has made me change one of my key phrases of consumption or creation to add reflection into that mix…

Instead of saying “stop daydreaming” maybe we should be encouraging more of that – more processing time, less rushing! It’s why I often also say quality over quantity

But it takes time – I do not encourage others to take on “daily blogging” because it’s hard. It takes time. And it has to be meaningful. I blog online because it took me a while to find my dads old journals and I want mine to be accessible to my kids if they wish to see what I was thinking. That others sometimes read this is humbling. 

You are the change you seek. 

I’ve heard this wrap up section to the book in other formats. 

We need to wonder:

  1. What has challenged you
  2. What had been reaffirmed
  3. What will you do moving forward. 

The wonder: what can you/we do better? 

What example do you want to set?

Who are you waiting for to lead a change?

How does what you do benefit students?

There are many “what about” questions, but we can reframe these as opportunities. 

Do the best you can until you know better…!

There will be metaphorical doors that once opened, can’t be closed. This is a good thing that we have to embrace when we can. We also need to be mindful to take care of ourselves because change can be exhausting and can sneak up on the best of us!  Some days are gonna suck. It doesn’t mean we give up. We ain’t gonna be perfect. Embrace that. Take breaks (during covid19 I hit a wall and added some walking, reading and YouTubing time into my day to help break things up. Another of my sayings; sometimes we need a distraction in order to focus. 

Fabulous read and reaffirmation that there is a lot of innovation that can be done even if/when you fee you’re “in a box”… or working with techNOlogy, and there is no better time when we need to (and can) do very differentiatedly within the bookends that are being presented during the covic19 social distancing protocols!

Thank you George and Katie!

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Day 178 (of 189) aka day 8 (of 16) thank you for being a failure

Day 178 (of 189) aka day 8 (of 16) thank you for being a failure

Rough Draft of the Awards Assembly Speech: We appreciate you giving the year your best efforts. but only one of you can truly represent the best of our school because tradition holds, that much like the Highlander… there can be only one. The rest of you….well, award ceremonies are here to be a long remembrance for those students who have never received public recognition as much as the few who will be called to the stage. And to crush the souls of the ones who anticipated one thing and got another…or nothing (the TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras illustrates this all too well)…

We know some families have more means to offer support where others can’t – though we know all families love each other equally and want only the best for their child. Nobody has never encountered hardships – but we are not looking at the learning journey here, just the end results. Because of traditions, we need to recognize one and only one at this point…. so the school (not me – my bias is strongly against single person awards, unless there is choice to be in a competition that is involved…. and towards having criteria set and anyone/everyone who passes the threshold gets acknowledged – but I am a radical….) would like to present our citizen of the year award to student 266348 (the Governor General award will be presented later to the student who racks up the highest score in their course work).

Sigh. With year end awards, I channel my inner @chriswejr and rethink award assemblies and awards in general. http://chriswejr.com/strength-based-education/thoughts-on-awards-ceremonies/

I like it when there is clear criteria and can be more than one winner (trust me, I can be competitive and it ain’t pretty) rather than a “feels like” award. For me it comes back to choice, which I have blogged about before – I’m okay with a “first place” when there is choice in the competition, I’m good with “trophies for all” when the competitors do not have authentic choice. I was at a school where the PAC wanted to bring back the “good old ribbon day where winners got blue ribbons etc, thinking everyone would get something…until a few did not. They saw the hurt in the eyes of a ribbon-less kid and better understood why we had moved away from such things; not everyone has great memories of “fun” days…

That being said, there are times we want to embrace failing as learning (they are not failures when they keep on doing and trying)… resilience is less about “bouncing back” than “bouncing forward” and I commend my youngest for her tenacity and resilience. Of my three kids she is the one who will dig in to learn how to do something. She has shown this when she wanted to cartwheel, to when she wanted to “pickup” volleyball. I’d call her very coachable, but really coachability is all about resilience! Not about what you “get” or win.

We talk more and more in education about the benefits of failing (great book on this being shared in tomorrows blog….) which is different than being a failure…. except it seems, as we enter the final month of June. Graduation where we celebrate the formal end to K-12 Education has many “prizes” – from first place (Governor Generals award) to consolation prizes (bursaries, citizenship, athletes, etc) But again so often, as much as we are acknowledging one (maybe some) we are also reminding many others that they weren’t good enough – so long, and thanks for all the fish (Douglas Adams great book – which I picked because the dolphins end up leaving the earth and the humans didn’t even know what the real purpose of “it” was…. too close to how some feel about school?) when so often, there is unclarity about the whole schooling thing and why we would “celebrate” what so many are feeling more disconnected about and seeing less relevant for continuing as a “habit”. Are kids wanting to come to school, or having to come to school. Thats a big mindset difference.

So I was very happy this week when I was approached about our own “citizenship award” for our elementary school. The one that when I asked what the criteria was, I just got smiles… “we just know”…. I was approached wondering if two people could “share” the award. And it is not a “share” – they both deserve/earned it. Or as I say: there is an artificial bar, and anyone who passes that bar should have their name(s) on the plaque in front of the office. Notably, this will be the first time that two names are going to be shared. I am hoping this won’t be the last name, and ideally we are able to have every grade 7 student get their name on the award as they do their best work to be good citizens in our school learning community.

Lets shift the focus from “one” to all – everyone has the right to have their learning journey treated with dignity and be recognized. I liked my nephews school approach that had certificates for everyone and then “sticker medallions” that indicated what they had done that deserved recognition – be it athletics, music, writing, attendance (not a focus on perfect attendance) and a few others. I think that is an approach I could get behind, less focus on what only one was able to do and more focus on what every one had been able to do!

Can we acknowledge all the student athletes? Why not all the students who were successful in their courses – success looks very different for each person – my oldest girl got the governor generals award, but her graduating brother (who even she has referred to as the ‘scary smart’ one) is happy with, as are his parents, his 50s as his learning journey has seen him be disconnected by one school, attempted to reconnect at a second one, and see success in his third one and graduate “on time”. He is a very non-traditional learner, but still is able to graduate with dignity and respect; as should every learner. Covid19 is making all of us do a rethink and rework of what the end of year traditions “need” to be and can look like. Maybe we can push more and do more focus on each individual as they close a chapter on K-12 learning and less comparisons to others.

Just some thinking I’m doing as I want to focus more on the journey and less on the final productions of learning. And thanks to Chris Wejr and others who have taken some lumps on their own with this thinking.

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Day 177 (of 189) aka day 7 (of 16) wonder Wednesday: unbalanced schedule

Day 177 (of 189) aka day 7 (of 16) wonder Wednesday: unbalanced schedule

I know we are currently focused on voluntary part time on site learning with an eyeball on September being a hybrid classroom model/mindset, which of course brings out out wonders of one morning shift, one afternoon shift and a “remote learning” group…. or some variation of a 3 way dance. For sustainability reasons, I like 2 shifts: on site & remote groups. To add another cohort (on site) will increase the complexity of staying on pace…

So…

What if the groups were arranged a bit different than 1/2 and half… what if one cohort was more “traditional” and the other more focused on building skills for anxiety, reading, etc. Oooh what if it was multi-aged grouping… what if one group were more collaborative and extroverted…and the other shift were more introverted and didn’t need the pressure to be otherwise?

What if one cohort were the noisy ones (my preference) and the others the ones who needed quiet….

What if we had a wider range of ages/class…. I am biased because at one school we had 3 grade 4-7 cohorts and it worked way too well as they were organized based on learning needs…. the most independent had the class that had 2 part time teachers, there was a group that needed very untraditional approaches and thus had the smallest class size, and the third group got the “most support” and wow it worked well! But took a bit of flexible thinking before we got there….

And I suspect we will need more flexible thinking around the concept of school as we adjust and adapt around the covid19 opportunity to make things more relevant and less stressful – or differently stressful – for our learning community!

But while we are on a quest for “balance” for sustainability purposes, maybe unbalanced can be the sustainable choice….

Maybe we start looking seriously at the equal/equity images…

From Innovate Inside The Box by George Couros and Katie Novak

Maybe we need to do more half days (I know, what about child care….) to help balance the kids who need more school vs the ones that want more school. Perhaps by looking at the 20 kids coming to kindergarten and noting that 15 of them sit nicely – keep their hands to themselves (more important during covid than ever before) and follow the Robert Fulghum poem/book “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”: play fair, don’t hit, put things back, don’t take things that aren’t yours, wash your hands, say sorry, etc etc. But others who may not be certain what this “book thing” I just mentioned is, may need smaller groups to get more 1:1 time to figure out what this big building called a school is all about. Maybe the “sizes of the groups” does not need to be equal.

And if you’re planning on returning in the fall to more “full days”, perhaps Mon/Tues have more students, while Thurs/Fri have less – when we factor in the complexities of classrooms….more doesn’t always mean more work. I have been with a dozen students that took more “work” to coordinate than my class of 36. Size doesn’t always matter.

And then there is the 1:1 time that has been used very effectively since “we in BC” returned to voluntary part time on-site instruction; with those face to face kids for half the day, and then focusing on the remote learners in the other half. My crew have started following one another in having their “zoom connection time” during the on-site time and then using the open afternoon/mornings to have more 1:1 (either via zoom or driveway visits or bike rides) experiences. Teachers are sharing they are getting to know their kids better than ever…and it is June! Usually the time when we are preparing for the end (of the year….no panicking yet) and prepping for the end of the year long relationship. Maybe one takeaway is that we need to create more time for those 1:1 meetings – I know I certainly appreciated hearing more people buying in to my Personalized Learning Journeys “encouragement”! and not just worrying about teaching “the whole class” but instead working with individuals. This needs to keep rolling as I think it will significantly help the later years where disengagement increases noticeably.

As I say around the topic of work life “balance” – its more like a teeter totter – while it could be nice to be settled perfectly in the middle – more often than not it’s going to tip more to one side than another – it just can’t stay tipped in that direction! So why not rethink what we are talking and thinking about when we talk about “balance”!?!

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Day 176 (of 189) aka day 6 (of 16) #imaginedchat slow chat – pushing imagination during our health crisis

Day 176 (of 189) #imaginedchat slow chat – pushing imagination during our health crisis

A1 I like to let my imagination wander – especially during my walk to and from work. I used to have to have a vehicle at work in case I would need to transport student (but can’t now because of covid19 restrictions) and other needs (but nothing is much of a rush now) – which is good because my wander wonders help me synthesize what I am seeing happening during the hybrid of remote learning and voluntary on-site part time learning. With 2/3 of students dreading school (anxiety and/or not seeing relevance of the habit of school) it is appropriate to do some wondering around what may re-engage and reconnect key learners to school….more of the same is not likely to lead to a change in success…

A2. The remote learning journey has pushed many into looking closer at personalizing learning journeys. With many 1:1 meetings combined with the covid19 “slide” with many learners being away from schooling for 3 months and up to 5 1/2 months by a September return…. we can’t presume there has been enough ongoing practice at reading/writing/mathing to avoid a bit of regression – when we don’t use/practice skills they do tend to deteriorate – so how can imaginative thinking help us (not ‘them’ – we are all in this together)? The use of platforms such as zoom to maintain face to face connections has been important. Phone calls, emails and texts are okay to transmit messages, but learning is social and we need to keep the connections going! We will need to think differently to engage all learners – I have seen my staff do zoom sessions with the onsite learners so they can all “be together”. Remote learners have met their teachers at our bike park; they have gone for walks, they have talked about their worries. Teachers can be very creative…I just need to likewise model and encourage.

A3. I love the use of images. No small thanks to @reidfindlay who got me connected to @presentationzen Garr Reynolds and his presentation approach where less is more; hyper emphasizing ‘not reading from the keynote/PowerPoint’ and instead having engaging content – especially symbols. I try to use original photos where I can and throw up credit to others where I can. Interesting connection: I did a copyright unit where my students needed to get permission to use an image from a website. It was interesting how many admitted that they had just found the image and were using it… many more than you may think/hope…

Symbolic of the thoughts my son has to sort through for pretty much every. question. asked.

A4 we are fortunate to have lots of outdoor opportunities: 3 outdoor classrooms in our woods; garden spaces; big field; mud kitchen; and a new bike park. Outdoor spaces help our brains get clarity and synthesis times. I also add in “boredom breaks” into my/our day – up to 5 minutes of doing nothing – trying to bore the brain to let it have some synthesis/down time. No reading, doodling or anything. Honestly it’s not as easy as it sounds: take my challenge – set a 5 minute timer and do nothing…

A5 I had an assistant superintendent make an interesting comment a few years ago. We were doing an “art break project” and putting keywords about education leadership onto mugs. Imagination/creativity was one of mine. He noted that it was an unusual choice as he didn’t think any others in the room would’ve picked those words. Admittedly there are a lot of good words to choose from….but I still think imagination/creativity as a word pair are essential in education leadership. My limits are tempered by my staff and bosses – I can go pretty far and appreciate it when others remind me to slow down (like when I was explaining efolios (a couple years before they really caught on) to a MLA who still liked report cards….

A6. I still follow the adage “gotta read to lead” and while I love thinkers like Michael Fullan (whose Devil is in the Details is a phenomenal call to change for education as we work through covid19) I also find great takeaways in other books and media. My ideas on recreational mathematics came from a throwaway line in Dr Who. Geniushour from google. Focusing more on the journey (especially with efolios) after reading a da Vinci biography (far less finished products for a certified genius). I love it when little moments occur that shift my thinking just gotta keep mindful that these opportunities come at unlikely times!

A7. I still want “us” in education to do more different(iated). With 2/3 of students not wanting to be at school (anxiety, relevance etc) we need to be open minded to what we may need to do very different. Not just social distancing, but using these conditions to fundamentally change how learning is acquires. More deep learning, less factoids. More competencies, less silos-of-learning. Maybe we buddy up great writers with teachers who are less competent; good mathers with mathphobics. Model, as adults, how learning “feels”. I am lucky that both my school, community and family have done well during these days of covid19 – mostly positive (all of us have “hit some walls” of emotional exhaustion) and flexible thinking as we start thinking what we may continue into the fall, what needs to stop, and what we may do…. the potentials are intriguing, but definitely not “more of the same”.

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Day 175 (of 189) aka day 5 (of 16) comfortable being uncomfortable?

Day 175 (of 189) aka day 5 (of 16) comfortable being uncomfortable?

I’ve heard this statement before and seems truer each day since Remote Learning was introduced on March 13….

Had a friend as if year one of teaching asking if the first year full time is the most difficult… sure it is…till the next one! Education always has complexities, and even has complexity added to it – we need to be comfortable knowing things in education are often uncomfortable…

Part of the uncomfortableness is around “the best lain schemes o’ mice an’ men… gang aft agley” (often go astray). From absences to extra attendees, class size can dictate how the day will go. It is why the theory of “every grade 2 student in the district on June 8 will do….” does not work. It may work in an assembly line, and the industrial and agrarian economies definitely influenced the mindset of schools… (year of birth -manufacture- being important both for entry and exit….grad rates are looked at…). We need to come to grips that our plans always need a bit of “flex” in them. One of my own “easier mind shifts” was when I was prepping for the birth of my third kid. The first two, I kept things “normal” knowing that a TTOC can’t do what I do because they won’t have the same relationships; but the third kid I did “unique day plans” based around that days schedule (if we had gym access, or music prep etc) and built standalone days – with the encouragement that my replacement do their own unique thing as well. Led me to also try some thematic days later on – day of math, day of writing etc which were fun but worrisome – if someone missed a day, they missed a lot on one topic….

Also we need to be uncomfortable knowing that “research based” methodologies ain’t always… perfect. They are “dated” by the time they are published, so while good starting points, we need to know they are perfect in their unperfectness. It shows what “a” group(s) of learners accomplished, not what yours will. It would be nice if schooling was a symphony and on the 132nd day of school all grade 2 students learned the same thing, but learning is more like jazz than a polished composition that just needs practice to polish the perfection; much like jazz, it’s imperfectness is what makes it “perfect”.

We have to be uncomfortable with Michael Fullans observations that 2/3 of kids are disengaging from learning. That’s a big number. We need to do some changes to delivery and relevance for our learners. The agrarian and industrial ages have been supplanted by a personalized era, and schooling needs to respond. The “disengagement” graph has not improved over the past years.

It is less and less “those kids” disengaging and over the past 5 years, it’s not improving by doing “more of the same”

We can’t be comfortable seeing the disconnect start earlier and earlier. it is not like families are keeping the kids who want to be at school hidden away….

And with Covid 19 impacting how schools operate globally, this is an ideal time to get less comfortable and embrace a paradigm shift… and know that for the next couple of years, we are going to have to do some jazzy, unresearched experiments to see how we can make school meaningful and relevant….

Time to imagine…

Imagine grade 10 like a home room focused on key skills with breakout sessions for calculus… woodwork… coding… art…. and more of a badgification approach with certificates much as teachers get for our own bonus ongoing learning….

Grade one with students working on basic words and numbers but with more stations focused con play – both individual play (as per Covid 19) but also collaborative…. and building on their own wonders… as they play with owning their own learning and not just following a recipe to make something that looks like everybody else’s – though I’ll suppose that the occasional sameness activity is good when you need to make some comparisons (from digit understanding to scissoring to throwing & catching)

Grade 12 being about a portfolio and preparing themselves for their “next step” as personalized as necessary – even if it takes more than one year…

We are being presented an opportunity in which we have to be comfortable knowing that schooling as we knew it is now uncomfortable for too many … and a paradigm shift is gonna have to happen for the sake of our learners. Or we can be like blockbuster and see if we can withstand the change happening around us. And Kodak. And as Pan Am and Sears have shown us – no company or system is so big that it can’t be made obsolete…

So if you’re feeling itchy, or sense a “something” looming over/around/near you … it’s good that you’re uncomfortable…. I sense more so than ever before (and I have regularly touted that this is an exciting time to be in education….) for now, we’ve all got to be more comfortable…. being uncomfortable.

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