Build Their Character – Don’t Make Them Become One

It’s late and as usual, I give my social media accounts a glance before bed. This summer, while being at home with my kids who are 5, 3 and 1, (I won’t go by months, because I know how annoying that is for some people :P), I’ve been conscious about not being on my phone so much and to be present and engaged so that I catch those moments that slip by so easily when we are hiding behind screens. (Note that I am all for Social Media and that when the time comes, I will be teaching my kids how and when to use it appropriately so they understand the importance of having a positive digital footprint- Social LEADia  IS my next read, after all!! :).

Forgive me for rambling-I’m known to do so on occasion as my mind wonders and wanders!! As I was saying – as I was sitting in bed checking our school #SageCreekLRSD, I came across a Tweet from my principal wanting to know our thoughts on this picture. I had to get out of bed and blog about it, because 140 characters didn’t allow me to express my thoughts thoroughly. I’m also known to be a night owl so here I go….why not?!

Immediately- I agreed with Tom Loud‘s tweet. Since I joined the world of Twitter for the purpose of growing my PLN and learning from people who are passionate and driven, I find myself liking and retweeting many of his thoughts. When I read something that resonates with me, I like it and retweet it so I can reference it later. But then, my principal pushed my thinking by asking us to reflect on this statement. If it was an either or, I would definitely chose the later statement because as we know it, success can be defined in more ways than one and if I were to teach my students how to be successful based on my definition of the word, I would be unsuccessful in doing so. But in this case, I don’t believe it’s a one or none option. That, is the beauty of teaching, leading and learning.

I believe resiliency needs to be taught and modeled in classrooms and in homes- but being successful and what it means to be successful is a topic that deserves to be discussed with our students. I do agree it is crucial to teach them how to respond when they are not successful, but would also add that it is as important, if not more important to discuss how to respond when others aren’t succeeding. Do we stare, let them be, give them space? Do we offer help, ask them a question, notice their struggle? That whole collaboration piece can be and usually is the solution. Brian Aspinall said it himself – when we’re stuck and need ideas, we go to google. Responding to others’ needs and offering help (and asking for help) is empathy at its finest – which is a point I think we can all agree on –  that empathy is an ability we want our students and children to develop.

Earlier this week, I was watching one of Brian Aspinall‘s TEdx Talks on Education Reform. At one point, he explains the impact his Papa had on him growing up and how his teachings changed once he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Brian then shares with us how he still continued to learn from his Papa, even though he had Alzheimer’s, by watching him work. This man never gave up and was determined to find a solution to a given problem. He remained persistent even when the task became challenging. In a classroom setting, having explicit discussions are important, but we can’t forget that our students also learn from observation. They are always watching, feeling, and tuned-in, which is why it is so important we respond appropriately when we, as teachers, are not successful. What we choose to say and what we don’t say both give students a message. I believe the statement in this picture can and should be a message intended not only for kids themselves, but adults as well. This tweet also ties in well to Brian Aspinall‘s latest Golf Cart Vlog Reflection – How Do We Evaluate Failure?In his vlog, Brian mentions the importance of defining failure, the concept of embracing it, providing good feedback, and reevaluating evaluation.

In the picture shown at the top of the post, we talk about not being successful. My interpretation of these few words is synonymous to failure. Keep in mind though that I am one of those who believe failure is proof that we are trying. That failure gives us feedback into trying again but while changing a variable, tweaking, tinkering and reflecting to ultimately find a solution or to better ourselves. Failing is a way to move forward. To me failing is a reason to not give up and to persist in order to reach the objective we’ve set for our self. I am one of those fail-forward-type-thinking people. Failing is not black and white as long as we are learning from the moments when we are “not successful”. Attitude has so much to do with how we see failure and/or success for that matter.

To wrap it up, because I don’t like reading long blog posts myself – I think the best thing we can do for kids as teachers is to reflect on such statements and push our own thinking, especially in times where we are unsuccessful, which subsequently will have an impact on our students mindset and mindsight. As Brian puts it, and the saying on the picture suggests – “We need to shift our(their) thinking from failure is bad, to failure is good.”

I also want my students to create content and not just consume it. Consumption is playing the game of school. George Couros has mentioned this many times before including when he spoke to our staff in April. I don’t want my students playing the game of school because I played that game and like many of my PLN friends, even though I won each and every year, in the end I came out losing. I lost opportunities to think critically, to speak my own mind, to fail and take risks and embrace the process of learning. It’s only since becoming a teacher that I am catching up alongside my students. They say that as a parent, you want your child to have a better upbringing than you had yourself. The same is true for what I want for my students.

I want my students to be makers not fakers. Read John Spencer‘s post “Seven Things That Happen When Kids Embrace a Maker Mindset” here , to understand why making and creating is so important when developing students’ character. I want these qualities to last their lifetime – not just the duration of the school year. As my title suggests, I want my students to build their character while staying true to who they are….not become a character in an everyday play for ten months to “succeed”. This isn’t a play or a game. School is a big part of their everyday life. Make it matter.

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When Two Worlds Collide

At École Sage Creek School, both the French Immersion and the English programs are colliding, something that’s happened only once before in our division. When I applied for a teaching job in this dual track school, my friends who previously worked in one had many comments to share with me, some positive, and others not. But deep down, I knew this would be a different situation. I felt it would be different. ÉSCS would be a teaching and learning opportunity like none other I had ever experienced. When I thought of these two worlds colliding, I can’t deny that at first, I wondered how challenging it would be to maintain the integrity of the French Immersion program in a dual track school. I constantly worried about interactions in the staff room or learning commons and how I didn’t want to upset, insult or exclude anyone. I worried about my students having to learn a second or third language in an environment that didn’t allow them to be fully immersed. I worried about how all of our expertise and big ideas would fit into one building. How could all of our voices be heard? Thinking of having these two programs colliding led me to an old clip from Seinfeld. I haven’t always been a fan of the show, in fact at first I couldn’t stand to watch it, but when I met my husband – 15 years ago now –  we used to watch it early on in our relationship as teens (before life happened and we had kids). Low and behold, the oneliners and characters quickly grew on me and seeing how much my husband enjoyed watching the show, I couldn’t help but watch it with him. Even now, as he reads my post and watches the clip, his laugh still gets me! In this episode, George’s “two worlds” are colliding (his friends and his girlfriend) and he’s devastated. Nothing great can come out of his two worlds colliding. See SlapstickGuru2’s YouTube video below.

When I think of our two worlds colliding at ÉSCS, I know we won’t combust, we will strive to work as one unit. The staff has only met a handful of times and in the few interactions we’ve had (only four to be exact), it’s clear to me that we are all focussed on building one learning community and one school culture. One where learning will take flight and we’ll lead by innovation and collaboration. This was evident in our first meetings when a teacher I had met once before took the time to share the division’s reading and writing continuums with me so I could better be prepared as we planned in our respective teams. It was also confirmed when we toured our building for the very first time last week. What a masterpiece!

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After our walk through the school, teachers had the rare opportunity to decide where their second home would be (as all the classrooms are different in size and in function). As neighbourhood teams, we’ve also been emailing back and forth constantly, sharing materials and creating resources, offering suggestions, providing feedback, voicing our opinions and knowing how to dance – when to push, when to pull.  The same is true with same grade levels in both programs when it came to idea sharing, placing classroom orders and creating our supply lists. It was incredible how we were communicating through email, text and phone calls to get our lists completed over the weekend. It was a daunting and overwhealming task but this collaboration piece was critical to ensure we’ll be well equiped when our doors open this fall. As individuals, I sense that we are all open and excited to trying new ideas and firm on continuing what works best in each of our classrooms. Collaborating takes time. An awful lot of time, but I firmly believe that we were able to reflect a little deeper and make decisions that were clearer while we get to know who we are and who we are working with. Although there is still so much work to be done, we are well on our way towards making incredible cohesive learning spaces come together.

As I walked though the learning commons and our classrooms to get a feel of what our space will look like and feel like, I imagined our students using these spaces together to develop their 21st century skills along with their soft skills. I could see them collaborating, discovering, trying, failing and finding solutions. I could almost hear the buzz of students questionning, negotiating, celebrating and tinkering. The feeling I had when I walked through those doors is one I won’t soon forget and I just can’t wait to witness the students’ reactions as they walk into their learning spaces this September.

Unlike the Seinfeld video, I assure you that if I start using your lingo, it’s because I love your creativity and I am inspired by you. When I’m in the staff room and you’re looking for a place to sit, I will pull up a chair for you to join. If you offer me to join you at lunch to grab a bite to eat, I will take you up on it. If I come to school dressed in a puffy white pirate shirt (if you’ve watched Seinfeld, you’ll understand), please note that I am so inspired by Dave Burgess and that I am not impersonating Jerry Seinfeld (I mean, I LOVE the show, but I don’t love it THAT much!). When we give ideas and people a chance- we may surprise ourselves- just like me learning to love this sitcom. And lastly, even though the West Wing is forbidden in Beauty and the Beast, ÉSCS’s West Wing is open to all :).

We’ve been told time and time again that this process wouldn’t be easy but it would be worth it. That statement couldn’t be more true. Although there will be some courageous conversations to be had and difficult decisions to be made, the result of having these two worlds collide will be out of this world!

Comfort Zone Quotes - A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but n

 

My Motto Moving Forward

Coming back from our École Sage Creek School Staff Retreat yesterday, I had a lot running through my mind. Just like our two feeder schools are currently packed, so was our two day agenda. We had a lot to uncover (thank you Brian Aspinall for putting a whole new meaning to this word). Everything from updates, questions that lead to more questions, decisions, data and do’s and don’ts were discussed. Although we couldn’t finalize everything, there were meaningful connections made within the entire staff and we could truly feel our school’s vision come to life.

At one point in day two, magic happened. Everyone was sitting in a circle as we shared our expertise and passions with our crew. It was so incredible and empowering to be in a room, surrounded by passionate people who have such a broad range of talents, experience and expertise to share. I immediately imagined ourselves in the school and thought to myself – wow, not only are our students in great hands, but so are we as a team when it comes to onsite professional development. Each of our strengths are valued and all of our passions are welcome. This immediately made me think of a passage  from George CourosThe Innovator’s Mindset as to what we want for our students.

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Thank you Tara Martin, for starting BookSnaps. Here’s to my first one!

When we have voice and choice as to what and how we learn, we are resilient, risk-takers and invested. Everything becomes authentic and has a purpose. What more could we want for our students? Just like Brian Aspinall said at the Connect 2017 conference, “All children can achieve if given a fair chance in learning.” I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

Although there are still many unknowns and that we still have many more discussions to have and decisions to make until we open this fall, one thing I am convinced of is that we all agree that we are here to do what is best for our students. In regards to my motto, what is best for our students is what is right. Will it be perfect, no, that’s an unattainable ideal. Will it be messy, absolutely. Will it be easy, not a chance.

The students who will be walking in their building next year are the reason why we’re here. As George Couros told us at our April 7th PD, “Don’t forget who you serve”. Their thoughts, interests and passions matter. They will leave at the end of grade 8 knowing that they have learned and put into practice all the skills they will ever need to be successful – whatever their definition of that word may be. They will feel confident, creative and connected. They will leave knowing they’ve left a mark on the school and have made an impact on their school community. They will leave with a sense of pride and most importantly, purpose. They matter. People matter. As Marc Poirier and Harry Bell mentioned, “It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.” So worth it! Change definitely is an opportunity to do something amazing!

As I close this post, I noticed I was mentioning some of my mentors who have influenced me and who have shaped me into who I am today as an educator and learner. People from all walks of life, who have different approaches and different passions. Each one of them has contributed to my growth and has pushed me to take risks. As we move forward as a team, I look forward to having at least 36 more mentors (and 600 or so students) to look up to and who will continuously push me to become a better version of myself. At École Sage Creek School, I believe our students will feel much of the same. Being inspired by many, while being allowed to stay true to themselves. ♥

A Learning Continuum: What Teachers Need for Themselves

As teachers, we spend hours thinking about learning outcomes and competencies as well as developing continua to ensure scaffolding and success for all students in our schools, whether it is in reading, writing, communication, social emotional learning or in other areas of our curricula. This reminded me of how we, as teachers, need a learning continuum ourselves to ensure we keep moving from our point A to our next point B. Sure, we have Professional Development (PD) days and we draw up a Personal Learning Plan or a Growth Plan each year, but how can these be made better? To my knowledge, every teacher has them, so what isn’t working? Why is there continued resistance towards change in the field of Education? Why are we not setting the bar higher?

I recently had the very rare opportunity to take part in a PD day with none other than George Couros (@gcouros), author of The Innovator’s Mindset. As a member of the newly hired staff of École Sage Creek School (#SageCreekLRSD), we spent the greater part of the day discussing as a team the importance and significance of being innovators and wanting the same for our students, as we prepare for the adventure we have ahead – the opening of our new school this September. This is such an exciting and rare experience because all staff members were hired at the same time and therefore, we have the chance to create something amazing, push boundaries, challenge conventional thinking and develop a school culture from the ground up. Everyone on the team is a key player and we, as a staff, understand this. What really empowered me during this PD event was the way all staff members embraced Couros’ message and understood why change in education is necessary. Many who weren’t (yet) connected to Twitter signed up and by the end had posted video reflections and were sending their first Tweets. It was so nice to see my colleagues take risks and step out of their comfort zones because we know that great things never come easy. As a staff, we have a short window of time before our students walk in their classrooms and we need to collaborate more than ever to ensure we aren’t doing “old school in a new building”. Couros set the tone for the path that lies ahead.

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Walking away from this PD day, I realized this one was like no other and was not to be taken for granted! One of the many take-aways I have from Couros is that if you aren’t swimming, you’re sinking. Education is changing and if we aren’t keeping ourselves up to date, we are falling behind. I’ve always been a believer in life-long learning and believe that teachers should hold themselves to the same standards to which they hold their students. We need to learn and continue to learn – all ways and always. This made me think of how PD is done elsewhere and the place that holds Professional Learning Plans or Growth Plans in our schools. In my experience, many teachers roll their eyes when they are reminded to hand in theirs by mid-October. Many choose not to attend other PD opportunities, but complain about what is offered within the division. And those follow up meetings mid-year and end of year sometimes don’t happen. What message is this giving teachers? That their own professional growth isn’t important? That there is no time to discuss how the school and division can support you in your goals?  Have you ever known what goals teachers in your building have set for themselves without asking them? Are you guilty of implementing a strategy or reading an article just before your mid-year meeting to look as though you’ve really been reflecting and working towards the goal you’ve set? Why aren’t we sharing our learning with one another?

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As I reflect on PD events in other schools and divisions, they are (usually) nothing more than pockets of information, given to certain members in the building, who rarely have the opportunity to share their knowledge and learning with staff. If so, it is during a very little allocated time slot within a staff meeting and only if time permits. Rarely do teachers have the time to reflect, plan, try and implement the strategies, tools or practices they’ve learned during their PD. This is true for all of my own PD, except two of which were incredibly meaningful and made an impact on me as an educator. Both were focused on pedagogy and not on curriculum content.  Furthermore, many PD days have zero follow-ups and at the best of times, follow-ups are conducted by consultants who participated in the very same one-day workshop.

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As a teacher, I’m positive I am not the only one who has been frustrated with how quickly initiatives change. When they do, so does PD. It often seems we are switching priorities so often that we feel we never fully reach our set goals. We rarely have the chance to deepen learning because we skim the surface of many initiatives because of the constant changes. Jennifer Katz, author of Teaching to Diversity– the Three-Block Model of Universal Design for Learning, explains, “Racing through one initiative after another with one-off professional development days and no consistent follow-up is destructive to teachers’ feelings of self-confidence.” Not only do many teachers leave the profession because of burn-out, others may feel they don’t measure up when in reality, they are amazing – they just haven’t had the opportunity to shine.

On the bright side, it is clear through the #IMMOOC Twitter chats and the other teachers I follow on social media that PD in education is slowly changing for the better. In one school I know, a PD committee (made up a handful of skilled teachers) is facilitating their learning by setting up Genius Hour-type sessions and had their staff signQ3 up according to what interested them most. Staff learning from one another within their own building – what a concept! It costs next to nothing (only time), is based on staff’s strengths (and not on what they are lacking) and the greatest advantage is that you have a set of experts on campus that can guide you and support you at any time. I see more schools holding Book Clubs and having meaningful conversations that turn into action and I’ve come to know more teachers who are on Twitter, which tells me they are making use of all the PD available at the end of their fingertips, when and where they please! I see movement in the right direction.

What if…

  • What if teachers took more time to live out their Growth Plan instead of limiting themselves to one school year? Why change goals when you can deepen learning?
  • What if Growth Plans were co-constructed with a group of teachers in the building to promote collaboration and increase accountability?
  • What if all staff members shared their learning with one another and had time set aside to do so?
  • What if all teachers viewed all students in the school as their own?
  • What if early years teachers knew what middle years teachers were working on?
  • What if we took time in our day to reflect on our personal learning so best practices become the new standard?
  • What if we used a Google Doc to respond to an email to administrators, so we could see all answers, questions asked, and reflections made that far? Would more teachers give their feedback knowing their answers are recorded? Would this save admins countless hours of reiterating, repeating and summarizing (both inside their office and online)?
  • What if we focussed less on “being knowledgeable in all but masters of none”?
  • What if teachers had a say in their division’s priorities?
  • How would self-confidence rise if all teachers felt supported and heard?
  • What if all staff, including administrators, knew each other’s goals? How would we help one another reach them?

In regards to PD, it’s so important that we take the time to reflect and implement what we’ve learned and what gc selfie pic.JPGwe are learning. I understand there is no one size fits all, but
there is always room for growth.

We are so very fortunate to work in a 21st century school.
Let’s make sure 21st century learning takes place!