Archive for the ‘Connected Canada’ Category

Joint Work in the Digital Staff Room

December 10, 2013 4 comments

Dean Shareski makes me chuckle and makes me think- two things that are greatly appreciated. He has a well-developed sense of the importance of play and joy in learning and asks great questions.  Perhaps it is the amount of time he spends travelling, or those long, cold Prairie winters- but Dean’s blog posts speak to me, they are reflective, transparent and challenging. Because I appreciate @shareski and believe that a network is both a place where one gives and receives; I am happy to accept Dean’s invitation to engage in a (seemingly) random act of web-enabled joint work.

Need to activate some prior knowledge? Click here . I suppose that Dean is looking to engage in a little play and extend a capacity building task- he may have some other unknown goal-or, it could be he’s trapped in the throes of a Saskatchewan winter- who knows?

Regardless, I’m happy to play along…

So here is the task…

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger- in this case it would be me…
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 Random Facts About Me…

  1. As much as I love being a principal, my coolest job was working on an Aircraft De-Icing Crew
  2. Though I write with my right hand, I am actually left handed
  3. Between my wife @techieang and I we have taught every grade from Kindergarten to grade 8
  4. But I have taught more grades: 1,4,5,6,7 & 8
  5. I was a Boston Bruins fan until I was 6 years old, then I was told being a Leaf fan was a ‘family rule’
  6. Ever since I was 6, I’ve resented rules
  7. If there is a James Bond film on TV, I will watch it
  8. Answer: Yes   Question: Coffee?
  9. Any challenging, difficult or complex problem is easier to solve after a day of skiing
  10. I am an introvert
  11. I believe it is important to face my fears (see 10)

11 Questions from @shareski

  1. How do you feel about pants?    Levis, please
  2. What was the last movie you saw in a theatre?  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at the Retro Holiday Film Fest in at the local cinema 
  3. Where are your car keys?  Hanging by the door on an appropriately key-shaped key holder
  4. What time is it?     EDT
  5. What’s the last tweet you favorited?   Here
  6. Outside of your immediate family; which relative do you like to spend time with? Brother-in-law’s don’t count as ‘immediate, right?
  7. Have you ever been to Saskatchewan? No
  8. How long did it take you to walk to school as a kid?  10 minutes- 5 if I had slept in
  9. Besides you,  blogger should I be paying attention to?   Paul Aniceto
  10. Name one golf course.  Bushwood
  11. What’s your favorite Seinfeld episode or line?  “that’s right- he’s a real sideler.”


A reminder of  the task…

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger- in this case it would be me…
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

My Questions for You Are…

  1. Who is your favourite superhero?
  2. What is the most interesting place you have visited?
  3. IOS or Android?
  4. Would you rather be a hammer or a nail-Why?
  5. What was your first part time job?
  6. Left on a desert island, what 3 books do you take with you?
  7. When do you usually write your blog posts?
  8. Pizza- thin crust or regular?
  9. What was the topic of your first blog post?
  10. Did you ever own an 8-Track cassette?
  11. Lennon or McCartney?

Now its Your Turn…

  1. Aviva Dunsinger
  2. Paul Aniceto
  3. Yoon Soo Lim
  4. David Truss
  5. Rodd Lucier
  6. Zoe Branigan Pipe
  7. Stephen Hurley
  8. Mark Carbone
  9. Doug Peterson
  10. Sue Dunlop
  11. Donna Miller Fry

Of course, your participation is not mandatory…if you do remember to link back!


Deep Breaths

Photo by Brian Harrison

Aspirations are the building blocks of life; literally and metaphorically- each breath we take sustains us and allows us to accomplish all that we do- the mundane and the glorious. It was the very meaning of this word that caught my eye as I skimmed the Twittersphere in early July and came across the report Teaching the Way We Aspire to Teach, a joint endeavor of the CEA and CTF. My attention was fixed on the word aspire because it is a word that is not currently used much our public education context, and it makes me wonder if that is one reason why we seem to be a little stuck these days.

When I began my teaching career 20 years ago I had a fully formed set of aspirations of the teacher I wanted to be; informed by the experiences I had working alongside a lifetime’s worth of teachers-as well as the many media role models I encountered, ranging from Mr. Kotter to Robin Williams in the Dead Poet’s Society. In spite of a career that has spanned a plethora of social, political, pedagogical and technological changes, I hold these aspirations close and measure my work against these self-generated criteria, even now in my role as a school principal.
It is as a principal that I poured through the report, with a critical eye. We have navigated some tricky terrain over the past 20 years and made some significant gains in learning outcomes for students, especially those children whose needs are most pressing. My concern was that this report would in some way undermine this progress. No need to worry- it turns out that, based upon this research, classroom teachers want what we all want:
  • the time to apply their craft in a creative and engaging matter
  • the trust that, given time and resources, they will make decisions that are student-focused
  • the opportunity to work together to develop, define and refine their professional practice
It’s important that those of us who lead and care about public schools to listen to the voices of our teachers and engage in a conversation that supports them to work towards their aspirations.  Richard Elmore recently commented that, “…you have to know your own interests before you can pretend to represent someone else’s interests.”  I take that to mean that no one voice should prevail when we discuss our schools- whether we are a parent, policy maker, politician, principal, teacher or student.  In the school I lead, I’m committed to having this conversation and am grateful to the CEA and CTF for creating this report as I believe that the aspirations of our teachers, students and families are critical to the next level of work we will need to engage in together. We’ll pour through the report together and spend some time talking about it.
Like the word ‘aspire’ our public schools are paradoxical too; they both mirror and sustain our democracy in mundane and glorious ways. It is our teachers who shape and define the lives that our children will lead and we must heed their voices; just as we must heed the voices of those who populate, fund and direct our schools, it’s a messy, but necessary, reality.
This reflection has been cross-posted on the Canadian Education Association blog.

Connected Canada

May 28, 2012 3 comments

Photo Credit: B. Harrison

 Look away said they across this mighty land
 From the eastern shore to the western strand
Canadian Railway Trilogy ~ Gordon Lightfoot

The inaugural ConnectED Canada conference wrapped up Sunday with full day of conversations led by a passionate group of educators. The diverse collective included teachers, students, consultants, school and district administrators and superintendents. I spent the good part of the flight home from Calgary resting my eyes and allowing the experiences of the three-day event swirl around my mind like a nice Cabernet. Ideas, like wine, often need to be aired out and mixed around a bit.
Those of you who know me, either face to face or through my blog know of my almost pathological adherence to the rule of three, so, in the interest of consistency I offer three reflections from my time at the Calgary Science School:

O Canada: It is evident that, in spite of our geography, there is a unique and specific ‘Canadianess’ that exists in our collective educational systems. How we view public education is deeply rooted in the origins of our confederation, specifically the stipulation that education is a provincial matter, with no federal presence. The clarity of our constitution, the British North America Act, has enabled us to create school systems that truly reflect the cultural and social dimensions of  each provincial context.  Just as deeply rooted, is the ideal that public education is essential to our democracy; a democracy that is both resilient, adaptive and generally suspicious of anything that smacks of classism. We have been, and are, a nation that has thrived through the constant addition of new arrivals. Our viable, universal, democratic public school system is a common thread in each of our provinces and territories. John Ralston Saul’s writings in this area are very instructive.

An East West Network : It occurs to me that we tend to look abroad for access to expertise and resources. Now, in no way do I wish to diminish the rich learning garnered from our global colleagues; be they American, Aussie, from the UK, Finland or Asia. However, for most countries, education is the most culturally-specific institution that is likely to exist in a society. Our regions, though varied in many ways, are connected through a thin but tensile bond that has historically resisted the more natural, north south flow. Like our railroad, and a hundred years later; our rush to ensure national broadband connectivity, the national east/west cohort at ConnectEd gave the ideas and expertise of Canadian educators a chance to to flow and blend; allowing us to extend our networks and draw insights that were surprisingly relevant and applicable to our own provincial context.
Connected Leadership Matters: We were an eclectic mix; social media mavens and techies, teachers, parents, students and others from a wide range of educational roles. Most of the teachers were, logically, from Alberta and the out of province contingent was tilted more towards the central office and principal types. The teachers spoke in turns of their challenges and delights; some of the isolation, the limits placed on innovation or the slings and arrows of the tall poppy syndrome. Others shared the rewards and joys they felt about the collaborative, inclusive cultures that existed in their schools, some were ‘connected’ others were not. It is important to note that school culture is a function of school leadership. Predictably, almost all the school and system leaders attending were ‘connected’, especially the ones who had come from out of town or province. I hope that each of us has the heartfelt expressions (both the positive and the painful) of the teachers we were co-learning with branded on our minds (it took 5 paragraphs, but I managed to work in a cowboy metaphor).
What’s Next?  Teachers in every province are sharing the same stories and struggles. Over the three days, through our formal and informal conversations the similarities and interest in networking were common threads. With so much common ground, culturally and practically, those of us who are connected leaders have an opportunity to grow a wider and richer national network of educators. A national PLN focused on the sharing of best practices that can support all of our Canadian teachers, schools and students.
I’m happy to have been a part of this event and am grateful that @gcouros and @neilstephenson envisioned this conference and had the determination to make it happen.
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