Being Self-Aware


I’ve had a few conversations lately with family, friends and colleagues about self-awareness. I find it fascinating as a personal introspective but wondering if it can be and should be explicitly taught. For the most part, I consider myself pretty self-aware. I suppose most people would say the same. We like to think we’re honest with ourselves about our strengths and weaknesses and foibles and annoyances. It usually takes more than simply being reflective to address this. It requires the eyes of others to at times let you know when you’ve missed the mark or even when you’ve done well but weren’t even aware of the impact. On more than one occasion, I’ve come to terms with my own lack of self-awareness.

Exhibit 1:

I’m one of the worst complimenters on the planet. This is now a running joke among the folks I work with at Discovery Education. I have a bad habit of using “actually” or some other odd qualifier when I give people a compliment. “Actually, that’s not a bad shot” (ask Steve Dembo for the full story) I certainly wasn’t aware I was doing this but after being called on it more than once, I now can … Read the rest

Parent Teacher Interviews: Time for a Make-Over?

By my calculations, I’ve attended about 104 parent teacher interviews which ended Thursday as my youngest of 4 children graduates from high school this year. While I’m sure I missed the odd one, my wife and I attended all of these meetings. I wondered if this is still a valued experience or if things need to change.

I will admit that we may not be the typical parents. First of all, our kids were generally very good students and never struggled in school or caused any problems. Secondly, as teachers, we had a better understanding of the classroom than many parents. Along with that, we trusted teachers and while we didn’t agree with all of their practices, we didn’t feel the need to check up on them or question their practices. A fifteen-minute interview isn’t the time or place to discuss lecture versus project based learning. Finally, we had good relationships with our kids and they let us know when they were excited, bored or frustrated with school. We attended these interviews mostly to avoid being seen as disinterested parents.

As I said, I’m not suggesting this is the typical parent profile. Yet in the same way we work … Read the rest

Am I Successful?

A few years ago I got a call from Elisa Carlson. She was inquiring about having me come speak in Surrey for their Digital Learner Series. I didn’t know Elisa and she really didn’t know me. As she asked about what I would speak about, she said, “I don’t even know if you’re any good.” Since then Elisa has become one of my dearest colleagues and I often point to her as an example of great leadership. But that initial question is actually a pretty good one.

I’ve had my struggles in measuring success. I first encountered my mild disdain for the notion when I was introduced to SMART goals. Every time I tried to create a goal I was excited about, I was immediately confused and challenged by my inability to identify measurable goals. Some told me my goals weren’t written correctly. They were probably right. I also struggle with such a strong focus on goals in general. Many will tell you that unless you write down your goals you’ll never achieve them. Maybe. Maybe not.

As a teacher, I knew my efforts to help students be successful went way beyond grades and scores, yet that remains the … Read the rest

Joe Bower

Joe Bower leads a session in Calgary

Today a Canadian hero in education died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Joe Bower as a middle school teacher from Alberta. He was 37 years old.

I almost didn’t write this since some folks had already written about Joe. But then I realized the more people know about Joe and his work, the richer his legacy. If you know Joe, followed him on twitter, read his blog or heard him speak, you likely already know what a smart, passionate thinker he was. My own interactions largely revolved around me introducing my pre-service teachers to his work as well as referencing him in any presentations I did around assessment. I use this slide to showcase those that have influenced my thinking around assessment. Some of these folks are world renowned “experts”. Joe was every bit as important as any of them. (Sadly Grant Wiggins passed away in 2015)


As eloquently and passionately as Joe shared, what was overwhelming evident to me is how much he cared for children. He was willing to speak the truth, even when it was harsh and unpopular with many. Not to be provocative but because he truly … Read the rest

What Does A Trophy Mean Anyway?

It’s a popular sentiment to put on a curmudgeon hat and denounce  society for giving kids medals and trophies for just showing up.

“Kids are too soft”
“We coddle our kids too much”
“In my day…”
“Get off my lawn”

This message got highlighted today when former Pittsburgh Steeler Superbowl champion James Harrison posted this on his instagram account.

People love this stuff. … Read the rest