Who Pushes Your Thinking?

Speaking in generalities and platitudes is easy. But living out the hard things in life is rare. Believe me, I’m guilty as the next person and am working on my own ignorance and faults.

An ever-growing passion of mine is to seek out people that I disagree with and yet can have productive conversations. Even if a conversation is not possible, at least reading/watching/listening to those ideas and beliefs can be fruitful. My premise is that the many of the people I see online would like to believe they are open-minded and yet are so easily offended that they rarely if ever seek opinions and ideas that would contradict their own. We know the echo chamber exists and it’s not always a bad thing, in fact, it’s important to surround yourself with those who support and encourage you. At the same time finding a few folks who will push you, challenge you and straight up disagree with you is the sign of a mature, healthy learner; the kind of learner that educators ought to ascribe to.

via GIPHY

As I said, I’m sceptical. Easy to talk about being open to new ideas, harder to seek them out. As I scan … Read the rest

Finding and Developing the Willing

The idea of student empowerment over engagement is a growing conversation and trend in education. Rightly so. Many emerging ideas such as genius hour, project-based learning and others are designed to empower students. As we examine and reflect on any implementation of these ideas, we typically hear some reference to “motivated students”. If students are seen as motivated, any kind of independent learning is more likely to work. Conversely, people’s resistance to giving students more ownership and autonomy is often because they don’t feel their students are motivated.

I had a chance to visit Thames Valley School District this week in London, Ontario. I had been to the district before and seen some of the innovative work they are doing. They have a long-standing art program at one of their high schools that embodies so many of the principles of empowered learning. In addition, they recently have developed a “school within a school” concept. Essentially they are working with  grade 9 teachers who were asked one question: “What if there were no subjects?” From there the district outlined the “bumpers” (must still address curricular needs, no major additional funds, must work in teams) and now nearly 20 cohorts have been … Read the rest

When Will We Get Serious about Teacher Stress?

I’m privileged to work with some of the very best educators around the world. I’m continually inspired and in awe of their expertise, energy and commitment to their craft. They are true artists.  I marvel at these artists and the different ways they approach teaching and learning.

Of late, I’ve become acutely aware of one sad commonality among these very good people. Teachers are stressed. One could argue teachers have always been stressed but I’m sensing something new and disturbing. Today’s headline confirms some of my hunches. I’m sure some will read this article and suggest teachers are weak or lazy or manipulative. However, it’s the increase that needs to be noted. Perhaps teachers are taking better care of themselves and thus are taking time to recover rather than bringing their sickness back to the classroom. If that’s the case I see a problem in a job that requires employees to take that much time off.

In Ontario, mental health and well-being is now a mandated goal. While I applaud that move, several educators questioned the strategies suggested that are designed to deal with the stress the system itself created. “Try these mindfulness activities to deal with the … Read the rest

I’m not an Expert, But Neither are You Part 2

Yesterday’s post was intended to challenge teachers for the most not to be swayed by those who have either been given or taken the title of an expert. Anyone who spends any time working with children and helping them learn brings with them a reasonable level of expertise to be able to contribute to the conversation and question authority.

While my context was largely about online spaces I think it’s important to examine and apply this more locally. In particular, how do schools and districts work to either include teachers as experts or suggest teachers need to see those higher up on the org chart as having more expertise?

For as long as I’ve been in education, there were always those in leadership positions who were not respected and when they made suggestions or mandated policies they were met with eye rolls, furrowed brows, and heavy sighs usually behind their backs. Sometimes principals or Superintendents were the least knowledgeable people about teaching and learning. They may have had administration and management skills but didn’t couldn’t discuss pedagogy, let alone pronounce it.

In our best schools and districts, this isn’t the case. Leaders, specifically principals are asked to be instructional leaders. … Read the rest

Maintaining Innovation

“Innovation” might be the most used word to frame the current narrative of change in education. It’s been used to drive the use of technology but also as my friend George done, used to change mindsets. It’s difficult to argue against the idea that education was, or is still in need of change.

For those who continue to suggest that education has not changed in the last 50 years or so, I don’t think you get out much. The schools and classrooms I visit are making great strides in shifting the locus of control from teachers to students. They aren’t there yet but in the vast majority of districts, this is a driving focus.

As someone who has taught pre-service teachers, I often have them reflect on this chart.


Almost all of them acknowledge a shift from teacher to student focus. Some of the other areas are a blend of the left and right columns but they almost all agree their recentK-12 education was not completely on the left side of this chart.

Ok, so some will debate my perspective and that’s fair enough. My observations are just that. But for those using blanket statements about how school … Read the rest