How Long Since You Were in a Classroom?

Occasionally I hear teachers say that they question learning from presenters or facilitators who have been out of the classroom for a while. That’s a reasonable concern but it’s also very contextual.

Being a grandparent is much like being a consultant. While it’s been a while since I was “in the trenches” of parenting and times have changed, my experience and wisdom still have value to today’s parents.

Involved and good grandparents are still aware of the societal challenges of the day. They avoid references to the good old days as some kind of panacea but also try and apply what’s good and has always been good to their grandchildren.

They are keenly aware of their own failures as parents and work to carefully support their children in being better parents than they were.

As a consultant, I work to stay relevant. I also acknowledge there are new challenges today that I agree are complex and require support, collaboration and wisdom to solve.

The number of years you’ve been out of the classroom does not have to be a negative. What makes someone a good leader or good teacher has not changed to the degree many think it has. Good pedagogy and building relationships are somewhat universal. Certainly, tools and context changes but the foundational principles do not.

I’m a better grandparent than I was a parent. I think I’m probably a better consultant than I was a teacher. My time away from the classroom helped me see many things I did poorly. Part of the challenge of teaching is the lack of time and support available to improve. Coaching and consulting are intended to alleviate some of the time and support constraints.

Learning from another classroom teacher or person in the same position as you can be very valuable. You can easily put yourself in their shoes and vice versa. You often deal with similar issues and challenges so transferring their learning is often easy to do. But as a consultant, I have the great privilege of working and seeing many more people across many more circumstances and situations. That is not something that another classroom teacher or school leader has. My experience includes not only my own but the hundreds of educators I’ve worked closely with over the years.

The credentials of the consultant should be questioned. But not by how long they’ve been out of the classroom but by the quality of their coaching and facilitation skills and their understanding of current realities.

School’s Aren’t Just About Learning

The past few weeks have initiated a great deal of conversation about learning, schools and education. If we were to dive in, those three things are somewhat separate and unique. Learning is generally agreed upon as the seminal idea. While its definition seems to vary, the consensus would be that it is the mandate of schools to provide opportunities to learn. And I would argue, school’s definition of learning is fairly narrow and measured and valued by a very narrow set of skills, ideas and disciplines. Of course, learning is happening with our without a building with varying degrees of success to be sure.

After interviewing over a dozen people and having numerous other conversations, reading posts online, I’m wondering if we’re forgetting what the real advantage, indeed the unfair advantage of school really is and I don’t think it’s purely about learning.

As school systems begin to rethink how things will look in both the near future and beyond, they are certainly considering more opportunities for students to continue to learn from home. For a segment of parents, they are finding value in reducing travel, spending more time with their children and giving them autonomy over their time. Obviously these are many of the same reasons people have chosen to home school their children for years.

When we reflect and examine those children who are finding success at the moment, even if we set aside the privilege around access, well-being and support they have, we might be tempted to consider the efficiency and focus they are experiencing. I can attest that for many of the students I taught online for years, they spoke about these two elements is a primary benefit for online learning. And while they certainly have their value, I’m not convinced this is what schools ought to be thinking about. Learning is obviously one of the promises of schools but I don’t believe it’s job one.

I interviewed Pernille Ripp and shared a story that I think capsulized what school ought to be and noticed that the learning is secondary.

School is about community, connection and just being. Yes, it’s about learning but if you ask kids what they miss, they aren’t going to say learning. Learning can and will happen with or without schools. We didn’t have schools 200 years ago and people still were learning. What schools do best is create community, they create space for people to just be. We want to provide spaces where all children and adults feel like they have equal and equitable opportunities to learn but more so equal chances to be seen and heard and to belong. In a world that is being reminded of the evils of racism, schools may just be the one place to address that issue head-on. The fact that public education promises a place for everyone, means by default we bring together a diverse group of humans with varying cultures, races and beliefs. This is a good thing and something that can’t easily be offered in other settings. As educators, we can double down on this and begin to examine our own biases and that of our students. We don’t have to apologize for exposing children to the challenge and opportunity to learn from and with people who aren’t like themselves. That’s a gift and one we likely haven’t always appreciated and handled with care. Diversity isn’t a goal since it already is.

As schools transition back to our face to face settings, I encourage to think about what schools offer that can’t be easily or properly replicated online. Along with just being together, being together creating beautiful and interesting things should be at the fore of the experience. Creating art, working with others on interesting and meaningful projects, participating in music and sports and drama should take precedence over many of the things we have traditionally ranked as important. Maybe watch Sir Ken’s video as a reminder. In addition, take the time to read this from Gary Stager. Here’s a snippet:

You know who I rarely, if ever, see featured in the articles, books, podcasts, pronouncements, panel discussions or prognostications of the futurists “helping” schools prepare for the “new normal?” Music, art, or drama teachers. Why must the future be so colorless and dystopian?

The simple truth is that band was the only thing we did not have at home that justified my kids going to school. Schools tend to undervalue the things to which they actually add value.

This post is to remind me and others that while we will always work to provide better opportunities to learn, we have a greater obligation to provide great opportunities to be and to be together. I’m way less worried about our abilities to create learning opportunities but more concerned that we create and value great communities.

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 crappy things we do to you”

Teacher mental health and well-being is a crisis to cope with stress or anxiety caused by work. As much as teachers are embracing innovation and new opportunities, these changes are happening as paperwork and demands are increasing as well.  Personnel challenges have always been part of any organization and education is no different. I would argue this might even be decreasing as many districts are recognizing the value of relationships both in the classroom and for the adults as well. If you need something to help combat stress, you can buy Delta-8 gummies for sale here. Visit an online D8 Super Store to explore various thc products. If you’re specifically looking for grandaddy purple strain vape cartridges, you may order them online at Grizzly Herb’s website.

I’ll suggest two areas that are perhaps the biggest contributor to teacher stress. First is increased bureaucracy. We’ve overcomplicated education in so many ways and have become obsessed with data collection. This falls directly on the backs of teachers and principals who would love to devote more time to teaching and learning and less time to data-driven initiatives. I can’t tell you how many educators tell me “If I could just teach…” Every new initiative inevitably comes with additional work. Embedded into this, is the curse of accountability. Along with the monumental task of designing innovative, differentiated learning environments for students, there continues an undercurrent of distrust manifested by a never ending paper trail. While many districts are working to alleviate the perception of this bureaucracy, the workload seems pretty universal.

The second contributor is the number of students with extreme behaviour and learning disabilities and the lack of support for teachers. Inclusion is a proud label districts adopt. They take a stance of being advocates for all children and suggest the way to best support every student is to have them spend as much time in classrooms as possible. While this appears to be the compassionate response, in many cases it’s the opposite.

Assuming every child should have the same experience doesn’t speak to differentiation at all. What currently passes for “inclusion” in many cases is a politically driven agenda that is less expensive and is positioned as the more humane and moral approach. Suggesting a student may not belong in a classroom makes you seem selfish and uncaring.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that takes the moral high ground in terms of their implementation of extreme full-inclusion when it’s failing students, staff, and their families at an alarming rate.”

Read more from this mother of an autistic child.

Teachers should expect to work with and support a variety of children and their diverse needs. However, there are children whose extreme challenges and requirements mean that putting them into a regular classroom with 25+ other students is cruel and unfair to the child, the other students and the teacher. There’s no question we have more and more of these students.

This video shows schools making poor decision on how to deal with students with extreme behaviours.

While this is something most progressive educators would view with horror, I’m going to assume that the educators involved here are not evil but have become desperate. The reality is these students are in need of intervention. The intervention plans most schools have in place may be useful for many students but they don’t help all students and they students they aren’t able to help can cause the most damage to themselves and others.

I realize this is a pretty delicate and political topic. I’m not sure I have a solution but certainly, we need better options than assuming the best place for every child is a typical classroom with an educational assistant or aid. For those looking to explore alternative career paths and make a positive impact in the fitness industry, consider checking out the diverse fitness certifications available at

I believe all children can learn. And all means all. I don’t believe all children can learn in all conditions. I don’t believe all teachers can teach all kids. To assume so is both ignorant and arrogant. Creating those conditions, whatever they are, is the job of public education. To do it properly is not cheap. Right now, lack of funding has created increased challenges for schools and in some cases, districts are placing undue and this generates workplace stress on teachers.They leave feeling drained and guilty of not doing their job. It’s been great to see schools acknowledge that relationships are the key to great learning environments. Yet investing in relationships is much more challenging and taxing than investing in content. Teachers are embracing this shift but it’s come at a cost. The long-term impact of ignoring this issue is going to come at a great cost to districts, schools, teachers and ultimately students.

I’d love some comments on this. First, please share any ways in which your school, district is making intentional efforts to combat teacher stress and if indeed it’s working. Secondly, maybe my two examples aren’t your experience. Perhaps you think they are misplaced or maybe you see something else as being a contributor to teacher stress. Finally, if you feel your job has become less stressful over the years, I would be thrilled to hear your story and learn from you. My guess is you’re a rare bird.

“Why Can’t Our Business Be More Like Schools?”

“I’ll take  “Things You Never Hear” for $1000 Alex.”

The Internet is full of “Make Schools More like a Starbucks” Or “What if Schools Were More like Google” or like Minecraft.

For years, schools have been looking everywhere for models of what to do differently. I get it. Schools as an institution are in need of a makeover and are still mired in outdated practices and systems.

But I’m also fully aware of many schools that are creating wonderful learning opportunities and spaces that take full advantage of limited resources. The aren’t really like a Starbucks or like Google but are uniquely like themselves. Schools like SAIL in Surrey, BC, Caufeild Elementary in West Vancouver and H. B. Beal in London, ON. These aren’t perfect and they aren’t much alike in some respects but like hundreds of schools around the world, they don’t need to be envious of any business culture because they’re too busy creating their own unique space.

This is not to say we can’t learn from others or other organizations but my argument is that schools aren’t like businesses or video games in most respects. The danger is leaning too heavily on metaphors which have very different objectives. The “make school more like a business” mantra creates all kinds of bad scenarios. Indeed, our obsession with data is partially due to the influence of business practices, like the use of the right surveys to measure employee engagement for your business. Other business sectors like retail may also benefit from business data that supports the idea of redefining their brands to boost their sales. This may include redesigning their packaging, renovating their retail spaces and using top-quality shop supplies, and launching new marketing campaigns. They may also invest in new business equipment like weighing scales. If you’re planning to buy a new weighing system for your business, you may click here to shop.

So instead, we should be learning more from one another. As well, I’d love to see other institutions asking how they can be more like their neighborhood school. Businesses should be sending their emerging leaders to watch people like Chris Kennedy Jordan Tinney or Kevin Worthy in action. They should see teachers like Kelli Holden co-teach with her colleagues. They would learn a lot from seeing Sara Badiner keep 9th graders focused and learning despite raging hormones. I could spend the rest of my day listing all the amazing, talented educators who are pure artists. Starbucks and Google should be sending employees to these classrooms to learn a thing or two.

I know, it’s not likely going to happen. But I believe that schools have some great unfair advantages and opportunities. Spend a little time combing the #LoveMySchool hashtag to see just a sampling of unique greatness that’s unlike any business or institution. Until we start seeing schools’ great potential as unique, vibrant spaces, we’ll always look for others to show us the way.

Surprisingly Awesome

In a world where information and ideas are everywhere, I’m fascinated when people have a healthy obsession with something and go into great detail to analyze and deconstruct a topic or idea.

Sometimes it’s the topic itself but more often than not, it’s the person’s enthusiasm for the most minute details that keeps me interested.

As a sports fan, you may be familiar with the term “inside baseball” a broad term now used to refer to any behind the scenes insights or knowledge. Speaking of baseball, love him or hate him, I love listening to someone like Pete Rose talk about hitting. As arguably the greatest hitter in baseball, his breakdown of his craft is fascinating.

Sports analysts can often be annoying and yet can add new insights into their game. Here’s an example of two “experts” debating one of the most over analyzed topics in golf: Tiger Woods’ golf swing.

Unless you’re a golf fan, you didn’t watch that but what fascinates me is the detail and the passion they display as they argue this very unimportant topic. It reminds me of some of most memorable moments as a kid when we used to argue over the most inane things. Anyone on the outside would call these debates ridiculous and while on some level this is true, it’s hard to argue the knowledge and passion that flames these discussions.

I’m also a big fan of comedy and love the way Jerry Seinfeld breaks down his craft. This is such a great analysis of what makes a joke funny. English teachers should use this in a writing lesson.

Any lengthy interview he gives, he’ll always get into the inner workings of comedy and how to make people laugh.

I also love music documentaries where they talk about how a song comes to be. Here’s a wonderful break down of the Fleetwood Mac hit, “Go Your Own Way” and the way in which the opening guitar riff was developed.

There’s no one that geeks out more on Math than Dan Meyer. This is an example of someone who takes something that most may not find that interesting and someone pulls you in. Read his two posts on bottle flipping as a Math lesson. First, he questions whether it’s even a good lesson. Then after some comments, he reverses his opinion.  Even if you don’t really care about the math, it’s fun to see the detail and energy he expends creating a video and debating the merits and usefulness of this idea. Which leads me to the title and educational portion of this post.

Surprisingly Awesome is a podcast that looks at things that are typically seen as boring or at least not particularly interesting and works to convince the audience that perhaps it is kind of awesome. Topics like mattresses and flossing, for example, are things that I would now say I find, not perhaps awesome, but more interesting than I did before.

Very few would argue that everything we teach and learn in school is awesome. Yes, the current narrative of change is focusing on making school more relevant but I also hear many suggest that some things are still necessary and yet are admittedly kind of boring. Dan Meyer’s TEDx talk is based on the premise that teaching Math is often a boring but necessary subject. Dan’s passion has been to make Math surprisingly awesome.

So my question to you is, what do you teach that you think is surprisingly awesome? Forget your maker spaces, robotics, and green screen activities, I’m talking about those topics that at first kids groan about but after you take them deep into it using whatever skills and passions you have, they come out the other end with a deeper appreciation and understanding. The comments here are fertile ground for us to create our educational version of Surprisingly Awesome.