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

What’s Your Unfair Advantage?

I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast series called “Start Up”  It’s a podcast about a company, oddly enough a podcasting company, trying to create a new business. In one of the early episodes, they are looking for investors and one of the potential investors asks them, “what is your unfair advantage?” In other words, what do you offer that is going to make this venture succeed?

Your unfair advantage. I like that and in fact used it in a recent presentation. As Gary Stager says, “one of the best things you can do for your students is to be an interesting person.” I think today this is more important than ever. If you think of teachers who had the greatest impact, I’ll bet there was something unique about them. Something that stood out and set them apart. I thought back to my school experience and the teacher that came to mind was Mr. Einarson. He was my high school Canadian social studies teacher who was a rock and roll historian. The stories and insights he told were quite fascinating to a teenager. It made his class the one you looked forward to. It was without question his … Read the rest

It Takes All Kinds: Communities

This is the third in a 4 part series. You can read  part one and part two if you like. This one is very specific to my work but hopefully will resonate at some level. This is also cross posted on the DEN blogs.

The truth is this post has already been written, and is the post that got me thinking about this whole series. I’m just going to add a few additional thoughts to what Lance has already said so well.

As a “community manager” my job is create and build community. If it sounds very enigmatic, that’s because it is. One of the problems that our team has discussed is that our current way of assessing community often is related to our DEN STARs. These are the folks within the Discovery Educator Network who have stepped up in some way. In many cases, these are the “rock star teachers.” I know many of them don’t think of themselves that way. I love the fact that becoming a STAR simply requires passion and a willingness to share. And those two things often get repaid with more opportunities to share and soon they get reputations;good ones, but reputations … Read the rest

Glad to be a learner first…after a day of disasters

Today was a disaster on many levels. My colleague and I have been asked to support schools in developing their school websites, we decided to use Joomla and special component called Multi-Site Manager to help look after 40 some schools. While good intentioned and some success, we’ve faced a few issues that while not totally catastrophic have been frustrating for many including us. Today we brought together teams from 12 schools to help them build their school websites. During this time we created their sites and users but inadvertently overwrote the previous schools content and had various issues with the databases.  While we admit and are very up front about not being experts and only facilitators, it’s hard not to feel like you’re letting people down with these issues.

This is not so much to give you the run down of the technical issues, although I’ll provide it but rather to extract some learning and revelations that continue to build about learning in general.

The technical background:
We’ve got some understanding of Joomla/Mambo and felt it was the best choice to accommodate the needs of school websites. We installed it on our server and purchased a multi-site manager … Read the rest

A CMS for School Districts

I’m soliciting all you geeks out there for some recommendations. Currently our school division website is using Mambo as it’s CMS. It certainly has a lot of great features and components. As a new division we’re hoping to use one CMS and create 45 school websites using a single instance of the CMS rather than having separate installs for each school.

We’d be happy to stick with Mambo but need something that’s quite simple for end users to use. Mambo is fairly complicated from the back end.  Does anyone have a suggestion for a CMS that would allow us to use a single installation of a CMS and create individuals websites off of that? The template would be similar but ideally it would be great if each school had some control over the navigation and css.

So all you geeks out there…what do you suggest?… Read the rest