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

Professional Learning is Messy

Many people say learning is messy. But is professional learning messy?

There seems to be an ongoing search by districts and teachers for the best kind of professional learning. That’s a bit like searching for the best kind of food. I appreciate the need to provide better learning opportunities but like food, there is a wide range of learning that is essential or preferred depending on the learning and the learner.

When it comes to student learning, we often hear, “hands-on” or active learning is the best. If we’re talking about professional learning, it’s similar but now we might hear about job-embedded learning as being a preferred or optimal type. Job-embedded learning is associated with results. Results are important but they aren’t the only outcomes we should be seeking in our learning. Or at least, we shouldn’t ignore that many kinds of learning occurs before results might ever be considered.

This recent  quote from Will Richardson about learning makes me think:

if learning is measured by a desire to learn more, to continue learning, then the focus is on creating the conditions for that to happen

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Those conditions are created in a variety of ways and indeed the new role of … Read the rest

What’s With All the Jumping?

Those that follow me on twitter, instagram or have heard me speak, might know about my jumping photos. Today someone asked me about its origins.

As a family we were about to take a family vacation about 8 years ago. My wife had read an article online about adding some pizazz to your family photos. So we decided to give it a try and it quickly became a family favorite.

We continued to jump,usually on vacation but not always and now we’ve printed out many of them and put them up on a feature wall in our house. Now it has become a staple in our travels. Often times before we leave we talk about where we should jump. It’s always a bit of a challenge finding strangers willing to not only take our photo but be patient with the fact it may take them several tries. (Although using burst mode has solved this issue)

I’m certainly not the first person to do this and in fact, someone shared this recently.

“Starting in the early 1950s I asked every famous or important person I photographed to jump for me.  I was motivated by a genuine curiosity.  After all, life

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Encouraging Ownership

After every course I teach I receive an evaluation from my students. Typically 80% or higher provide with highly positive feedback. 10% are indifferent and 10% are less than satisfied. Most of the dissatisfaction revolves around lack of structure and and timelines. This is partly my personal flaws and partly student preference and partly a communication failure. I take these evaluations seriously and don’t dismiss these critiques but really do try to improve. I need to get better. But….

As I try and create more ownership and agency for students, my efforts to empower them is the thing I need to really work on. How do I get my students to “own their learning”? Consider what ownership means. When you own your house, you can complain about the manufacturers of your home for its flaws but ultimately you’ll need to consider and act upon things that aren’t working. Sometimes you do it yourself, sometimes you ask for help, but either way as an owner you take action. Even if you ask for help, you are responsible they do the work and do it well.

Today I saw this tweet:

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It’s Not Really PD

“In a nutshell, connected learning is learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational and economic opportunity. Connected learning is when you’re pursuing knowledge and expertise around something you care deeply about, and you’re supported by friends and institutions who share and recognize this common passion or purpose.” Mimo Ito

We just finished the Discovery Educator Network’s Summer Institute aka DENSI 2013. I saw a number of people calling it “the best PD” they’d ever had. I kept thinking PD is not really the right term but it’s the closest thing we have. I guess we butcher our language all the time. Using the word “awesome” to describe a great sandwich as well as the beauty of a sunset. Or the word “love” to talk about our favorite app and the relationship we have with family. I get it, and I do it all the time as well. The problem is the words may not matter much among friends who understand what we mean but to share it with those not close to us sometimes the words fail miserably.

To many teachers Professional Development is an event, something prescribed, you know, like school is to students. … Read the rest