Community Stories

I’m often reminded that I have one of the best jobs in the world. Getting to work with districts around the world, I continue to value and appreciate the high quality of people who have dedicated themselves to helping young people. Being able to spend time with these people and hear their stories, encourage them and connect them to others represents a fairly large part of my work. Building and growing community in a variety of ways is pure joy.

Another of the great privileges I have as part of my work at Discovery Education is to pursue my passions. One of those passions is storytelling and videography. Much like my writing and speaking, I recognize I have some ability but also recognize how much I have to learn. Last year I shot and edited 8 videos from educators in Canada, the UK and the US. I had filmed another in April but for a variety of reasons, was not able to get it edited and produced until today.

Zulma Whiteford from Discovery Education on Vimeo.

I continue to be fascinated by stories and how they forge, create and strengthen connections and build community. I hope to share … Read the rest

Joy and Love

This past week was Discovery Education‘s annual summer institute affectionately known as DENSI. 150 educators from all over the world spend 5 days together at what really can’t be described as a conference or professional development. It’s something different. The affection I feel for the people I just spent the last number of days with is hard to articulate. Just watching people learn and play and laugh is intoxicating. It’s particularly amazing to see folks from other countries cross-cultural barriers to simply connect as educators and humans.

The theme for this year’s event was joy. In education words like “joy” and “love” are often reluctantly used. We have historically left those ideas for other institutions to manage. Learning can happen without them but when you include them, the idea of “community” takes on a whole new meaning and learning goes to another level.

Yesterday for our final celebration event folks came dressed in whatever outfit/costume brought them joy. A group of community members decided to dress in colored pants and a Canadian t-shirt as a tribute to me. I was humbled and slightly embarrassed at this gesture. Sheila organized it all and represents the quality of people in … Read the rest

Yesterday, I Wasn’t My Best

First of all, I’m fully aware I have one of, if not the, best job in the world.  Most days I acknowledge this fact and work passionately to fulfill our goal to build and foster community. But occasionally, like all of us, I have a day or moment when I don’t give my best.

As part of Discovery Education’s Summer Institute, we host a unique event for principals. What a great group of enthusiastic leaders who are give up 3 days of their summer to further their learning. Yesterday I gave a presentation I had done once before called “No More Boring Presentations”. While I don’t think it was boring, I also don’t think it was very good. It certainly wasn’t my best. The first time I gave it, it was for a different audience. Instead of taking the time to rework the content for a different audience, I tried to adapt on the fly. I ended up with a disjointed session with hopefully a few takeaways but a largely unsatisfying experience. In short, I sucked.

People are too kind. This image was created during my session and I’m guessing many walked away with an idea or … Read the rest

Being Self-Aware

Mirrors

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

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