What about Contentment?

Well-being is a critical movement led by the province of Ontario that is essentially a response to the ever-increasing mental health issues of our students. While this is a complex issue with many factors, the one factor that we do control is the messages we send to students. Again this is tricky. On the one hand, it is our duty and privilege to empower students. We want them to realize their potential and see things that may not even know exists. We want them to feel as if they can change the(ir) world. On the other hand, this message often turns into a high-pressure environment where unreachable, unattainable goals and achievements have students consumed with stress.  So how do we provide both messages?

How do we empower students but at the same time protect and build their mental health?

I think a missing conversation is about contentment. Contentment is defined as being satisfied and not wanting more. The idea of being content can be seen as anti-innovation. Contentment is not very inspirational. It doesn’t do well on in a pretty image quotation. For some, it’s almost a downer or even a step backwards. Innovation is the buzzword of the day … Read the rest

The One Word Leaders Rarely Use

The great privilege I have is working with leaders and districts all over Canada and the US and seeing what it takes to create cultures of joy. Joy is the word I use and have begun to see more and more educators use this to describe their classrooms, schools, and districts.

I was humbled to help kick of Royse City Independent School District‘s year. They’ve adopted the theme of joy for this school year. The students opened the morning’s festivities, and then they shared this video.

 

The inclusion of the school board, mayor and other community members spoke volumes of the importance of public education in this region.

Six teachers were asked to share what joy meant to them. Each told a compelling story of what it’s like to teach in Royse City ISD. I wasn’t sure anyone needed to hear my message to add to what was already an uplifting, joyful celebration of learning. After I shared, Superindent Kevin Worthy ended the morning by giving every employee a $1000 that was funded by a surplus of funds. Kevin is someone whom I’ve had the pleasure to get to know over the past year or so and … 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

The #deanies

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What are the #deanies? Simple. They are a prestigious award designed to recognize the very best in education. Or maybe not.

As with much of my goofiness on twitter, this started on an impulse. I’m not 100% sure what triggered it but I think I was reading my stream and someone posting about an award they won. There is lots of controversy out there about the need and purpose of awards. Frankly, I’m not that invested in the conversation. However, I think, for the most part, they don’t mean a lot other than someone thinks you deserve some recognition, which is a good thing. But the reality is, most awards are given by small groups of people with little or no authority. Again, that’s not a big deal but then I wondered, what’s stopping me from giving out awards? And the first #deanie was born.

Since then, I’ve given out more than 100 #deanies. You can view them here or here or even here (be sure to filter by twitter). My criteria follow strict guidelines of whim … Read the rest

Is “Hard” The Goal of Good Learning?

I often ask people what they believe about learning. I suggest many people view learning and schools synonymously which while they aren’t, I think many schools inadvertently send a message that  learning is like Buckley’s cough syrup: “It tastes awful but it works.” Learning isn’t supposed to be easy. Or is it?

As I explore the way we characterize learning I continually see how much we value words like: “hard, challenging, rigor, and difficult” In my efforts to make school more engaging and joyful, these ideas, while maybe not opposing, are certainly seen in a hierarchy. Think of all the teachers, particularly high school and higher ed teachers who take pride in knowing how hard their course is. The classic statement: “Look to your left and look to your right, only one of you will pass this course” shows learning as elitist and rooted in ranking and grades. Knowing they have challenged students is the goal. “If everyone gets an A, how hard can it be?” Learning is supposed to be hard. Or is it?

Frank Smith reminds me how much school has impacted what we believe about learning.

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“Effortless” vs “hard work.” In his book, Smith … Read the rest