2017 #Deanie Awards

At the same time, it’s my way of saying thank you to those that do little and sometimes big things to bring a smile to face throughout the year”

Like my video of the year I wasn’t planning to do my #deanie awards this year. Mostly because it’s so random I hate the thought of someone being upset about being left out. The key is not to take them too seriously. I don’t. At the same time, it’s my way of saying thank you to those that do little and sometimes big things to bring a smile to face throughout the year.

In case you missed it, here are all the winners:

Update: Because Storify is pooched and Alan Levine pesters me to own my own stuff, I abandoned the third party and share and host my own tweets:

2017 in Photos and Video

This year was going to be my 10th year of doing an annual video of my year in photos but it almost didn’t happen. In May I had an issue with my external hard drive and my normal routine of saving and uploading photos was in jeopardy.  Like losing your Fitbit and deciding exercise is futile, I was less diligent about my photo a day effort.

I still did take photos but missed way more days than I ever had. So as the year was ending I thought it might be the year I put my yearly video to rest. Our New Year’s Day tradition includes having my family endure the 20-minute video of my year after which I’m teased about the number of golf and conference photos and generally the boringness of it all. And yet when I announced a few weeks ago that I wouldn’t do it, those same kids told me I had to.

Once again, more golf photos than you’d like, lots of sunsets and dog photos. But as October came, all that changed with the birth of Harriet Marigold Hynes. Our granddaughter is now the dominant subject of all photos and videos. While I never expect anyone to watch this,  (Sorry George, it exceeds your attention limit of 90 seconds) I post it for anyone interested as well as a documentation of another year.  In case you missed those other years here you go:

2008
2009
2010 (aka, the year I tried something crazy)
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016

Believe it or not, I watch these occasionally the way many used to peruse their photo albums. I’m pleased to have 10 years recorded. Without further ado here you go:

 

2017 Year in Photos and Video from shareski on Vimeo.

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 https://www.americansportandfitness.com/collections/fitness-certifications.

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.

Sometimes I’m not Very Bright

Depending on who you ask “Sometimes” is a very loaded word.

As someone who has been pretty vocal about the limitations of Twitter, I should know better.

I’ve railed against the use of pithy tweets and so only moments after I send this baby out did I realize that:

  1. I was guilty of breaking my own rule.
  2. I had started a small fire storm.

Immediately the retweets and likes started flooding in. I hopped on a plane and landed to see the error of my ways. This tweet, in particular, reminded me of what I had done.

They’re right. It was a rather insulting tone and that was the moment of regret. I wanted to start a conversation but the awkward tone, lack of nuance, and labelling teachers  with such a volatile topic polarized the tweet rather than give an opportunity for civil discourse. I considered deleting the tweet but felt I needed to own my mistake and do what I should have done in the first place: write a blog post which could add nuance and context and invite a civil conversation. Some of the replies got pretty nasty and while my instinct is to fight back, I decided to back off and try and resolve things here.

So with that confession out of the way, let me better state my belief about assessment, deadlines and grades.

The idea of redoing work and penalizing late work has long been studied and explained brilliantly through the work of Ken O’Connor and Rick Wormeli.  If these are new names for you, I suggest you explore their ideas. In essence, my statement about redo’s being more work for teachers is true. I think there are teachers who don’t allow students to redo work because it’s more work for them. While it’s understandable in some cases, I don’t believe it should carry much weight in your decision to allow redos. My second statement is more complex in that it points to what I believe is a dividing line of teacher beliefs. It starts with what you believe about education and what you teach. In every course, I teach the first thing I say to my students is that it’s not my course or class, it’s theirs. They are welcome to do as much or little as they please. My job is to facilitate learning and by making it relevant and by supporting their efforts in whatever way I can. The fact that deadlines exist is to create what I feel is the best experience. That said, since it is there education, they can choose to ignore them. In rare occasions, I’ve had students do nothing for the entire course and then submit work at the last possible moment. That doesn’t bother me. In these cases, the work is not usually the greatest and reflects a lack of interest and effort but that’s the student’s choice. Along the way, I ask questions and remind them of my role and availability. But in the end, they own the learning, not me.

I think part of the issue here is that teachers take these things personally. They also feel an obligation to “teach them about the real world”. I’m not so interested in that lesson as I am about the learning. To me, the “real world” does offer second chances in some cases so a blanket statement that suggests you’ll get fired if you submit things late is debatable and to me, not the point of the course unless you’re teaching a course in time management.

I recognize this is a hot-button issue and I have an opinion that is shared by many but not all. I’m also sympathetic to teacher load and but also believe our first priority is to evoke learning. My tweet in retrospect did not offer a chance for the right conversation. I shouldn’t have sent it. That said, if you’re interested in discussing this topic with civility and respect, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I don’t mind disagreement, in fact I welcome it. But as I’ve said before, Twitter is a lousy space for it. I apologize for offending anyone, that wasn’t my intent. I screwed up.

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 and is what every district, school, classroom and teacher wants to be labelled as. Innovation is perceived as progressive and creative. I don’t disagree and I don’t disagree that pursuing innovative ideas and practices is a worthy goal. However, if you look at the cumulative messages and communications, there seems to be an overemphasis on innovation and little room for contentment. The ratio of innovation/improvement to contentment messages is overwhelming.  I think many view contentment as a synonym for complacency. They aren’t the same thing. Complacency is defined as a “smug and uncritical satisfaction with oneself”. That’s not contentment. When I speak about joy, I’m careful to define it and always use the definition that suggests it’s the outward expression of well-being. The “being” part of well being is about now, not the future. It’s about being okay with who you are and where you are. I’ve heard leaders use the expression, “It’s okay to be where you are, it’s not okay to stay where you are”. There is also the inpatient rehab that one can check to get the necessary counseling that one needs to cope with addiction and anxiety. I understand that sentiment but without careful framing and context, that statement suggests being content is not okay.

When I consider the state of schools in general, I’m fairly impressed. Are there areas that need improvement? Yes. In some instances could we use a major overhaul? Yes. But when I think about the individual teachers and schools I work with, almost to a person, I feel proud and grateful to know these folks and feel our students are in good hands. We have a great deal to be content about. What many don’t realise is that online gambling can be a fantastic relaxation tool as well. The thrill of gambling at foreign casinos accepting UK players can be a great way to stress release. You can ค้นหาเกมชั้นนำบน UFABET and enjoy playing.

So what does contentment look like in schools? I’m not 100% sure but I do think it requires us to ensure our messages to students are clear. Students need to be reminded that being a child is a special time and while it’s natural to be looking ahead, we could do better at honouring their childhood. That’s what caring adults offer: a perspective that they may not have.  I also think we could back off a little on the college and career readiness and future-ready messages.  I think we could do a better job of celebrating success. Regular times to celebrate and be together as a community reminds us all of how good we have things.

It’s not an easy balance to strike. We want students to grow and improve. We want them to find their passions and potential. We want them to be innovative. At the same time, we should want them to slow down. We should be helping them to appreciate the good things in their lives, even for our most underprivileged students. Learning to be content is a major life skill. Perhaps this is about recognizing which students need this skill more than others but as a community, we can certainly make contentment a goal right alongside innovation. It might be a tougher challenge than I realize, partly because I don’t think many are even thinking about this and also because the dichotomy around these ideas can be complex.

I regularly share this video because it’s a good reminder for me and I’d love us to get serious about helping our students to live fully now as well.