When do we Innovate?

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One more day of classes, and then formal exams begin at my school.  It’s Sunday morning, and I’m imagining my teachers’ struggle to decide whether to tackle that last stack of marking from the term, or head out to enjoy an amazing, sunny Sunday.

CourosI’m reading George Couros’ (@gcouros)“The Innovator’s Mindset – Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”, or rather scanning it while procrastinating.

Each year I struggle, trying to decide when to reach out to my teachers to encourage innovation.  This week it’s “We’re still marking, I can’t think about next year”.  Next week it will be “Just getting everything organized from this year, and I’m ready for a break”.  And when they arrive for the first staff meeting of the year, on the first day of school, it will be “It’s too late now, I have my semester planned out”.

I’ve had reasonable success when our collaborative work occurs near the end of the first semester, and there’s time to make changes for the second semester.  But then there’s the question:  “Is it fair to our students to change our assessment, instruction, and evaluation for a course mid-year?  Aren’t we supposed to be consistent to ensure fairness for all students?”

Here’s some of what I’d like my teachers to hear from me, and consider sometime between now and when they begin to plan for next year:

  1. The curriculum expectations are a framework:  turn them into concrete learning goals in clear learner-language, and then have your students co-construct the success criteria with you.  You’ll be surprised what they might suggest:  maybe more observations and conversations, and few products?
  2. Think about what you’d like to experience in a 75-minute class, and ensure that what you plan incorporates some of what you’d enjoy.  Remember that while you are up and moving around the room, sometime your students are trapped in their desks.
  3. Think about some of the instructional strategies you’ve experienced in your professional learning activities this year.  If you liked them, work them into your practice, if you didn’t, take them out.
  4. Keep your eye on the ball.  Write your own mission statement for your course, and then check your work against this standard.
  5. Talk to your friends and colleagues.  Even those who are not teachers can provide you with excellent feedback on your ideas.

And what are my plans for next year?

  1. I’m going to clearly state my learning goals at each of our staff meetings, early release days, and professional learning days., and try modeling co-construction of success criteria, rather than “giving” them to my staff.
  2. I’m going to continue trying to make our time together as a staff meaningful, and not waste the valuable time together on activities we could do individually either before or after we meet.
  3. I’m going use ONLY instructional strategies that I want to see in our classrooms:  no more PowerPoint slide stacks with content that could have been posted or sent out via email.
  4. I’m going to work on language to express my mission statement, and share it each time we meet.
  5. I’m going to, again, try to blog, and reach out beyond my school community for feedback.

I’m hoping that the seeds we planted this year with the development of each department’s Theory of Action, with our viewing of “Most Likely to Succeed” http://www.mltsfilm.org/ , and with a continuing approach of saying “yes” to ideas, will be pay off as we reflect this summer.

Over the summer, I’ll blog more frequently, and use this as a means to capture and develop my ideas for innovation.  And maybe I’ll be brave enough to join our Peel DSB colleague, Tina Zita @tina_zita, and pull my thoughts together in a TEDx talk:  https://misszita.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/taking-a-leap-tedx-talk/

Feedback welcome!

 

 

Response to #IMMOOC Day #1

I’m writing as I listen to George Couros (@gcouros), Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), and Katie Martin (@KatieMTLC), in discussion on day one of the Innovator’s Mindset MOOC:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYzHeWH7Hzk.

I say listening, because the video is adding nothing to the process, unlike Ted Talks as podcasts, where they remind you that the talks “contain powerful visuals”.  (However, I do like Dave’s pirate headscarf!)

As a learner, this is NOT meeting my needs, and I had to either begin this blog, or return to my Jigsaw Sudoku page to occupy that other part of my brain.

How many times do we do this to our students?  Wouldn’t note-taking, doodling, walking around, watching images, be helpful?  Instead, we assume that listening is sufficient.

So, the question George asks Katie:  “Can all teachers innovate?”, is answered by a resounding “yes”.  However, some teachers may be innovating in a negative way by asking students to put away their phones, providing MORE handouts, and pushing the “play” button on the wealth of video that can now replace their personal instruction.

George is also assuming that I as a Principal change my teachers, not that they change themselves.  I don’t get to know my staff, and then change them.  I get to know my staff, and then coach them to the change that THEY want to make.  We need to differentiate our work with our staff, just as we do with our students.  Assuming that we will change the school by changing all the teachers is the same as assuming that our students will ALL learn at the same pace and to the same end.s03qv77t_400x400

As Katie and George head to listeners’ questions, what sticks with me is Katie’s comment that we need to change to a more flexible, competency-based system.  This resonates, is the change that I would love see, and I look forward to hearing more from her!!

 

 

#IMMOOC -Information Overload

Just signed up for George Couros’ Innovators’ Mindset MOOC, beginning September 17th.

terry-sept-2016

The first day of school 2016

And I begin my fourth course towards my Ed.D. at OISE on September 15th. And I’m chairing our school board’s association of secondary Principals.  And, of course, I’m busy keeping my own community of educators on track at Brampton Centennial SS.

I’ll certainly be practicing some of the learning skills we develop with our teens, and Self Regulation is going to be at the top of that list.

One of the challenges our teenagers face is information management, and so this will be a good exercise that will inform our work.  Will I be able to manage my time, my emails, two Twitter accounts (@terrywhitmell and @bcssbucks), Facebook, this blog, and still complete the reading, writing, and Blackboard discussions for my Ed.D. course?

Here are my strategies:

  1. Use my calendar to block out dedicated time for key activities, especially those that involve my students and staff.
  2. Balance this with scheduled time with my new grandson, my children, and my husband.
  3. Look for connections between my doctoral program, my staff PD, the #IMMOOC.
  4. And always put people first.  I can always read or browse online during those sleepless hours in the middle of the night when my brain takes over!

It’s going to be an exciting Fall.  I have tickets to see Elton John, Red Green, and Gordon Lightfoot, and I know that will inspire me to enjoy my time at the piano as well, as a break from all this attention to screen and print.

Looking forward to learning!

Labour Day

image1It’s my 51st “day before school starts” and we’ll be holding our 33rd annual Back-to-school party later today.  We began this tradition our first year in our house:  before we had children, throughout their time in school, and this year our grandson joins us… though it’ll be a few years before he heads off to school.

Many of my teaching colleagues are planning their “To Hell with the Bell” celebrations for tomorrow, having chosen to retire from education.  I see their posts in Facebook and their pictures on Twitter.  And I’m thinking about the fact that I feel not one bit of envy.

My sleepless nights this past week have not been sleepless from worry, but from anticipation.  Have I remembered all the details that will make the first day of school run smoothly?  Have I reminded my VPs, who are both new to our school, about those practices that we’ve put in place over my four years at Brampton Centennial SS?  Will my new teachers and new students feel welcome, safe and excited?

Our custodial team has been working at full speed, making up for the shorter summer they had due to Summer School this year.  They do an amazing job, though the shiny terrazzo floors will soon be dulled by the 1300 pairs of student feet.

We are welcoming two new inclusion classes, and their staff and students will be a joining our current class to integrate developmentally delayed students into life as a “Buck”.  This is a new adventure for them, and for our BCSS community.

We’ve hired a wonderful group of new contract and LTO (Long Term Occasional) teachers, and their “fresh eyes” on Brampton Centennial SS will be valuable to me.  They’ll question our routines, suggest new ways of doing things, and then choose the best of BCSS’s traditions to include in their practice.

That’s not to say that our existing staff aren’t also trying out new things.  We’re going to experiment by having one teacher instruct ALL the classes of particular classes.  And we’re doing the opposite by having teachers share sections of some courses that have traditionally been taught by only one teacher.

Fifty-one years ago I experienced this same excitement.  There is a picture of me in ankle socks, Mary-Jane shoes, and a white dress with tiny cherries on it, holding an apple for my teacher.  What isn’t shown is that while my father returned his camera to the house, I joined a group of older students who were returning to school after lunch at home, and headed off to Kindergarten on my own.  When I arrived, I peered into the window of the room where we had registered in the spring.  A kind lady came out, asked my name, and escorted me around the school to join my new class.  I can’t imagine how my parents felt when I disappeared, but I was thrilled to begin my life as a student.

And that sense of excitement is still here!

 

Peel DSB – Teaching and Learning in a Digital World – 2016 – #tldw2016 #peel21st

What an amazing 24 hours it has been!  Yesterday at this time we were networking, and preparing to listen to Dr. Reshan Richards (@reshanrichards, The Constructivist Toolkit) share with us his six moves:CqvnHmlWIAA76Rq

  1. Look out for your classroom by looking out of your classroom.
  2. Care for all learning spaces:  physical and digital.
  3. Share Relentlessly!  You never know what doors might open for you and your students.
  4. Save & respect time to develop and share talents.
  5. Align to your mission or throw out & rewrite your mission.
  6. Keep the offramp open & use it frequently.

And then this morning we were inspired by Will Richardson (@willrich45), who asked us “are you a teaching culture or a learning culture”.  And in examining that culture, he asked us to consider our:

  1. Beliefs
  2. Context
  3. Practice

Alignment and coCqyp9a6UIAA51k4nsistency is necessary to move education from a Traditional to Transitional to Transformational.  He quoted Seymour Sarason:  “Productive learning is where the process engenders and reinforces wanting to learn more.  Absent wanting to learn more, the learning context is unproductive.”

 

After three breakout sessions, where I learned about Peel’s new assessment app, GAFE, and collaborative tools for student assessment, we were treated to Jennifer Gonzalez’ 10 Ways to Nurture Student Growth with Technology (@cultofpedagogy, Cult of Pedagogy):

  1. Start SmallCqzrLILUkAAuXHS
  2. Step Aside
  3. Present Problems
  4. Share Stories
  5. Provide Access
  6. Make Time
  7. Iterate
  8. Expect Problems
  9. Publish
  10. Participate

Can you tell that Reshan’s #3 and Jennifer’s #4,9 and 10 have inspired me?  My blog has become like my lifelong struggle with my diet:  I begin with great intentions, but Jennifer’s advice #1 and #6 fall by the wayside when let my busy schedule and grand ambitions stand in my way.

As we head into the coming school year, I again will be making my “new year’s resolution”, and will consider Jennifer’s invocation to Iterate and to Expect Problems, and the will continue to Publish and Participate.

I’ll use Will as my model, and adopt his eclectic approach, so you should expect more frequently, but possibly shorter, blog posts over the next months.

See you back here next week!

 

Do you want your child to win a Nobel prize?

originalsI am 50 pages into Adam Grant’s new book:  Originals – How Non-Conformists Move the World.  His previous book, Give and Take – Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, made me question some of our competitive structures in the field of education, and this new reading has me saying “yes, yes, yes!”.

The table on page 47, has me pondering the ongoing conflict within my school community:  our parents are consistent in their wish for “doctor, engineer, lawyer” for their children, and it’s a challenge to support their children in their choices to opt for courses in music, drama, visual arts, construction, design and media.  But maybe they REALLY wish to have a Nobel Laureate in the family?  If so, a study published in the Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology in 2008 may help them see broader options for their sons and daughters.

In a comparison of Nobel-winning scientists  to their colleagues of the era between 1901 and 2005, winners were twice as likely to have MUSIC as a hobby, seven times more likely to participate in the VISUAL ARTS, 7.5 times more likely to engage in crafts such as WOODWORKING, mechanics and electronics, 12 times more likely to be a writer, and twenty-two times more likely to be a DANCER, ACTOR or other type of performer.

Grant also cited a current study indicating that people who started BUSINESS ventures in the USA were more likely than their peers to have leisure hobbies that involved drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture and literature.

As we assist our young people to make choices for the next school year, I’m certainly going to be encouraging them, as always, to select a balance of all areas of study.  Education should broaden, not narrow, our students’ perspective on the world.