Blog Archives

Professional Development Worth Mentioning

Everyday feels like a new beginning. Today, is the start of a journey with Karen Grose (System Superintendent, TDSB) and Jim Strachan (Program Coordinator for Beginning Teachers, TDSB). I have finally purchased a copy of, and look forward to reading, their new Professional Development resource Flash Forward! Rethinking Learning. There is an associated website as well.

Professional Development Resource

Thanks Sandy 😉

Priorities

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here but some times there is so much to do that even planning and reflecting have to take a back seat. Prioritizing ones time is always important. I’m slowing getting better at dumping or delegating things. Regardless, I’m super excited to be graduating this year and all the changes that come along with the new chapter of my life.

Sometimes only the first priorities get done!

Grappling with identity

I’m grappling with wearing a number of different hats and the language that goes alongside. As a parent I want a better school for my daughter, one where she is valued as a unique individual yet made aware of her privilege in a way that she takes responsibility to use it for good and in inclusive vs. divisive ways. As a (student) teacher I want a school that will support me and my colleagues as we navigate the unending expectations put upon us while supporting the wholeness of each child. I am not an administrator or a trustee but I must think like one.

I should add the some of the recent reflections to the conceptualization Nodemap of the school to help clarify my intent.

The world would be a better place if work was synonymous with pleasure!

Exploring Creativity in DepthIt’s so amazing when all the hard work and tough lessons come to a point where the line between fun and work blurs. Friday I sat with Austin Clarkson, Director of the Milkweed Collective and retired Fine Arts professor from York, in his den discussing transformative learning. Then, on Saturday my daughter and I had lunch with Terezia Zoric and Kim Fry (and can’t forget to mention her fabulous daughter Brighid), co-founders of The Grove Community School before we headed over to Trinity St. Paul’s United Church to support ALPHA Elementary’s Annual Bazar. There, I was able to catch up with Zio (mentor/teacher @ ALPHA II), and chat with Deb O’Rourke about her masters thesis on ALPHA. Kim introduced me to Karen, 25 year vetran teacher from ALPHA. I was also able to introduce Catherine Cameron (Zio’s partner, ALPHA parent, and doula) to my mother and pregnant yoga instructor.

I am so honoured to have to opportunity to share with such thoughtful and (dare I say spiritual) people.

Appreciative Inquiry

Thank you to Stephen Hurley for sending along this resource, I will be adding it to the priority reading list.

Appreciative Inquiry For Collaborative Solutions: 21 Strength-Based Workshops by Robyn Stratton-Berkessel

Everyone’s a teacher

Yesterday’s conference, put on by the Bad Kids Collective (a project of Exhibit Change), has had a larger impact on me than I expected. I was invited, alongside Harlene Weijs, to speak as a provocateur about my experiences as a ‘bad kid’ (see description on flyer below). Harlene’s very specific account of the devastation she felt after receiving a C- on a writing assignment for her favourite teacher was touching and inspiring. I spoke loosely about how I have always functioned on the margins of conformity, and touched on a vision of an education system structured in such a way that all children are of value, not just those that reflect the status quo.

There were a number of really deep and amazing conversations happening yesterday but two of them in particular are still gnawing at me. One was in the morning during World Cafe. This conversation began around the idea of the Protestant (neo-liberal) productivity model of education we see today and how it is alienating us, not only from each other, but also from ourselves. Kristina Kotsona, grade 1 teacher at The Grove Community School, made a poignant argument with respect to this dilemma. During a professional development workshop, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was invited to discuss how their productivity model of making the best ice cream could be used in schools to foster ‘the best’ students. Here, ‘the best’ could be replaced with any number of buzz words; productive, effective, literate, etc. and it is quite possible that this very successful business model might make a marked difference but the dilemma raised is not a question of what difference do we want to see but a question of what mark do we want to leave. She pointed out that,yes, Ben & Jerry’s is very good at making really good ice cream but asked, ‘what do you do with the bruised blueberries?’ As teachers, our classes are filled with beautifully unique individuals, each with value, and to think that a productivity approach, or a perfect recipe, is even possible is missing the point completely. I find this world to be in such a rush for answers that we have stopped asking important questions. Kristina also spoke about her struggle in balancing self-care. We, as teachers, are to be models for our students but in really being present to their needs, we can forget to listen to our own needs. I’m interested in continuing this conversation.

The idea that everyone is a teacher (title of the conference) is so profound and important to me. It speaks to a way of interacting with others that does not place one person’s experience or opinion above another. In looking at equity, we tend to focus on issues such as gender, race, class, sexuality, and ability but rarely do we question ageism. I struggle regularly with this question of our right or feeling of entitlement, as middle aged adults, to control the experiences of both the young and the old as if our perspective is paramount.

The other conversation that has stuck with me came out of an art of hosting ‘open space’ in which Heidi Siwak (@HeidiSiwak), a grade 6 teacher from Dundas, ON, posed the question, ‘Is there still a place for teacher directed learning?’ Here, a group of 6 people discussed notions of building trust, relinquishing control, and inviting students to take ownership of their learning and what this might look like. While we agreed that there is not 1 model that works we came up with some strategies that have worked for some. Heidi made note of an unexpected benefit of documenting everything that goes on in her class through twitter; the transparency of what is happening in the classroom has provided a unique opportunity for parents to see where their expertise and contributions might be of value. She also noted that it has paved the way for other teachers, looking to try new things in their classrooms, the legitimacy to do so.

At the end of ‘open space’ we came together as a group to debrief. It was good to hear snippets of other amazing conversations that had been happening in the room and to know that the room was filled with people who care about education. At one point, I realized that I had completely disconnected to one members reflection about his groups discussion and felt guilty that I should be listening but I’ve checked out. It was then that I started to really appreciate the strategies gained from the days conversation. I chanced being thought of as a ‘bad kid’, as it technically wasn’t my place to interrupt because I was not a facilitator, and took advantage of a pause in Nate’s thinking to Heidi a moment to share a strategy she uses in her classroom. Through 2 years of trust building with her students they have come to a place where, during directed lessons when their attention is needed, students are able to decide for themselves (and signal to her) whether; they’ve got the point and would like to move on (by raising 1 finger), are lost and need something repeated (raising 2 fingers), or are burnt out and just need a break (by raising 3 fingers). I was able to reinforce with Nate how important his insights on intuition have been throughout the day and that while I don’t wish to be rude but after such an intense day I’m simply at 3 fingers. Others signaled their agreement and we moved to end the beautiful day. I’m happy to report that there are no hard feelings (Nate even requested to be my Facebook friend).

It’s really been an eye opener that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. The journey to embrace the ‘bad kid’ label was not as easy as I had thought it would be but I’m starting to feel peace in it. I don’t know that anyone ever wants to be perceived as a bad kid but facing it has allowed me a place to be kind to that inner intuition that says I have a right to be me, just as my children have the right to be true to themselves.

In my provocation I had cited the Inglis sign that changed my life back in 1997. It said, what you see depends mainly on what you look for. Yesterday, I went looking for ‘teachers’ that take a more holistic approach to their practice and I am blown away by what I have seen. I look forward to more insightful conversations during Jennifer’s 6 degrees by invitation dinner in January.