At the heart of it

I recently finished reading George Couros’s THE INNOVATOR’S MINDSET. It challenged me to think more deeply about why and how I do the things that I do, and to consider the small and big actions that I can take to bring about innovation in education.

I’ve always been someone who has loved learning. Conferences, professional reading, twitter, RSS feeds…I soak them all up. I’m keen to implement new ideas and to change things up as I learn. But something that’s been gnawing at me for a while now is this disconnect between my theoretical understanding of education and my day-to-day lived reality. I have these ideas brewing in my head, but I find that I so often lack the skills to bring them to fruition. And when I do begin to implement them, why is it that the results are so often different than what I had envisioned?

Reading through the book, one quote in particular struck me:

If you want to see the effectiveness of an educator, you do not look at what the teacher is doing but at the learners whom they serve.

And behold, the reason for my disconnect. In evaluating my own effectiveness, I have focused so much on what I’ve done, rather than on the children I work with. In my rush to transform myself into what I thought was a great educator, I completely forgot my reason for being. For that, I am deeply saddened.

Thankfully, the story does not end there.

I’ve known for a while that relationship-building is something that I struggle with (which I mentioned not too long ago in THIS POST). Some might say that I’m in the wrong profession if this is the case. However, I’m optimistic that this quality is something I can develop more each day. And I endeavour to do just that. George Couros reminds us in his book:

…we make a connection to the heart before we make a connection to the mind.

Here’s to striving for more of those heart connections.

More podcast love

I’ve talked about podcasts on MANY OCCASIONS. Some of the ones I listed previously, I’m no longer listening to. Others are still going strong. Here a few favourites right now:

MILLENNIAL

I love that this podcast is about navigating life in my current age bracket. Megan Tan shares deeply about the big and little things in her life, and I look forward to each new episode. 

THE LONGEST SHORTEST TIME

It’s technically a parenting show, but it’s actually relatable to everyone who exists in a family. They’re currently doing a few reruns before the next season, but since I only started listening a few months ago, I’m so grateful. Following the story of “The Accidental Gay Parents” right now. A story that is melting my heart. 

ART OF CHARM

So I hear this podcast is actually geared towards men, but I really enjoyed their episode with Chris Guillebeau about finding and pursuing work that echoes with your entire being. I continue to get these inklings that teaching in its current iteration is not what resonates most with my life purpose, but I’m still trying to navigate through what that all means. I know public education is where I want to be, but I don’t see my current classroom as being that learning and thinking incubator that I envision for children. Shall continue to work through this. 

INVISIBLE CITY

So this is a fairly new podcast hosted by Jennifer Keesmat, the Chief Planner of the City of Toronto. I love all things related to urban planning and design (thinking that intersecting this with public education would lead me to what I feel is my maximum impact in the classroom) and have been feeling a dearth of input into my life on this front. Alas, I am soaking all of this in. 

And there you have it – that’s what I’m consuming and chewing on as of late. 

Learning about learning.

This past week – and for every week moving forward – Andy has been going to his grandparents’ twice a week for a few hours. It’s given grandpa a chance to get used to having him around, and it’s given me a few hours to get back into the swing of working and studying.

Online courses
I’ve been taking the Ultimate Guide to Design Thinking course on Creative Classroom Academy and am currently developing a unit plan around the Grade 2 Social Studies curriculum of Global Communities. It’s so neat to think about units and lessons through the lens of design thinking, and I’m hoping to have a chance to implement this in the future!

Blogs, Sites and Social Media
I participated in the #tlap discussion this past Monday, and it was such a fruitful time of discussion around the Innovator’s Mindset (which also happens to be a book by George Couros). I’ve been sitting back from twitter chats for a little bit now, but was very glad to be engaged in this one. It also led me down a trail of websites, and now I’ve got some new reading material, including Angela Watson’s The Cornerstone and A.J. Juliani’s site.

Books
In a wonderful coincidence to #tlap, I’ve been reading Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators. It’s really pushed me to think not only about creating an atmosphere that encourages inquiry in the classroom, but also about the way that I will be encouraging a mindset of innovation at home with Andy. Ironically, in an effort to be “more than just a print book”, the text uses the now defunct Microsoft tags to link to videos for a more in-depth look at content. Just goes to show you how quickly technology changes.

Podcasts
And of course, who can resist some good education podcasts. The newest ones I’m following are Cult of Pedagogy and the K-12 Greatest Hits produced by Bam Radio Network. I particularly liked K-12’s recent episode about Uncommon Makerspaces. Such an inspiration to see thinking spilling out into the hallways!

Last but not least, I’ve also really enjoyed engaging in conversation with a friend about the psychology of teaching and learning and what ed reform can and should look like. She’s challenged me to really work on articulating my teaching philosophy, so that’s something that I will also be fleshing out over the next little while.

Taking a Leap

I love reading. Mostly non-fiction, though I am learning to like fiction more these days thanks to book club. Unfortunately, as much as I love reading, one of the biggest challenges I face is my inability to read quickly. I am possibly one of the world’s slowest readers. Maybe it’s because I like to read each word and paint pictures in my mind? Or maybe I just need to train my brain better.

Anyways, reading slowly was not a challenge I encountered at all for the book I just finished…about 20 minutes ago. Called The Leap Year Project: Learning to Risk & Risking to Learn, this short book by Victor Saad documents a journey – a year-long journey of learning, growing, and taking risks (leaps, if you will). Funnily enough, I stumbled upon The Leap Year Project a few weeks ago via twitter and had exchanged a few tweets with Victor. Then, about a week ago, Story Cartel started following me, and I was introduced to a collection of books that I could read for free! The Leap Year Project was one of them.


Now, let it be known that I love colour. And I love things that are designed purposefully and beautifully. From a purely aesthetic point of view, this book is a work of art. The simplicity and vividness with which this book is laid out made reading this book (via iPad) most wonderful. There wasn’t a whole lot of text (good for slow readers like me), but any text that was there was necessary and thought-provoking.

On to the content. In the book, Victor shares his thoughts and new-found knowledge gained by working alongside new companies and individuals month by month. He ventures near and far, but regardless of location, he continues to be overwhelmed by the generosity of others and the spirit of people. He writes conversationally and his voice flows seamlessly throughout the book. Full of words of wisdom, this is a book that inspires you and compels you to take your own leaps of faith. At the end of every month’s entry is a collection of stories. These stories highlight the experiences of other “leapers” around the world – people who have joined Victor in stepping outside of their comfort zone to learn something new. It shows us that we can affect change, no matter how old, young, or inexperienced, regardless of background, resources, or education.

A book I literally couldn’t put down (I was up until the wee hours last night reading it…until chrome crashed and I was too tired to wait for it to load again), my only wish for this would be to that it included a disproportionately large number of stories of people in Chicago. I would have loved to read more from those around the world (though it makes sense that this gained the most momentum in Chicago, seeing as how that’s where Victor is based).

All in all, this book is fantastic and I recommend it to everyone. Yes, everyone. I give it 5 stars. 10 brownie points. And can I hope the idea goes viral? Maybe I should buy some copies and give them away to people I meet…

Anyways, over the past few weeks I have been pondering what leaps I will be taking in my own #lyproject journey. I am thinking it has something to do with education, but I am not entirely sure yet at this point. The idea still needs some nurturing. Either way, I intend to take a leap, and I hope you will too.

An aside: If you want to read some free books, check out Story Cartel, which I mentioned earlier. The books are literally free for downloading. All you need to do is write a review. And reviews are good for you – they force you to synthesize all the goodness (and some of the other stuff too) that you come across. Seriously…check them out.

Goals for 2013

In my last post, I mentioned that I may or may not sit down to write some goals. Today, seeing as how I have not yet been called in to any schools to supply, I figured that would be a good thing to do. I have had goals float around in my head, but it’s nice also to have them on paper. Here they are!

Financial
– Pay off wedding entirely
– Replenish TFSA to $2000
– Open a joint account

Professional
– Organize an EdCamp in Kingston
– Begin an LTO
– Do professional reading at least every other day

Spiritual
– 
Become a member at Bay Park
– Serve in the worship ministry
– Pray powerfully
– Initiate a mentoring relationship (this is a continuation of my goal from last year)

Personal
– 
Write to my grandparents at least twice a month
– Be a good wife (vague, I know…)
– Swim at least twice a month
– Eat no chips or chocolate (exception made at weddings)

While we’re at it, let me update you on how I did with last year’s goals:

Financial (moderate)

  • Bring my TFSA to $5000 – COMPLETE! I literally just made it, with $1.26 over my goal as of December 31
  • Pay off all the financing I have – STANDSTILL… I did pay off all my outstanding financing from 2011, but we are now financing the roof
  • Take on the full mortgage by the end of the year – COMPLETE! And I am very happy with the low interest rate we have
  • Have $5000 in savings by year end – FAIL… I still have a little ways to go to reach this goal

Professional (good)

  • Keep an updated resume and portfolio – COMPLETE! This wasn’t too tricky. There wasn’t much to add to either
  • Attend 3 workshops or conferences – STANDSTILL… I maybe went to two?
  • Take an AQ course – COMPLETE! I now have Spec Ed Part 1 :)
  • Grow my Twitter PLN to 100 people – COMPLETE! And I hope to keep growing next year

Spiritual (poor)

  • Complete my bible reading plan every day – DISCONTINUED… I decided it was too intensive for me to do the plan again after completing it last year. Still, my devos were less than regular
  • Read at least 5 Christian books – FAIL… I probably read three, and started a fourth
  • Update my worship binder – STANDSTILL… I did update it some, but there are still many songs I am missing
  • Actively search for a mentor – STANDSTILL… This is a tricky one. I have hopes that this year I will be able to establish something more solid

Personal (good)

  • Buy a bike or a scooter – COMPLETE! And I cannot wait for spring when I can bring her out again
  • Bring my BMI down to 21.7 – COMPLETE! Thanks to my new bike, Joshi’s Holistic Diet, and my bout of tonsilitis -__-
  • Practice guitar regularly (at least 3x/week) – COMPLETE! I love playing guitar, though maybe I should try to play in keys other than E and G
  • Communicate with my family at least 2x/week – COMPLETE! For a while, I was calling my parents every day. I need to keep this communication up though

It is unfortunate that my spiritual goals did not fare well. Alas, I must remember the bigger picture, and keep pressing on. I have faith that this will be a better year.

Fun on pinterest

I recently got a pinterest account, and let me say, it is a lot of fun. I am able to take a look at so many different things that other people find interesting, and being such a visual person, I love the way that pinterest is laid out. Anchor charts, wedding dresses, and cute DIY projects are all at my fingertips! Here are some of my faves from the past little while.

goals for 2012

it’s that time of year again! here are my goals for the new year – as i accomplish them i will update or add more :)

financial

  • bring my TFSA to $5000
  • pay off all the financing i have
  • take on the full mortgage by the end of the year
  • have $5000 in savings by year end

professional

  • keep an updated resume and portfolio
  • attend 3 workshops or conferences
  • take an AQ course
  • grow my twitter PLN to 100 people

spiritual

  • complete my bible reading plan every day
  • read at least 5 Christian books
  • update my worship binder
  • actively search for a mentor

personal

  • buy a bike or a scooter
  • bring my BMI down to 21.7
  • practice guitar regularly (at least 3x/week)
  • communicate with my family at least 2x/week

scribbling on the walls…and other things

i couldn’t sleep last night. i was thinking so much about this other blog that i wanted to create that i woke up at 3 am and proceeded to type out everything that i would want on it. i don’t know how i will manage to balance the content between these 2 blogs, but i’m sure it will all make sense in the end. this is more of my every day blog whereas that one has a very clear focus and niche on it.

completely unrelated, i am on a job application frenzy. i’ve applied to a whole bunch of jobs, and i have my resumes and cover letters ready for two more. if i want to be financially independent and debt-free by the time i’m 24, i better get on the ball. and by debt-free, i don’t mean mortage free. that i think i will have for a little while…

i do a lot of my thinking in the car

today i had the privilege of attending edcampto, a wonderful unconference on education, learning, and the 21st century. engaged in tons of great conversation, and met so many individuals who are doing what they love and willing to share their ideas and experiences with others (free of charge!). side note: we need more sharing of ideas. anyways, i had a two hour drive back to kingston this evening after the conference. lots of time by myself in a car usually leads to loud singing or the generation of random thoughts. here are a few of those thoughts.

the whole idea behind the unconference model is that the participants fuel what is talked about at the event. that got me thinking about how cool it would be to do a student unconference for them to share about their own learning. i think we would get a much better understanding of how we can support and facilitate student learning if we let them talk about it for a while! who knows, they might even formulate some cross-school or cross-board communities that elicit change.

one of the early sessions that i went to was on literacy and whether there is a need to redefine literacy in this day and age. we have so many different texts that we are exposed to that the acquisition of knowledge is no longer sufficient – we need to interact critically with these texts and draw connections to other experiences. something that i really enjoy looking at is infographics. they convey so much information in such a succinct manner (and a lot of the time, they’re colourful, which makes me enjoy them that much more). what if we had students create their own infographics to demonstrate their learning, allow them to interact with their peers and garner feedback, then create an even better infographic with that feedback in mind. we’d be tapping into so much design potential, and the assignment itself innately requires students to make connections, summarize, etc. in an integrated way. maybe i should create an infographic for kingston through my lens.

last but not least, a note on youtube and a potential assignment. i learn so much from youtube. in fact, almost everything i can do on photoshop came from me watching youtube tutorials. my dad learned how to install our new toilets via youtube. perhaps we should investigate the educational benefits of using this site that is banned in some school boards. we can even give students the task of learning something from youtube and documenting that experience. i wonder what they’ll find…

the future of public education

when you’re an educator, you want more than anything to see students succeed. you know in your heart that all students deserve the best education, and you do everything in your power to make that the case. unfortunately, it seems not all teachers in the field are providing a quality education.

growing up, you’ve probably had a handful of really good and really bad teachers scattered between the ones that were okay. but watching “waiting for superman” today, i witnessed first hand not just a few teachers, but a whole system that is defunct and in need of desperate change. more than anything, it was heartbreaking to see children who want to learn have to sit through something that reinforces to them that their ability to have an education is decided on nothing more than chance. i don’t know much about the charter school system, so i won’t make a judgment on what they do or do not do for students, but i do want to reflect a bit on public education as i understand it.

let’s start at the beginning – the “way it is” for public schooling. how does schooling work? well, it seems that you’re supposed to go to school every weekday (minus a few) for ten months of the year, learn something, and progress through a serious of stages with the hope of being better suited to contribute something to the world when you finish. great. so how do we do that? we bring these people in – qualified teachers – give them a document called the curriculum that tells them what to cover (in addition to a plethora of other booklets and papers), and hope they’ll produce something of value to present to the students coming into their classrooms. it all sounds simple enough, right? wrong.

when you’re a classroom teacher, you are asked to not only present information to students, it is implied that you will also develop the whole child, teach them transferable skills, be sensitive to their needs and their circumstances, work in partnership with their family and other staff, deal with the photocopier when it breaks down, use the newest educational lingo, attend a certain number of meetings, do supervision duty…oh, and you only have one year with your students. is this really the best way to go? so much of a teacher’s time is spent on things that often aren’t even related to teaching the students themselves. are we trying too hard to cram the profession full of extraneous things? how can we make the core of what we do effective while providing a relevant education for our students?

education is important, no questions asked. amongst other things, students need amazing teachers who are committed to providing that quality education through effective assessment and evaluation, working together, innovation in education, and clear and open communication. we need accountability in our schools, and perhaps that is where things get tricky. we have no direct, reliable and valid way of measuring how teachers are doing in their classrooms, and we need to keep in mind that we shouldn’t be encouraging teachers to all be the same. there are so many variables when it comes to education, and controlling it is not the way to bettering it, but we need to work towards improvement. our society is moving so quickly, and there is a huge need for innovation and for a competent, qualified workforce. beyond that, we also want communities that are active and thriving, where people are contributing positively and working together for the good of mankind.

at the end of the day, i’m both an optimist and a realist. i know change is happening, but it will take time. i constantly need to ask myself “what can i do to improve as a teacher, and what can i learn from those around me – both in and out of the field of education?” i’m all for dreaming big, and then figuring out the steps it will take to get there, and to stay there. hope you’ll join me.