Category Archives: School Life

There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

Recently Brian Aspinall polled his followers on who will be incorporating coding into their instruction this year.  It got me thinking about the hesitation we often see in teachers to embrace the new.  I have incorporated coding into my math instruction, but it is not my intention to preach at length on its values for this blog.  The truth is that coding is probably not for every teacher or student.  Some teachers may say that coding is not their area of expertise and will likely avoid it.  I have to ask: What is your area of expertise?  Will you find the opportunity to learn alongside your students?

We often suffer from the thinking that teachers need to be all-knowing.  Showing vulnerability or not knowing their curriculum or subject is simply not tolerated.  We often think that teachers must answer any and all questions.  In truth, how many students or parents say “the teacher did not know the answer?  How did they become a teacher?”

Teaching is highlighted by moments of success.  In broad terms, these moments occur when we set the textbook aside and take a chance on something we know students need.  When I have taken chances, I had the most fun in teaching.  We have to remember that being a “lifelong learner” is not just a catch phrase.  For example, it is well known that coding is a skill that may and should help students in the job market.  I can refer to the following statistics from code.org:

  • There are currently 583,155 open computing jobs nationwide
  • Last year, only 59,764 computer science students graduated into the workforce

With this need, many teachers have called on their interest to incorporate coding into their instruction or to offer coding and robotic clubs.

However, coding is just an example that applies to me.  Teachers should take chances in their learning and teaching.  They should incorporate tools and techniques without knowing exactly where they are going.  Let’s learn alongside our students.  What we learned in Teacher’s College 12 years ago is less applicable today, and that textbook is less useful today.  It is not acceptable to say we can not teach something that is unfamiliar.  In closing, I recall Aviva Dunsiger‘s one-word goal for 2015: “uncomfortable.”  Find that area in teaching that inspires you to learn more and to share more.  Our mis-steps and uncertainty will lead to success and model risk taking for our kids.

Please let me know the direction you are following, maybe I can join you?

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The Power of Positivity

In a recent post, I said that I do not blog very often.  But my last blog has inspired me to blog again.  As an infrequent blogger, I felt my last post was negative.  Although the nature of “stop pretending” probably leads us to be critical.  I want you to know that I am an extremely positive person.

1. Positivity leads to more positivity.  It is contagious.  As leaders, we are often judged on our ability to handle negative situations.  Positivity is like the water that puts out the negative fire.  It may take discipline to respond positively, but the rewards are many.  Above all, people will be positive towards you.  You will be noticed for your grace and ability to stay positive when so many things go wrong at the same time.  When everything is going well, are we truly judged?

2. Negativity is not the cure to negativity.  We all do it.  There are times when we want to complain.  Maybe it’s healthy to vent our frustrations from time-to-time.  We have that itch.  But similar to scratching, we only feel good for a time.  Positivity has long term benefits.  In the end, you’ll remember the positive moments.

3. Negativity is seductive and widespread.  You can’t escape it.  Inevitably someone will send negative vibes and share negative comments.  The only statement that I say with a negative state-of-mind in this blog is that negativity is everywhere.  However, there is always room for positivity.

4.  We must not confuse positivity with weakness.  Those who are positive are often optimist in nature.  That does not mean that we are “doormats” to those who want to harass.  On the contrary, positive people are the ones that inspire us to do more.  We are the rocks that people depend on.  When someone feels lost, they will knock on your door for help.  There is no greater feat of strength than being a beacon of hope for someone else.

How does this all relate to us as teachers?  We often tell kids that positivity is important.  The challenge of being a role model is to follow your own advice.  A recent post by Kristy Keery Bishop pointed out how little things make us happy.  That post partly inspired my blog.  Last Friday, one of my grade six students asked me to teach grade 7 next year so that we can stay together.  I believe that kids and people are born naturally positive.  When she said that, it melted away my frustrations and inspired me to teach better.

My challenge to you: be positive when it is most difficult.  When there is adversity in the workplace, find common ground.  When there is stress in your life, think of your students.  When you have more work than time in your day, call a positive person.  Focus on the good.  It may sound cliche, but life is to short for negativity.

See you soon, a new blogger.

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Make School Different

Recently I was challenged by Kristin Keery Bishop to share my thoughts on how we can make schools different.  At same time, I am hesitant to share my thoughts because I do not want to sound critical of public education.  I love public education recognizing that we are never perfect.  I might sound repetitive of my colleagues, but these are my thoughts.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending that we don’t need help.  We all need help.  Open your doors!  Accept feedback!  Grow together!  Learn together!  There’s so much to being a teacher who can do it all alone?  No one.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending that we are using all available resources.  The demands of teaching requires us to rely on many resources; or at least you would think.  My thoughts are not isolated to physical resources (i.e. books and tech) but people.  What are the obstacles to using the right amount of resources?

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending that we need more money.  More money does not equate a better school.  As Aviva points out, we can buy all the tech in the world and still not reach “the perfect school.”  The best schools are the ones who show genuine care and love of kids.  How much does genuine care and support cost?

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending that interruptions are welcomed in schools.  Don’t get me wrong, some interruptions are important.  The purpose of school is to learn and improve metacognition.  Everything else is secondary. We must not be afraid to focus our attention on learning and away from everything else.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending that all teachers reflect in one way.  Many educators do not blog.  Even I don’t blog very often.  If teachers can be reflective of their practice, then maybe blogging is not their avenue of expression.  However, this leads me to trouble because . . .

I can not challenge anyone else to blog on this topic.  I think most bloggers have been challenged already.  I am pleased to fulfill my commitment.  The challenge I give is for other teachers to be reflective and share their thoughts.  If we are to reach an optimal level of collaboration, reflection is key.

One of my favourite stories is the Emperor’s New Clothes.  I never understood it as a child.  I love this blogging topic because we often pretend nothing is wrong.  With criticism, feedback and collaboration, our students benefit.  Until next time!

2039

 

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