Tag Archives: belief

Where Truth Gets Eyeballs

We all know carbon dating has been disproven.  Homosexuality is a choice.  Climate change is a hoax. Hillary is a criminal. Everyone should carry a gun for protection.

All of these statements have been treated as facts in the media over the past few weeks, in preparation for USA to go to the polls.

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And many people fully believe them to be true.

“People have difficulty now just sorting out what is true and what is not, and if you don’t have some common baseline of facts… it’s very hard to figure out how we move the democracy forward.”

US President Barack Obama

in conversation with Bill Maher

If we don’t have a common understanding of the facts, how do we have a national conversation about policy?

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President Obama goes on to say that the filters on the information getting to the people are very challenging to overcome.  News sources report untrue information that people believe.  People don’t think critically about the information delivered to them through AM Talk Radio, Fox News, Facebook, “Reality” TV…

Confirmation bias has people making decisions then looking for the statements in any media to confirm their beliefs.

 

In Canada, what questions are we asking about our media?

During our last national election, some of our largest newspapers used their front pages for partisan politics to influence voters.

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Canadaland with Jesse Brown explores the state of media in Canada on the regular podcast.

In Ontario schools,  while we are concerned about the ability of our students to make up an article for traditional print media, how do we also ensure that they know how to critically examine media and ask questions to separate fact from belief?

 

If ever there was a time for educators to make digital literacies, including critical thinking, a priority, today is it.

Canada needs critical thinkers who make evidence-informed decisions.  We need citizens who know how to  keep their eyeballs, their heads, and their hearts on the truth, no matter what filters are on the media that they tune into.

We need citizens who stand up to the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of false information.

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Canada flag image shared by Brandon Grasley CC-BY-2.0

Featured image (Where’s my eyeball?) shared by Alan Levine CC BY 2.0

Resources:

Literacy Toolkit for a Post-Truth World

OSAPAC Resource for School Leaders

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OSAPAC Resources for Digital Citizenship: Critical Thinking and Information Literacy

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The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw

Tech Gypsies Episode 31 

Do You Have Time?

We all have time.  But how much?

And how will we spend it?

As an educator, I struggle with doing too much.

As a teacher, I packaged content endlessly, provided feedback on everything, read tirelessy, reflected on everything.  It consumed me. It consumes many.  Balance, alignment, living a rich life away from school – all of these things can be hard when there are no “hours of work” or boundaries of work.  There is always more that can be done.

Many of us work really hard – too hard perhaps.  But the passion for what we do, for changing life trajectories, is hard for others to understand at times.

It takes intention to stop and rethink the effectiveness of the effort and the purpose in how we spend our most valuable resource – time.

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John Sills and Ben Kelly share the career of Jim Fry, NWO Regional Director, MNRF June 2016. Photo by Kira Fry.

Recently, two dear friends spoke at my husband’s retirement celebration.  They shared a timeline of his outstanding career in protecting Ontario’s natural resources.  Then they focused on what is left in the timeline, and how we need to be intentional about how that time is used.

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Leo Suazo shares his understanding about the value of time. June 2106. Image by Kira Fry.

 

Retired US Fish and Game Officer Leo Suazo spoke eloquently about the value of time, and how after retirement, we have the opportunity to choose how we will share our gift of time.  What life trajectories will we impact? What changes will we enable?

How will we use our time to support those doing good in the world?

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Kira and Chloé. Image by Jake Avery.
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Shannon and Kyle with Jim. Image by Kira Fry

 

So then, how does this help us decide how to spend that precious time? Perhaps a recent commencement address by Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean James Ryan helps us think this through.

 

Dr. Ryan proposes five good questions we can ask in all that we do.

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From Five Good Questions by Dr. James Ryan http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/good-questions

The last question?

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Late Fragments, by Raymond Carver http://allpoetry.com/Late-Fragment

 

From Dr. James Ryan:

My claim is that if you regularly ask: wait, what, I wonder, couldn’t we at least, how can I help, and what really matters, when it comes time to ask yourself “And did you get what you wanted out of life, even so,” your answer will be “I did.”

 

How will you use your gift of time?

Featured image of Diane Corbett, Ian Anderson, Doug Hyde and Jim Fry (Ontario Provincial Peer Support Program) by Kira Fry, June 2016.

This post is dedicated to my father, Melville Charles Miller, who would have been 81 years old today, on this Fathers’ Day 2016.

His dedication to the natural resources of this province inspired many of the people who have continued that legacy.

References:

Good Questions

 

 

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Image by Kira Fry, June 2016

Where is Your Blog?

If you are an educator, you need a blog.

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It’s 2015.

Where are you creating your digital identity?

Where do you share resources with other educators?

Where do you reflect on your practice?

Where are you having conversations about learning and teaching?

Where do you model the learning we want to see in every classroom?

How do you demonstrate the Standards of Practice of the profession?

Where do you maintain a professional portfolio?

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Thank you to Dean Shareski (@shareski) for sharing this slide. The image links to the source on slideshare.

 

Last evening we had a rich conversation in the #OSSEMOOC open mic around why educators are not blogging.

1. Not enough time.

Educators are the hardest working people I know, hands down.  No contest.  They would NEVER think of not preparing for classes or not providing feedback on student work.

Isn’t blogging and sharing and reflecting just as important? How long does it take to share a few thoughts online?  How long does it take to upload a file to share?

 

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2. Fear of judgment.

Creating a safe environment for risk-taking is a classroom priority. Why do we make it hard for our colleagues to share their practice? Do our students feel they will be judged when we ask them to share? How do we model to our students that learning and sharing and growing together is a valuable use of our time?

3. Don’t know how.

Get started here:

Start connecting here: https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-1/

Why you need to make thinking visible through blogging here:

https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-22-making-thinking-visible-through-blogging/

Why you need to start your own blog here:

https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-23-yes-its-time-to-start-your-own-blog/

How to start your blog here:

https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-24-beginners-guide-to-starting-a-blog/

How others use their blogs (modelling) here: https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-25-you-have-a-blog-now-what/

How to turn your blog into a professional portfolio here:

https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/26/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-26-your-blog-as-your-portfolio/

Making your blog YOUR online space for sharing:

https://ossemooc.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/ten-minutes-of-connecting-day-27-more-blog-considerations/

4. It’s not really valued.

You are right.  It isn’t. At least not yet.

Until we teach in the B.Ed. program that open reflective practice and demonstration of the Standards of Practice of the profession is a necessity, we won’t see it.

Until we ask to see a blog with every job application, be it teacher, principal or system leader, we won’t value it.

Until every PQP and SOQP course makes open sharing, connecting, collaborating, reflecting and learning important, we won’t insist on it.

 

But let’s not wait!

The value in reflecting, sharing, conversing, connecting and honouring our amazing work in schools is obvious.

Let’s tell our own stories of the learning happening in our classrooms and schools.  The stories are powerful.

Share them widely.

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Special thanks to @timrobinsonj for sharing pixabay.com

 

 

Thoughts: Labour Day 2014

I wanted to tell a funny story on this Labour Day.

I will share this entertaining piece instead: Teachers Don’t Sleep on Labour Day by  @albertfong

I have plenty of my own crazy tales, of course, having spent nearly 30 years of Labour Days ignoring my family in spite of it being my daughter’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, a stressful time for my kids heading back to school…

Even though today is the first Labour Day in 25 years where nobody in our household is heading off to school, I don’t feel like being funny.  I have a very heavy heart as I think of the teachers in British Columbia and the conflict they are embroiled in.

I think of the passionate educators that do so much for students in B.C. – educators like Karen Lirenman,  David Truss, and Bryan Jackson.   How do I know what they are doing?  Because they share.

They openly invite everyone to see how they think, what they struggle with, how they learn, and what they are working on.  They do this through blogging, through Twitter (and other social media), and through face-to-face presentations throughout the year.

I know they love what they do, because they openly demonstrate this all year long.

As we once again see teachers as a political target, it is important to ask ourselves why this profession is so often attacked by politicians. Take a moment to read this very thought-provoking essay on the Future of Schooling in Canada by Stephen Murgatroyd.

Here is a short excerpt:

“Teachers need to “take back” their schools, supported by mindful school leaders, if they are not to become the new laboratories for corporate greed….

…The final challenge relates to the conditions of practice which teachers and school leaders face. There is a growing distortion around the importance of class size and composition – classes of 30-35 with up to six students with special needs are seen as “manageable” (they are not) with a single teacher and little if any access to other supports. Custodial services are seen as being only required before and after school – not during the school day, leaving teachers to clean up after sick children or some accident in the chemistry lab. We are neglecting the basic conditions in the name of economy. Attempts to challenge the creeping Fordism which such class sizes force on school systems are seen as “teacher whining”, yet parents and citizens should be appalled at some of the conditions under which we are asking teachers to produce the next generation of imagineers, artists, scientists, engineers and trades persons.”

 

If we really believe that our children are our greatest resource, and if we really believe that teaching is the most important profession for our future, then we need to tell our stories to the world.

“Teaching in isolation is no longer consistent with professionalism.”(Catherine Montreuil, August 2014).

This year, don’t just do great things for kids.

Tell your story.

Tell it loudly, and openly, and show the world what you do every day.

Show the world that every single day, teachers are making a positive difference in the lives of our children.

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Photo credit: venspired via Compfight cc

The Loneliness of the First Follower

It’s harder to follow than it is to lead.

Timber and Bailey, June 2014
Image by Kira Fry, used with permission.

 

Leaders have passion for what they do.  They have practiced sticking out their necks, taking risks, trying new things, and failing.

For leaders, being the lone dancer in the crowd is their norm.

Dancing to the music is the right thing to do, even if it is all alone.

But first followers…  Life is very different for them.

Followers are straddling two worlds.  While one foot is firmly planted in their peer group, their team, their home position, they have suddenly taken a step out of their comfort zone.

Perhaps it is because they have heard music they can dance to for the first time.  Perhaps the song has finally come along that they have waited all night for.  Or perhaps they have been dancing with the door closed for a long time.

But first followers have the most to lose.

The leader might sit down again, leaving the follower all alone, dancing to a different tune than everyone else on the hill.

The leader might keep right on dancing to a different tune, ignoring the new partner.

Those sitting on the hill might tell the first follower that he is no longer welcome to sit with them.  He should go off and just keep dancing with his new partner.

Those sitting on the hill might grab the first follower’s legs and try to pull him back down.  They are afraid to try to keep up, and he is making them look slow.

But it is the first follower that other followers emulate.

First followers are critical to the movement.

First followers are catalysts for change.

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Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc

As a school or system leader, how will you nurture your first followers this school year?

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(Shared here by Stacey Wallwin @wallwins http://swallwin.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/are-you-nuts-maybe-just-a-little/)

“It takes guts to be a first follower.  You stand out…”

“Being a first follower is an unappreciated form of leadership.”

…for Susan

 

EdCampWR (part 2) – Everyone Has Something IMPORTANT to Share

This past week, I have been explaining the concept of “EdCamp” to a lot of people.  It’s on a Saturday, it’s free, it’s open to anyone wanting to learn, and “everyone has something to share”.  The program is driven by the learning needs of the people in attendance, and the smartest person in the room is the room.

What I love most is the “hunger to learn”.

Recently I attended #Educon in Philadelphia.  While sessions are determined in advance, it does rest on the principle that “everyone has something IMPORTANT to share”.  This is captured very clearly in this video.

A few of my favourite quotes that capture some of the thinking from #Educon:

David Jakes: “The first step in redesigning a classroom is discarding the notion that it has to be a classroom.” (2:36)

Chris Lehman: “What schools can become, are the places where we come together to learn…” (4:14)

Jose Vilson: “Trying to get education to be more about what kids can do instead of what they can’t do…” (5:30)

Ayla Gavins: “..I would eliminate ACCESS as the reason for not choosing to use technology.” (6:23)

Diana Laufenberg: “The one thing that teachers can do proactively is to share, everywhere possible, the positive things that are happening with our kids…” (7:14)

What is #Educon?  It’s a global tribe of support – 24/7.

It’s what EdCamps can be too.  Passion, learning, sharing, bringing hope for positive change to make our schools places where we support communities of learning.

Should Kids Hate School?

I don’t know anyone who would answer “yes” to this question.  So why is the myth that “kids hate school” so pervasive?

Last week, buses were cancelled in Muskoka (yes, there is only one Muskoka!), and the television announcers made a huge deal out of how happy kids would be because they didn’t have to go to school.

If kids shouldn’t hate school, why would they be so happy to miss it?

We need to shift away from the norm of “hating school”.  There are probably reasons why people hated school in the past (perhaps being in the “Bluebird” reading group?).

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But why joke about this with kids today?  It’s outdated thinking.  Kids should never hate going to school.

Let Me Play

School is a place where students go to learn, to collaborate, to be healthy. It should be an optimum environment to promote growth, not something that they hate.

 

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And if they can’t get to the building, there is no reason* why kids (in Ontario) can’t be learning at home.  Blended learning and e-Learning are available in all publicly funded Ontario schools.  A cancelled school bus means kids connect with their classroom digitally and there is no interruption in learning.

“If we took seriously the need for kids to feel known and cared about, our discussions about the distinguishing features of a “good school” would sound very different. Likewise, our view of discipline and classroom management would be turned inside-out, seeing as how the primary goals of most such strategies are obedience and order, often with the result that kids feel less cared about — or even bullied — by adults.”

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/duh.htm

As adults, we sometimes forget to question “norms” from times gone by.

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Let’s be mindful of our sphere of influence.  Showing that we hated school can have a powerful influence on those hearing the message.  And if a child doesn’t want to go to school, it’s not okay.  Find out why.

 

 

Further reading:

“That so few children seem to take pleasure from what they’re doing on a given weekday morning, that the default emotional state in classrooms seems to alternate between anxiety and boredom, doesn’t even alarm us. Worse: Happiness in schools is something for which educators may feel obliged to apologize when it does make an appearance. After all, they wouldn’t want to be accused of offering a “feel-good” education.”
http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/feelbad.htm

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2011/07/in-digital-age-schools-that-succeed-are-schools-that-connect/

Why do we need to write papers in every course? http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2013/12/college_papers_students_hate_writing_them_professors_hate_grading_them_let.html

*We are not doing an adequate job of ensuring internet access to all learners.  Many remote and not-so-remote areas have sub-standard or no access to the internet (or public libraries).

 

 

What Will You UnLearn Today?

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What did you learn today?

David Warlick often begins his talks with something new he has learned that day.  He frequently shares these learnings on his blog as well.

Every day I try to follow his example and think carefully about all the new things I have learned.

But sometimes we need to UNlearn before we can really see the need to learn something new.

A very wise AQ instructor once suggested that without even realizing it, we (teachers) often revert to “delivering content” basically the same way day in and day out, regardless of the audience – and often in exactly the same way we were taught in school.

When I started to examine my teaching practice, I realized that this was true.  She challenged me to shake up my routine, to collaborate on ideas with other teachers, to focus on the needs of the learners rather than my perception of how things should be done.

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 carnagenyc via Compfight cc

I realized that my teaching style had been influenced more by how I was taught in school than by what I learned when I took my B.Ed.

The foundation of a teacher’s knowledge and competence comes from a teacher education program. But does Ontario’s teacher education system influence prospective teachers’ behaviour and thinking?

Do teacher-candidates change their practice as a result of their teacher education program, or do they default to the methods used during their own education?

Do the years of being part of the education system have more of an effect on practice than the teacher training program?

Student teachers arrive with views of teaching and learning, developed during their own time in school, that can distort their new ideas of learning during teachers’ college.

Research has demonstrated that the effect of teacher education on changing the prior beliefs and learning of student teachers is weak (Tryggvason 2009).


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         opensourceway via Compfight cc

But teachers now have to teach in ways that they themselves were not taught. Currently, as we consider 21st Century skills and the pace of change, there are more and more demands on teachers and what society expects them to accomplish.

In Finland,  teacher educators use reflective and critical thinking and the introduction of a variety of new and useful teaching strategies helps new teachers to question their current thinking and adapt new methodologies.

Teacher education in Finland is being moved into research universities, which reflects the understanding that the training of teachers should be done in conjunction with innovation in other areas.  This type of setting also assists Finland in attracting some of the best international minds in teacher education.

I’ve started to think more about what I believe to be true vs. what I know to be true.  How many of my ideas about learning need to be challenged and unlearned? How do we catalyze deep conversations about practice that challenge our default methods?

What is it that I need to unlearn today?

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 duane.schoon via Compfight cc

Further reading:

Learning, UnLearning and ReLearning

Hargreaves, A. (2000): Four Ages of Professionalism and Professional Learning, Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 6:2, 151-182

Kosunen, T & A. Mikkola (2002): Building a Science of Teaching: How objectives and reality meet in Finnish teacher education, European Journal of Teacher Education, 25:2-3, 135-150

Tucker, M. (2012). Teacher quality: What’s wrong with U.S. strategy?. Educational Leadership, 69(4), 42-46

Tryggvason, Marja-Terttu (2009). Why is Finnish teacher education successful? Some goals Finnish teacher educators have for their teaching. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32(4), 369-382

Professional vs. Personal – On Two Levels

The recent scandal involving the Mayor of Toronto (Rob Ford) has catalyzed many conversations around the delineation of a person’s professional life vs. their personal life.  On the Friday, November 8, 2013 edition of “The Current” on CBC Radio 1, panelists discussed their opinions around whether a public figure like a mayor can still do the job when their personal life is in such disarray.

Citizens show their anger at Toronto City Hall
Citizens show their anger at Toronto City Hall

Mayors are public figures.  As leaders in society, do we believe they should be modelling the characteristics of good citizenship we would like to see in everyone?  Is it okay for a mayor to admit to illegal activity, yet still act as a leader for a major world city?

In K-12 public education, teachers and principals are subject to similar  scrutiny of their public lives.  On Friday, an educator said to me, “Oh I would never be on Twitter.  I don’t want to get fired”.  It was an odd comment for me, because I have gained so, so much on a professional level from my interactions and conversations on Twitter and other social media.

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As I looked for more writing on the topic, I came across Brandon Grasley’s recent post on the question, and some work by George Couros on the same topic.  It is worth reading both explorations of the topic, and the comments from the many educators who have weighed in.

Brandon Grasley

George Couros

But the examination of personal and professional lives of School Principals goes beyond considering reputation and public activity. One of the key capacities of a school leader is to build relationships.

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Building relationships is critical to the success of a School Leader. It’s also a very tricky role, particularly in communities where a School Leader may wear many other hats outside of the school building.  Family members may attend the school.  Staff members may be relatives or friends.

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It’s even trickier when concerns arise about the performance of a staff member in the school.  While we always want to “build the new”, we can’t stand by and watch when the “old” is harming the learning of students.

School leaders are trained in how to keep their professional role of leading the instructional program in a school separate from their personal lives.

Courageous Conversations

Unfortunately, not all people working in a school have had the opportunity to build the capacity to accept constructive criticism of their professional practice and separate it from their personal relationships.

Leadership is not a popularity contest.  School leaders are not hired to make friends, but to build relationships that will benefit the students and improve student learning, all student learning.

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It takes courage, but school and system leaders must take action even when it might be interpreted as personal.  They must model the change they want to see.

Is it too much to ask all of our leaders to lead by example?

2013 11 18 Resign you are embarrassing our city