Monthly Archives: December 2015

#oneword2016: Discipline

One word one year

Why take on the #oneword challenge?  

Choosing one word to focus on for a whole year is a reflective process. It forces me to consider where I am in my life, in my work, in my relationships. Words of the year have been a part of my life for a long time. The list includes

  • patience
  • risk-taking
  • kindness
  • peripheral vision
  • empathy
  • leadership
  • loyalty
  • openness
  • resilience
  • courage
  • persistance
  • dignity
  • equity
  • innovation

These words are part of the fabric of my soul. I have lived with each word, unravelled its nuances and connotations and woven its teachings into my thinking, perspectives, understandings, and beliefs. In choosing my word of the year, I need to reflect back, but I also need to think forward. What do I need to do more of? What do I need to think about? What is my next step?

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I have had incredible opportunities to connect, learn, and grow as an educator over the past six years. By far and away, you – my PLN – are responsible for those opportunities, and I have said ‘yes’ to them all:

  • course writing
  • collaborative facilitator
  • FNMI projects
  • committee work
  • adolescent literacy work

It’s true I have expertise in adolescent literacy. I have 15 years experience working with First Nations students. I am an early adopter (do we still use this expression in 2016?) of technology for blended learning. I do facilitate collaborative inquiries. I do teach high school English courses full time. This blend of skills and occupation has allowed me to move between “communities”, which has been an exhilarating experience.

BUT, I have struggled with the question of focus, and that splitting my time has left me with the inability to dive into any one area deeply. 

Good to Great cover

This month I read Good to Great by Jim Collins. I only read it because I had to to fulfill a family non-fiction book club commitment. Since Good to Great was already on my shelf (it had been given to me in 2012), I decided to give it a go. 

Does the universe ever give you what you need? This book was exactly the book I needed to read because one of Collins’ big ideas, discipline, provides a way for me to think about my own work. For Collins, discipline means 

 to say “no” to those opportunities that fall outside of one’s focus.

I am simplifying for the purpose of this post, but it’s the idea that in order to be great (doing meaningful work that motivates you to create greatness), one cannot say ‘yes’ to every, indeed any, good idea, unless it falls in line with one’s core concept or focus. 

I am looking forward to 2016, and my learning around this idea of discipline. 

What is your #OneWord for the new year?

Don’t forget to share it with #onewordONT by January 15th to be a part of Ontario’s collaborative word cloud!!

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Filed under Year End Reflection

Poplar trees and tablets. Thinking about engagement.

When my family gets together there is always at least one project on the agenda. From building furniture to changing the brakes on a car, the kids come home to do their ‘making’. “It’s great to do projects here”, they say. “The space, tools and materials are all at hand!”

We don’t mind. The kids, all in their 20’s, are ready to learn from us. They now want to know about buying tires, making jam, and planting trees. 

Last week, on December 24th actually, the project was to take down an old poplar in the back of the property. Tricky business taking down a 60 foot tree.

skitch

But this kind of project is exactly the type that gets everyone ramped-up. There are calculations to be done, and re-done, and theories regarding the falling tree’s trajectory to be hashed out (and then bet upon). Oh what fun!

My job is to document the process, and I did by snapping pics and posting them to the family Google hangout. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 2.33.00 PM

And then an unexpected message appeared.

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Last year for Christmas, I got my 85 year old father a tablet. Learning to use it has been a slow process. He doesn’t have a smart phone (yet), so everything is new for him. Each time he comes for a visit, he learns or relearns one thing. This fall he began to attend a class to learn more about how to use the tablet.

And he joined the family hangout.

This was always the goal. The family chat is lively with lots of pictures shared. It is one way we stay connected, and I knew that beyond appreciating the conversations, he too would be more connected to all of us. He never chatted with us though, preferring to ‘listen in’. 

Last week when my dad saw what we were doing, he was intensely jealous. He wanted to be there with us to be part of the excitement. In fact, he was so engaged in the event that he overcame his fear of texting, of doing something wrong, of looking silly in a public space, and he typed out his disappointment and admonishment.

How come major move happening without senior advisor?

This story is a terrific example of what engagement can look like at the various stages of learning. Clearly, my dad was motivated to learn how to use  the tablet. He persisted in his learning even though he didn’t always have a teacher. He sought out direct instruction and he practiced. As his confidence grew, he showed a willingness to join the hangout and then to participate in it.

Engaging our learners is not about entertaining them. It’s not about making things easier. It’s not about doing everything for them. It’s not about how much fun they’re having. Rather, student engagement is his or her intellectual commitment to learning. It is building the skills and knowledge needed to make that leap, conduct that inquiry, or create that project. It is the day to day, week to week, month to month learning that makes taking that risk possible. 

I’d love to hear your observations about learner engagement.

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Filed under General, Professional Learning