Category Archives: Year End Reflection

#ECOOchat takes on #OneWordOnt

Happy New Year to Everyone!

The Ontario Educator Community at large is embracing 2018 with …. well, with words that will support, guide, and possibly teach them throughout the year.

Yes, my friends, #OneWordOnt is back bigger than ever this year and to help spread the word (intended), #ECOOchat has invited #OneWordOnt to take over their next session!

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Essentially, #OneWordOnt is a community of educators who have decided to use one word to focus their attention and growth for the year. You can learn more about this community by reading this Introductory Post, by following the hashtag #OneWordOnt in Twitter, or by joining the G+ Community of bloggers.

Please join me and the ECOO Board of Directors this Tuesday, January 9 at 8:00 pm for an #ECOOchat on Twitter for the conversation to inspire you to choose your #OneWord!

 to send this message to Twitter – “I’m attending #ECOOchat on Tuesday, January 9 at 8 PM to discuss #OneWordONT.”

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2017 #OneWordOnt Reflection

It’s hard to believe another year is at its end and that it’s time to reflect on my #OneWordOnt for 2017.

Remember how I told you about wanting my students to see the walls in their lives? The ones that interfere with their learning? The ones that hold them back from engaging in and with the broader community? The walls we grapple with everyday?

I also told you about choices–how we make choices

“to participate, to be optomistic … to inquire, be curious and to challenge the status quo … To find hope instead of fear in the face of uncertainty” (Seth Godin).

We began the semester with a frank conversation about creativity, openness, and fear.

We created “Stories of Me” and posted them in a public gallery. 

We built blogs where we posted our thinking about the course content.

We read self-selected novels.

We conferenced about our reading.

We collaboratively annotated texts using Hypothes.is. 

We curated our best work into an Evidence of Learning Document. 

We made choices in our learning everyday.

You know, decisions about criteria, about our learning goals, and where we needed to go next.

But the choices remained narrow, superficial, conventional.

So, we found the walls. We can see them now.

20171228_14484220171228_14491420171228_14495920171228_145035We just didn’t tear them down.

My next step is to find ways to empower enable students to make the choices to have the courage to tear down their walls.

Three guesses what my word for 2018 is. The first two don’t count.

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Choices into Hope

I don’t regularly follow American news. Nor do I follow their politics of the day. Heck, I didn’t pay attention to the most recent U.S. election until after Trump won. It’s not my country. I can neither effect events that happen there nor can I be affected by the decisions made there (well maybe, but let’s not get into that now). I often don’t even join the Twitter conversations between American educators (or British or Australian) in my PLN. Too much of the context is different.

But, I have been moved by Michelle Obama.

The first time was this past summer when looking for mentor texts for the upcoming school year, I stumbled upon a Poynter post called “8 writing lessons from Michelle Obama’s DNC speech”.

I was hooked. The writing, the delivery, and the passion of the speech reeled me in.

So, when I saw mention of Michelle’s last speech as a First Lady fly by me in my Twitter feed on Friday, I didn’t hesitate to curate it for later viewing. This morning while making chicken soup, I listened and I watched Michelle Obama’s final message at the 2017 National School Counselor of the Year celebration.

 

A strong contender for my 2017 word of the year was hope for all of the reasons that Michelle states:

Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. Empower yourselves with a good education, then get out there and use that education to build a country worthy of your boundless promise.

Hers is a message for all students, in every corner of the planet. One that young people need to hear repeatedly.

That’s the kind of hope that every single one of us — politicians, parents, preachers — all of us need to be providing for our young people.

But it is also a message that clearly spells out students’ responsibility.

But I also want to be very clear: This right isn’t just handed to you. No, this right has to be earned every single day. You cannot take your freedoms for granted. Just like generations who have come before you, you have to do your part to preserve and protect those freedoms. And that starts right now, when you’re young.

Sometimes students (and adults) think that choice means freedom from facing obstacles in their lives and freedom to do only that which pleases them. Michelle Obama’s speech to young people shows us that’s not the case. Rather, we need to learn to make the choices that make hope possible.

Full Remarks Transcript

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The walls come tumbling down

my-house

When my husband and I bought our first house, the first thing we did was tear down walls. We both love the spaciousness of an open floor plan, the generosity that the open room offers. When we shopped for our next house, we choose one with only one wall that sits at the midpoint of the room, dividing the main floor in half, but open at the ends. This house also has windows that give us a 360º view of the yard.

Space and light merging to create an openness that reflects who I am and my general attitude to life. My classroom door is open. I work in the open (online and public). My work is openly shared. There is no struggle here for me. I have no walls to overcome.

Many do, though, don’t they?

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We know that people put up walls for all kinds of reasons: lack of confidence, a sense of hopelessness, distress, fear. We know walls can protect us and provide us privacy, and we know they can also divide and isolate us. When we put up walls, we interfere with our ability to engage in the world, in our communities, and in our lives. You see this in your classrooms, as do I.

This year I want my students to see their walls. This year I want my students to discover why they constructed the walls. This year I want my students to tear down their walls. Because this year, I want my students to be open to make choices in their learning.

The choice

by Seth Godin

Attitude is the most important choice any of us will make. We made it yesterday and we get another chance to make it today. And then again tomorrow.

The choice to participate.

To be optimistic.

To intentionally bring out the best in other people.

We make the choice to inquire, to be curious, to challenge the status quo.

To give people the benefit of the doubt.

To find hope instead of fear in the face of uncertainty.

Of course these are attitudes. What else could they be?

And of course, they are a choice. No one does these things to us. We choose them and do the work (and find the benefits) that come with them.

Seth says it so well, doesn’t he? These are the choices we want our students to consider. My job is to find a way to get them there. To the other side of the wall.

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#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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#oneword15…6 months later

 

WHY INNOVATE?

On January 1, 2015 I declared that my word of the year would be innovate:

My word is INNOVATE. But this choice has little to do with technology directly and more to do with thinking about using the curriculum in innovative ways. I want to challenge my understanding, my perspectives, my biases about the curriculum. What does it mean to construct meaning? Communicate meaning? What about to generate, gather, and organize ideas and information? What changes, if anything, when literacies include digital literacies? How might English as a discipline need to be reconsidered?

What I avoided in that initial post was answering the question why? Why innovate? And why did I choose a word that is so closely tied with technology, but not focus on the integration of technology in teaching and learning that is at the centre of so much of the educational conversation today?

I’m an English teacher, and I am not a particularly geeky English teacher either. Like most English teachers, I believe English class offers students the opportunity to engage with and consider deeply the big ideas of our lives through the stories we read. Narratives provide a lens to the world that we may otherwise never access, and that lens helps us to understand each other, which is more important today than ever before. So the study of the narrative structure and stories, which in fact, is all the Ontario English Curriculum asks us to do (“read a variety of texts”) is not the problem.

WHY ENGLISH?

Academic students* are bright, curious, and creative, but that doesn’t mean that they want to read Nineteen Eighty-Four and write an essay. And yet, is there any doubt that the majority of instructors and professors in post-secondary do still require traditional demonstrations of learning from their students?  While I believe that students need to be able to write at length to explore their thinking, I also believe that students must be fluent in digital literacies, so that they can be critical consumers and purposeful creators of digital texts.

This, then, is the current and pressing challenge for the discipline. We can neither abandon the old wholesale nor adopt the new only. We need to innovate: To find novel solutions to this important problem.

mrsdkrebs via Flickr

I let go of many of my certainties: whole class novel studies, literature circles, and lessons from the past. Instead, we choose our own novels to read, we considered various critical perspectives in small groups using the Question Formulation Technique, and we looked for new ways to have conversations about a book that no one else in the class was reading (via Goodreads, for example).  In the academic class, we collaborated to create a Mindomo map on literary theory, designed personal poetry anthologies, and blogged to think out loud about our learning.  In the college class, we considered how our worldview impacts the decisions we make, which led us into an inquiry on ethics. Students’ contributed their thinking (aka research reports) to our on-going wiki textbook: Global Perspectives: A Textbook for Teens by Teens. 

AND?

I pushed myself to push the students to own their learning, to be the designers of it. There was choice in text, in topic, in theme, in approach.  We worked on learning to be learners.

If I were to look back on the type of work I’ve done, I would say that I improved in different ways. If I hadn’t taken a risk to do certain things, I probably would have been way below than I am now.—grade 11

In the beginning of the semester, we covered a lot of things, one of them being: you cannot learn and grow if you don’t fail. During the course of this semester I have had many setbacks and failures, but that’s okay, now that I have recognized these problems I can keep working on them again next year, both in English and in my other courses.—grade 11

We still wrote essays.

Writing my second essay has proved to be better than my first one, which is probably due to my actual liking of the topic. I went into this essay having more motivation to do a good job. I actually wanted to do it. In my mind, it wasn’t me being forced to write about something I didn’t want to. It was me putting my story onto a piece of paper, which to me, is a lot more appealing than the former.—grade 11

So?

Innovation in learning is a process of self-discovery. It’s looking for unique ways to solve the problem of making the learning our own. It’s a journey to yes.

Yes, you can read what you want to. Yes, you can make that video. Yes, you can research that topic. Yes, you can write that rant. Yes, you can remix. Yes, you can Skype that person for an interview. Yes, you can research via Twitter. Yes, your poetry anthology can be digital. Yes, your poetry anthology can be non-digital. Yes…


 

*Although here I am writing about students who will pursue academic studies beyond high school, I do not think that this conversation is just about them. Students who choose to enter into apprenticeships or directly into the workplace also need many of the same literacy skills. 

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#OneWord

What one word captures your work, your learning, your focus for 2014? After all is said and done, what one word synthesizes your thinking of the past 12 months? What one word caught your attention and distracted you every time you heard it?

 

One Word Reflection

for 2014

 

2014 is the year I worked on my Principal Qualifying Program part 1 and 2 courses. Predictably, we were asked to list our top beliefs that would guide us in our leadership. EQUITY emerged as #2 on my list (#1 being honesty and #3 being collaboration). Equity for students, for families, for all staff is desirable, of course, but it’s not always easy to attain. Everyone has ideas about what should happen in a school–from access to technology to class room resources to experiential learning opportunities–and many can make very convincing arguments as to why their ideas should be put into action. And many still confuse an idea of fairness with that of equity. But with a strong conviction around student learning, I think that true equity can be attained and maintained.

New field trip idea?

You want to teach a ______course?

You think we should spend money on_________?

No problem.

Tell me how it’s best for students?

And now….

One Word Focus for 2015

So a lot of great words have been chosen for 2015….

@Glennr1809 has a few:  balance, serving, network, vision, network. Check it out here.

@avivaloca chose being uncomfortable. Check it out here.

@Dunlop_Sue chose change. Check it out here.

@fryed chose courage. Check it out here.

My word is INNOVATE. But this choice has little to do with technology directly and more to do with thinking about using the curriculum in innovative ways. I want to challenge my understanding, my perspectives, my biases about the curriculum. What does it mean to construct meaning? Communicate meaning? What about to generate, gather, and organize ideas and information? What changes, if anything, when literacies include digital literacies? How might English as a discipline need to be reconsidered?

I am thinking that I will post about this work, but better I will tweet out what INNOVATION looks like more regularly with #oneword15

UPDATE!!!   There is some desire to create a Word Cloud of Ontario Educators’ one words. Tweet out your one word for 2015 to #onewordONT.

Please Join Us!

 

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