Tag Archives: #oneword

Dignity

I’ve done lots of work with students on the topic of dignity over the years. In 2013, my classes participated in Global Dignity Day for the first time. We learned about dignity and created products like collaborative poems on the topic.

In 2014, I built on our prior learning to personalize the idea of dignity. A post I penned four years ago called “Reclaiming Storytelling” describes the work done to address both the overarching question “Do teens really have to care about dignity and tolerance? and the idea that digital storytelling may be a way for Anishnabek students to reconnect and learn about their cultural worldview and perspective.

With the publication of the Truth and Reconciliation Report in 2015, I embarked on a collaborative inquiry project with Jaclyn Calder called #craftreconciliation. Woven throughout this exploration of the report are the ideas of dignity: identity, tolerance, equity, racism, gratitude, self-worth, respect, and diversity. To answer the question, “What does reconciliation look like?”, students needed to unpack not only what it meant for others to reconcile, but what it meant for them to receive reconciliation. In other words, how could they think about reconciliation as an act of reciprocity? Is this an appropriate question? What other approaches might be meaningful?

These broad themes also shaped the work in my grade 9 class.

Reinventing Room 121 blog post from February 2015

So why “dignity” this year?

I have had a beleaguered year and in an effort to right the ship, my work with students shifted from an explicit discussion of dignity to that of gratitude. Upon finishing Alan Gratz’s Refugee, I launched my classes into a #12DaysofGratitude event. Each day students considered a pre-set prompt on an aspect of gratitude. I opened each conversation with references to the novel and then wrote my own gratitude tweet in front of them. The last prompt asked students to consider, “What do you wish for in 2019?”

So as I headed into the winter break, I had a number of obvious choices for #onewordont: gratitude, notice, note, attentive, observe. And yet, I hesitated. As each day passed, I remained noncommittal.

I ran different ideas past my husband. Then my daughter.

I talked to my 4 month-old puppies.

Eliot (named after George Eliot) and Socrates (named after..Socrates)

What about perseverance? Or persist? Or health? Or conversation?

I really wasn’t getting anywhere. In frustration, I put the whole endeavour aside and dove into the festive season. A diffuse learning approach is what I needed. Do a bit of baking and cooking. Play some cards. Tell some stories. Catch up on favourite podcasts.

On the morning of December 29, I listened to Seth.

And discovered, or rediscovered dignity, that it encompasses acceptance, gratitude, equity, respect, trust, forgiveness, and the idea of noticing or to see.

In Refugee, my students and I were repeatedly confronted with the power of being seen or not seen. In the end, being seen saved the day. The realization and recognition of our shared humanity make the world a better place.

Ultimately, I am compelled by Seth’s notion that

when we see each other, when we grant each other dignity, instead of stripping it away, we become more human.

This is what we need today, the opportunity to see and be seen so that we create a real opportunity for reciprocity in our personal and our public lives.

The alternative is soul-crushing.

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Why take on the #oneword challenge?

There are many reasons why one would take on this challenge, but for most, it comes down to focus and intentionality. Having one word through which to “see” your practice, to guide your work, and to reflect on your professional learning gives you a chance to be really intentional about your professional growth. Having one word to concentrate on allows you the time to delve into the nuances of the word, to look at it from various angles, to hold it close and then to view it from a distance. Having one word gives you the chance to be shaped by it.

Scroll through our Twitter hashtag #onewordOnt to read the vibrant and supportive conversation in this community.

Read a few of the #onewordOnt 2018 posts found on the community G+ site:

Finally, to ensure that I don’t miss your word, please check this document before January 18th.  If your word is missing, let me know via Twitter or in the comments below.

I am so eager to see our 2019 list!

Context:The #OneWordONT project began in 2015 with #OSSEMOOC (Ontario School and System Leaders Edtech MOOC – OSAPAC’s community of leaders learning how technology can change practice in education). By 2017, the Ontario Ministry of Education cut funding for OSSEMOOC, but I decided to continue the project since I believe that it helps build community and it offers a personal, non-threatening entry point to Twitter specifically and to a PLN generally

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2018: One Word.

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Last Thursday (December 28, 2017), I was invited to join #ONedMentors to chat about #OneWordOnt. I had given my word lots of thought…

But at the time of the invitation, I had not definitively chosen my word. I was leaning towards “empower” because the students’ feedback shone a light on their fears and showed me where I need to focus my efforts. I need to work at building their confidence and empowering them.

So far so good, right?

tattooerr-cart before the horse

What I hadn’t yet done though was complete the process of vetting the word. I think I know what the word means, but I am keen to discover how others ‘see’ the word. Like Jen Aston, I want to consider to what contexts my word connects. Like Derek Rhodenizer and his guests (on his weekly voicED podcast, “A Word in Progress with Derek”), I want to ‘poke and prod’ the word to see what it will give up. Like Stephen Hurley, etymologist extraordinaire, I want to dig a little deeper into the word because my knowledge of the word may only reflect current usage and not its historical meanings or connotations.

While “empower” means

image

it also means to “boost confidence” which is the way I was thinking about the word until I did Google Image search on the words “empower education quotes”. To my surprise, the page returned did not support many ideas about enabling. Rather, it reflected back to me a word that emphasizes power and societal/class struggle. There are contexts where this understanding of “empower” is necessary and right, but this is not what I am after.

I kept digging.

I find John Wenger’s article on empowerment revealing. His audience is the workplace leader or manager, but I don’t think that matters because as a therapist he comes at the challenge of motivating and engaging others with much the same perspective as do educators. Here he unpacks his thinking about the word and why you can’t empower anyone.

 I bring my understanding of the word “empower” from my days as a therapist when I was working with clients whose lives were characterised by a deeply felt lack of power, or potency, in their lives. They were not the star of their own life stories, in other words. They were subject to decisions made by child protection authorities or social service authorities or parental authority or some other kind of powerful person or statutory body which held sway over important aspects of their day-to-day lives. While it is true that so many people in their lives were the agents of disempowerment, it seemed to me that to presume that I could empower them was just the opposite side of the same coin … Empower, to me, presumes that the one who empowers has the power to begin with and grants it to the other; it reinforces a paradigm of power and control to which the other person is subject. If I am the granter of power, there is still a power imbalance. This relationship presumes that I hold some kind of hierarchical authority over you and that, only by my good grace, are you exercising any authority. While I am in the position of granting power, I remain in the position of taking it back.

“Empower” is not the right word for me. I want to provide the means by which my students can develop the courage to take on their fears. I want to equip my students with the tools that can support their courageous decisions and actions. I want to encourage them to set goals, prioritize their studies and focus on personal progress. I do not want to leave any doubt as to where the power lies. 

Wenger argues for the use of “enable” over “empower”, teasing out the subtle differences between the words to make his case. And although this word can have some negative connotations, I am compelled by Wenger’s thinking. To “enable” is to emphasize “capability development and a worldview that, when fully able, people can put their abilities to good use.” And to enable,

encompasses what someone does to ensure that others have the requisite capabilities and skills to carry out a job well, to take up their own power (potency) and when necessary, showing them the door to gaining new capabilities and skills. It seems to be more akin to equipping and supplying than conferring power. Once equipped, the enabler can then get out of the way and let the person access their own power to get on with it.

Enable—>faciliate, make possible, provide the means. This is a good place to start.

Last year, I believed that providing opportunities for students to make choices in their learning would help them become persistent and productive learners. I was wrong. As one student clearly stated in her feedback to me,

Choices revolve around one of the worst phrases anyone could ever be told, ‘It’s up to you.’

This year I hope to enable my students to develop the courage to take on the academic challenges that they need to face to reach their goals and to make decisions about their learning.

Stay tuned for what courage in English class might look like, and thanks for stopping by!

#OneWordOnt 2015— Innovate

#OneWordOnt 2016— Discipline

#OneWordOnt 2017— Choices

 

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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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#onewordOnt Introduction

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Why take on the #oneword challenge?

There are many reasons why one would take on this challenge, but for most, it comes down to focus and intentionality. Having one word through which to “see” your practice, to guide your work, and to reflect on your professional learning gives you a chance to be really intentional about your professional growth. Having one word to concentrate on allows you the time to delve into the nuances of the word, to look at it from various angles, to hold it close and then to view it from a distance. Having one word gives you the chance to be shaped by it.

Scroll through our Twitter hashtag #onewordOnt to read the vibrant and supportive conversation in this community.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-6-25-04-am

Read a few of the #onewordOnt 2016 posts.

Sue Dunlop

Aviva Dunsiger

Donna Fry

Diana Maliszewski

Heather Theijsmeijer

Tina Zita

Julie Balen

Then consider what your word of the year will be.

Join us by tweeting out your word to #onewordOnt.

You can also write a post where you can make your thinking about the word visible. Remember to share your post to #onewordOnt, too!!

There is no deadline. But, all of the words shared to #onewordOnt by January 20th will be collected into a word cloud!!

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-6-10-58-am

Finally, to ensure that I don’t miss your word, please check this document before January 20th.  If your word is missing, let me know via Twitter or in the comments below.

I am so eager to see our 2018 list!

Context:The #OneWordONT project began in 2015 with #OSSEMOOC (Ontario School and System Leaders Edtech MOOC – OSAPAC’s community of leaders learning how technology can change practice in education). By 2017, the Ontario Ministry of Education cut funding for OSSEMOOC, but I decided to continue the project since I believe that it helps build community and it offers a personal, non-threatening entry point to Twitter specifically and to a PLN generally. 

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#onewordONT 6 months later…

How is your #oneword guiding your work and learning this year?

DISCIPLINE

Six months ago I had defined my #oneword as the ability,

 to say “no” to those opportunities that fall outside of one’s focus. (Collins, 2001)

This definition isn’t wrong, but it is simplistic.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great describes both disciplines of thought and of action.

To have discipline of thought is to

  • Confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith), and
  • Define what the one big thing is that is important to me (who am I; what I am about or my Hedgehog Concept) and transcend the curse of competence.

To have disciplined action is to

  • Exercise self-discipline; to know that I have more than a job to do; I have a responsibility;
  • Use technology  as an accelerator for great performance; to be intentional in its use.

I have spent the past six months thinking deeply about these constraints. What am I best at? What drives the educational engine of my classroom? What is the driving force of my educational passion? I talked to many people inside and outside of education. I considered my ‘from the gut’ reactions to decisions made by parents, students, colleagues, and administrators. I examined what I did say ‘yes’ to and why. Did my thinking and my action align?

I have taught at a First Nations school for the past 16 years. I have always worked at helping my students develop their communication skills not just because that was my job, but because I believed that if my students’ were confident in speaking, reading, writing, and creating then there was a better chance that they would find a way to tell their story. I have done a myriad of things over the years inside and outside the classroom:

  • Stratford trips
  • Student Council advisor
  • Art events
  • Leadership courses
  • School newspaper

And likely some of these activities supported some of the students in their lives after high school. Yet, when I returned to teaching after a three year stint as a central coach, I was determined to ensure that the students had hard skills in using the technologies available to them. This commitment on my part precluded the organization or participation in those other more customary high school activities (most of which are extra-curricular) because I had to do the learning too!

The other thing that happened post-2013 was (and is) the growing movement of First Nations people who have entered the pubic arena to speak to the inequities that their people have faced both historically and continue to in the present day. Sparked by the Idle No More Movement, my students became more interested in all aspects of their culture and history. There has been explicit interest in that learning, and from my perspective, there are more students willing to share their understanding of the world (ways of knowing) with me.

This is crucial contextual information because while all the above is true, I was having this “what is my focus” debate with myself. Maybe it is obvious to others, but besides learning how to use technology as an accelerator for learning and teaching, I was also facilitating collaborative inquiries (CI), writing on e-learning teams, and working with  OSAPAC. This diverse array of educational experiences did not feel like ‘discipline’ to me.

I had this conversation at the same time as I was reading Good to Great:

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The #craftreconciliation project has clarified the disciplined thought and action that has emerged in my classroom.

  • My students and I had learned how to integrate technology into the teaching – learning process and the technology was now an accelerator in the learning process.
  • #Craftreconciliation offered the opportunity for increasingly rich conversation about technology, inquiry, and pedagogy. BUT, it also created a platform from which I could support First Nations students in discovering their voices and inserting them into the conversation.

This then is ‘discipline’ six months later:

What am I best at?

I have the skill, the perseverance, the perspective to support my students.

What drives the educational engine of my classroom?

A blend of high expectations, critical and independent thinking, and flexible support for the process of learning.

What is the driving force of my educational passion?

An unwavering belief that First Nations students are the next generation of leaders in this country.

So, what’s your reflection on your #oneword for 2016?

Please share your thinking with me and others by leaving a comment below.

 

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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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