Tag Archives: #oneword

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

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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 overcome their academic fears and to then be in a position to make decisions about their learning.

And in the spirit of making this process (of enabling) as open as possible, I’ll begin the year with a post on academic fear and academic courage. What is academic fear? Is academic courage grit by another name? Or growth mindset?

Stay tuned, 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.

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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!!

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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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#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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