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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Thoughts To The Future

I wish I could connect my laptop to my brain as I lie in bed. As soon as I go to write down my thoughts off they go and seldom return resulting in a less vibrant post then envisioned.

We have been having a lot of conversations within AMDSB & beyond about learning, student voice and what schools should look like. This has been facilitated by Will Richardson. He does disturb but if people are open about their thinking wonderful things can happen. Will Richardson is one of many people I consider part of my PLC on twitter and social media.

Getting back to learning, student voice and what school should look like, we need to define learning, teaching and education. What is the difference? Is our education system teaching the students or are they learning. 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning

Are schools and education stagnant? How can that be with everything changing all around? Information is all around us and at our fingertips. Well, education is stuck in the past and any change is frowned upon because that is not the way it was done and we are uncomfortable with change. Most of us only remember what we didn’t like about certain classes but do you now embrace the change that could have changed that experience. This is why education change, reform or whatever you want to call it takes so long, usually 20-30 years, or one or two generations of students. It takes the students who were the beginning of the change to become parents or teachers to champion the change.

Student engagement in their learning continually declines throughout time in schools. Only about 30% of secondary students are engaged in their learning. Why is this? There are too many reasons to list. Ask students what they want that would make them engaged and teachers what they need to make their students engaged and many are the same. So as a system we need to start putting conditions is place to allow these changes. The ideas may come from the roots but the change conditions need to be implemented from the top to allow the roots to grow. This article is an interesting read, Making Lessons Fun Does Not Help Children Learn

Look at the discussion around math skills and knowledge these days. Unfortunate too many people have become polarized in their belief with no adaptation to blended delivery. Is rote learning for memorization for speed of recall? Is problem solving absent of formulation? How does a teachers knowledgeable of math play out against their knowledge of how to teach math? The questions go on and on. This statement came across the day “Early math skills are a strong predictor - even more so than reading skills - of later academic achievement and success in the labour market. ( Anne Stokke)". Valid or not?

What needs to be taught, what should be taught in schools? Maybe we can all agree on subject areas but what within those subjects. Curriculum documents are complicated. What is the purpose of that subject and the strands within it? One frequently sees the questions about where are cursive writing and life skills in the curriculum? How or where does cross/integrated subject teaching come into play?

I could make this post long or have gone deeper into the conversation but I will leave it here for now.

This is not a research paper or thesis,  just my thoughts as I grow. Learning doesn’t end with the answer but the grows with the next question.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

'IT' Has Begun

The writing of this post is overdue but recent events have persuaded me to write it. 

During the recent Provincial Election Campaign it was stressed that although individual Trustees may have political affiliation, the Ontario Public School Board Association (OPSBA) does not. OPSBA advocates for Public Education no matter what political party is in power or forms the Government. This advocacy may take different directions depending on the Government.  In some cases we will be or are heading in the same direction but by different pathways.

Here are the Political Parties' Educational Platforms for the recent elections. Education Platform & 2018 Provincial Election

Previous Governments have done good and bad things for Education on various fronts. The vague PC platform coming into the Election made some cautious. That cautiousness is becoming reality. Globe & Mail  newspaper article.

Those of us in the Education System can only wait and see what unfolds. Do we need to brace ourselves? Advocacy will continue at the Board and Provincial level.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trustee Reflection 18-02-13

 A common thread in education lingo these day. “In Learning it is not what question you answered today but what question did you ask.” 

The most important thing we as Trustees do, our Strategic Plan. AMDSB’s:

We will
Create Positive, Inclusive Learning Environments
Maximize Outcomes for Students
Engaging our students, staff, families, communities and our world 
Inspiring with evidence-informed teaching and learning
Innovating through the creative potential of emerging technologies
Guided by Principles of
Equity, Character & Stewardship

The strategic plan sets the direction. On the surface and on the ground what does that look like for/to us as trustees? 

Do we as trustees reflect upon the plan to see where every decision we make fits into it? “We are doing for the students” is not enough. The alignment of the BIPSAW to the Plan allows us to see the many areas that an administrative decision can impact. Do we reflect back, Review, follow up to see how those decisions are materializing? Are they having the goals/results we anticipated? Then there is the SIPSAW. The grassroots on the ground version of the plan.  And then we can’t forget the Ministry’s plans (documents) Growing Success and Achieving Excellence. Within all these plans are various priorities, themes, visions, initiatives, strategies, goals, indicators, etc, etc.

Here is an excerpt from the book Fighting for Change in Your School by Harvey Alvy. (P. 2)

Tyack and Cuban (1995) define reforms as ‘planned efforts to change schools in order to correct perceived social and educational problems’ (p.4) At the same time, they insist that change ‘is not synonymous with progress. Sometimes preserving good practices in face of challenges is a major achievement, and sometimes teachers have been wise to resist reforms that violated their professional judgement.’ (p.5) Sirotnik (1999) maintains that most reforms are ‘about whatever is politically fashionable, pendulum-like in popularity , and usually underfunded, lacking professional development, and short lived’ (p.607-608) , noting that too many reformers focus on ‘mandates and accountability schemes’ while overlooking context, commitment, and the resources necessary to implement change. Sirotnik contrasts reform with renewal, stressing that reforms have a beginning and an end (e.g. teaching leads to students’ scores) whereas ‘renewal is not about a point in time; it is about all, points in time-it is about continuous, critical inquiry into current practices and principled innovation that might improve education ‘ (p.608)”

I ask these questions. Can any of these plans exist without the others? What would alignment, integration and implementation look like if one or if two or if even three plans were removed? Which plan has the most impact on student learning? What is the relevancy of these plans? Where does accountability lie and by whom to whom?

Engage Inspire Innovate .... Always Learning. Are they more than just words? 

I have asked my questions now I need to answer them.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Leadership Cometh

Do you choose to be a leader or does leadership choose you or does it happen by default? To begin with we all might have different opinions on what is a leader or what is leadership.

Can you be a leader without leadership or have leadership without being a leader? I have stated this before that politics, no matter what level, is one of the few areas that one can rise to the top without qualifications and knowledge unlike in the business and professional worlds. (Sometimes I wonder about that too)

Here are some common saying about leaders:

'Leaders surround themselves with good people.' Does that make you a good leader or a person with good choice of who are leaders? Where does the leadership come from?

'Leaders inspire others.'  'Leaders let others grow.' These two traits go hand in hand. They give you the freedom and opportunity and desire to advance and thrive.

'Leaders have vision.' This vision is concise and clear to the others around them. The vision is the goal.

'Leaders are good communicators.' Clear, concise, understandable. They are also good listeners. They don't just hear to respond, they listen.

9 Reasons That Make Good Employees Quit

We all strive to be good leaders and show good leadership in what we do. Unfortunately some people are better than others but that shouldn't stop us from trying. Unfortunately this quote comes back to haunt me when I reflect on my leadership. "People rise to their level of incompetence." I hope I recognize that before this happens to me even when we strive to do better.

I believe this graphics summarizes things quite well. (not an endorsement)

                      Can Leadership Cometh within all of us?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Action Required?

"Our brightest blazes are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks." (Samuel Johnson)

Pro-active, re-active, knee-jerk reaction, responsive, due diligence, avoidance, forward looking, steadfast, visionary, moored, progressive, regressive, scattered, grounded, reform, transform, leader, followers, initiates, rebukes.   These are all terms you hear being thrown around by teachers, administrators, staff, trustees, Ministry and yes, parents and community when talking about Education.

Which of those action words are you? Am I? Should we be? At what time? During what circumstance? A question should not end with the answer. The answer should not be the end to the response. A response should not end the action. The action should end with a question.

Yes it is better to be pro-active as opposed to being re-active. But can you always foresee a circumstance? A knee-jerk reaction maybe required to defuse a situation? But what rationale/reasoning behind the decision will determine if the responsive action was the correct one. We should always be doing our due diligence to discover and avoid any pit holes that may arise before us. Are our thoughts and thinking forwarding looking or are we steadfast in our actions and thinking to change? Are we visionary and willing to explore and challenge what is before us or moored in the tried and true (known)? Is what we do progressive or knowingly (or unknowingly) regressive? Do our plans and thinking keep us grounded in our actions or are they scattered with no plan to follow?  Are we reforming or transforming our practises and mind set? Do we know when to be leaders and when to be followers? Is rebuking initiatives accomplishing your goals or just hindering those of others? 

Every thought, plan, action, happening, circumstance &/or reasoning does have an action and reaction (cliche). Does the term 'practical wisdom' by Barry Schwartz from the video Using Our Practical Wisdom come into play here? Does more knowledge whether practical (life) or academia give you more wisdom? Whose wisdom is proper? How does wisdom play into action? 

Is Action Required? Action will happen. The Who, When, Where, Why, What and How will depend on you. Where are your actions taking you?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Contemplating the Future

This blog post was not inspired by this tweet but was the kick in the rear to write a post. I often struggle with what to write about. Is it relevant? Do I actually know enough about the topic? Am I saying anything new? Why am I writing this?

I am always reflecting/questioning my job as a Trustee, "Am I doing a good job?" and the role of a Trustee, "What is a Trustee's role?". It has been 2344 days since I was elected a Trustee. It is over a year away but October 2018 is an election year. What will I use as my criteria in determine to run again? My Job or My Role?

I looked back through some of my old posts for reference and referral. These ones seemed most applicable. Why? (Nov 2010) The Trustee Dilemma (Sept 2012) The Good The Bad The Ugly (May 2016) Others have a glimpse &/or a spark of my thoughts and motivation.

Have I learned a lot as a Trustee? Yes. My trouble is relaying that knowledge on to others

Have I accomplished my initial goals? No. That will always be on going. Improvement? Yes

Have I been an effective Trustee? Within the system? My peers can answer that question. To my Constituents? Election time will determine that. There will always be the conflict between doing right for the Board and right for your constituents. School Trustees Job Represent Constituents & Ask Hard Questions

Yes there is unfinished business.  Am I making a difference?

Depending on what happens with Bill 68, will determine how soon or late I will need to decide if there will be a box beside my name waiting for the X in 2018.

I will leave you with this article. Trustees: Perhaps No Political Office Is More Important

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Twitter these last days seems to had more talk about the abolishment of student's marks, award & ceremonies and even grades. Is today's society/mindset ready for this? You read posts by @Nunavut_teacher, @gcouros, @joe-bower and it all seems so simple.This movement even gets airplay, @MrWejr What drives students and even parents to learn and excel? Is their motivation extrinsic or intrinsic? How do they know what they know or where they are at? Is education & learning a competition with winners and losers? Here in Ontario how could a teacher, school or board move away from grading, when they all use the same Provincial Report Card? I believe this train of thought or movement has merit but I am not a convert yet.