Back to Blogging

I haven’t posted in a few months. We welcomed our new daughter back in October, then life took over.

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Once I did have time (and energy!) to focus on my   learning  I turned my attention to participating in MOOC‘s   exploring what that form of collaborative learning had to offer. Overall, those experiences have been great but I find myself missing the process of Blogging.

I recently read a post from a colleague wondering how to get more people to comment on his Blog. I definitely find that comments are invaluable but for me what I really miss is the process of writing my posts. In our daily work we have so many interactions and different scenarios that I sometimes find myself  struggling to unpack the day’s events. What I find useful in Blogging is that it forces me to more carefully reflect about a specific topic, issue or event.

So with that in mind I am excited to renew my commitment to regular posts. Taking recommendations from others, I am setting a specific deadline for future posts.

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A Bump in the Road

I haven’t posted in a while, in fact it has been several months since my last post.  Whew, there I said it.  I got it out. The simple fact is that I have not posted as much as I had hoped to when I created this site.

For the first few months, I posted entries when I felt inspired to write.  I did not carve out a specific time or regiment each week to dedicate to writing (I should have listened to those that advised me this would become necessary!).

As I unwind from the school year and I have had time to  reflect on the past year, I have had to my ask myself one tough question: Why was I not successful at maintaining my Blog? In trying to answer this, I have come up with a number of possible reasons and I don’t think I can say there is any one reason.  So instead, I have been focussing on ways to be more successful moving forward.

As I have gone through this process of reflection, I have come to the realization that my lack of entries has nothing to do with a lack of ideas.  In fact, without the outlet of posting regularly, my head has been swimming full of a different thoughts. I realized I have used this space to help me flesh out my own ideas.  Over the past year there have been some drafts that have yet to be published, others that were started and completely deleted and some that have been published and commented on by others.

When I began this process I thought I had failed at my original intent.  What I recognize now is that I’ve only hit a bump in the road and that is a part of my process. In realizing (remembering) one of my original motivators for writing here, I have a renewed sense of purpose in posting regularly. What that means can only be revealed in the timing of future posts…

Be yourself…better

Very recently I have been fortunate enough to attend two conferences; one that focused on Targeting Technology, the other at the BCSSA Winter Conference.  It’s such an opportunity to participate in events like these as they are opportunities to move my thinking forward. I leave with my head swimming in ideas and it takes some time to filter through these thoughts (probably the reason I never seem to get a good night’s sleep – picture the hamster spinning in the wheel).

While there were many, many worthy ideas put forward, there was a common message  by Chris Kennedy, echoed by Bruce Beairsto; Both spoke of the merits of systems like Finland and schools like High Tech High.  Both acknowledged the success of others and both encouraged us to have our own goal:

This resonated strongly with me because it is at the core of what I believe education is about.  As we collaborate, whether as a Student, a Teacher, a Parent or an Administrator, we are coming from a point in our own continuum of growth in that role.  None of us participates in these conversations consciously trying to be someone else. In the end, we don’t want to be considered as good as someone else, we want to be ourselves…only better.

This is particularly relevant in light of the current BC Education Plan.  As Beairsto points out, this is not a plan yet.  This is a blueprint to create a plan.  The key to the evolution of this plan lies in collaboration.  Making education better in BC lies in our collaboration of what is important to us now and what we believe will be important in a future we cannot predict.

As education evolves across the Province, we aim to improve upon the areas identified as needing growth, while keeping all of the things that we do so well.  Narrowing this focus and applying this thinking to my own experiences, I believe this is something that helps me to grow and expand my thinking.  When collaborating with others, discussing, planning, debating, sharing, I move forward. When participating in these experiences with others, I am being myself, sharing what I have to offer. I want to walk away saying “hey, that conversation really clarified my thinking, I have a better understanding of the issue now.” Walking away myself…only better.

What does Bikram have to do with it?

I have just returned from my first Bikram yoga class, where I was inspired to write this post.  As I usually connect my posts to learning and education, I can understand you may be wondering how I am going to connect detoxifying my body in 140 degree heat while holding, what are often painful poses, with our school systems.

To begin, Angela has been encouraging me to try a Bikram yoga class for many weeks after discovering the benefits of this exercise regime.  I rebutted these requests, insisting that playing hockey once a week and the universal gym in our garage are all I needed to keep fit.  Her persistence paid off today; I relented to try.

As I lay there in the room on my mat and towel before the class, my mind wandered to school and a conversation I will be having with a student tomorrow.  I know I will be saying one of the things I find myself repeatedly saying to students in a variety of circumstances; that they must try things in order to make an informed decision. As the class began and I lay there really beginning to sweat, I realized that I had been guilty of not living up to my own advice.  I had been refusing to go and I never really knew what I was turning down.  This was the moment I started to think about this post (in between torturous poses of course!).

Despite the heat and the pain of contorting my body in ways that it hadn’t moved previously, I lay in the room at the completion of the class and realized something else. As I looked over at my wife I realized that my motivation was far greater than the ethical drive to “walk my talk”.  I went because it was important to her that I give this a try.  I went because it was about my relationship with her.

In so many ways, schools are all about relationships.  I consistently discuss with students the conflicts they have with other students and teachers.  We talk about ways to approach these conflicts and how different approaches can impact the relationship with the other party.  In my experience, I have found that students are more likely to be engaged in the topics where they feel they have a strong relationship with the teacher. Further, students who have the support of their peers are often more engaged in being in our building than those who feel isolated.

Lying there, after losing about 5 lbs of body weight from water loss, twisting my body until the pain would not let me go any further, I thought about the connections that my personal experience today had with the importance of the decisions I ask students to make everyday.  Today for me this experience was all about reminding me of two things I hold close:  1) Life is about choices – always make your choice with as much information as possible.  2) Relationships are key in our lives – so do whatever it takes to make them as strong as possible.

And that’s what Bikram has to do with it.

What Will You Leave Behind?

On a business trip to New York, my wife Angela took photo’s of the tribute to Steve Jobs that was emerging at the Apple store. She was awestruck at the building memorial before her and of the sadness felt by those whom had gathered.

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In the days following his passing there were many other Apple locations that became memorials for those that felt loss.  Photos like the one I have included here, coupled with the recent release of the eulogy his sister delivered have left me reflecting on the impact Steve Jobs had on so many people.

Steve Jobs was an organizational leader; he lead a community of people and developed communities through his work.  I must note that I am not trying to compare my personal life to that of Steve Jobs, nor am I holding my professional life up to his. Rather, what this has made me think about is the impact that he had on so many people.  It left me wondering, as an organizational leader what did he do that built a level of trust in his community of followers that endeared them so deeply to him?  This has led me to ask myself; as an educational leader, of my actions, which will have the greatest impact on the community I work with?

This question has led me down many paths to an answer.  I do not believe that there is any one answer for me.  In considering this, I do know that I will continue to consciously act with integrity. I will continue to focus on relationships and I will continue to reflect on each days’ events looking for ways to improve.  While I don’t believe these actions will lead to impromptu memorials at various schools in which I have worked, I do know there is a personal impact I hope to leave on each of those with whom I have worked. Perhaps one of the best tributes we can offer to someone of the likes of Steve Jobs, and in turn one of the gifts he has left for us all are moments of inward reflection that cause us to look inwardly upon who we have been, who we want to be, how we want to impact our environments, and how do we measure up at this moment in time?

Now I ask you, what impact will your actions leave behind?

Individual Success

I am a firm believer in individual success.  Each person is on an individual continuum and we each find success relevant to where we are at along that continuum.

Thanks to my daughter’s swim meet, I had the pleasure of witnessing this belief in action this morning.  I watched as my belief was reinforced time and again as competitors found their own successes.  This swim meet could have been a model for the vision that many have of our education system. Each event was divided into heats that were created based on the swimmers’ previous times.  Regardless of age or gender, they competed relative to their own development.  Not one child seemed to notice the age of the other competitors in their heats, they simply wanted to go out and put in their best performance.

A perfect example of finding personal success came from a young boy who might have been 6 years old.  He was swimming in the 25m freestyle.  One length.  The competitors in this heat were all relative beginners.  When the starter said “Go” there were variations of diving and jumping into the water and then the boy in lane 2 turned his back on the lane and lowered himself into the water.  Pushing off the wall he was already a good 5 metres behind the competition.  He started with his version of a front crawl.  By the time he was half-way through his race the others were finishing. Two-thirds of the way through, his crawl had turned into a solid “dog paddle” and he kept going.  Nearing the finish and the shallow end of the pool, he bobbed up and down.  He would drop slightly beneath the water, touch the bottom of the pool, push off and his head would reappear above the surface.  He surged like this for the last 5 metres or so.  Each time that he would drop under the water, I honestly wondered whether he would make it back to the surface or if one of us would need to jump in and rescue him.  As I had these concerns, he kept going, you might have thought that the cheering and encouragement of the crowd was inching him closer to the finish.  When he finally touched the wall, it didn’t matter how far behind the others that he was, nor did it matter that he appeared so exhausted that he really did swim those last few metres for his life.  The smile on his little face told the story.  He had just achieved his Gold medal, his “A”, his “exceeds expectations” on his personal rubric.

For every heat in this swim meet there was a story that matched this one.  Some told stories of personal setbacks, those failures that are necessary to help us improve and learn, while others showed those moments of personal successes.  Regardless, every moment was a moment where those children defined themselves on their personal continuums.  Being there to witness this has made me reflect on where I am at with my growth, I hope that in sharing this with you, that you can do the same.