We Have No Excuse

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cooper.gary

I have been very lucky. I have had so many people help me in my career, so many mentors who have helped me shape my philosophy, sharpen my pedagogy and given me the confidence in myself to tackle projects and take on different positions. It was a conversation with one my mentors last week that helped me past a bit of writer’s block. I have had some trouble with deciding about what to share and how to share it. As we talked about a big project we are starting to work on, he asked me why I thought it would be successful in my school at this time. At the end of our conversation, he advised me to share on my blog what I shared with him. Sounded like a good idea…

We are looking at doing some work along the lines of innovation, something similar to Josh Stumpenhorst’s Passion Projects and Matt Bebbington‘s Innovation Day. To take something like this on, and expect it to be successful, you would of course need to be confident in the timing, the people involved and leadership supporting it. We are ready for this project for three reasons:

Our Teachers

I could spend multiple blog posts bragging about my colleagues. We have a staff that is driven by its desire to help students learn, not for a test or a statistic but for the joy and importance of learning. They model this in their openness to try something new if they believe it will help their students. Our staff prides itself on pushing their pedagogy and collaboratively working to improve their teaching together. What goes on in our building is student-driven, messy and impactful learning. For this reason we know we will have their support, their belief and their passion when we roll out each phase of our project.

Our Leadership

Our principal is an inspiring, committed and driven leader who has no desire to continue worn out practices or resting on her laurels. Her school has won awards and drawn a great deal of positive attention in the past few years, yet she continues to preach progressive thinking, innovative teaching practices and constant improvement and growth. While technology isn’t always her best friend, she is always trying to learn and grow and understands that technology will never replace good teaching, but will work to assist it. For this reason, we know we can move forward with her support, and whether it is a successful endeavour or not, she will insist it was worth the experience.

Our Students

The students in our building are creative, engaged and enthusiastic about learning. Of course a lot of their exuberance is a product of our amazing staff, but they deserve a great deal of credit as well. We are constantly amazed by what they are capable of and the directions that they can take an experience when given the flexibility and freedom to lead their learning. We want to provide them with more opportunities to direct their learning,  as they have shown that this type of challenge is a beneficial one. I believe our students are ready to really flex their creative muscle and that it is the right group of kids at the right time.

So when I was done my long winded rant about how ready our school is for a project like this, I realized that we really have no excuse. With a staff as dedicated and driven as ours, with a leader always pushing for growth, and with a group of students so excited about learning, we have no excuse but to do everything we can to help make their educational experience the best we can. If self direction, risk taking, and critical thinking are our goals for our students, we have no excuse but to try to take our teaching to new places, whether we succeed or not. We owe it to everyone already doing all they can, to do everything we can ourselves. We have no excuse, so now its time to get to work.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by orkomedix

We are back! Schools are open, kids are registered and in classes and teachers are eagerly setting up their classrooms for an exciting year. I am excited as well for yet another new job (Will I ever have the same job for more than one year!?) and one of the big things that got me excited was our first three days back for professional development. The first day was spent with an opening presentation by our division and then two and a half days spent with our own staff on a retreat. I was pleased to hear how often the topic of sharing what is going on in our classrooms came up.

Most of you will know the name George Couros, he is Division Principal in my division and he gave the Keynote address at our opening day. His presentation was amazing, and one of the big take-aways for me was the idea of giving our students an audience. He talked about how students who practice weeks and weeks for the Christmas concert always seem to fool around, not take it seriously, and make you think they may just bomb, but when the day comes, they are amazing. The difference of course being that you provided them an audience, and they performed.

At our school’s retreat, we discussed at great length the importance of home school communication and meeting our parent community needs by providing multiple avenues for connecting. Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, text messages, email and of course phone calls and school visits all came up. It is great how creative and flexible our teachers are with finding and utilizing all these methods of communication. Keeping our parents aware of what is going on in our building is an important part of what we do.

But George’s speech and our time at retreat had me thinking about who our audience really is. With our students, we know that any blog post, project or tweet is going to be aimed at their friends or their parents. With our staff, their number one concern will always be the parents of their students. If this is the concept of audience our students or staff have, then it will definitely shape, and more than likely limit the message they share.

The advantage technology provides us when it comes to sharing is that there is no limit to how far our message can reach. It is for this reason that we need to start considering this when we write a blog post, send a tweet or post a video clip. When our students blog or tweet, we should emphasize that they are speaking to anyone and everyone. We of course need to facilitate an active audience, both by sharing their work ourselves and using support like the hashtag Comments For Kids (#comments4kids). It is when someone they DON’T know comments on their blog or responds to their tweet, that the power of their audience can really impact them.

With our colleagues, the same is true. We do want our teachers sharing with the parent community as often and effectively as possible, but they too have so much more to offer than that. Sharing what is going on in our classrooms with our local community can garner support, can inspire involvement/volunteerism, and can model transparency in education. Our community pays the taxes that fund our schools, and involving them through sharing only seems right. Sharing with educators in our division and province/state can facilitate collaborative endeavours, can improve teacher practice (ours and others), and can promote sharing from others. Sharing with educators all over the world can help us all learn and grow as we collaborate across time zones and borders to grow education everywhere.

Last summer, as the school year came to a close, I read a tweet and blog post by Matt Bebbington about Innovation Day, a day where the students are given the entire day to work on whatever they choose after making a proposal and having it approved. Matt had his Innovation Day at his school March 8th, 2012 and took the time to share the process of planning, putting on and reflecting on the entire endeavour. Matt is a PE teacher in England, and while he had a big impact on the students of Wilmslow High, he had an even bigger impact as his sharing has led to Innovation Days all over the globe. We plan to run our own Innovation Week this coming December.

By blogging and tweeting with a global audience in mind, Matt had a huge impact on a number of teachers and schools. This year, as you and your students use technology to share what is going on in your classroom, keep in mind who your audience is. There are hundreds of stories of students and teachers creating huge movements all over the world, but that isn’t the only reason we should share in this manner. Knowing who your audience is shapes the message, and inspires the author of the message to produce the best work they can. If you and your students share every message like its show time at the Christmas Concert, your audience will get what they deserve, and your audience will have had an impact on the learning of your students and you.