Educator Innovation Day #2

innovate
Innovate | Flickr – Photo Sharing!Noah Scalin Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I am very excited to share that we will once again be running an Educator Innovation Day on Saturday May 3rd, at Greystone Centennial Middle School. The idea behind Educator Innovation Day is two fold: 1) to explore ways to improve education by pursuing a project that you are passionate about and 2) to live the innovative, risk-taking experience so that when we have our students undergo a similar experience, we can speak from a place of understanding rather than just conjecture.

In our first Educator Innovation Day this past August, we had over 20 participants explore projects that included literacy assessments, timetable models, and course design, along with many other topics. It was a good first attempt, but the timing definitely made it tough as it was the last day before we all went back to work. We are hoping that with the early May date, people will be able to focus a little more on their project. If it is something they are hoping to implement into their schools immediately, there will still be 2 months left to give it a try, if it something they are hoping to implement in September, it will give them a good start to continue working on over the summer.

There is no cost for Educator Innovation Day – we will provide the space and, if necessary, the technology you need to assist you with your project. Lunch will be on your own and the only requirement is that we come together in the afternoon and share the work with the rest of the participants. We have the support of Parkland School Division in coordinating this event, as well as Parkland Teachers ATA Local 10, but this day is open to educators from outside Parkland School Division as well. We will meet in the gymnasium at Greystone at 9:00am and should be done by 3:30pm that afternoon.

We would love to have you join us for the event, and the registration form is embedded below, or can be accessed at the link http://bit.ly/psd70eid. Share the link with any educator you think may be interested in attending, the more the merrier. Also, we will be tweeting to the hashtag #psd70eid before, during and after the event so keep an eye out for these tweets and to get the conversations started well in advance of the big day.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have, and we hope to see you this May.

I Wanted To Blow Up PD

explosionExplosion | Flickr – Photo Sharing!Andrew Kuznetsov Attribution 2.0 Generic / CC BY 2.0

Sometimes I get a little too big for my britches. I get excited about an idea, and I think everyone should be as excited as I am. I am glad that I have people in my life that are there to help me see the big picture and can bring me back to reality quickly.

Ever since we ran Educator Innovation Day this past August, I have been excited about the idea of trying different ways to change how we engage in Professional Development. Previous experiences in Ed Camp models and conversation-driven conferences like ConnectEd Canada have really opened my eyes to PD that is more self directed and participant driven. I held a firm belief that this was the future of Professional Development and I wondered why we weren’t overhauling everything.

My principal, Carolyn Cameron (follow her on twitter and read her blog), is someone who helps me dream big but also reminds me to keep my feet on the ground. As principal of Greystone Centennial Middle School, she plays a key role in the planning and facilitating of professional development activities for our staff. When I joined Greystone, I was quickly amazed at how different PD days were there. The day was filled with conversations and activities rooted in the school vision but always pushing practice and improving the education of our students. I was used to heavy sighs and occasional apathy on PD days, but I found myself engaged in deep and meaningful conversations with my co-workers and leaving each PD day feeling like we made the most of the time spent together. Carolyn, along with her school design team (That’s a whole other post), have found a way to maximize the effectiveness of PD days, and within the traditional timing and framework, they make it work, and work well. This made her the perfect person to discuss the idea of blowing up PD with.

My belief is that with the self-directed models of Professional Development, we push educators into a place of risk taking and engaged learning. Teachers will need to venture beyond their comfort zones to develop their skills and abilities, but will be doing so in areas they are passionate about. They can develop solutions to problems that exist in their daily practice, and in doing so address the needs of their students, the ones they know best. Big ideas can turn into innovative new practices with action research and collaboration with colleagues when educators are given the freedom to explore.

When I asked Carolyn about PD, she reminded me of a key idea that my thinking was missing. Carolyn talked about how they had experimented with more self directed PD activities in the past but that they hadn’t always worked as well as they had hoped. The big component that was missing was the idea of accountability. When we sit in a room now with our whole staff, our PD activities are always connected to our school’s vision, we work together with our teaching teams and the work we do is always meant to impact our practice in our building with our students as soon as the next school day. Carolyn agreed that there was great potential in self directed professional development, but that it needed accountability built in to it.

As so often is the case when I get rolling and excited, I had missed a very important component. Accountability. Not in the sense that we need there to be “homework checks”, but that there needs to be accountability to follow through, and when you work together with your colleagues there usually is. When I sat and thought about our Educator Innovation Day, I realized I hadn’t done anything to try and help push for follow through. No check in months later, no twitter hashtag to keep the conversation going, not even an email to see how people were doing. How could I not have seen that?

When it came to my own project for Educator Innovation Day, I had all the follow through measures in place. I had developed an option class about Entrepreneurship with my good friend Travis McNaughton and implemented it in November. Because we would be implementing the course in his school and my school, and our students would connect and share with each other, we had every reason to make sure we made the course a reality. When Carolyn and I talked about the day, she was willing to admit that there hadn’t been a lot of follow through on her project. This of course just confirmed for me that she was right.

Now this doesn’t mean we should scrap self-directed professional development, of course not. Ed Camps and Educator Innovation Days still have amazing value. Even if a project or activity doesn’t go beyond that day, directing your own learning, taking risks and confronting traditional practices are all important exercises. We need to practice thinking of education in different ways, and challenging our assumptions to make sure we are always doing the best we can for our students. But I do believe, with a little bit of purposeful planning and support, these PD models can have all the benefit and the accountability they need to push our development further.

I wanted to blow up PD, but I needed to be reminded that you don’t have to blow something up to improve it. Carolyn has shown me that the way we have done PD can push practice and help create a great education for our students when done correctly. She has also shown me that no matter what the model is, it needs to have the chance to take root and to live inside our classrooms and schools. So rather than blow anything up, I think I’ll just try to spin it another way, no explosions necessary.

***Stay tuned for our next Educator Innovation Day, which will take place this May***

Educator Innovation Day – A Reflection


cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Bridget Coila

I have been having a tough time getting going this week. For the first time in my career I haven’t been overly excited to come back to school. After 2 months of steady “Daddy Duty” it has been tough to think that I have to go back to the busy schedule of work and coaching. I usually come back motivated and ready to start a new initiative or try a new project and this year, not so much. As the sun sets on another summer break, I have been in need of a jolt. Today, I had the perfect “jump start” in the form of our Educator’s Innovation Day and it was exactly the jolt I needed.

25 teachers and administrators took part in our Educator Innovation Day today and worked on projects of their choice with the only guidelines being that the project had to improve education. It was very inspiring to see teachers who signed up for this event on a day off, and worked so diligently on their projects. Even more impressive was the amazing quality of work that was produced. Projects on home reading programs, mindfulness in education, leveraging technology, and collaborative planning for student interventions, you couldn’t help but smile at just how much these educators were willing to challenge themselves with.

I had the pleasure of working with Travis McNaughton, assistant principal of Muir Lake School, on a project where we worked to create an option course designed around teaching entrepreneurship. While I am proud of the work we did, and while I am excited to implement our course, I want to talk about the experience.

You see, we love to do projects that provide opportunities for our students to challenge themselves to be innovative. But when we were planning our first Innovation Week it was George Couros who came to me and asked if I thought our staff would be equipped to put on a project like Innovation Week without first experiencing something like that themselves. Long story short, we went ahead with Innovation Week 1 & 2 but it always was in the back of our heads that we needed to ensure that we gave our educators a chance to have the same experience.

Today, I got to feel the excitement and energy of exploring an idea, with someone equally, if not more, passionate about the topic. I got to enjoy that feeling of time flying by as we worked through our plan. I got to experience getting stuck, and working through a difficult stretch. I got to stand in front of the group of participants while Travis and I presented the work we were proud of and eager to share. Take away the time it took to get started, the side conversations, the coffee and muffin breaks and I bet we really only worked for three hours, but it was the most invigorating, challenging and thrilling three hours of work I have done in quite some time.

I was a learner. An engaged and motivated learner.

I think there are many of us who have been trying to re-imagine the staff meeting experience, have been trying to re-invent the PD day process and who have been looking for ways to ensure that professional learning is happening in the most powerful ways possible. Today I experienced powerful professional learning, so much so that I don’t think I can settle for hearing excuses why we CAN’T change the way we learn anymore. I know the excuses – PD days are too valuable, money is too tight, we can’t ask people to give up their own time – but after today they just don’t seem so compelling anymore.

We are trying to re-imagine the educational experience for our students, and things are moving relatively quickly, so why aren’t they moving when it comes to our professional learning? We have to start thinking of ourselves as learners too, and create our experiences with the same ideas and goals we would have for the learners we are serving each day.

Why am I so passionate about this? You would be too if you had a day like we had today. I know we are going to work to find ways to put more of these days on for our school staff, and hopefully our division staff. I challenge you to find ways to have this experience for yourself, your school or your division. The sun is setting on “sit-and-get” meetings and “stand and deliver” PD and I think its about time.

This is my Genius Hour, This is my Passion Project

IMG_2734After a week immersed in Innovation Week, setting up our new site, getting prepared to moderate the first #iweekchat, and sharing many resources with some excited educators getting their own projects started, I was kind of getting burnt out by it all. I was also getting over being sick, and was pretty bored of sitting on my couch. That’s when my friend Jim called.

Jim is a carpenter, and he is currently building his own house. Numerous Spring Breaks and Summers I worked for Jim as a framer, and it was a wonderful way to spend my time off and make a little money on the side. I love framing. I am not great at it, and often need a lot of guidance from Jim (thank goodness he is patient), but it really is something I love doing and love learning.

So when he called me, I was able to head out to his site and help him build the landing for the entrance into his new house. It wasn’t a long time, just a few hours to frame and sheet the floor, but it was exactly what I needed. I had the same feeling when I used to work with Jim. (These are pics from the work we did)

When I would return to teaching, after a break spent building houses, I would always be rejuvenated and excited to be back at it. I would share with my students stories about my time framing, especially the stories where I did something wrong and learned the hard way – like shooting Jim with a nail gun! It was a great way to connect with my students, to model for them that I was a learner, and show them that I wasn’t afraid to do something I wasn’t “the best” at.

All this talk about Innovation Week has naturally led to conversations about how we can get Educators to participate in the same experiences. We are having Educators Innovation Day this August, and it will be great to have teachers come up with great projects to improve education in that short period of time together, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that we all have our own Genius Hours and Passion Projects. We have our own interests and passions that we dive into for periods of time away from work, and we are all better for having those experiences, not only because of what we get from them, but from what we can share with our students.

Framing is my Genius Hour, something I am engaged in when I am doing it, an experience that challenges me, and time spent learning about a topic I am genuinely interested in. When I go back to my job I am better for having spent the time, and I am a better teacher for having modelled and experienced learning.

I think as teachers and as leaders, we need to do a better job of not only embracing these interests and passions of our colleagues, but finding ways to empower these educators to incorporate them into their teaching. The more ways we can connect with students the better, and the more we let students into who we are, more chances for connecting will occur naturally. We will be able to show them another side of who we are, and other great characteristics of ourselves that they can be inspired by.

Framing is my Genius Hour, but this is my Passion Project:

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And it’s a whole other part of who I am that will make me a better teacher, better leader and better person. Don’t underestimate all the other parts of your life that make you who you are in the eyes of your students. I am a teacher and a coach but I am also an amateur framer, a lover of music, an aspiring writer, a sports fan, a movie goer, a husband AND a new Dad. Every one of those characteristics offers me a way to connect with my students, and every one of those aspects of me will shape the impact I can have as an educator.

What unique characteristics do you bring to your teaching? What are you doing to bring them out in your lessons, your conversations with your students and parents, and the time you spend at school?  What are you doing to bring out the passions and interests of your staff in your school?

 

Educators Innovation Day


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Sean Kelly

Ok. It’s OUR turn.

After having our first Innovation Week and with Innovation Week 2 only days away, we have put together the plan for our Teachers to have a chance to be innovators.

On Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 the doors of Greystone Centennial Middle School will open to Educators who want to get the same experience our students have had. With the theme of “Improving Education” the teachers will have a chance to spend the day working on their own or in small groups to come up with a project. At the end of the day, the only requirement of participation is that we will all get together and share what we have come up with.

Now, with only a day to do the project, we expect most people will do a little bit of work beforehand to prepare, and of course that is ok, but we don’t want people to bring canned projects. A big part of the learning is in the experience, and the constraint of getting the project done by the end of the day is part of the experience.

While I said we developed this to help our teachers gain experience that will help them work with our students on future innovation projects, this is not limited to just our Greystone teachers. We are opening this to any educator that is interested in taking part, so if you would like to join us fill out the form and plan to be there!

Educator Innovation Day Application Form

We also want to thank Parkland Teachers ATA Local #10 and the Parkland School Division for their support of this event, and to everyone who is helping to make it happen!