Sunday, October 24, 2010

Learning Communities - Your Ideas Make My Ideas Better

Lots to think about from last week.

On Wednesday a team of staff leaders from Delta Secondary attended an all day workshop on Leading Collaborative Communities with Bruce Wellman. Wellman is a master teacher, who models the key habits and intentions of effective team leaders. As our school moves towards the goal of creating a more collaborative learning culture, leadership within the community will be critical to moving ahead.

Wellman talked about the change leaders in a collaborative community needing to feel comfortable with this discomfort of others. I believe that too often, we compromise our beliefs and values to avoid conflict. Relationships are fundamental to the work but the “culture of nice” favours maintaining the status quo, and we, as teachers and administrators are too often guilty of this.

On Friday, Delta principals and vice-principals were involved in a day long session with Carla Reiger, who helped us with a process for initiating and managing the change process. It was good to ally with colleagues who face similar challenges in their buildings as we worked through the many aspects of the movement towards more personalized learning for students. Later, we enjoyed the company of colleagues at an ADSA dinner and social and I left feeling very fortunate to work with a group of wise and caring educators.

On Saturday morning, I was able to take in TEDxUBC. The focus of the event was on Fast Forward Education. What an inspiring call to arms for educators! Event speakers crafted a sense of urgency for change in an educational system that must prepare learners for a world that is moving fast forward at breakneck speed. As I listened to the speakers I reflected on how far we and our learners will fall behind if we fail to support initiatives designed to modernize education. Aaron Akune nailed it, when he tweeted, “The world is progressing. Maintaining education the way it is now only means that we are falling further behind. The time to act is now!”

West Vancouver Superintendent, Chris Kennedy, told the story of “Students Live” and the unique and relevant learning opportunity that occurred during the Vancouver Olympics.  Student reporters were challenged to build an audience and create influence. The results were impressive and gave Chris and the students an opportunity to see what personalized, co-constructed learning could be. Chris spoke about the need to move from individual pockets of excellence to changes system wide. Check out Chris’ presentation notes and videos at his blog, The Culture of Yes. It’s a must read/watch!

Many of the presenters spoke about the need for teacher education programs to lead the change by preparing the next generation of teachers to become facilitators of learning rather than deliverers of content. But can we afford to wait? With tomorrow’s teachers sitting in our classrooms today, what are they learning about teaching?

Presenter, Sunddip Nahal may have said it best when she quoted Meladee McCartney, who said, “The kids in our classrooms are infinitely more significant than the subject matter we teach them.”

TEDxUBC was an outstanding event. I’m amazed at the quality of talent that we have living in our own backyards and look forward to collaborating in the future with many of the folks that I met at TEDxUBC in person and via digital media. Special thanks to the TEDxUBC organizing team of Judy Eng, Faye Chen, Dave McMichael, Randy Sangha, and Bret Conkin.

It’s exciting to be working, learning, and thinking in a time where as Chris Kennedy put it, “your ideas make mine better.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

One or two more things

Don't you have enough on your plate?
Or is it that you have too much time on your hands?
I can hear the comments already.

Well yes, life as a high school teacher or principal is pretty demanding. Days are already long and often extend well into the evening. But as I navigate the digital community and follow the tweets on my smartphone, I'm finding myself energized by the dialogue and intrigued by the opportunity to join the many relevant conversations that colleagues across the continent and around the world are having about education ... how education will meet the needs of learners today and in the next century. the next decade. the next five years. Clearly, the rate of change is accelerating!

Twitter and education blogs are rapidly becoming essential tools to our work as teachers and leaders. Whether by sharing an article from a professional journal, an engaging video clip, or collaborating with others, new technologies invite us to extend our thinking and consider perspectives and experiences of fellow practitioners in an expanding number of learning communities.

Participating in the dialogue, either through comments, or by contributing to a blog, is an action. Contributors are compelled to reflect on their own professional habits and values and deeply engage with the topic or subject matter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Looking back, looking ahead

It is an absolute privilege to participate in the day to day life in a secondary school. There is an energy here, an optimism, and the hopefulness of youth that friends in other noble vocations seldom encounter through the regular course of their professional lives. Who else but teachers have the opportunity to hold the attention of teenagers (if at least for brief intervals of time),  to observe their discoveries, guide their learning, help them up when they have fallen, boost them along when they have stalled,  and even entertain them with our sometimes sorry jokes (they’re so polite).

Much about what is good in secondary schools hasn’t changed since the time when we travelled these halls as students: the deep sense of friendship, the feeling of community, and the firm belief that education was key to success later in life.

But the world has changed and educators have the massive responsibility to understand these changes, to interpret their meaning, and adapt practice to best prepare students for the challenge of days ahead.

These pages are intended to share some of the current thinking on effective practice. There are contributions from many colleagues as well as some from the other sources. I invite your input and ideas.