Spinning the positive

Contemporary world issues has a negative focus. I’ve been asked why we need to learn/watch/read/talk about such depressing things. Tension, conflict, power struggles, disparity… those are some of the themes. What if I put a spin on them? Creative tension. Power to change. Collaboration. Instead of focusing on the problems, I want to focus on the cool things people are doing all over the world.

Like this.

As John Chu says in the intro, people are becoming their own heroes. Developing their own dances by borrowing and remixing from others around the world as they become available. Wild.

Just a little something I’m thinking about. To be continued…

Evolving stories, creating change/ A reflection on Kevin’s story writing experiment

Yesterday I started to participate in a collaborative story writing adventure hosted by Kevin (Kevin’s Meandering Mind). Basically, he has started a story and a group of us are writing it collectively, though one at a time. I’ve done this kind of thing using paper and pen technology in the past where I hand out pieces of paper with different story starters on them. Students are given 2 minutes to write, the timer buzzes and they have to pass off their story to the right, receiving one from their peer to the left, to continue for another 2 minutes, and so on. Kids love it, I use it as a writing workout to get the juices flowing.

Our story is taking place via Google Wave, though Kevin has also begun the story in two other places as well – find out how you can participate.

Here is the starter, written by Kevin:

To say she was connected would be too simple a statement. She was never disconnected. Even in her sleep, her dreams came to her in bursts of 140 characters. (She knew this because she often woke up and jotted down her dreams, a habit she acquired in her college psychology course. Her notebook was full of nighttime ramblings.) And so, the night of the storm, with the weather forecasters freaking out about the high winds and possible lightning, she, too, began to freak out. She checked for batteries. She stood waiting near the electrical outlets, ready to pull the plugs at the first flash of lightning.The last thing she expected was the knock at the door, but then, the unexpected always comes at the unexpected moment …

So, so far there are 2 variations based on this same starter, the third is being launched this morning. It reminds me that people have an amazing capacity for creativity. With the same givens, different results are possible.

This can be transfered onto our own work in classrooms and organizations. We do not need to be stuck in one story. Especially if we collaborate with others, we can certainly evolve our stories and trigger change for ourselves and those around us.

Collaboration for student success: teachers and para-educators working together

**Kartoo Visual search for paraeducators**
(type paraeducator in the search field, click on the mindmap key)

The idea of extra help in the classroom is becoming more and more a reality for many classroom teachers. As we move away from stand alone resource room models towards inclusion for students with needs there is a recognition that para-educators play a crucial role in improving student achievement and success in the classroom (NEA).

Though I believe we are moving further away from the traditionally accepted role of the classroom teacher as the ‘sage on the stage’ in his or her classroom, we are far from able to say that the role is historical fact. It still exists in many classrooms. And even when it doesn’t, it can be very intimidating for a teacher to have someone come into their classroom. It is hard to share a classroom with another educator.

Last year I worked with a group of educators – teachers, teaching assistants (para-educators), and administrators – from different schools in Montreal in professional development sessions under the heading, Collaboration for Student Success/Travaillons Ensemble pour un Meilleur Rendement Scolaire. Here are some of the ideas we generated as we explored how to guarantee successful teacher/paraeducator collaboration.

We looked at Context.


The context led us to develop an Essential Question

How can I, the teacher, make an effective intervention in the lives of the students in my classrooms with the tools I have (and by the way, just what are those tools?)

This question led us to develop some Common Definitions. Most importantly, for this discussion, we spoke of the tools that were available to us and we decided that the most important were people: our colleagues and consultants. We also searched for a common definition of collaboration and we decided that in order to effectively collaborate we had to have a shared vision for the classroom. We had to begin to pay attention to the same things in our classroom in order to be able to learn from the phenomena in our classrooms and to be able to plan accordingly.

The first Plan of Action that arose from these definitions naturally formed itself around how to establish a shared vision amongst the classroom teaching team (the main players being the class teacher and the para-educator(s)).

We decided that it could only grow from conversation.

We also came up with essential conversations around Expectations.

Teachers are ultimately responsible for curriculum, evaluation, and reporting. The para-educator facilitates the delivery and activities around this.

Conversations at the beginning of a teacher/para-educator relationship could be facilitated by asking questions such as:


Teachers also noted that it was important for them to know how their para-educator worked best, what his or her strengths were, so they could plan accordingly.

Our favourite resource to facilitate teacher and para-educator collaboration is available through ASCD and is called:

A Teacher’s Guide to Working with Paraeducators and Other Classroom Aides
By Jill Morgan and Betty Y. Ashbakar (ASCD, 2001)

There are some really clear and spot-on question sheets that teachers and para-educators can use to clarify their relationship in terms of the roles and responsibilities of both educators. I will go so far as to say it is essential reading for teacher/paraeducator collaboration.

Basically this is what we decided was key – it is essential for teachers and para-educators to have a clear and common vision of what each of their roles and responsibilities are towards the classroom and the students in it. The only way this can happen is by talking about it.

Some other resources:

Getting Educated: Paraeducators

Project Para: Pareducator Self-Study Program

Special Connections: An Introduction to Working Effectively with Paraeducators

Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future

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New Wiki –> TeachingFutures

turn your head

A while ago I created a post in response to recurring themes I was seeing in many blogs around creating change in our schools towards authentic, meaningful learning situations for our students and teachers.

Here is that post.

Today I finally got around to creating a wiki to continue the conversation (thanks to John Brandt for the reminder).

I’ve called it TeachingFutures and am inviting all of my wonderful readers to join and add to the conversation. I think I made it public to join, but if it isn’t, post a comment asking for an invite.

As you can probably tell from that last line, I am a wikinewbie and will be relying on your help to make this one work for us :)

Here’s a question – I have added a page, but it does not appear as a tab…is it supposed to? Will it only appear if I create a link to it from a main page? I went to edit the ‘home’ page but did not seem to have the option to keep the welcome content there, which describes a bit about how a wiki works. I’d like to keep that there for any other wikinewbies who may need it. I did manage to create a link from the menu side bar, though…woohoo!

So, to see the new page (and discussion) I started, click on the sidebar link called ‘Discovery’ when you get there.

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