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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The Future of Teaching: Let’s continue the conversation

Since yesterday, I have been involved in a conversation on Will Richardson‘s post The Future of Teaching.

The first part of this post was originally posted as a comment to The Future of Teaching.

I am getting the idea that we, at least those of us involved in this conversation, are ready to act on new ideas. People have asked for priorities, have asked about where we go from here.

I think that something like this can help us get there. I know that Gervase Bushe has been using Appreciative Inquiry with the Vancouver Public School System. This was published in the Summer 2007 edition of the SFU Business Newsletter, the Executive Edge:

In the last Executive Edge newsletter we told you about a $150,000 three-year research project to study a change management trend called appreciative inquiry. It’s a new process that works to change the way people think – to get them thinking collectively about how they want their organization to operate.

Gervase Bushe, SFU Business associate professor of management and organizational change, who is consulting and studying the process and its outcomes at the Vancouver School Board, reported on the results of the first year of study. “Preliminary indications are that the change process has been so successful that the BC Schools Superintendents’ Association is offering appreciative inquiry training and is also planning an appreciative inquiry summit for Kelowna in August,” says Bushe. What’s more, he says, numerous BC School Districts are planning to use appreciative inquiry in their schools next year.

It’s a powerful change process, based in the very foundations that have been brought up in with Will’s post.

Here is a recent article that Gervase wrote, which I think does a great job at outlining just what Appreciative Inquiry is:

G.R. Bushe (2007). Appreciative Inquiry is not about the Positive.

He talks about the generative nature of AI:

Generativity occurs when people collectively discover or create new things that they can use to positively alter their collective future. AI is generative in a number of ways. It is the quest for new ideas, images, theories and models that liberate our collective aspirations, alter the social construction of reality and, in the process, make available decisions and actions that weren’t available or didn’t occur to us before. When successful, AI generates spontaneous, unsupervised, individual, group and organizational action toward a better future.

If we were to design an appreciative change process for our school systems I think we could find our way to get there…together.

It would begin with a conversation that has already begun not only in Will’s post that I referenced above but in various places across the blogosphere – on LeaderTalk, on Scott Mcleod‘s blog, Kevin Sandridge‘s, Barbara Barreda‘s,  Miguel Ghulin‘s, Justin Medved‘s, Dennis Harter‘s, Stephen Ransom‘s,  and many others.

Is anyone interested in continuing that conversation? I’d love to be part of the process with you.

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Motivation and change, values and passion: Making the connections

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

I will be returning to the classroom at the end of August after a year as a special education consultant and professional development facilitator. I decided to return for a variety of reasons, the most important being that I miss the energy I pick up from daily contact with students and the next that there are so many things I want/need to try with students as their learning contexts change at such an exciting and fast-paced rate.

Today I am still a consultant and I am preparing for a teacher induction session we are designing for new teachers in our school system, the Association of Jewish Day Schools of Montreal. (Interestingly enough, I will be facilitating that session on the 21st and participating in one at the new school system on the following day!) The other day I spent the afternoon looking for video examples of different aspects of classroom management to include in the session. What I found was certainly food for reflection.

Essentially, I seem to have a choice between the inspirational teacher a la Erin Gruwell
(Freedom Writers) and Jaime Escalante (Stand and Deliver) in Hollywood teacher movies or the angry teacher in student cell phone videos on youtube.

I have yet to meet a teacher who become one in order to be angry at his or her students or in order to expect mediocrity from them (check out this cute little movie on that theme :) ) yet … I know teachers who do this on a regular basis.

On the contrary, most teachers I have spoken with became teachers because they want to make a difference in the lives of learners, like Erin Gruwell, and because they want to share a passion they have around a certain subject and see it grow strong in young people, like Jaime Escalante.

I have recently had the pleasure of working with teachers who had forgotten why they became teachers.

Yes, it was a pleasure.

I want to give my reason by framing it a bit first. Kelly Christopherson‘s recent post in LeaderTalk addresses the issue of motivation and it got me to thinking.

How do teachers stay motivated to teach and to learn when the playing field changes on such an astounding level?

I am motivated to teach and to learn, to action, when what I am doing has relevance for me because it is tied to my core values, my passion. The answer for me, therefore, lies in this next compound question:

How do we reconnect teachers with their passion AND reframe it within changing contexts?

I firmly believe that before we can motivate teachers to do anything new we need to connect it to what is important to them, to tie it to their values and their passion.

Relevance and seeing purpose are key to internal motivation – and we know that internal motivation is key to learning. Dr. Marvin Marshall writes, in Using a discipline approach to promote learning:

“True change must come from INSIDE an individual, and therefore a teacher must understand how to create an environment in the classroom in which children WANT to learn, WANT to behave appropriately, and WANT to achieve.” (para. 5)

Not only must a teacher understand this for students in the classroom, but the same understandings apply for leaders about the teachers in their schools.

Now, to return to the teachers who had forgotten why they became teachers.

It was a pleasure to work with them because we began a change process that started off as some run-of the mill PD on Differentiated Instruction (DI) that is becoming a shift in school culture that will allow Differentiated Instruction to take root as a learning model in that school.

It was a pleasure because I saw angry and unmotivated teachers rediscover their passion for teaching by being allowed to have the time to talk with each other and their school leaders about their concerns and fears, but most importantly about their dreams for themselves as teachers.

At first, many of the teachers at this school did not want to learn about DI. They said it was nice in an ideal world but would never work in their classrooms. So we stopped teaching the theory and the strategies and we started to focus on the teachers. I asked them – What is it about teaching that touches your soul? And the conversation grew from there. By the end of two sessions the teachers (all but 3 who are still holding out, but their colleagues are working on them!) asked us to return to the DI workshop we had begun because they insisted it was relevant to their needs and the needs of their students.

The school’s principal fully supports the learning that her teachers need to do together and has abolished monthly staff meetings in order to allow structured time for groups of teachers to meet to talk and learn together. This support is integral. The most inspired of teachers can lose their inspiration without it. In researching this post today, I found an article that underlines this importance:

Stand and Deliver Revisited. The untold story behind the famous rise — and shameful fall — of Jaime Escalante, America’s master math teacher.

As I transition back into the classroom and into a new school community I will bring what I learned while working with this group of teachers with me. Values and passion are powerful stuff. If we can stay connected to that our schools will become powerful indeed – and imagine the students!

So, I ask you…

What is it about teaching that touches your soul?

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Preparing the waters for change.

St Lawrence River
Image: photo of the St Lawrence River taken by me, available on flickr.

mrsdurff introduced me to Class 2.0 in a recent comment on Understanding the Machine.

I love the idea behind this site, and behind different workshops that places like LEARN in Quebec offer teachers.

How do we negotiate the space between resources on the one hand (PD seminars and workshops, online tutorials, peers, books…) and teachers on the other?

I asked some of these questions in an earlier post called Creating a Whole Brain Model for Education Reform

* How can we create a ‘mashup’ of left and right brain tasks and environments that make sense to kids as learners and teachers as educators?
* How can we create professional development experiences that not only teach these ideas but model them as well?   

* How can we manage the transitions?

It is that last one that I find so delicate and integral. We can create all kinds of curricula and workshops to share them with teachers, but unless teachers want to learn about them and use them..well, not much will change.

I think the answer lies in sustained professional development. PD that spends a lot of its time, at first, with teachers in conversation about what is important to them, their values. Time spent rediscovering (for some) and fueling their passion for teaching and looking at how Web 2.0 fits in to all of that.

When I say sustained I mean not one session at the beginning of the year, but each month throughout the year – throw away the %$#@! monthly staff meetings and replace them with teacher development time, where the community gets together to share, talk, and grow. Invite a student every once in a while to keep us on our toes as well! Make sure parents know what is going on and are involved in learning sessions as well, to keep the school accountable for the change.

This requires a leader with a strong vision who recognizes the needs of his or her teachers at the same time as the students.

As you can see, this is something I think about a lot. I have begun the process at one school I work at and we are seeing change in small yet integral areas. It is infectious and exciting. The waters are flowing.

We will surely be using Class 2.0 with some of the teachers at this school!

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Conversations in edublogging

Image: Conversation by thehighschoolchick made available on flickr with a creative commons license.

Lately I have been voraciously reading and learning from different edubloggers. I am seeing my passion for authentic learning for our kids (and myself!) reflected in their posts. Here are just a few of the posts that have turned my crank in the past few days:

Connected Curriculum – Relevant Reality on Durff’s Blog

Getting Lucky and Making Change on Thinking Allowed

School Administrators are Gatekeepers on Back by the Bell

The Rules of Engagement on Notes from the Ridge

Curriculum 2.0 on MEDagogy

Failing Schools Pass Students
on TeacherJay

Important Questions about School Leader Preparation on LeaderTalk

And I’m going to include this one, which is one of mine, because I’m enjoying the conversation that is happening in the comments.

How does Technology fit with Learning? on Leading from the Heart

Thanks to all you edubloggers who help to keep my mind working and my passion strong around teaching and learning.

My wish is that the conversations continue!

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