Opening the Doors of Teacher Education – Learning in the Global South

I really enjoy working with the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. They are open to all sorts of new ideas and are always looking for opportunities to deepen the learning experience of their students.

This year, we are going to offer a unique volunteer opportunity for teacher candidates who will be completing their second year at the Faculty of Education.

All students have to complete a three-week volunteer placement before they finish their program. It is up to them to decide what they will do for their placement and students are offered a variety of opportunities to consider at the beginning of their second year.

This year we are offering students a placement in El Salvador where they will be able to learn something about what it is like to work as an educator  in the Global South. We have done these kinds of trips in the past for teachers, but what a wonderful opportunity to take part in a trip like this as part of the formative teacher education experience.

We can learn a great deal by talking to teachers in other countries. While the circumstances of teachers in El Salvador can be drastically different from what teachers experience in Canada, there are remarkable similarities as well. Teachers in both countries have to surmount the challenges of working in low-income areas and we all aspire to offer a holistic education for our students to prepare them for the world they will live in.

Having an opportunity to talk with teachers and students from the Global South can add a rich element to the teacher training we provide our teacher candidates with. Learning what it is like to live and struggle in a poor Southern country can add valuable life experience for teacher candidates preparing for a very challenging career.

We will be working with CIS –  Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (Center for Exchange and Solidarity) in El Salvador.

CIS aims to strengthen people-to-people solidarity and contribute to the construction of a new El Salvador. They have a great deal of experience working with delegations from the United States and Canada. They have put together a program that will be presented to students in September. Here are some of the highlights:

Proposed Objectives:

  •    Learn about the history of the El Salvador, and the root causes of war, migration and violence.
  •    Exchange ideas about the educational system and teaching methodology in El Salvador and Canada with Salvadoran teachers and students of education.
  •    Promote a culture of solidarity, of mutual support and global connections for social and economic justice.

Possible activities:

  •    Testimony – History of the War and El Salvador.
  •    Hike ecological forest which was a guerrilla encampment during the war in Cinquera Cabañas.  Learn about History and the Environment.
Church in Cinquera, El Salvador
  •    Visit site of Guadalupe and Tenango massacre in the Department of Cuscatlán-Cabañas and learn how survivors have overcome
  •    Visit public school and exchange with students and teachers
  •    Exchange with CIS scholarship students studying education
  •    Visit historical sites in San Salvador:  The home of  Oscar Romero’s home and the chapel where he gave his life
view of the chapel where Oscar Romero was killed

 

  •    Visit the Jesuit University and site where 6 Priests and 2 women workers were massacred in 1989.
  •    Stay in a rural community:   visit homes, visit a school, do some exchanges with the community and /or school teachers; meet with women’s businesses, make tortillas.
  •    Stay in Urban Community:   Meet with teachers about special challenges of gangs in schools; understand the displacement of communities during the war and earthquakes and shanty town settlements; exchange with CIS art therapy course, and human rights committee.
  •    Workshops:  Participants will be asked to develop a workshop  or a series of workshops on one theme to share in the community depending on their skill set and interest – Some examples, that the community request  include education methodology,  different arts, marketing, computers, English,  gender, human rights, environment, culture of peace, communication, environment.
  •    Indigo – history, culture, cultivation and processing of dye and dying clothes by women’s groups.
Salvadorian Enterprises for Women collective in Suchitoto (an hour from San Salvador) where they raise, dye and make clothes from indigo.
  •    Exchange with CIS English and Spanish Teachers and popular education and language instruction.
  •    Spanish classes are available online or at CIS in El Salvador. www.cis-elsalvador.org.

For the sake of brevity, I have only included some of the objectives and activities that could be included as part of the three-week program.

This is a very rich and varied schedule and I know that teacher candidates taking part in this trip will learn lots.

Now it is really up to the students to decide if they will make this their volunteer option for 2018. I hope some of them do, it promises to be a rich learning experience.

with students from the school in San Jose las Flores

 

 

Linking Adventure to Support for Kids – Part II

Andean Lodge Trek, Peru

A few weeks ago, I put out a brainstorming post on ways that adventure travel could be used to fundraise for non-profits.

I have learned that to raise money for any project or cause, you need to have an idea that really captures people’s imagination. It is a very competitive market out there and your idea really needs to stand out if you are going to attract funding.

Linking Adventure to Support for Kids

Now, after a few weeks of planning and consultation, we are ready to announce a new venture that will raise money for Christie Lake Kids – a wonderful foundation here in Ottawa that provides recreation experiences for low-income kids throughout the year.

At Christie Lake Kids we believe the experience of growing up in poverty does not define a person or limit their potential. We build physical, social and character skills in children facing barriers associated with poverty through Transformative Recreation experiences.

Christie Lake Kids Website

We will be working with Exodus Travel who have really taken to the idea of adventure travel as a way of fundraising for organizations. Their philosophy, as stated on their web page is a good indication that these are people willing to take adventure travel in a new direction.

It is all about adventure. That is what Exodus was founded upon and what the company is still all about. Discovering countries, cultures, environments, cities, mountain ranges, deserts, coasts and jungles; exploring this amazing planet we all live on.

Exodus Travel web page 

The plan is to trek through the Rainbow Mountains of Ausangate a truly beautiful part of the world.

So, the adventure begins. We want to make this a great trip for all involved, first, of course, to raise money for Christie Lakes Kids but equally important, we want to make this a wonderful adventure for the people who will be our team of fundraisers. This way we can have an experience that will continue into the future.

Are you interested? Send me a note at mcswa1@gmail.com and we will get in touch.

Itinerary 

  • DAY 1

    Start Cuzco (3400m); free time to acclimatise.

    Set amidst hills in the Andes, the Imperial City of the Incas, Cuzco (3,400) was the geographic, cultural and political centre of a vast empire which, at its peak, stretched from present day Quito in Ecuador to Santiago in Chile. After the Spanish conquistadores invaded the city they started building on top of the Incan structures, resulting in unique architecture, a fusion of the Incan and Spanish colonial styles.

    The group flights usually arrive in the mid-afternoon, giving time to wander the cobbled streets admiring the old houses, visiting its interesting museums, churches and pre-Columbian buildings, or to sit in a café and sample a coca-tea.

    It is recommended to take it easy upon arrival into Cuzco and to drink plenty of water to allow your body time to acclimatise to the altitude (3,400m).

    There will be a welcome briefing in the hotel lobby this evening.

    Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar)

  • DAY 2

    Four ruins acclimatisation walk, including Sacsayhuaman, Qenqo, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay.

    The hills above Cuzco city are dotted with some of the most interesting Inca ruins. We drive to the highest, Tambomachay, and return on foot to Cuzco via Puca Pucara, Qenco and Sacsayhuaman: an easy acclimatisation walk to get used to the altitude. An open-air picnic lunch is included during the hike near the spectacular ruins. The day walk is about 7km in total.

    A packed box lunch is included today.

    Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
    Distance covered: 7 km / 4 miles
  • DAY 3

    Free day in Cuzco.

    Free day in Cuzco to relax and further acclimatise before starting the trek. A range of optional activities and sightseeing excursions can be arranged, including visits to Inca and pre-Inca sites south of Cuzco, or walks in the hills surrounding the city but we recommend taking it relatively easy in order to adjust to the altitude in preparation for the start of the trek tomorrow. Please see the Optional Activities section in the Trip Notes for further details and prices.

    Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • DAY 4

    Drive to trailhead at Chillca; short walk to first lodge (4368m); traditional music performance.

    We drive for approx. 4 hrs by coach beside the Vilcanota River, stopping en route to visit the temple of Checacupe, then the upper valley of Pitumarca. When we reach Japura, we leave the transport behind and trek a short distance to Chillca – our first tambo (mountain lodge). We will be greeted by people from the local communities, usually playing Andean instruments, and there’s the chance to try some coca tea.

    Comfortable Eco Lodge (Tambo)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 3 km / 1 miles
    Activity (hours): 1.5
    Andean Lodge Trek, Peru
  • DAY 5

    Trek past glaciated mountains, waterfalls and llama territory to Machuracay (4814m), at the foot of sacred Mt. Ausangate.

    After breakfast we trek alongside huge herds of alpacas and llamas in the glacial valley of Phinaya. We will ascend past the Pjachaj waterfalls and come to more glaciers at Santa Catalina. We continue walking for roughly five hours amidst huge walls of glacial moraine, and passing glaciers and glacial lagoons to reach Machuracay Tambo. Our bags, carried by a llama caravan, meet us there and the family that runs the lodge will welcome us.

    Comfortable Eco Lodge (Tambo)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 15 km / 9 miles
    Activity (hours): 5-7
  • DAY 6

    Over the Palomani Pass (5150m) to Anantapata (4750m) via the ‘Nevado del Inca’ sandstone formations.

    Today we take in our first mountain pass (5,150m) from the top of which we are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. Descending alongside the glaciers, we trek to the Ausangate Cocha Lake for lunch. After lunch we see a stark contrast in the landscape as we enter a region of red sandstone sediment formations. Here, we will usually see vicuñas (a smaller relative of the llama) and sometimes condors can be seen soaring overhead. We stay at Anantapata Tambo tonight.

    Comfortable Eco Lodge (Tambo)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 12 km / 7 miles
    Activity (hours): 5-7
  • DAY 7

    Follow an isolated trail through multi-coloured mountains to Huampococha (4800m).

    After breakfast, we set off along a trail towards another mountain pass. Dropping down, we walk past Lake Kayrawiri, surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and the great valley below. Striations of colour are imbedded in the hillsides (a geologists dream). Then we go on to Cerro Laya Grande via the extensive Glacier del Inca, and the most striking colours in the sediments of Yauricunca. We take lunch here amidst this unique landscape. On our way to our last lodge, we should see Andean geese nesting in the cliffs of Anta. Just before reaching Huampococha Tambo we pass the flat iron formations of Apu Labrayani.

    Comfortable Eco Lodge (Tambo)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch,
    Dinner
    Distance covered: 12 km / 7 miles
    Activity (hours): 5-7
  • DAY 8

    Cross the Anta Pass and descend to the valley where the trek ends; transfer to Cuzco.

    We wake to fantastic mountain views and set off on our final walk. A steady climb brings us over our final pass, the Anta Pass. We descend from the pass and encounter some peculiar looking shapes of limestone – formations of Cretaceous age. We hike here until the end of the trail in Trapiche, where we have lunch before returning by bus to Cuzco.

    Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
    Distance covered: 11 km / 6 miles
    Activity (hours): 4-6
  • DAY 9

    Visit Pisac market and the fortress of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley; continue by train to Aguas Calientes.

    Today we visit the magnificent Sacred Valley of the Incas, including the incredible ruins at Pisac and the fortress of Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo we take the train to Aguas Calilentes (the town below Machu Picchu).

    The Sacred Valley, which runs along the Urubamba River near Cuzco, is the true heartland of Incan culture and tradition, which is still strong today. The high-Andean scenery is dotted with old towns and villages dating back to pre-Columbian times. The ruins of the Citadel at Pisac guarded a road from the lowlands and gives way to a picturesque landscape of terraces carved into the solid rock itself. Whilst the Inca ruins at Ollantaytambo give you a sense of the scale of what is to come as huge stone terraces scale the valley sides. This was the royal estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti as well as being of religious and defensive significance.

    Hotel Casa Andina (or similar)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • DAY 10

    Guided tour of Machu Picchu; return to Cuzco by train and by road.

    Machu Picchu ruins Cuzco, Peru

    One of the highlights of the trip is the visit to the greatest ruin in the world, the lost city of Machu Picchu. This is one of the architectural and engineering marvels of the ancient world, in a mountain setting of staggering immensity. The Spaniards never found it; the Incas left no records about it, so Machu Picchu remains a great enigma, a city lost for centuries in the jungle until it was rediscovered in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.

    We wake early to make the short bus journey up the winding road to the ruins (aprox 30 mins). Your leader will give you a two/three hour guided tour of the ruins and afterwards there will be free time to explore at your leisure. There are some spectacular walks around the site that you may wish to do, including following the path to the Inca Drawbridge or even up to the Sun Gate for that iconic view of the ruins.

    In the afternoon we take the train back to Ollantaytambo, from where we continue the remainder of the way to Cuzco by road.

    Hotel San Agustin Plaza / Eco Inn (or similar)

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • DAY 11

    End Cuzco.

    • The tour ends after breakfast. The group flights depart Cuzco this morning.

      Meals included:
      Breakfast
    Altitude charts
    TPO Altitude Profile

Extend Your Trip

Amazon Rainforest extension (from Cuzco)

Code: XPC

Easily accessible via a short flight to Puerto Maldonado from Cuzco, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest and home to an astonishing array of wildlife, as well as countless plant species. Spending three nights at a lodge in the incredibly rich Tambopata Reserve, we use motorised canoes to explore its lakes and rivers, and follow jungle trails to discover its dense forests.The detailed itinerary can be found here.

Please ask your sales consultant for more details.

Lake Titicaca extension

Code: XPT

Journey across the spectacular high altiplano to Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable fresh water lake (3,800m). Explore its waters by boat and visit the descendants of the Uros Indians who live on floating reed islands, and are also known for producing fine textiles. Back on the mainland we visit the pre‐ Incan site of Sillustani, comprised of burial towers with fantastic views over the region. The Titicaca Extension is only available after your main tour as we do not recommend arriving straight into Puno due to the altitude. 

 

Andean Lodge Trek, Peru

 

 

Second Response to Five ways to damage a good school

One of the roles I took very seriously as an administrator was that of the gate-keeper. The administrator needs to shelter staff from unnecessary distractions that take them away from the important job of teaching.

I took this to mean that I had a responsibility to protect staff from the many ‘edufads’ that continually rained down on us from our school board and the ministry. My most recent favourite is Deep Learning, something that still defies any logical explanation. Michael Fullan, Ontario’s education guru has written volumes on this concept and his ideas have filtered down to all the schools in my former board. There is no debate about this concept, all schools are expected to follow the Deep Learning mantra even though most of us have no idea what it is and how the concepts improves or even impacts the learning of our students.

The second of Greg Ashman’s ‘howlers’ that have the potential to damage a school has to do with this ongoing trend in education – Lock yourself into the latest novelty

It is almost impossible for schools to filter out all of the bad ideas. Often, senior managers will have a pet project or enthusiasm that seems pretty reasonable at the time.

We don’t need to belabour the point about Deep Learning, it is simply an example of another fad that needs to play out in our system until it exhausts itself. Then we can all go back to what we were trying to do before – offering an excellent education, devoid of distractions, to our students.

The most recent recruiting poster for the Ottawa Public Board plays on this idea of the deep learner. The poster is based on the idea of the 6C’s another Fullan concept that is usually put out there along with Deep Learning.

While all this looks wonderful on a poster, isn’t this what good teachers have always done? Don’t we want all educated people to collaborate and be globally aware? Would it not be more honest and appropriate to say that the goal of education is to teach concepts in math, science, language arts, history etc that people need to be competent and literate in t0day’s society?

I really like writing that provokes critical thinking and Greg Ashman is doing what good educators have always done. He thinks and he challenges the standard orthodoxy which calls on educators to accept ideas without challenge.

Maybe educators along with their students need to adopt a goal of really thinking critically for the academic year ahead.

Thanks for the challenge Greg!

 

Response to: Five Ways to Damage a Good School

There are just some posts you have to read. Last week, I came upon this post by Greg Ashman, Five ways to damage a good school. As a former school principal, I am a sucker for lines like that.

His ‘five things’ were really interesting, and if I can, I will try to comment on some of these factors because, from my experience, he makes lots of good sense.

The first one is not something that you would think would make a top five list, but it is interesting.

Focus on the furniture

I admit that this is a bit of a pet peeve, but I think Greg is on to something here.

The most efficient physical arrangement is to have individual classrooms with tables that are laid out, or at least can be laid out, in rows, yet you will struggle to find a consultant or architect who will recommend this.

It might even be politically incorrect to agree with this point, but as a principal, I got so tired of ‘experts’ telling me how terrible it was that some teachers still had their students in rows. How terrible, how lacking in creativity how 1920’s!
To me, it was important to remember that this supposed expert had not taught in a regular classroom for at least a decade.

Another consultant whose feet were a bit more firmly planted in the classroom noted that rows were important for kids. Sometimes a student needed to know that they had their own safe space in the classroom, something they would be able to count on. This makes lots of sense and as a principal, I never told any teacher how to arrange their classroom and never made any judgement on the quality of instruction based on the design of the room.

Educational orthodoxy these days seems to be firmly planted in the ‘flexible seating’ mode. Take this article in Edutopia – Flexible Seating and Student-Centered Classroom Redesign by Kayla Delzer:

Our classroom environments should be conducive to open collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. This simply cannot be done when kids are sitting in rows of desks all day.

When I returned to the classroom a few years ago, I had rows. I was able to create this flexible seating arrangement simply by asking the kids to move their desks – they were quite capable of doing this, allowing for some increase in physical activity, another benefit of going to flexible seating.

Here’s the thing. Too often, educators get caught up in the latest fad – flexible seating and the expense that comes with this is one of the newest things. In schools with limited resources (I would say most schools in Canada), the purchase of new furniture means that something else will not be bought.

I one school that I had worked in, the new administration decided to purchase flexible seating rather than provide computers for kids. How can that be seen as a good thing? In many schools, the arrival of a new principal means that new office furniture is in order – how can we justify these expenses when we still rarely see 1:1 schools in Canada? Where are our priorities?

Thank-you Greg Ashman for making such an interesting observation. Let’s try to keep our focus on empowering our students, not the latest edufad.

 

New School Year? Why Not Start a School Blog?

I always loved the excitement that comes with this time of year. Getting ready for a new school year always presented new possibilities and projects. In the past few years, I really enjoyed setting up a new year of blogs – one for staff and one for the school community.

What I have found over the past few years is that as a school leader, one must do a very good job at telling the school’s story using every form of social media that works.

In my last school, I found that blogging weekly to the school community worked very well. I started using a school blog when I started at St. Anthony School. Communication here was a big challenge, especially in a community where English was not the first language at home for many families.

I chose to blog because it was the only format that could be translated into different languages using the handy translation tool. I also felt that the days of the paper newsletter were over and that the community had to move to a more flexible form of communication.

I love to blog and I had used a staff blog as a way of communicating with staff members for several years. The school blog was an attempt to introduce the great communication tool to parents and the wider community.

One of the wonderful surprises that occurred with the new school blog was the amazing staff participation in the creation of the weekly blog.

an excerpt from the kindergarten entry from one of our school blogs

Generally, almost all teachers contributed something for the upcoming school blog post. As time went on, many added photos from activities that had taken place during the week before.

This was terrific for the parents and I think really encouraged wide readership of the school blog. From a principal’s perspective, this was wonderful as I received a weekly rundown of what each teacher was planning for their students.

The blog was certainly an act of love, and it did take most of my Sunday to put it together. I really believe that it was well worth the time, especially when students asked me to make sure that photos from their class be included in the blog!

I used Edublogs both for the school and staff blogs. For around $8.00 a month, I subscribed to their ‘pro’ service which allowed me to access their excellent help desk. This was money really well spent as my questions on some of the technical fine points of blogging were always answered within hours of my initial query.

So, if you are looking for a good project for the upcoming school year, why not take up blogging for your school or for your classroom. The work you put into it is really worth the effort. You will be opening up your world to the parents you serve.

Good luck, any questions? Please let me know, very happy to help!

Next post – how to put together a staff blog.

Stifling Dissent Through Blocking?

Should politicians block citizens they don’t happen to agree with, or who are clearly partisan, from following them on social media such as Twitter and Facebook?

That’s a question being asked in Canada and the United States. The answer is simple: No.

Globe and MailPoliticians are wrong to block people on social media

Today the Globe and Mail came out with a great editorial on the ethics of blocking. This has become an issue of some concern as legitimate dissent has been stifled on politician’s social media feeds when people have been blocked on Twitter or Facebook.

The comments were really interesting too. One reader commented that they had actually been blocked by Elizabeth May when they were a Green Party supporter. The reader subsequently left the party and never voted for May again.

I was blocked by Elizabeth May some years ago when I actually held a Green Party membership.

I did not renew and did not vote for the Green party in the subsequent election.

Globe and Mail, August 7, 2017 Comment

Good for that reader -there are consequences for stifling dissent.

As a principal of a Catholic School in Ottawa, I did block people on Twitter – it was the wrong decision.

I blocked someone on the Catholic Right who was very critical of the Catholic School System. I had had enough of right-wing commentators so I blocked them from my Twitter account. I did this out of frustration and anger and while they were effectively silenced from my feed, my action showed my lack of tolerance for an opinion that was different from my own. It was certainly a weak decision.

Once I retired, I began to write a series of articles that were critical of my former employers. The Catholic Board in Ottawa is a public entity, supported entirely by the tax payers of Ontario. I have come to believe that we no longer need separate schools in our province and that we could do a better job for students if we had a single, strong system that caters to all students in the province.

This opinion was not popular with many of my former colleagues, and to their credit, many voiced their opinion on Facebook. I did not block them – they have the right to express their dissent.

To my surprise, a senior member of the school board blocked me on Twitter. This action was no doubt due to the series of articles that I had written.

How is this right? A superintendent is a public official, their salaries are paid out of the public purse. As public officials do they have the right to stifle legitimate dissent by blocking people on social media?

I would extend what the Globe has written to all public officials,

No MP, or even a cabinet minister, will be criticized for blocking anyone who posts hateful messages or engages in harassment.

But barring that, it’s wrong for elected officials to choose which Canadians can see what they think, and which ones can’t.

In an age where public comment is seen by the highest authorities as ‘fake news’, we need to have even greater respect for public opinion, not just those who happen to agree with a particular mindset.

Response to George Couros – 3 Ideas For When You Outgrow Leadership

So what do you do if you feel you have outgrown your leadership to ensure that your own growth doesn’t stagnate?

George Couros – 3 Ideas For When You Outgrow Leadership

A terrific question and not an easy one to answer.

I find I get my best prompts from George Couros’ posts and this is a really good one. One pause first- it is really important when considering an answer to this question not to think that you are better than the leadership you need to get away from. I believe you have to do all three things that are mentioned in George’s post –  find mentorship outside your organization. (online and offline), disrupt your routine, and certainly, leave. I have done all three and have been very critical of my former employers since I have left working for a school board. While they have reacted poorly to my posts, I think it is important to understand their point of view.

It is extremely difficult, maybe impossible to be innovative when you represent a large district. Their role is to preserve and to protect – how can you be expected to be innovative and creative at the same time? Is this even possible? Maybe it isn’t and my criticism, therefore, has not been completely fair. So, maybe the best response is as George writes in this post – look elsewhere for your inspiration, disrupt the routine that is holding you down and most certainly leave and start over.

This can allow for an outpouring of creativity and I have found this to be the case. I believe I have continued to grow as an educator and especially as a blogger since I have left my district. I am no longer held down by institutional leadership and this has freed me up to question some of the practices we take for granted.

To allow yourself to become overly frustrated by a leadership structure that is no longer growing is not useful for anyone. The beauty of developing your own personal learning network is that you can free yourself up from institutional thinking and find inspiration from leaders and writers who are moving in a new direction.

Eventually, this may not be enough and you may leave a structure that is holding you down. This is not easy for educators to do, but it is important to consider if you are being stifled by leadership that is no longer growing.

You may also need to ask yourself – what will be the consequence for staying put?

 

 

A School Essential for the New Year? Create a Vision

On Satchat this past Saturday, the first question for us was ‘What is a CLASSROOM essential you must have to start school year?’ The question was the first of three focusing on education essentials for the upcoming school year. It was a great conversation, it always is, and it got me thinking, is there something that is a classroom or in the case of the administrator, a school essential for the beginning of the new year?

For me, there is one essential that you need to start with – what is your vision for your school for the year ahead?

Vision gets overlooked in the rush to get the school year going. Vision, however, is essential and when it is lacking it can colour the entire school year. If the vision for the upcoming year is something that all staff members can agree with, a well-articulated vision can be the start of a wonderful school year.

So, what goes into creating this vision? First, comes a conversation with staff – what is it that we need to achieve this year? What do our students, our parents and the wider community need from our school over the next ten months?

I really think vision should not be as pedestrian as increasing math scores or some other mundane goal. We are all in the business of teaching a set curriculum to our students. It’s what we are paid for. Of course, we want higher scores, a culture of high expectations leads to better student performance. That’s not vision, it’s common sense.

Vision should be something beyond what we are expected to do by our district or school board. Vision should bring everyone together and it should be clearly understood and articulated by everyone in the school community.

What could that vision be? It may involve developing a stronger presence in the community. It could be developing a strong environmental awareness amongst the school community. Maybe it is the collective decision to advance the digital literacy of staff, students and parents.

Whatever it is, make it big. Make it something that staff members can get behind. Make it something everyone can be proud of. Make it something that looks to the bigger picture and does not get caught up in the minutiae of the education machine.

So, there is still time, what vision would you like to introduce to your school community as the next year starts up?

Linking Adventure to Support for Kids

 

I am using this post as a brainstorming exercise. Hopefully, as ideas and suggestions come in I can change the post to reflect your ideas.

I have learned that to raise money for any project or cause, you need to have an idea that really captures people’s imagination. It is a very competitive market out there and your idea really needs to stand out if you are going to attract funding.

You also need a great cause that people can get behind. In the past, I have looked for projects and organizations that had the potential to change the lives of children so they could live a rich and rewarding life. This seems like a big goal, but there are all sorts of organizations out there that are bringing about real social change by enriching the lives of children and their families.

Last year, I raised money for Rec Link, a great community organization that focuses on providing recreational opportunities for low-income families in Ottawa. The fundraising worked very well because it was attached to a great idea, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

This year I would like to develop the idea further by planning a trekking expedition that raises money for another Ottawa organization, Christie Lake Kids and a similar organization from the country we will be climbing in.

It would be wonderful to find a way to have participants from both camps as part of the expedition. Not only could we be raising money to send kids to camp, but we could also raise awareness on the good work these organizations are doing.

The inclusion of an organization from the host country is really important to me – awareness raising needs to include a focus on the country we would be travelling to.

So, this is the concept. I would love to hear any ideas that you may have on ways to move this forward. It is exciting to plan something new and even better to hear how a concept can be improved over time.

 

A Coding Robot in Every School

Students should have access to free education

Coding and Robotics is a necessary 21st-century skill

If everyone does a little together we can have robots in every school

from CodeMyRobot.ca

 

Here is a really interesting initiative you certainly want to consider if you are interested in bringing coding to your school. A group of educators in the Ottawa area have come up with the idea of supplying every school in Canada with a robotics kit for students and teachers. There is no cost for the kit which is incredible when you consider how much it can cost to bring coding technology into your school.

To receive your kit, all you need to do is register on the website.

This project has the potential of opening up coding and robotics to students and communities throughout the country. Coding certainly qualifies as a true 21st-Century skill and all students can benefit from learning about and creating their own programmable robot.

The next big step in this project is getting the word out. If you are interested in getting kits for your schools, simply complete the registration form and your students can begin to learn about coding and robotics. After this, the sky is the limit!

http://codemyrobot.ca/