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Switching over – Climbing Kilimanjaro Blog Post # 6

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I find that my priorities are beginning to shift.

While I will still continue to include lots of education posts in my 31 days of blogging, more and more of my mental and emotional energy is going into the immense physical challenge of getting ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with Dream Mountains.

I took this challenge on as a way of starting retirement and I guess as a way to rewire (or reprogram) myself after 31 years of working in the education world.

What is important to me is that in doing this climb, I have pledged to raise $6000.00 for the Senators Foundation – a charity that does lots of important work in and around our school community for our families.  I wouldn’t be doing this if this was a bucket list thing, I’m not interested in projects that don’t tie into my former school community.

I was fortunate to meet up with Shawn Dawson who leads the Dream Mountains Foundation.  Shawn is a very accomplished climber who is giving back to his community every year by recruiting and training 20 non-climbers to take on the challenge of a lifetime.

In the years Shawn has run these trips he has raised close to $1,000,000 – in fact, we will break this barrier very soon as we raise money for our different charities.

dream-mountains-clipular-1 The training for this experience is brutal – probably some of the most challenging training I have ever done. It comprises walking up more and more flights of stairs in a 31-storey building.

Our ultimate goal is to do 10 stories in 10 minutes per set.  Right now, I am at 8 stories completed in under 13 minutes each.

I have a way to go.

We change things up by hiking an 8.5 km trail  that quickly ascends 310 m.  This past weekend, we did this ascent in 55 minutes – a good pace!

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The group at the top of trail – great group to hike with

These hikes serve many important purposes – the main objective is to get to know your fellow climbers – these are the people who you will depend on during the climb and it is important to know who has your back on an arduous climb. The climb also gives you the opportunity to try out your equipment – a constant experiment and most importantly at this point, it gives you a chance to test your fitness level.

For me, I realize I have work to do, but that’s OK – this is January 16, and we don’t leave until the end of March.  There is something wonderful in focusing on your physical fitness – it is so rare in this society that we have the opportunity to do this. After 31 years of working as an educator it is a very welcome change!

I am loving every minute of this experience – the training, the hikes, the constant learning and the team building.  There is lots more to write about – especially how I hope to share this experience in real time as much as possible, but that is for a future post.  Lots of time now to write.

Today, recover and get ready for another assault of the stairs.

 

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The Principal’s Role in Digital Transformation- Four Tools You Should Be Using – Blog post # 5

 

 

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This is a position I have been in before.  A large part of my role as an administrator has been to encourage the development of new teaching techniques based on digital technology and at the same time, work hard at making the learning at school more visible through the use of social media.

The move to digital transformation however does not last.  Generally, the tools that we use especially to communicate with parents are not always picked up by the next person to fill the role of school administrator.

There is a systemic problem here.  Administrators are not trained in the use of technology or social media.  Many are still hesitant to use Facebook or Twitter and fewer still blog to or text their parent communities.

Part of the problem is that many administrators did not teach at a time where the use of digital media was becoming more prevalent in the classroom.  There is also very little time spent on forming administrators as digital leaders in their schools. Many administrators are still deeply suspicious of social media.

To me, there are several basic tools that all administrators need to be using.  All of these tools have been around for years and do not require a huge amount of technical expertise to use.

Facebook: Many administrators seem to have grown up at a time where Facebook simply was not trusted by educators.  What they don’t realize is that most of our parents grew up with Facebook and still use it as a way to communicate with friends and family.  Facebook is easily the best tool to let parents into the school to see what is going on every day.  Administrators need to use Facebook to open up their schools to their parents – they deserve to know what is going on.

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Twitter: Twitter needs to be used as a way to quickly communicate with parents and administrators should also be using it daily to keep up with the most recent trends in education.  We have a responsibility to stay well-informed and that means developing a good list of people in the education field that are then followed on a regular basis.

Remind:  downloadThis may seem like overkill, but parents choose their own way to communicate with their school.  You need to use a variety of tools so that parents can choose how they want to hear from you.  You don’t need to use Remind, but you need some form of text communication with parents.  Remind is very easy to set up and parents are the ones who decide if they want to receive your text messages.  Remind is now set up to allow parents to respond to your texts – all in a way that preserves the privacy of the user.

Blogging – you need to blog!  The day of the tired out monthly newsletter is gone, thank goodness!  Having said that, this does not release the administrator from communicating with parents on a regular basis on what is happening and what is coming up at school.  At my last school we used Edublogs to send a weekly post to parents on what was planned for the upcoming week.  All the teachers contributed to the blog with a rundown of their plans for their class.  The blog was the very best tool we had.  Parents and teachers read it every week to keep up to date with all academic, sports and social news coming from the school.  It was an invaluable tool and one that really should be used by all administrators.

A portion of the school blog - produced every week. You can find the whole blog here http://stanthonyconnects.edublogs.org/
A portion of the school blog – produced every week. You can find the whole blog here http://stanthonyconnects.edublogs.org/

There are many other tools that can be used to engage your parent community and new ones are being created every day.  My main point is that this is part of the administrator’s job in 2017.  I don’t know how we can ask our teachers and our students to become adept at using digital technology when our own principals lage so far behind.

There is hope.  If you are an administrator –  challenge yourself – start learning today!

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The word is out…Students Like Their Chromebooks Blog Post #4

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A few weeks ago I read a great article from E Missourian.com

Survey: Students Like Their Chromebooks

The article was about a report written by Debbie Haley, technical director for the Meramec Valley R-III Middle School.  In the report, she outlined that through a district initiative, each student from grade 6 through 8 had received a Dell Chromebook.

The students were able to bring their new machines home while the teachers received training on how best to use the Chromebooks as a learning tool in the classroom.

The comments of the students speak volumes about programs like this:

“Having a computer to take home means I can look up stuff and learn how to do things any time without having to ask the teacher,” 

“This is the best way to do homework because if I forget my math book, it’s on the website,”

What I noticed about these comments is that the students in our school have been saying exactly the same thing for the past two years.

I recently retired as principal of a small low-income urban school.  We made the decision over two years ago that to give our students a greater chance of success, they needed to have their own Chromebook and the juniors (grades 4-6) needed to bring them home every night.

The program had its hiccups and nay sayers, but it was a success.  Teachers received good quality PD and the freedom to learn more on their own.  Students were expected to bring their machine home every night and continue work on digital programs, including Google apps for Education and Hapara that they had started at school.

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It became the expectation that a computer would be available at all times and if one broke down, it would be replaced immediately.

Our school board did some things to make it feasible to become a 1:1 school.  Chromebooks were cheap to buy, we were a Google board, so students and teachers had access to all the great apps available through Google.  Training was available to students and teachers on some of the programs that we were using every day and we did receive some computers from the school board as we were considered a high needs school.

teachers receive a certificate after a training day on Discovery Education
teachers receive a certificate after a training day on Discovery Education

While we never did a comprehensive report, I feel that the program was a success.

As part of my ‘good-bye’ from the students and the teachers, a video was created that allowed many of the students to say something they were thankful for that had taken place while I was principal.  Many of them said they were thankful for their Chromebooks and the freedom it gave them to learn independently.

I was surprised by this especially because we had just completed a major school yard renewal – with play structures – and I thought this would be what meant the most to our students.

It wasn’t – it was their Chromebooks.

To me this is really important.  By providing powerful computers to our students we were giving them a voice, we were allowing them to control their own learning.  By training the teachers, we are giving them the confidence to use the machines every day in class.

The major drawback to all this is that this was a school initiative not a district-wide project like the Meramec Valley students were part of.  Sadly, because our district cannot yet see the value in 1:1 programs, our effort to provide computers to most students will not be sustained.

It is sad to say that most administrators do not see the value in having a computer for every child.  Our district no longer gives out computers and has recently gone with a new Chromebook that is twice the price of the ones we used to purchase.

It is very hard to understand why people do not see the value in these programs and why they do not listen to the students who have been empowered by these sophisticated tools.  There now is ample evidence that 1:1 makes a real difference when done properly.  I look forward to the day when small initiatives become district priorities.

 

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Time to Go to Work! Blog Post # 3

Every Sunday, I try to read Brain Pickings. I used to read this to find something I could add to my staff blog. That is over now, but I still need to write and share. This quote from Marcus Aurelius seemed to be a great way to start as we all head back to some form of work.

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At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”

So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

Marcus Aurelius – as read in Brain Pickings

Now is my time to redefine what it means to work.  This is my first day without a formal ‘job’ in over 31 years.  How I will define work will have to change.

There is plenty of ideas to fill the gap – no problem.

First, I pledged to do 31 posts in 31 days.  This was to be the first real posting day, but I snuck in a few earlier.  There is also the great challenge put out by AJ Juliani to blog for 30 days. Signed up for that too #30daysblogging.

That could be enough work to get me started, but I have also taken on a different challenge.  I will be climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with a great group of adventurers at the end of March.  I am doing this because I need to break out and take on a physical challenge.  The climb also allows me to raise money for the Ottawa Senators Foundation – a group that does amazing work for our kids here in Ottawa.

my logo for the climb
my logo for the climb

No pressure, but if you want to donate to my charity (goal $6000.00) you can give on-line here.

This is my main work for the next three months.

I will also work on learning and reflecting on what I have experienced as an educator over the past 31 years.  The more distance I get from my conventional job the easier – I think – it will be for me to reflect, learn and of course write.  This blog will actually help me to focus my learning.  There are so many directions I can go in now that I am finally freed from my daily work obligations.  This blog may help me to focus on a few learning goals that I can move through over the next few months.

For today, an eight-kilometre hike in -30 C conditions.  A good start, I think for the first new day of learning.

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Trust and other things…Blog Post #2

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This is the first day of 2017 and I am ready to get on a roll for my 31 posts.  I wrote earlier that I planned to do 31 posts in 31 days.

This wasn’t my idea – my wife suggested it.  It’s a great idea.

We woke up today after a wonderful New Year’s Eve of tramping through the snow to gather with hundreds of other Ottawa folk to watch fireworks on Parliament Hill and simply wander around in the snowy wonder of a beautiful winter’s night. We met people, waited for free buses and loved the freedom of a wonderful night shared with so many people.

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Already, there are so many things to write about!  This morning, I read about a great project my friend Dean Shareski has started – the #Deanie Awards.

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What a wonderful way to start the year – recognizing people who are doing interesting things.  The first #Deanie recipient  posted the photo on trust at the top of today’s blog post.

I don’t know this person, but I watched him do a great singing presentation at an Ignite Talk.  Of course, I followed him and found this great retweet on trust. “Principals, your teachers must first trust in you before trusting in the change itself.”  The original tweet is from Nathan Lang, Ed. D. @nalang1, so I followed him too.

I am getting a little far from my original post idea on trust – I am sure I will get back to it – I really do see trust as the essential ingredient for anyone who aspires to be an effective principal.  Trust empowers, trust brings out the best in people, trust creates community.  yup, got to write more on this later.

For now, I want to celebrate a wonderful New Year’s Eve with my wonderful partner Heather, the #Deanie Awards and the wonderful gift of being open to making new connections on the first day of a hopeful new year!

More hope to come!

 

 

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Climbing Kilimanjaro Post # 1

As my first of 31 posts in 31 days, it makes sense to start with future plans.  This blog is names ‘Teach Talk’ and this has been my main vehicle to write about education issues and projects.  This really is no different, the trip to Kilimanjaro will raise money for kids in our school neighbourhood, helping them to get involved in recreation programming in their neighbourhood.  I also plan to use different forms of communication technology to reach back into the classrooms that I can link to.

So, here is #1 – the beginning of the next adventure.

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Hello Everyone!!

In 95 days, I will be setting out on a brand new adventure.  I will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with a wonderful group of Adventurers led by Shawn Dawson.

I am writing this post for a  variety of reasons.  Some of you have already donated on my fundraising page – thanks so much!  I am already at 48% of my goal of $5000.00.  All this money will go to the Sens Foundation and then directly to Rec Link – a wonderful organization that supports kids and families in the Dalhousie, Ottawa Center West neighbourhoods.  I want to thank all of you for helping me get half way there!

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For you and all future supporters, I created this email group so I can let you know how the climb goes.  I have invested in all sorts of communication technology that I will use to connect to students in schools.  My main platform to tell our story is produced by ESRI and you can access it here.  This is a work in progress and I want to publically thank ESRI for all the wonderful support they have given me.

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Finally, I am looking for your support.  You can join us for our January 27th (Friday) Gala Fundraiser Retirement Party (see above).  Tickets are $25.00 and if you register on-line, we will get tickets to you and you will get a tax receipt!

This promises to be a wonderful night with live music and a great silent auction.

Many of you have supported me on past projects like the Aviva Community Foundation – you are a great, dynamic group that in the past has allowed me to raise $140,000.00 for St. Anthony School.  Now, I would love you to join me on this great adventure and contribute to a really important organization.

Thanks so much for reading this and for your support!!

 

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of posting

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This week marks my final week in formal education as a principal.  This is my 31st year in education and I retire this Friday.

It is with mixed feelings that I leave, but it is time for new adventures and most importantly, it is time for some reflection.

What have I learned over the past 31 years?  I need to begin the process of sorting that out.

I want to do this through blogging because I find that writing really helps me to clarify my ideas and helps me consolidate my learning.  The pace of the day in our school – in any school is simply too hectic to allow time for proper reflection.

So, starting in the new year (taking a break for Christmas), I will be writing 31 blog posts on some of the things I have learned and am learning about education.  I see this as a great way to begin the process of renewal, by reflecting on what has gone on and what the future holds.

Topics?  Not sure, but I am sure a whole bunch will come to me.  I am open to ideas.  If you can think of something I should write about, let me know and I will give it a go.

For now, here’s to 31 great years and to whatever the future holds!

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