The Proust Questionnaire for Educators

Last night we tried something a little different for our Voiced Radio broadcast – First Hand Stories. Heather had the idea of doing the Proust Questionnaire for educators. You may have heard of the Proust Questionnaire on CBC Radio. The real questions are below and are certainly more meaningful and weighty than ours. But, our last broadcast was a bit heavy so we wanted to do something light.

The idea behind the original questionnaire was to reveal your true nature. Could our edition reveal the true nature of the educator? I’m not sure, but I have included our 15-minute broadcast below so you can decide.

Our Proust Questionnaire for Educators 
  1. Indoor or outdoor duty
  2. Keurig or drip coffee maker
  3. Online or paper assessments
  4. Whole summer or stretched out in increments
  5. Mr. D – funny or not funny?
  6. Hockey or soccer?
  7. Blogging or podcasting?
  8. Bluegrass or jazz?
  9. Staff meetings in the morning or after school?
  10. Favourite month of the school year?
  11. If you were a school mascot what would you be?
  12. Muffins or doughnuts at a staff meeting?
  13. What superhero would make the best teacher?
  14. Snow days – good or bad?

If you want to see the originals you can see them here.

On Becoming Groundless

When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

from: “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. Pub in 2008 by Doubleday.

I wanted to start this post with all of John O’Donohue’s piece on groundlessness. To put just a portion of this great piece in this post would be an injustice.

It is a good time to write about groundlessness. Not just because of the time of year where everything is blurred by indistinct light and frigid temperatures, but because being groundless is a quality of the human existence.

We don’t always understand the necessity of becoming groundless and it certainly makes us uncomfortable. But, being uncomfortable and feeling the ground shift beneath our feet is an essential ingredient we need if we are going to learn and grow as thinking human beings.

As for me, I think I have a few reasons for feeling groundless.

I am a year into retirement. I have gone from someone who was totally engaged in my job as a school administrator to someone who is now cut off from my former community. I feel that what once gave me value has disappeared. This is OK, I think that I made the false assumption that being an education leader gave me some value and importance. This can be wiped away very quickly, especially if you are someone who was a bit of a fly in the ointment.

While it is a difficult decision to cut yourself off, I am convinced it was very wise to take this step.

I am in the process of remaking myself. It is very hard to do, but I am learning in the process. Writers and philosophers like John O’Donohue and Pema Chodron believe that we learn best in the times of discomfort or even crisis. I truly believe this. We need to go through the times where the ground is not steady, where our reference points are blurred.

To avoid doing this is to avoid learning and experiencing.

31 Days of Posting – So, How’s it Going?

So, how is it going?

I wrote a few days ago that I was going to post 31 times, probably in 31 days, but I was a bit vague about that.

I figured the posts would be all be about Discovery Education, and I can do that, there is so much to write about. But why limit oneself, there is so much to talk and write about.

Let’s see how things are going so far on January 5th and look into the near future for some inspiration.

I started out OK with a post to this blog and to my Discovery Education blog – 31 Days of Posting – This Time all about Discovery Education – so I don’t know if there is an arbiter for things like this, but does this count for two?

Right now I need to say this post has nothing to do with boasting, the chances of me getting all 31 posts done are not great. This is sort of a public declaration that can act as a bit of a motivator or maybe even a prompt for further posts.

Glad we got that out of the way!

I have been able to get one post off about the Social Studies Techbook by Discovery Education and STEM Connect, a new initiative by Discovery. These were fun to do because I am learning something, actually learning and writing at the same time.

I was able to get one more post in all about yoga – a deeply personal post about exploring my deeper side. The illustration below gives you some sense of the tone on that one.

So, I’m stalling now, I don’t think I have made the grade. Today is January 5th and even if I count this one I think I am a tad short. The judgement is in, no you can’t count double posting as two separate posts.

So, maybe I can make it up to you. What can I do for the rest of the month?

I would love to write a post for my friends at Innovate My School. These are lovely people and I really like them. They are always so encouraging and that means the world to someone who plugs away at writing.

I can write something for Voiced Radio. These folks, very much like Innovate My School are my muse simply by being positive and encouraging.

I will certainly continue to write about Discovery Education for the same reasons. These people are creative, positive and empowering – how could I not write for them?

There are other topics I want to look at in January. My partner sent me an article called The Power of Apology published in Psychology Today. I want to read this and write about this topic. It is really important and this is something I have been thinking about for a long time. More later, I hope.

Other topics are bound to come up. Writing about photography would be interesting as I have so much to learn on how to really take good pictures – this is something I aspire to do better at.

taking photos is a wonderfully creative process, I want to learn more about how to do this well

The best thing about pushing yourself to write is that you never know what you will come up with but everything takes on a special note because there may be something to write about.

Writing is a gift and I have a whole community of people who appreciate what I do. You are all my muse and ultimately during this challenge, I write for you.

No Yoga for Old Men!

Have you ever done a downward dog with your dog? I have. I think this actually sums up my yoga prowess at this stage of my life!

I am finding that at 59, things don’t seem to move the way they used to. Today to make a statement against the crazy -30 C weather outside, I did 35 minutes of yoga inside. Just like my 31 days of posting challenge, I think it might be a good idea to try 30 days of yoga!

So, why does everyone who instructs yoga look like a lithe and graceful elf? I am more like a lumbering, wheezing stickman. All the joints hurt. Forget any idea of bending from my waist and touching my forehead to the floor. If you watch me closely, you may notice a slight, painful bend, but the floor is light years away.

I do yoga most weeks. We have a group in the community who work out for 90 minutes in a painful collective therapy session. I like it. I like pain I guess.

Being strategic, I hide off to the side with my friend, neither of us can really do the poses, but we are very good at the groaning and complaining. Fortunately for us, we have a yoga instructor who has the patience of Job and she never gives up on us.

I will just speak for me, but is it possible to turn into a petrified man? I think I can actually feel my joints calcify as I stretch out.

yup you got it right Leonard

How did this happen? How will I keep this up for 30 days of yoga? What is that new pain in my hip?

Our yoga instructor says its the crazy weather we have been having that causes the pain. My partner says I am just old. Our dog gets to lick my face when I do a downward dog.

So, who knows?

I do remember trekking in the Western Highlands, 26 kilometres a day over really rough terrain for a week.

 

I was there, I did this

I do remember making it to the top of Kilimanjaro, even though I fell after and tore a quad muscle (maybe that’s the problem).

I think I took this shot, but high altitude plays with your memory

So, I will struggle through with Adriene’s yoga, she can’t see me anyway. I will continue to go to our group yoga sessions and I will continue to hike and climb whenever I can.

I ache, but so did Leonard, so I am in pretty good company.

31 Days of Posting – This Time all about Discovery Education

This time of year is great for looking back and planning for the future. Today, I have again pledged to post for 31 days, this time I will be writing about Discovery Education. Last year I started my retirement by pledging to write for 30 days. I don’t think I made it, but I did get out lots of posts last year. maybe I will make it this year.

I have decided to focus on Discovery Education. Why?  First, I received a #Deanie from Dean Shareski, a wonderful educator and a great supporter of teachers. I was pretty happy to get some recognition from Dean, I have a great deal of respect for his writing and his opinions.

Recognition is always great. It is a terrific motivator. When I read Dean’s tweet, I realized I really needed to step up my game on my Discovery Education blog – a site I had started to promote the great resources available for students and teachers.

The second thing that has me posting today is some of the work I am doing for Discovery Education. Discovery is currently revamping some of their Science Techbook material to get ready for state-wide adoption of the Techbook next March.

This is something that ministry people in Ontario should consider. Discovery will actually go back into their own material and modify it to fit the curriculum expectations of a state (or province) that adopts their material. They can do this quickly because they have a whole host of writers and editors that work with them on a regular basis.

The Techbook series, includes three separate editions, one each for Science, Math and Social Studies. In each Techbook there is a huge collection of excellent digital material. As in earlier blogs, I need to upload material to my blog as people who are not subscribed to Discovery Education can’t access all of the digital content.

Here is a screenshot of a grade 6-8 Earth Science lesson on fossils.

On the right-hand side, you will notice a text button. Many of the Science Techbook lessons are now available in a variety of reading levels. This material can be directly assigned to students with a simple link. All material is divided up into sections starting with Engage and moving on to Elaborate with STEM plus a Model Lesson this all follows the 5E Inquiry Learning model.

The Model Lesson is quite detailed and would be a great assist to a teacher. As we don’t usually have science or math specialists in elementary school these model lessons would be an invaluable assist as teachers prepare to teach new science and math concepts. I have uploaded the Teacher Preparation section of this lesson to Google Drive so you can get an idea of the material included.

The Model Lesson also has a section that shows the alignment between lesson content and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core.
These are American curriculum standards, however, if this material was adopted by the province of Ontario, the material would be adapted to comply with Ontario Science Curriculum. That is one of the great selling points of Discovery Education material. It can be quickly and accurately adapted to fit new jurisdictions if adopted.

All this may sound like a huge sales pitch, but I am doing this on my own. I believe in the way Discovery education does things because their content is excellent and they really believe in teachers. I support them because they expend so much creative energy bringing educators together.

So, off we go again. Let’s see if I can get closer to 31 posts this time. There is certainly enough to write about!

One Word for 2018: Radio #OnewordOnt

I am always looking for good writing prompts. Without prompts, it is hard to keep inspired enough to come up with new posts and regular writing is something I plan to continue to focus on as I start my second year in retirement from a formal position in education.

Today’s prompt came out of a discussion on Voiced Radio with Stephen Hurley and Doug Peterson. These two are an inspiration to me and much of what I write these days comes from discussions initiated by one or both of these active educators. Their show, This Week in Ontario Edublogs is broadcast every week and they have now reached their 40th episode.

While discussing blog posts from the past week, they came up with a post from Julie Balen, #OnewordOnt Introduction.

She writes:

There are many reasons why one would take on this challenge, but for most, it comes down to focus and intentionality. Having one word through which to “see” your practice, to guide your work, and to reflect on your professional learning gives you a chance to be really intentional about your professional growth.

If you continue reading, you can see lots of great bloggers who have added their words to the One Word Challenge. It came out in discussion today that none of the contributors came from men! Julie responded via Twitter during the broadcast making the conversation even more dynamic!

So, I need to take up the challenge. I choose Radio. Maybe not the kind of word that is used as part of a challenge like this, but this is what I came up with and I’m sticking to it.

I choose Radio because it offers wonderful learning and connecting opportunities for the new year, especially through Voiced Radio.

I also choose Radio because I was inspired by my partner and fellow broadcaster and blogger Heather Swail. Heather wrote a great post about radio last week – here is the beginning:

A single voice punctuating the dark. Light, bantering voices filling your head. Storytellers mesmerizing with pauses and intonations. Music lulling you to sleep. Radio has been my companion for so many years, in light and dark

Heather SwailThe Seductive Power of Radio

Radio works for me because it represents the opportunity to connect with others. Last week we did a great broadcast led by Brad Shreffler capping off a week of creative connection making all under the hashtag #voicedgratitude. We talked live on radio for over two hours. It was a great community discussion and very interestingly, very few of the discussion participants knew each other a year ago.

There is still something magic about radio that Twitter can’t replace. Radio allows you to hear the other person. Radio tells stories, radio fuels the imagination.

So Radio is my word. What will the new year bring? What will year two of VoicEd Radio be like? For many of us, this is a new barely tried medium, there is lots of room for growth.

A year ago, even before the first broadcast on VoicEd, Derek Rhodenizer and Stephen Hurley talked about the concept. You can hear the first of many rich conversations here.

Connecting and learning this year involves Radio. Where will we be 12 months from now?

 

 

The Education Corporation

For me, one of the most interesting books has been The Corporation. I read it years ago and it still sticks with me. The Youtube version of chapter one gives a good summary of some of the main ideas behind the book. A synopsis of the book includes the following:

One hundred and fifty years ago, the corporation was a relatively insignificant entity. Today, it is a vivid, dramatic and pervasive presence in all our lives. Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places, the corporation is today’s dominant institution.

The Corporation website

This is a really interesting study and I have thought for a long time that its analysis needs to go beyond businesses and should be extended to the traditional school system.

It is interesting when you take a look at their website that they are working hard to get their film into 1000 schools. I think it should be shown in schools, it is a great social commentary on how our society is currently structured.

Will any educator make the connection that apart from the pursuit of profit, there is little that separates the modern corporation from the traditional school board?

Probably not. We like to judge corporations as somehow a bit impure because they are motivated by profit and the wishes of their stockholders. I would argue that traditional school boards are motivated very much the same way as the corporation. It is simpler to call school boards what they are – education corporations.

The main motivator for the corporation is always to act in its own interests, to ensure its own survival. All actions are then justified because the corporation answers only to its shareholders.

The education corporation is in some ways worse – it likes to believe that it serves a higher purpose. This is especially true for Catholic school boards in Ontario where I live. Somehow saying that you are a Catholic school board gives license to all sorts of hypocritical actions.

Can we say we apply these great principles to the people who work in our schools?

Education corporations can be just as cruel and unfeeling as any modern-day corporation. It is very easy to find examples where people in powerful positions have treated others with less power in truly shameful ways. Generally speaking, the people who are being cruel justify their actions in the only way that makes sense to them – what they do they do in the best interests of the school board. They may give other justifications, but it comes down to their need to demand compliance and stay in power.

Unlike the business corporation, however, the education corporation does not answer to anyone. It could be said that there are public trustees who can call them to account, but at least in Ontario, trustees are underpaid officials who are totally captured by the senior staff that they depend on for information. They do not have the time or the resources to act as a counterbalance to superintendents and directors who really hold the power in the education corporation.

This allows for all sorts of abuse to happen. At the school level, poor administrators are simply moved to a new and sometimes bigger school when their actions become intolerable to a local community of teachers and parents. At the school board level, when senior administrators act poorly, there is no consequence, they are free to act with impunity.

There is the beginning of a climate change in our society. Only a few months ago it was acceptable for men (mainly) to use their power to oppress and abuse the women who worked for them. This bevaviour is no longer acceptable and this is a very good thing.

Will we ever get to a point in our society when those who abuse their power in other ways will be called to account? I hope so. Abuse of power in any form for any reason should always be seen as unacceptable.

Educators and Mental Health: Teaching on a Global Stage

I have been reading and rereading posts by some very brave people this weekend. Destigmatizing the Depressed Educator by Mandy Froehlich, Too Much by Colleen Rose and material by  Chris Nihmey.

I have worked with Chris and he is a gifted writer, presenter and mental health advocate. I have met Colleen and I found Mandy’s post thanks to George Couros.

All three of these people are educators and all three have moved onto the global stage to share some of their most personal struggles about mental health with the world. Colleen and Mandy have posted recently about their struggles on their blogs. Chris is a well-known advocate in the Ottawa area.

By writing and speaking out, they are educators in the truest sense of the word. They have all moved beyond the classroom and they are using themselves to highlight the struggles people go through who are dealing with mental health issues. As educators and excellent communicators, they are very well suited to take to this stage.

We trust our teachers and we learn from them in all sorts of ways. As educators, we have a responsibility to speak out on important issues like this one.

Being open about their own struggles is extremely difficult, but it means so much for all those who come into contact with their stories.

Mental health is still a scary story. Very few people want to make their stories public and many people live their suffering in silence. Others have difficulty supporting those who are suffering, either they are scared or they see the sufferer as somehow untouchable.

I have done my own writing on this topic so I know what these people are risking and I applaud them for speaking up and normalizing something that is so common but still is seldom spoken about.

The struggles are difficult, but there is good that can come out of these trials. When an educator speaks about such a personal struggle, they are giving permission for others to realize that mental health is something that most people struggle with at some point in their lives.

It also means that students, educators and parents will begin to find a more accepting audience when they take the risk involved in coming forward with their own journey. I know that I became a much better principal and counsellor once I started to learn about my own mental health issues. I could empathize and understand much better now what students and parents go through. I like to think that I was a much more effective educator because of my own struggles.

I am writing here to acknowledge what these teachers are doing and to say that these people are being educators in the most important way. They are putting themselves out there so that others can learn and feel accepted when they struggle.

Struggling in silence is terrible. Making mental health something that we can all talk about is essential. Having respected educators being open about their own struggles is liberating for all of us.

Thanks to all of you!

Who Leads in our Schools?

I saw this quote this morning. It is not a new idea, but it is certainly worth a discussion. As I continue to look for topics to write about, I continue to come back to leadership issues.

There are lots of people writing about leadership – there always has been. Sometimes I wonder how much experience these writers actually have working in a school dealing with the day to day difficulties that come with running an education institution. These days to get good ideas I usually go to my PLN on Twitter. There is a great deal of collective wisdom out there.

I put out this prompt to my PLN this morning.

I would like this to become another rolling blog, written by the members of my PLN. It worked once, and I hope there is some interest in discussing leadership as it happens in our schools. Is it simply the ‘frightening conclusion’ reached above by Jennifer Gonzalez?

I hope not. For me the best leaders are those who are almost invisible, silently encouraging others to have a voice.

Is this a difficult topic to talk about? I don’t know that many active administrators on Twitter, so it is hard to get their perspective. One very active member of my PLN  writes:

The collective whole sets the mood, culture and tone of a school. There are many leaders within any school. When teachers start seeing themselves as leaders in education and admin empowers such leadership that’s when education will change

Great to see this contribution, it makes me feel more positive about things. I truly worry when I hear that a school is defined by its traditional leader. I could write more about this, but I would love to see if others will add to this comment.

The contribution above also speaks to the need for change. Maybe if we can move away from the top down system we have now we can see the sparks of innovation really begin to light a flame.

Later in the day, Derek Rhodenizer sent me a note about a podcast conversation he had with Debbie Donsky on education leadership. This is one of the great things about developing a PLN on Twitter. You ask questions and great people get back to you with interesting content.

This is a really interesting conversation and worth listening to. Debbie Donsky makes some good points about taking a more collaborative approach as a leader in the school. Change should be able to take place in a school as a collective experience that reflects the needs of a wider community. This is harder to do, but this is an important element of effective leadership.

This is one of the great things about podcasts. In 40 minutes Debbie and Derek covered so much about how to be a different leader, one who is not the leader on the hill. Their podcast would be great for teachers interested in becoming an administrator. I can think of many administrators who would also benefit from this conversation. There is no way I can do justification to it here, but it is a rich conversation and really worth listening to.

It is great to hear from my PLN as I work through some of these questions on leadership. I hope for more to come!

 

Why Not You?

Why not you?

We are working towards achieving our goal of forming a group of 16 climbers for the first Christie Lake Climb for Kids. With a group of 16 and a funding goal of $1000.00 per climber, we plan on raising $16,000.00 for Christie Lake Kids.

It goes beyond this. If we are able to get a full group, there is every chance of making this a part of the regular Christie Lake schedule of wonderful community fundraisers. The group fundraising goal will rise and the donations will accumulate as more people see the great opportunity to give back and make adventure a part of their lives.

To get to this point we need to get this first group off the ground. We currently have nine climbers. All the climbers are connected in some way. These personal connections are really important. Very few people will take on a challenge like this unless they have a friend to share the experience.

So we need some help filling the last few spots. We actually need only to fill six more. We are hoping to have the final spot filled by a filmmaker who will document the whole journey with us.

We have a fundraising site almost ready to go. It will be run through Canada Helps a great organization that supports over charities across the country.

Our goal for each fundraiser is $1000.00, but I think friends of climbers will be inspired to donate well beyond this amount. A climb to 5200 m is a significant mental and physical challenge.

You may be reading this and say, this is not for me, or I am already committed for 2018. No worries! However, do you know of someone else who this might be perfect for?

Some of the best opportunities come when someone taps us on the shoulder and asks us to try something outside our comfort zone.

So, this may not be for you right now, but is it right for someone else? Think about that for a minute, this may be the day to open up an opportunity for a friend.