Wanted: Mentors for the Journey

I get most of my good education content from VoicEd Radio. There’s a good reason for this. I no longer work in a school, and even if I did, there would be no way to gather up the diversity of opinion that I find on the VoicEd Radio podcasts. Working within a school board certainly does not open you up to a variety of ways of looking at issues.

This week I listened to one of the banner shows on VoicEd Radio – ONedMentors. They were grappling with the question of how you define mentorship. This is not something I think about these days. I am a retired educator, what would I have to do with mentorship? 

An interesting thing happens when you retire. Your opinion has less value. I can think of many people and organizations that valued what I had to say when I was a principal. When you leave that job, many leave you.

What I have failed to consider is that retirement can turn you into a mentee. I am not offering my opinions and advice very much these days, but I need new information, I need to learn once again from others.

Retirement allows you to try new experiences and start the learning journey all over again. If you let yourself, you can take new risks and you can really open yourself up to learn from others.

Now I am interested in mentors to help me learn about digital radio and podcasting, trekking and climbing, and photography! These are all new passions that I simply didn’t have time for when I was working in a school.

Getting back to the original question – what is mentorship? I think the definition is simple – mentorship is all about connecting to life-long learning – we naturally seek out mentors as we move into new areas that we are not comfortable in – so we seek ideas and help.

When you put yourself in risky situations, and by that I mean new learning you are forced to grow and seek out others who can help you out. Along with the great podcast, a few of us followed along on Twitter.

New can be scary – new means taking a risk and it is OK to acknowledge that this is a challenge and can sometimes be scary. Try doing something really new and really scary – once you do that you will seek mentors.

I have a whole new group of mentors now. I am learning about digital broadcasting, I am following a tough physical training program for the first time in my life. I am committed to taking on high-altitude climbs and I really need to get better at documenting these trips. 

The people who are helping me probably do not see themselves as mentors, but they are. They are leading me in new ways and I am very grateful to them.

So, the risks and discomfort are worth it. It is Ok to say you don’t know, even at 60. So, take a risk, get a mentor and learn something new – it is never too late!

Our next big trek is the Tour de Mont Blanc for Christie lake Kids, July 2019

When Taking Risks – Do You Stand at the Top or the Bottom of the Stairs?

These days, I have lots of time for reflection. This really helps with my writing and new ideas are coming all the time. Today, I found myself with my bike at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the top of Parliament Hill. The pathway is blocked due to construction so it was either up or back the way I came.

I never like going back so up I went, 286 stairs. The view looking up was a bit daunting, the view from the top was beautiful.

I thought maybe this would work as a metaphor for how to deal with the risks one takes throughout life. Here, I am talking more about professional risks. Sometimes these risks leave you looking up wondering what went wrong and other times you can survey success from the top of the hill.

What are some of the factors that determine success and failure?

Sometimes I think it has everything to do with the people you find yourself working with. One project that I had been working on for the past few months collapsed entirely yesterday. I wrote about the venture here. The project had real potential, but I lacked partners who shared a similar view of the potential of this program. I do blame myself for this. I should have seen the signs – lacklustre response to the proposal, e-mails seldom returned, long bureaucratic notes on why certain things couldn’t happen – the list goes on. It’s a pretty standard list.

Why didn’t I just cut and run, I have seen all these signs before – I have been in education systems for over 31 years!

So, this is the bottom of the stairs looking up. These things happen, if you are not willing to take some risks you will never have the chance to get to the top of the stairs. You need to be at the bottom sometimes so you can savour the top!

There is so much to celebrate when you do get to the top of the hill. I think as you gain experience you get a little bit better at finding projects that bring out the best in everyone involved.

I put voicEd Radio in this category.

It is so wonderful to work with people who encourage and empower you! My wife and I both work on a show for voicED and we have received nothing but enthusiastic encouragement from Stephen Hurley, the creator of this great project.

Here a risk paid off. We had never done a radio show before, now we have a bunch of broadcasts – including a half-hour live show – that we did as part of an amazing full-day live broadcast featuring most of voicEd Radio’s regulars.

My point is, you have to keep taking risks, even when your plans fall completely flat. Over time, the failures are no longer very important and you learn to move away and take whatever lessons you can. Then you find some real pearls like voicEd Radio where you meet great, positive educators and you take your learning to a whole new level.

So keep climbing, don’t look back, move away from the negative nellies and get to the top of the hill!

Reflections of George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset – Chapter Three – Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset

There is lots to write about in reflecting on this chapter – too much for one post.  Examining the characteristics of the innovator’s mindset is really important, so this is a chapter that should be read carefully – a few times.

The first point that resonates for me is that we don’t have to sacrifice innovation because of the limitations of the system.  It is a poor excuse to surrender just because it is too hard to work ‘within the box’.  We will always be inside a box – that is where the students are so we need to challenge ourselves to innovate where we find our students.  We can clearly do this and we have an obligation to do so.

The challenge for the innovative teacher is to find a way to reach every student, to help them to find the problems, not just solve the problems that we hand them.(pg 49)  Giving them the freedom to find and solve their own problems will create a generation of students who can learn effectively.

As an administrator, I am really interested in what George has to write about how educational leaders can support innovation in their schools.  What is especially important is the notion that every staff member needs to be able to progress from their point A to point B (pg 47).  Too often we see the one-size fits all PD that does not consider the learning needs of the educator.  As George puts it, we need to be able to lead with empathy and help teachers to find their ground so that they can become effective innovators.

In our school, we have chosen to focus on a few digital tools that can help teachers to innovate and meet the needs of the different learners in the classroom. Through a series of great webinars and prepared lessons, our teachers have been equipped to explore the possibilities of Discovery Education, Mathletics and Atomic Learning.  While some of these sessions were structured in a way to give teachers an introduction to these programs, they are now ready to develop their own learning plans to explore the great potential of these and other programs.

As an administrator, I see my role as the risk-taker for the staff.  If I don’t innovate and try new ways of doing things why should anyone else try?  It is certainly more easy to do things the way they have always been done, but then we are not serving our students.

This is not an easy route, and there can be consequences for taking these risks, but as educators that is what we need to do if we truly want to have an innovator’s mindset.

post #ecoo13 where do we go from here?

  • keep yourself in the role of the learner

  • tell your story: be visible, live out loud, create value, leverage video and social media, reflect and blog 

  • stay connected

  • consider frameworks such as the SAMR model as an ongoing change model 

  • consider the power of students teaching students through video

  • nurture those around you

Mark Carbone, President ECOO

bringit_textonlybadge_transparent

 

These are all great ways to move forward from this point.  I consider myself very fortunate to have received such great PD over the past six months.  The CASA conference in July, Will Richardson @willrich45 at our Director’s Conference and of course #ECOO13.

I have to thank my superintendent Simone Oliver @SimoneROliver and our IT guru Rob Long @longrwr for giving me these wonderful opportunities!  Now, I need to keep the learning going.

For one thing, I have to go back to lanyard and collect more information from the workshops I attended – I will go back and add this to the posta already up.

Next, what do I do when I return to school?

One idea.  I loved the Minds on Media session.  I had great conversations with teachers and I learned about cool apps

I would like to make the rest of this year a Minds on Media session.  

Our teachers are doing great things every day.  They use Raz Kids, Dream Box, mathletics, Edmodo, Edublog, Kidblog, Blogger.  They use iPads, netbooks and now Chromebooks.  They are doing incredible things all the time.

On top of all that, they work in collaborative teams with teachers from two other schools – they are all involved in really interesting inquiry projects – the first set of projects will be complete by the end of November.

So, this is what I am going to do:

  • make a visual record of the innovative teaching that is going on every day
  • give our staff an audience by posting their work here on this blog
  • create a visual record of the work of our triads – journey with them through their inquiries
  • celebrate, encourage, support, serve and learn from our teachers

This is such a challenging time for teachers – every day they are confronted with some new form of technology.  They are being asked to change their teaching methodology to support an entirely new learning environment.  They are being asked not to deliver information but to create intelligence out of the mass of information our students now have access to.

Has there ever been a more challenging time – I would say no.

So what do I need to do?  See myself as the lead learner in the school and accompany our teachers on the rocky journey to incorporate technology into a new way of teaching – the journey will be rockey because not everything will work – but if you don’t take risks you will never learn, and we are all about learning!

one triad at work - as principal, my role will be to support and accompany them on their learning journey - and of course celebrate!!
one triad at work – as principal, my role will be to support and accompany them on their learning journey – and of course celebrate!!