The Honour Roll

In recent meetings, our teaching staff and administration have had the opportunity to discuss our schools mission and future direction. The conversation has had many topics and gone in many directions. Of these, there is one that has been constantly on my mind. It is the conversation we are having about Honour roll in our school.

I can understand and appreciate. the importance of staff feedback, especially with such a sensitive topic. Yet in some way I feel that we are currently asking the wrong question. I believe we should not be asking “what” should be on or included on Honour roll, but the “why” are we having an Honour roll? What is its purpose? Does Honour roll improve student learning?

I have thought of these questions many times this week. I had conversations with colleagues, both for and opposed to Honour roll. Yet no one had a definitive answer to these questions. So I decided to continue my search. What I came upon was a video shared to me by @joe_bower on his blog For the Love of Learning. It is a short (20 minute) webcast from author and lecturer Alphie Kohn. In it, Kohn describes the importance of student engagement in learning.

Here is the link to @joe_bowers’s blog post entitled “From a culture of performance to a culture of learning” I encourage you to give it a view.

Or, directly view the video of Alfie Kohn. ALFIE KOHN: From a “culture of performance” to a “culture of learning”

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1/365 isn’t for me

Happy New Year!

It is January 1st. What a great day! It is a day where we can assess the past year, and look ahead with hope and excitement for the year to come. Perhaps we might even make some resolutions.

However, if you are an educator you know that resolutions are not meant for January 1st, they’re meant for September 1st (or somewhere close) For educators January 1st resolutions often refer to personal goals, commonly healthy initiatives. But gaining popularity lately is a resolution to improve one’s online presence. Perhaps through a 1/365 blogging goal. That is, one blog post for each day of the year. Sounds like a great idea, just not for me.

My blog posts have become sporadic at best. To say that I could do one everyday is too lofty of a goal. Instead my resolution is to write meaningful posts, and write them more often. Oh, and no offense, but I am not worried if they are meaningful for you. My posts need to become more meaningful to me. To evoke some sort of change, or inspire some new revelation in thought.

1/365 may be something you’ve done, are doing, or are planning to do. If so, I wish you the best, andI look forward to reading your posts! But it just isn’t for me…at least not this year.

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What does it mean to be engaged?

Three weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with @legrandeurdm and plan out a video coaching program. This idea was brought to us by our district AISI leader @neillangevin. The plan, is that we record our classes, and then review the video individually and together, in a coaching role. Great idea right? I think so. In my athletic experience it always was more effective to see what I was doing on video and then adjust; so why not in my classroom?

Well, this week I recorded three of my classes, and the answer is obvious…I sound and look funny up there. Seriously, I think I got more out of watching myself for 20 mins than I could have in an hour following an admin visit. I believe this was the case because as individuals we are inherently harder on ourselves than others.

As an educator committed to improving my teaching, and more specifically the learning of my students, I appreciated the opportunity to see myself in action, and as a result, my students inaction.
I want my students to be engaged, but in all three of my videos there was a common obstacle in the way, me. It was about me, not them. Maybe because I was conscious of the recording, or maybe it was because I wanted @legraduerdm to think I was a good teacher. Regardless, I now know what I want to change, and only after watching one class!

So I ask myself now, what does it mean to be engaged? Dave and I developed a pretty spiffy checklist, complete with educator jargon, but will it really tell us if our students are engaged? I guess we will see, and learn, through this process.

Wait…maybe I shouldn’t be asking you, maybe I should be asking THEM, you know them, right?

Yes, the 65 12-13 year-olds I see everyday.

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How do you measure student engagement?

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with a grade level colleague of mine,  @legrandeurdm and plan out our video coaching program. Originally the idea of video coaching was brought to us by our district AISI leader @neillangevin. For those of you unfamiliar with video coaching, let me try to explain what we are up to.

The plan:

To record our classes from two points of view. First, from a class point of view where the camera is focused on us. This way we will be able to focus on our own tendencies, mannerisms, etc. Second, a whole class point of view where we can see the students. This will allow us to focus on what the kids are doing during our class. How do they react, interact, and engage? After recording our lessons, we will sit as individuals, and then together, to watch each others classes. Using a checklist of focus questions that we have come up with, we will discuss or “coach” each other.

Our Focus:

Our focus throughout this project will be on student engagement. We will be looking more specifically at:

  • instructional methods
  • questioning
  • pacing
  • differentiated instruction

Sounds pretty straight forward right? Maybe not. We really had a hard time answering the following question:

“How do we, as educators, measure engagement?”

My Request to you!

So I’m putting it out there to you.

How do you measure the engagement in YOUR classroom?

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Being Comfortable: Dangerous to your health

I had the privilege to have dinner with a friend and fellow educator the other night.  Unfortunately for my wife, the conversation quickly turned to “shop talk”, as it often does when teacher’s get together.

I enjoyed our conversation, as we looked back on the first four months of the year at our respective schools. We focused on our successes, struggles, teaching loads, and future plans.  INterestingly enough, our friend was also my supervising teacher in my second professional semester in university. She coached, and now co-coaches basketball with my wife at the University of Lethbridge. The reason I felt our conversation so valuable, was that she also has 20+ years teaching experience, and is currently completing her M.Ed. Two things that I intend to accomplish in my teaching career.

As we discussed our teaching practice, and the various methods we use to engage students, a word came up that often makes me shudder. Both my friend and I have the same viewpoint of this word. As a matter of fact, I refuse to use this word when describing my teaching, I will go as far as calling it education’s “C” word.


Definition of com·fort·able according to Merriam-Webster

a : affording or enjoying contentment and security

b : free from stress or tension

That’s it, comfortable. Although being free from stress and tension sounds great, I have witnessed various types of  “comfortable” in my 5 years.

Comfortable is something that I never want to be in my profession. At the moment that I begin to feel comfortable in my teaching practice, I feel the need to mix it up. This is very similar to other aspects of my life.

Perhaps I am over thinking this simple word. However, the type “comfortable” that I have witnessed can easily be mistaken for another “C” word, complacency.

My fear is that some teachers who feel comfortable, have allowed themselves to become complacent. If I am complacent in my classroom, am I providing my students with engaging and dynamic material, or am I just sticking with what “I” know best?

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