particles [rough draft]


I wait.

Held by time.

As if this weight was matter.

I listen like empty halls might
Without response or repose.

Cemented, silent,
And storykeeping.

You lay,
I watch.

Anything could happen right now,
But it doesn’t.

I’m coaching
to my mirror.

And I feel like iou and you and you;
Kaleidescopic intent
Is too intense.

Two tents just you and me.

A hill between us.


This page is
In language foreign to me.

Last page,
smoke and mist.

Next page
is blank.

And I realize,
That I father like my mother,

I brother like a mentor.

Like life is a skinned knee.

Walked it off, stretched it out, kept moving.

But we are not moving.

Except for my sharp pencil.

That keeps breaking.

The son in me
Hopes that this time
I can keep the point.

But the paper
Steals my confidence.

Blanks on white space,
Remind me that you
And I share the same air
But see the sky differently.

You cloud gazing.

Me watching shadows.


father’s day 2017

…because my kids made me this way.

Pete Cluff


I skimmed through my Twitter feed this morning catching up on the big news of the day…Where in the world is  @alicekeeler presenting? What is @gcouros posting about leadership? Has @willrich45 toppled another edu-dogmatic truth?

I accidentally clicked on my Likes tab and found an old tweet from Joe Bower.

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Joe entered my teaching world several years ago, through a reference at a conference, and changed my teaching philosophy 180º. He sparked a deep and powerful engine in me that to this day would not have been tuned through my everyday interactions in my school, my region, and at the time my province.

To date, I pay tribute to Joe’s philosophy of education by asking questions and activating resources that support both student learning and well-being. I too share the view that marks can get in the way of learning. And that the motivation to learn can be hamstrung by standardized assessment tools.

For a millisecond I wondered whether Joe was out playing ball or stepping up to some part of the system, creating hard conversations…then I came across this article and the bottom fell out of my heart.

To his family and friends, I sympathize with your loss. My deepest condolences go out to you.

If you happen upon this post I encourage you to read Joe’s blog assure you that I will return to his posts as long as the site remains and to his teachings throughout my career.

Thank-you Joe.

being iterate

I have watched my kids’ immersion in creation and design for some time now. Maddie 8 and Jake 6 exist in a state of creative evolution that sometimes is breathtaking. When I am caught in their ‘Flow’ of activity, I get lost.

The most remarkable thing about their process is the effortlessness of it. In it, I see the seeds of future design, experiential learning and much of what we secondary teachers are pursuing – the elusive modern learning motivation.

My kids can shift from computer to crayon, to theatrics on a whim. And when I key into their creative frequencies I witness storytelling, performance, monologue, pantomime – pure drama, pure joy.

Untethered and unlimited.

For this single reason, I confess that I am ridiculously and irrationally jealous of my elementary teacher colleagues – they get to see this side of my children every day.

And they are completely willing to create anything, over and over and over again. I will take some fault for this. I draw and write and cook and get fascinated frequently. I get messy and random often. I lose myself, find some of my parts, and begin again.

This process is blowing my mind. In its elegance, I can see how higher designs can be achieved. Nonlinear processes start with unbound potential at an early age. Both of my kids revel in the non-linear. I love that they lead me into their nonlinear open spaces. But still, I fear the future.

So, to make this post a bit shorter, I will cut to the chase – this fire may burn out. I do not want it to, but the curious spirits of my children may not make it to high school.

I’ve seen it too many times.

Something about getting marks, something about puberty, something about peer pressure, something about stress, something about executive function- so many somethings that could erode growth mindset.

Grade 9 may be the beginning of a something-like-an-ending. So, I am mapping out my counter strategy like a navy seal, making every logistical chess move to keep the creative in every day. To make open space for fun, I tell them to skip homework, play video games, and make choppy movies on their leap pads. My hope is that I am inoculating them against the slow rumbling onset of adolescence.

bro and sista


I’ve spent a tonne of time building my digital self. In this past year I have lost myself in the Google ecosystem. So Cool. Modern Learning? I’m in!

I have reconnected with Twitter…300 posts and check out those analytics!!Teacher Blog? Why not! New iPhone? That was easy!

My email has hit INBOX ZERO every day for the last month. ZING!

I have reconnected with 3 friends from high school via Facebook. WOOT!

TEDEd…bring it on!

EdTech presentation? U betcha!

Flipboard, Instagram, G+, Podcasts, WordFeud, Snapchat… [sigh]

And, despite all of this, I feel unenthused about my tech use. And I am bugged about that.

A major dedpressive reason for my discontent with connectedness and digital use is that right now, I feel that the fun is becoming work. In many ways this has been the best work year of my life.

Regardless of the view, a reconnection with Actual Me will be both challenging and revelatory. My garden is beckoning. My dog needs walking. My kids want to go out and play. My spouse wants a date night…

The actual me could use some tending so my actual life will be everything for the next two months.

I have decided to go partially offline for the summer- deep enough to feel the distance to the shore, but not so far that the undertow pulls me out of relations with my circles.

So here is what I will try…

  1. My phone will be for calls only.
  2. My laptop will hibernate in it’s dock.
  3. My social media connections will wait.
  4. My digital work connections will wait.
  5. My XBOX One will wait.
  6. I will play with my kids.
  7. I will hang out with my spouse.
  8. I will walk my dog.
  9. I will read.
  10. I will write.
  11. I will sleep.
  12. I will meditate.
  13. I will exercise.

I will meet up and talk and connect in real time and I hope to discover…well, I am not sure what I will discover.

eulogy part three

the art in banking or [you’ll learn, someday]
When I was in university, I liked to take the train home to Oshawa. When I could, I would meet my dad at Union Station, at his office, and we would ride home together.

Sometimes we would each read. Sometimes we would talk. Sometimes just sitting in our own solitudes, staring out the window at Lake Ontario frothing in the distance, passed the time.

On one occasion I asked him why he worked for the bank. My question was soaked with antagonism. I thought back to all of the times while walking through his office, I felt that his work was life-sucking. I would be looking at his workplace measuring happiness from a distance and thinking that I would never want work like this for me.

He had talents that I understood, he could write and draw, and he seemed to get a lot of joy from being creative, so why bother with the banking? I probably should have led with a compliment about his writing or drawing, it definitely would have been kinder, but I had no clear words to compliment, so I poked.

For me, being authentic meant doing exactly what you wanted, when you wanted- reality be damned. Being authentic also meant being singular in belief and confident despite counterpoint. I was bold. He was calm. When he answered it was measured and clear. As he continued to stare out the window he said. ‘Even though I don’t love banking, I have found the art in it.’

Stunned and now silent I wanted to challenge him again. Instead, I stared out at the water and mumbled something mumbly.

He explained that ‘Work is necessary. But it does not have to be everything.’ And ‘…committing to work is one type fuel for family well-being.’ I asked about his writing and his art in a backhanded way, he responded with the sage coolness of someone who has a handle on the big picture. He assured me that he has never stopped asking himself ‘am I on the right track?’ Or, ‘Is my work challenging enough to keep me at it one more year?’ And, ‘Who else depends on the work that I do?’

I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t.

But now, I get it.