i c u

Hello teacher candidate. I have been thinking a lot about you this week.

To be honest, I think about you often in the last month of school. There is something about the energy at the end of the year that makes me nostalgic. I think about do overs and do no mores and new beginnings.

I have seen you once or twice in the hallways, staff meetings and meant to connect with you. See how you’re doing. Whatcha up to?

But, I’m going one way, you the other.

Each with some pressing task to complete.

Now with the summer upon us, I really do wish that I had made a greater effort to make time for you. Just to sit for a bit, share resources, trade stories. Relate.

I feel lousy that I looked busy because I’m not really sure that I was.

Sometimes I was just ‘hustlin with paper in hand’. Not really in the moment. Not really minding the gaps. In automatic transition.

We all have stuff to do, yet at the end of the year I wonder is it always the right stuff.

Besides wrapping up this school year; the reports, the cleanup, the archiving. I also start to lean forward into the next school year. So many possibilities, so little time to map out a reasonable plan. And I suspect that September will arrive, like always, in the same Navy Seal sneak attack pandemonium that it does every year. I emphasize LIKE IT DOES EVERY YEAR. 

Blindly, I fall into the over planning trap every summer. And I am tripping into the trap line every June. So, in September, I have a whole lot of stuff that may or may not be en pointe because my planning has not met my students yet.

So, unofficially my summer will be spent imagining new paths, resting, relaxing, getting bored, and still trying to get life stuff done.

What are you up to?

Degree, done. Faculty of Ed, done. 60 days from now you will have officially arrived – an occasional, part time, or full-time teacher.

What are you feeling?

My dad once told me that 1 year of work-world equals 10 in school. In his view, textbooks and lectures got you to the door with a random set of keys. Too many to count, too little time to examine them all.

You may have felt this reality in one or both of your practicums.

He riffed on this idea whenever he was involved in hiring new team members. Other times, it was when he was nostalgically accounting for his humble beginnings with the bank.

I started with the bank, in the mailroom, right out of highschool … now I hire business graduates to do the same job.

Pete Cluff – on job competitiveness

When he reflected on the value of experiential learning to his success he accepted open mindset in its fullest form. And I have come to appreciate the power of taking risks because of it.

I often said yes before I fully understood what I was getting into.

Pete Cluff – on risk

My dad upgraded or upskilled with surgical precision. His continued learning and growth mindset was the edge he had on his competition. And he always knew the where and what of the next wave of change because he was generally standing in water chest deep, watching the white caps forming in the distance.

This approach served him well. He choked on a wave or two but somehow managed to swim with sharks throughout his career. This brings to mind the vastness of the invisible bits in teaching. Some just below the surface, though not necessarily sharklike, can still surprise and nip.

Had I sat with you, I would have shared a word or two about wellness, and mindfulness, and community. All are powerful repellents for EDU bug bites. All are bits of me that only connect over lunch time chats and coffee runs to Tim Horton’s. These micro structures build immense internal supports in my EDU world and could for you too.

I really wish I had shared them with you.

For now, I leave you with this.

Tina Zita @tina_zita  posted a great question about teacher leadership on her FlipBoard    https://flipgrid.com/ead74d and in my response I proposed that leadership means openly and obviously stepping into uncomfortable spaces, learning on the fly to fly, and maybe even supporting others in the process when you are not completely sure of the destination.

I plan to take my own advice and meet you in September.

I challenge you to do the same.




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.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 12.48.01 PM

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 http://www.joebower.org/I 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.

future proof [for QUEST 2016]

This has to stop. These moments of time travel – I get headaches.

While standing in class, mid-lesson, mid thought- I blink it’s 1985, I blink again and it is 2016. Where am I? The lights, the corkboard, the rows of desks. A chalky sense of nostalgia chased by the grim reality of, well, nostalgia, all soaked with the sour smell of ‘been there, done that’.


It all is pretty much as it was in 1989 when I graduated from high school.

I’m getting jittery, edgy and what could have been fuzzy feelings from my high school days turn on me viciously. Looking at my current classroom, I realize that my younger self is screaming at me, dissing me for missing my own point; I had issues with school back in 1985 as a student, that now, in 2016, teacher-me continues to perpetuate.

Reality check…if I had walked out of a classroom in 1985, back-to-the-future, and walked into a classroom in 2016, what would I have registered as radical as the fact that I had just traveled 30 years into the future? Huge changes? Any changes? Computers, fashion, adornments notwithstanding…

I cue into the now.

The lesson I’m delivering is hinged on the question ‘Is your career future proof?’ Solid angle of inquiry for a careers course, right? I thought so. Each of the students, at this point, has started to investigate and plan their post-secondary pathway. Each of the students has started to pick the senior level courses that in theory will keep them racing towards a career.

Is it important for the students to see a bit of their future? Of course it is!

The future is where change manifests, dreams come true, and everything we learn in school becomes real. It is important to keep them tracking their future targets…right? Even though we know their targets are constantly moving and the competition for finite future prospects is stiff. And as I ask the students, I realize that I want to answer it as well. Am I future proof?

I start to future cast into the next 15 – 20 years that remain before my tentative retirement, what if I am still standing in a similar classroom? What if the children of these children remark to me ‘wow this class looks exactly the same as my mother described’?

Now I am really uncomfortable.

That chalky, tingly sensation is almost unbearable. The students needed some prodding, I shift gears. ‘Is teaching future proof?’ Still lots of blinking. ‘Will I be able to teach in the same way that I do now in 5 years, or 10 years, or even 15 years from now?’ I am catching a roll now, I should wait, waiting time is good, but I throw one more question to the crowd. ‘Can you folks imagine a school, without ever setting foot inside a school…building?’

This gets them chatting. Analyzing what a teaching job would look like in the next 15-20 years became the parallel sweet spot for our lesson. The students could not stop poking questions and making statements about my career. Some students took the opportunity to comment on the current system, as they know it; others tried to project themselves into a future system that they may never be a part of. A few tried to keep their future plans in plain sight, but the gravity of the topic pulled them in too. The best of the bunch riffed off of each other as the creative spark lit up their thinking. Either way, I felt my younger self-smiling satisfactorily.

Capturing the full transcript was impossible, the energy, the controversy, the opportunity to poke the system in the eye- all of this exploded out into the conversation. The next day the debates continued. Much of what happened in those two periods were lost, the feed was just too rich.

We never officially pegged an answer. We did not find a clear path to our future selves. We did leave the space with some pretty good critically constructive inquiries. Some of them are captured here.

[Them & Me ]

‘You should stop using paper handouts.‘ I have tried that, some students do not have digital technology.. ‘No, just stop using paper handouts…period‘ Like stop handing things out at all? No handouts..?

‘Can we film our class?‘…in general? ‘Ya, I film everything then I post it.‘ Post it? Where? ‘Everywhere.‘

‘The WiFi should be available outside in the school yard.‘ It kinda works if you really need it, you could stand near the door… ‘I want to work outside when the weather is nice…‘

‘The school has it wrong…‘ Good start, what are you thinking? ‘I don’t want to insult you, but school is designed wrong.‘ School is not just me, it’s you and me. ‘Ya right.‘

‘Why do we have classrooms?‘

‘Why can’t I Skype your class from the library?’

‘I agree, school is messed up.‘ Share your thinking. ‘We walk in the halls and sit in the classrooms. I want to hang out in the halls and move around in class.‘

‘Why can’t I stay home and do school with YouTube?‘ Explain your thinking. ‘I watched two YouTube videos today in P1, could’ve watched that at home.‘

‘Could I sit in my friend’s Psych class this week instead of coming to Careers?’ uhhh, hmmm. ‘…they’re talking about abnormal psych, I just studied Oedipus…’

‘School should be free.‘ It is, kind of, for you. ‘No, free, right up through university.‘ How would that work? ‘Well we can pretty much learn anything for class from the web…‘

‘I was just thinking about my art teacher, he uses a lot of history examples in viz art… I like how he mixes other courses into art class.‘

‘School sucks…I want to work…why can’t I just go to work and not do school?‘ Where do I start? There’s lots of reasons to get an education, then get a better job… ‘I don’t really care about that, I just want to work.‘

‘Are you worried about your job?’

‘If I am a modern learner, does that make you a modern teacher?’ I believe so. ‘Wait, what does that even mean..?’

‘I miss my elementary school.‘ Why? ‘I had more fun.‘ …like recess? ‘Not just that, I think that it was just more fun to learn.‘


I only, sometimes, maybe, mostly do not offer my opinion in meetings.

In the past I have recklessly dove into professional convos offering my views, many times bashing down moments without warrant and care.

Once in a while, a deeper state of collab was achieved by me throttling and shaking the tree other times my thoughtful/less thoughts were graciously discounted as either rogue or dangerous.

Truthfully, I am okay with existing at the fringes- rogue and dangerous are not how I would identify my intention, but at times, getting attention and holding attention can stem from open disagreement with the establishment.

Tactically, I have changed my delivery and pursuit so that I can remain viable and approachable…but I still disagree a lot.

Having and presenting and defending an opinion is one of the most underdeveloped and misunderstood tools in a teacher’s kit. I often find myself in ad hoc convos after a meeting where a colleague, after the fact, agrees with the position I held in the meeting. I ask why they did not engage… some reply:

  • Why bother? Nothing is going to change.
  • I do not want to cause conflict.
  • I have lots of [stuff] to do, no time for this.

To these I often ask:

  • What part have you played in this conversation before?
  • What [ideas, evidence, reflections] are you holding back?
  • How do you hold decision-makers and stakeholders accountable to outcomes?
  • Who do you trust in this group?
  • Who do you trust, that should be a part of this group?
  • Who do you accept professional criticism from?
  • What have you lost as a result of not jumping in?

Of course, it is also critical to consider:

  • best time to hold this meeting?
  • best length of time for the meeting?
  • best person to chair the meeting?
  • best environment to hold the meeting?
  • best method for moving resources before/during /after meeting?
  • best method to account for deliverables?What is the…

Colleagues rarely say that they are not interested in participation, we know that meetings are a part of our work and that the big picture can make our time in meetings feel diffuse.

I choose to exist on the fringe until I am certain that I have an angle of trajectory and a full enough understanding of the topic so that I can better engage with the table.

I feel that challenging the issues at hand, especially when they seem dogmatic in nature, can feel a little like a free fall. And like a freefall, the thrill can be a bit frightening. Consider that the next time you agree, even slightly, with an opposing view.

Ask yourself:

  • How would my support help to expand this idea?
  • What could my support look like?
  • Could my support now, lead them to supporting me later?