Tag Archives: education

Main Entry: vision

3 Sep

Main Entry: vision

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: apparition

Synonyms: apocalypse, chimera, delusion, ecstasy, fantasy, ghost, hallucination, haunt, illusion, mirage, nightmare, oracle, phantasm, phantom, phenomenon, presence, prophecy, revelation, specter, spirit, spook, trance, warlock, wraith

Antonyms: actuality, fact, reality

We are in the process of considering the “WHY’ as Simon Sinek puts it, and by defining this it will clarify a vision for our learners and consider how we can go about this.  The process includes consideration of our current reality and the barriers or levers that create the tension between what is and what can be.  George Couros as part of Parkland School Division in the US has recently undergone a similar process (which follows)…



This truly tries to capture not only the work that we want to do in the future, but a lot of the work that we are doing in the future with our kids.  I love how it focuses on the idea of “learners” as opposed to simply students.  We always focus on doing what is best for kids, but if that is to truly happen, we all need to have the growth mindset and continue to grow.  Here is the Vision and Mission of our school division:

Our Vision

Parkland School Division is a place where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams.

Our Mission

Our purpose is to prepare, engage and inspire our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community.

Right now, these are just words, but our focus on the division is to put words into action and make some incredible things happen.  We will also continue to focus on being an open and transparent learning organization so that others can grow along with us.  Really exciting times in our school division.

Here are some links that I have read that may be of value to you and your school.

1.  What is education for? – Interestingly enough, this is an article that is 20 years old yet I was led to it on Facebook through a mistaken attribution to a quote.  It is a must read for educators as it is focused on where education should be heading and the importance of caring for others and our world.  Here is a powerful quote from the article:

A second principle comes from the Greek concept of paideia. The goal of education is not mastery of subject matter, but of one’s person.  Subject matter is simply the tool. Much as one would use a hammer and chisel to carve a block of marble, one uses ideas and knowledge to forge one’s own personhood. For the most part we labor under a confusion of ends and means, thinking that the goal of education is to stuff all kinds of facts, techniques, methods, and information into the student’s mind, regardless of how and with what effect it will be used. The Greeks knew better.

There are a lot of powerful messages here regarding education and I really believe it is a must read for those who care about our schools and the direction they are going.

2.  How can I sell my skills beyond a boring resume? –  We have been working on digital portfolios within Parkland School Division for the past year, and continue on this road this year (and years into the future).  Your digital footprint is extremely important and many potential employers (including myself) use Google as a way of learning more about potential candidates. Our focus within the school division is that we need to go from the point where you digital footprint could lose a job to a place where what you do online can actually create opportunities.  About.me is a great place for many educators to start to develop that online persona that they can share the places they are on the Internet as well as start taking control of their digital identity:

If you have a web presence you want to show off at all, About.Me is a good option. The service is free, looks great, and links users directly to your other social profiles or web sites where they can learn more about you. About.me pages take moments to set up, and when you’re finished you get a short custom URL you can give out or put on a business card. You can even sign up for an about.me email address for those contacts to use when they want to reach you.

Definitely take the time to Google yourself (very helpful link) and see what is out there about you.  Would you hire you?

3.  50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom – We have many educators within Parkland School Division excited about the opportunity of using Twitter for professional development but many use it as a hybrid to not only learn openly, but also connect their classroom to the world.  There are some great ideas on this post and below are a few:

7. Connect with the community.

Partner up with local government or charitable organizations and use Twitter to reach a broad audience discussing the latest cultural or educational events in the area and encourage others in the community to attend.

8. Follow the issues.

Bring a little technology into debates by asking the class which issues they would like to follow. Subscribe to relevant hash tags and accounts from all perspectives and compile an updated resource cobbling together as much research as possible.

9. Write a story or poem.

Many writers and poets have experimented with Twitter’s 140-character format to bring new, serialized works in small chunks to attention-divided audiences. Some educators may like the idea of asking their students to apply their creative writing skills to a restrictive social media outlet.

What ways do you use Twitter in your school that aren’t listed in the article?

I hope you have a great week! I am extremely excited about our school year and the work that we are trying to achieve in our division. Share, share, share!


Becoming an innovative school – Anne Knock

14 Aug

I have simply cut and paste Anne’s explanation of her 10 ideas on what makes NBCS innovative.  While this isn’t new to me – and I’m guessing you, I think that it is a precise summary of the things that we know are important.

I think we all aspire to hear “I thought I was coming to see buildings, now I know it’s so much more” when visitors come into our school!

My top 10 ideas

5 08 2012

Northern Beaches Christian School: one of the most innovative in the world. Thanks to everyone for great day of discussion …from @wethink

When one of the world’s leading authorities on innovation described Northern Beaches Christian School as “one of the most innovative in the world” we were amazed and honoured. Charlie Leadbeater (@wethink), is a former adviser to the British government and author of We-think: The Power Of Mass Creativity. Leadbeater ran a one day seminar with us in June 2011. His TED Talk Education innovation in the Slums has more than 300,000 views and he was described as:

early to notice the rise of “amateur innovation” – great ideas from outside the traditional walls, from people who suddenly have the tools to collaborate, innovate and make their expertise known.

We are often asked about the distinctives that have led to Charles Leadbeater, and other leading educators and thinkers, to make such comments when they spend some time at Northern Beaches Christian School. While not the definitive list, here are some of the key conditions that can make a difference:

1. A vision for learning is incessantly and clearly communicated

  • What is your vision? Make sure you know where you are going.
  • Find ingenious and relentless ways to communicate it. This takes courage.

2. Learning is future-focused

  • The world is changing, make sure the learning context recognises this
  • Observe the students, how they work and communicate (Tip: they aren’t using email anymore)

3. Culture takes time and persistence to embed

  • Once you have the vision – prioritise your steps. The reality is, change will take time
  • If you believe it, be resolute. Help those who are struggling to change, but stick to your guns.

4. Engaged and motivated students are the goal

  • Think about your own conditions for productivity and creativity, maybe it’s same for students
  • Put current practices through the ‘learning’ filter – do they still belong?

5. Equipped and supported staff are essential

  • Vision + ‘Learning’ Filter = Regular PD to support through change
  • Teacher PD needs to look like student learning, otherwise it’s “do as I say, not as I do”

6. Technology is an environment for learning, not the driver

  • This is not about who has the most bright shiny toys
  • Students live in a world of technology – the school-world needs be relevant

7. Relationships matter

  • In the midst of all the learning, technology and activity nothing matters more than quality relationships
  • Students need to belong, be known, valued and accepted. This is only achieved through relationship

8. Learning is authentic

  • Set in a real-world context, skills will be learnt readily when there is purpose
  • Provide opportunities for students to be world-changers

9. Spaces for learning are welcoming and comfortable

  • This is not about bright shiny spaces and colourful furniture, it is about aesthetically pleasing environments where students (and teachers) will want to come to learn
  • Think about where you like to work and learn, maybe it’s the same for students

10. Creativity and innovation have expression

  • There will always be barriers to innovation, find ways to break or go around them.
  • Make this your culture, give it voice, take risks, embrace failure

When people visit Northern Beaches Christian School often hear them say:

“I thought I was coming to see buildings, now I know it’s so much more”

10 Things Parents Should Unlearn – from George

7 Aug

10 Things Parents Should UnlearnEdna Sackson has always been one of my favourite bloggers, and in this post, she discusses the importance of parents learning about how school has changed:

But many parents base their opinions on the only model of education with which they are familiar… their own schooling. Even if they are young parents, I’d like to hope schooling has changed since they went to school.

Edna goes on to list some things that parents should “unlearn” from what they may have been taught either at school or in their adult life (below are her first five):

1.  Learning is best measured by a letter or a number.

2. Product is more important than process and progress.

3. Children need to be protected from any kind of failure.

4. The internet  is dangerous for children.

5. Parents and teachers should discuss students without the learner present.

This is definitely an article that will promote some great discussion with your school and parent community.

Natural Leaders – EI – George again!

7 Aug

6 signs of a natural leader Are leaders made or do they have skills that make it easier to naturally fit into this position?  This site presents the question…. are leadership qualities innate in some people and help them to achieve success in their pursuits? Leadership is something that can, and should be developed, but are there certain people that are more likely to become leaders than others?

A busy manager who has to deal with all kinds of personalities within a team can overlook signs of leadership and instead see someone being difficult — perhaps asking too many questions, questioning their direction or stepping on their toes when it comes to guiding other members of the team.

While these behaviors can be initially challenging, they are all signs that the individual has the potential to be a great leader. It’s up to the manager to notice these signs, identify the leader and guide them in the right direction. Recognizing the personality traits is the first step so here are six signs of a natural leader.

Do effective leaders have to have similar qualities to be effective or can they range in types and personalities?  How much does that matter?


26 Jul

I am ashamed to say that ‘I just needed a break from my screen’.

Over the past month I have intentionally disregarded my blog.  While I ave been attending to my own professional learning needs through my mobile devices, I have been decidedly quiet in sharing these.

Sometimes we just need some space to sit and reflect on what is happening around us.

….and this is what is happening!!!

Thank you Boundless and Getting Smart.

Two + Two = 63.57 Do the numbers tell the whole or true story?

5 Jun

This is based on an article and DATA from the US (NY Times), but as you can see it has relevance to the NSW system

This is the time of year when the lists of best high schools in the United States are published. For anxious consumers, the number of lists can be daunting, whether national in scope (U.S. News & World Report; The Washington Post; Newsweek and The Daily Beast) or local (Boston magazine; New Jersey Monthly; The Chicago Sun-Times).

No one in his right mind would take these lists lightly. Property values rise near best high schools. Parents will fight to the death for best high schools. Best teachers and best principals want to work in best high schools.

Newsweek’s editors recently published their list of the 1,000 best, which is worth examining to better grasp how the magazine has been able to quantify something as complex and nuanced as a high-quality education.

First, it is important to have a rating system that sounds scientific. Newsweek uses six variables: On-time graduation rate (weighted 25 percent); percent of graduates accepted to college (25 percent); A.P. and International Baccalaureate tests per student (25 percent); average SAT/ACT score (10 percent); Average A.P./International Baccalaureate score (10 percent); and A.P./International Baccalaureate courses per student (5 percent).

This results in a highly refined index score that can distinguish between the 435th best school in America, Westwood High in Massachusetts (.51), and the 436th best, New Berlin West in Wisconsin (.50).

What schools score highest on Newsweek’s index? Of the top 50, 37 have selective admissions or are magnet schools, meaning they screen students using a combination of entrance exam scores, grade-point average, state test results and assessments of their writing samples. …. the same as our Selective HS  (or even OC classes)????

In short, to be the best, high schools should accept only the highest performing eighth graders, who — if the school doesn’t botch it — will become the highest performing 12th graders.

Put another way: Best in, best out, best school.

Eight of Newsweek’s top 50 are charter schools. For those who think an important role of public education is taking struggling students and raising their academic performance, this sounds promising. Charter schools are supposed to accept any child who applies. If the school is oversubscribed, there is to be a lottery. Is this Public Education….

What could be more democratic?

The two top charter schools on the Newsweek list are the Basis high schools in Scottsdale and Tucson, part of an Arizona-based charter chain.

According to the Basis Web site, the curriculum is heavily reliant on A.P. and college-level courses, and it includes Mandarin and Latin.

This means that only the strongest academic students need apply, and those who can’t cut it will leave.

What does the student body look like at a Basis high school? At Basis Scottsdale — the third best high school in America, according to Newsweek — 95 percent of the 701 students are Asian or white.

Asians make up 2.8 percent of the state population, but 41 percent of the Basis Scottsdale students.

There are 15 Hispanics (2 percent) in a state that is about one-third Hispanic.

There are no Native Americans listed on the State Education Department’s Web site, though they make up 5 percent of Arizona’s population. The site lists 13 African-American students and no children of migrant workers. There are no children who qualify for subsidized lunches or who need special education classes.

Clearly, best schools would do best not to get bogged down serving students considered un-best.

The remaining five of the top 50 schools are in suburban districts where enrolment is open to all, as long as they are residents. OOHHH….  Maybe this is Public Education ….

The one thing that these five schools have in common is that they are full of children from the nation’s wealthiest families.  …..then perhaps not ……

Among the top 50 are high schools in Bronxville, N.Y. (No. 40), which has a median household income of $166,000, and Jericho, N.Y. (No. 41), which has a median income of $128,000, as compared with $54,000 for New York State; also, Falls Church, Va. (No. 45), with a $111,000 median income versus $59,000 for the state.

People who feel passionately about getting their children into best schools should stay away from the Midwest, which Newsweek has identified as an educational wasteland. From Montana south to Mississippi — 2,000 miles — there are 14 contiguous states without a single high school among the 100 best, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.

Even Massachusetts has only one school in the top 100, which is surprising, since the state’s students have repeatedly led the nation on the federal reading and math tests.

On the other hand, this is what makes America great: Anybody can make up any formula to measure anything, which gives lots of places a chance to be best at something.

Want the best high schools for your child? Move to Texas or Florida. Texas has 15 of the 100 best, placing second over all nationwide, while Florida has 10, the fourth most. This is no doubt due in good part to the reform efforts of George W. and Jeb Bush, who — like Newsweek — have made standardized test results a true measure of academic excellence.

At all costs, avoid Scarsdale, N.Y. It didn’t even make the top 1,000. Though its average SAT score of 1935 would rank it 21st among the 100 best, the school does not offer A.P. courses, and Newsweek counts A.P. data as 40 percent of the rating.

Why no A.P.? Scarsdale officials find that A.P. courses encourage students to go a mile wide and an inch deep, so the high school has created its own advanced courses. Instead of spending all their time working out of A.P. textbooks, students visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park, N.Y., to do field research.

Two-thirds of Scarsdale seniors are accepted to colleges that the Barron’s Guide to the Most Competitive Colleges ranks as the “most competitive” in the country. Of course, Newsweek doesn’t own Barron’s, so it wouldn’t make any sense to use that as a criterion.

There is another problem with Scarsdale. The district did not submit data to Newsweek, and that is the only way to be considered. Of the nation’s 26,000 high schools, about 2,000 sent data, and of those, 1,000 were named to the list, meaning any school with a little gumption has a 50 percent chance of being a best.

Mark Miller, director of editorial operations for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, says that as long as people understand the limits of the criteria, “the list serves a valid purpose.”

“We made a choice to rank the schools by how well they prepared children for college,” he said. “If not for the school, they might not have the opportunity to get into college.”

Mr. Miller noted that May was a record month for traffic at The Daily Beast, with 95 million views, thanks in good part to the list.

Given that magazines and newspapers are bleeding to death, this is the only plausible justification I can think of: Lists are cash cows.  

I am not against schools with selective admissions. They are a vital part of the public system. My own mother, who grew up in an East Boston tenement, passed the test to get into Girls Latin School and then went on to Radcliffe.

My concern is that the lists are stacked. Schools with the greatest challenges can appear to be the biggest failures. At a time when public education is so data-driven, that kind of thinking can cost dedicated teachers and principals their jobs.

Time to halt the fallout.

22 May

Too often we hear of quality teachers leaving the system and disregarding our profession – the most honourable profession – as a viable long-term employment option.  Far be it for me to say that the renumeration matches the efforts of teachers (and all school staff), yet it is disappointing and alarming to have quality personnel leaving – seeing other employment options as more attractive.  

It is no wonder that our young, talented teachers with so much to offer the world feel like they are not appreciated. 

On top of the ridiculous workload teachers experience each day, please note that the benefits aren’t exactly stellar:

Generally, they will have to work for about 40 years (then will receive less pension than their peers). That the work they set is too hard or too easy. That their subject is not good enough. That they need to solve gaps in parenting. That they should receive performance related pay. That teachers are paid too much, in fact all governement employees are paid too much and don’t work hard enough.   That teachers ‘cheat’ when the watchmen come. And today they’re told that teachers don’t know what stress is.

Well here are 5 tips, from Andrew Miller, that teachers need to follow to stay sane and ‘keep on keeping on’.  Despite the mixed messages teachers are receiving, we can ill afford to let them go.

Baptism By Fire! That’s what I call the first year of teaching. No matter how much preparation and mentoring you have received, you are building the plane as you fly it. To make sure you don’t crash and/or burn (yes, pun intended!), I put together some hard-learned lessons from my experience as a new teacher. In addition, these are good recommendations and reminders for veteran teachers. When you get hunkered down in the day-to-day while the year presses on, you tend to forget what really works well, because you are working so hard. I hope you find these five tips useful!

1) Push Out Content in Different Ways

You know what’s exhausting? Preparing PowerPoints, presentations and other lectures! Guess what? You don’t have to do this all the time. Yes, there is a time and a place for a lecture or direct instruction, but there is also a place for a variety of strategies to have students take ownership of content learning. Use jigsaw techniques, games that teach, reciprocal teaching and other effective strategies that put students in the driver’s seat of learning. Move from sage of the stage to guide on the side. While all lessons require preparation and planning, a variety of lesson types can not only keep your students interested, but also keep you energized to try new ways of teaching.

2) Go Home!

I mean it. Go home! There is always something more to do, I know it. But you know what? It can wait! Now obviously, you do need to stay late for events, meetings and tutoring with students, but you also need to set boundaries. It is easy to get sucked into the school building, so make sure you leave when appropriate. Go home to your family (or your cat, in my case). Let your students and peers know that you are taking care of your own self by attempting to have a life outside of school.

3) Establish Boundaries for Your Time

Of course this relates to the tip above, but it has more to do with the overall structures you have in place for your time during the school day. It’s OK to keep your door closed. Yes, there are times to work with students, but there is also time to put on NPR with your cup of coffee, check you email and commence your morning ritual. Your lunch is sacred, so make sure you take that time for yourself, too. If professional development is scheduled, keep that sacred as well, because it is some rare time you have to work on your practice. Students, parents and others will respect the fact that you set time aside for them, but also for yourself.

4) Use Your PLN

In a previous blog here at Edutopia, Mary Beth Hertz wrote about the importance of the “connected educator,” suggesting that we all make sure to network with fellow educators. Great teachers steal (and you’d be a liar if you said you were “borrowing”), so make sure you use technologies like Edmodo and Twitter to keep yourself connected to other educators, your personal learning network (PLN).

5) Know What You Are Assessing

Obviously, teachers should know what they are assessing, but sometimes we forget and start assessing everything. If you collect a formative assignment, only assess for a few things. Do you have to assess for conventions all the time? No, but there is a time and place for that. Do you have to assess correct answers in math problems? Perhaps not this time. Perhaps you focus on process-oriented feedback. Know what you are assessing, and be transparent about this to students. Not only is this manageable for students to digest later, but it makes the time you spend assessing and giving feedback shorter, focused and more efficient.

Again, these are tips, and may not work for everyone, but I think in general they encompass what I learned in the first years. You can only care for your students if you are caring for yourself. If you create and live in structures that allow you to work smart, then you’ll transition into a confident, veteran teacher so much more quickly!