Thursday, May 27, 2010

ACS Middle School End of Year Video

Ahh,  the end of the year.  It is always a sprint to the finish and I have had difficulty appreciating some of the wonderful moments that occur as the year comes to a close.  It has been a fantastic year for our middle school and it was definitely tough to say goodbye to some wonderful teachers and some fantastic students as they move on to their next adventures.

Personally, this year has easily been my most rewarding year in education so far.  We all know that substantive changes within organizations takes 3 - 5 years and for me, this year represented the year where we have started to see some really positive results of the efforts that have taken place over the past few years at ACS.   It has been a great year, and I am already looking ahead to another great start when we return to school in August!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blogging - My first 30 days (or so)

So I finally did it. I have been thinking about starting a blog for a couple years but I recently took the plunge and set it up, created a few posts and linked myself into the edublogosphere. Looking back, I have to admit that I think it has been one of the most professionally rewarding things that I have ever done.

Here are three of the highlights of my first few weeks online.  The blog . . .

1) Forces me to reflect - reflection is a important part of the learning process. We tell this to our students all the time and spend our precious time in class asking them to reflect on their own learning. Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to find the time to reflect on my practice. Even though I have only created a few entries, the process of writing has forced me to reflect on my experiences.  I have always learned well through writing and this blog allows me to write about my thoughts and helps me to internalize information that I think is important.

2) Allows me to share information  - A blog is a personal space and I am really proud of the articles, videos and posts that I have linked through my blog. I feel that these posts help share information about what I feel is important in education today. I think that it is pretty cool to think that people can use my blog or twitter posts to see what kind of information I am interested in. I have also heard back from the Reaume brothers (authors of The Draconean) recently. They let me know that my post on their awesome presentation at our school has been read by other principals who are now asking them to come and speak at their schools. It is a nice feeling to know that I have been able to help a couple of students who I think have a very important message to share with the world.

3) Links me to other educational leaders - I am amazed at the quality of information that is available from the blogs of other educators around the world. I originally started following a few blogs with google reader, but I am now linked into about 15 different blogs which means that I read 2 or 3 entries a day, depending on how frequent authors are blogging. These posts have allowed me to hear what is happening in schools all over the world. Information about web based portfolios, leadership theory, and the latest trends in mathematical instruction is sent directly to my computer each morning and I love starting my day learning about something new.

Although, I am still finding my way as a blogger, I am extremely excited about the opportunities that exist for educators and students on line today.  I am hopeful that I can continue to grow as much in future months as I have over the past 30 days.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

ACS MS Transition Podcast

I have finally figured it out (I hope). It has taken some time, but the condensed version of my presentation is now online. I have significantly reduced the slides and tried to give a quick overview of our discussion from last week. If I went too fast and you have some questions, please let me know.

We have had a great week, getting to know our ACS 5th graders and are looking forward to welcoming all of them to our middle school in the fall!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wayfinding - How Does This Compare to Education Today?

I was relaxing this past weekend and was able to take some time to read the local paper, The National. I was lucky enough to find an extremely interesting article on the practice of wayfinding. The article defines wayfinding as "a professional discipline – part graphic design, part behavioural psychology – concerned with helping people navigate the airports, shopping malls, hospitals and neighbourhoods of today’s often-bewildering built environment." Wayfinders obviously have a lot of work in the construction crazed cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but I was struck by this statement and immediately identified wayfinding as a profession that relates well to education. If you were to replace a few of the words in the definition, you would have a very effective description of what educators are trying to accomplish with our students today.

As educational leaders, we are responsible for helping our students prepare themselves for a turbulent and uncertain future. This responsibility can effectively be summarized by the statement below from Schooling By Design.
"Schools exist to develop and deepen students' understanding of important ideas and processes in the disciplines, equipping them to transfer their learning in meaningful and effective ways, and cultivating lifelong habits of mind." (Wiggins & Mctighe)
If this is a summary of the purpose of schools, what kinds of skills should we be focusing on in our classes to ensure that we are accomplishing our overall goal - to cause meaningful learning? What are these essential skills that our students need to acquire to be successful in the world today? How can teachers act as wayfinders for their their students; guiding students along their journey of learning?

Recently, I attended a lecture by Grant Wiggins where he asked 500 educational leaders to compile a list of skills that they felt all students needed in order to be successful in today's environment. Surprisingly, this activity only took about 60 seconds, and Mr. Wiggins stated that he had done this on numerous occasions and the list always looks the same. It is great to know that most educators currently identify the same skills that will lead to successful students. Some published lists of these skills, commonly referred to as 21st Century skills are listed below.

21st Century Skills, Values, and Attributes
Tony Wagner’s Seven Skills from The Global Achievement Gap
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
2. Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
3. Agility and Adaptability
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
7. Curiosity and Imagination

Pat Bassett’s 21st C. Skills and Values (Independent School Magazine, Fall 2009)
1. Character (self-discipline, empathy, integrity, resilience, and courage)
2. Creativity and Entrepreneurial Spirit
3. Real-World Problem-Solving (filtering, analysis, and synthesis)
4. Public Speaking/Communications
5. Teaming
6. Leadership

Although educators have been able to come to agreement on these essential skills, it is necessary to ask ourselves about how effectively we are addressing these skills in our schools today. If we are to be true wayfinders; educators who prepare students for the future, we need to ensure that our students have extensive opportunities to master these skills so they can be ready for the world that awaits them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Draconean - An inspiring story

If I could only talk about two topics to middle school students, I think I would have to pick the following:

1) Dream big and don't wait to try and realize your dreams
2) People who persevere through adversity are the people who change the world

We had the wonderful opportunity to hear a couple of young men present to our middle school this past week and it was a perfect story for our students. Jake and Luke Reaume are two teenagers who have recently published a book titled, The Draconean. Jake and Luke both attended the American School of Dubai before heading back to Canada to finish their high school career (they will graduate in June). Although it is quite impressive to be published authors before completing high school, I was more impressed with the young men's inspirational journey and I thought it was a perfect presentation for middle school students.

Both boys talked extensively during their presentation about dreaming big. They kept challenging our students to embrace the day letting them know that it is possible for middle school students to reach for their dreams. Jake and Luke talked a lot about people who tried to let them know that they would never succeed but assured our students that it is possible to keep focused and accomplish anything that you set your mind to. At no point, did they ever allow our students to think that their journey was a simple one. In fact, much of their presentation was devoted to the adversity that they faced over the six years that it had taken them to write their novel. Jake had been injured as youngster and faced some academic challenges related to his head injury. They had tragically lost their sister when they were nearly completed their final draft of their story. They had lost one of their early drafts (representing two years of work) when their computer crashed and were forced to begin from scratch. I felt like it was the tribulations that the boys endured throughout the writing process that made their presentation so memorable.
It is sometimes difficult for young people to understand what they are actually capable of achieving. I thought it was great for our students to have the opportunity to see some role models who have achieved their dreams and hear of the perseverance that the process can entail. I wish Jake and Luke the best of luck as they move forward and am personally excited to read their first novel.