Shift is Happening

In his post What Comes First? Chris Kennedy, superintendent of the West Vancouver School District, reflected on the concurrent transformations that will complement the redesigned curriculum. Of the six system drivers identified, I agree that “we can have the best curriculum, policies or assessment, but first we need the practices”.  It is encouraging to see elements of these shifts actualized in the work done by the Lead Learners.  The following is a simplified narrative of the shift that is happening in our learning community.

Propelled by the flurry of updates regarding the transformed curriculum, the interdisciplinary, interschool community of secondary teachers called the Lead Learners reconvened in September for another year of learning with and from each other.

Guided by the question: “How do we support high schools through the current and anticipated changes with respect to the redesigned curriculum?” the monthly meetings (e.g. seminars, workshops, fieldtrips, etc…) will focus on the BIG ideas of the transformed curriculum (e.g. Personalized Learning, Communicating Student Learning, First Peoples’ Principles of Learning, etc…).

We are a species whose trademarkShifting Pedagogies:
Encourage only professional learning opportunities that promote curiosity, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving.
(from Shifting Minds 3.0)

From my notes it is obvious that we had a hands-on session! There was far more discussion than note taking! Sorry” wrote one of my colleagues, who is known for her copious and detailed minutes, after the September Lead Learner meeting. That said, here are my notes from the discussion two months ago:

Buoyed by the September 2015 issue of Educational Leadership: “Questioning for Learning”, the Lead Learners were asked to articulate one question that they had regarding the new curriculum. What was his/her “why?” for being there? Even though many of these questions could not be answered that morning, these were some of their responses:

  • How can I lead students to figure out what they want to learn?
  • How can we get students to feel more engaged in learning?
  • How is reporting changing at our schools? Is it changing?
  • How will a 2018 classroom differ from a 2014 classroom?
  • How will the new curriculum handle the content shift (Social Studies especially)?
  • What are other schools doing to facilitate the shift?
  • What are the government’s current plans to implement changes to reporting student learning?
  • What does this look like in a Science classroom?
  • What is the one place every high school or high school teacher should start to begin (in the classroom) with the new curriculum?
  • What ways can Lead Learners facilitate the implementation of innovations like flipped classroom?
  • Will our new curriculum connect with university curriculum and entrance?

Randomly paired up with another colleague, they viewed Building Airplanes and reflected on the question: “How does this video relate to this transition year?” Here’s what they shared:

  • Does it really matter if there is new curriculum? Is it not always a “work in progress”?
  • There is a sense of teachers being thrown into this new curriculum and it seems overwhelming.
  • Change on the fly: Can’t stop teaching while building something new; At least we have a parachute!
  • Always changing, always moving, subject to the elements – flying by the proverbial seat of our pants 
  • Building on the fly – teaching is dynamic. Keep moving forward while enacting change.
  • Starting before you’re ready. Chaos. People will think you’re crazy. Constantly in motion.

Reforming into groups of four, the teachers attempted an online scavenger hunt of Building Student Success: BC’s New Curriculum website. Even though they might have been extrinsically motivated by the hope of winning a prize, the teams were rewarded with a guided discussion highlighting the relevant-to-high school features of the website. (Here is the Curriculum Scavenger Hunt and Curriculum Scavenger Hunt Annotated; Grades 10-12 Proposed Curriculum)

Slide15A few weeks later the high school Lead Learners joined with their elementary colleagues for a workshop: Designing for Student Success. Independent Schools are responsible for providing documentation that accounts for the implementation of the provincial curriculum. In the past this documentation was provided via course overviews (unit plans) set within recommended templates.

Shifting Governance:
Create a space for exploratory, open, and inclusive conversations that build vision, system policies and administrative processes that support and sustain innovations.
(from Shifting Minds 3.0)

With the advent of a content-based, competency-driven curriculum, teams of teachers and administrators were invited to explore and experiment with new designs for unit planning.

Sub-divided into three sessions, the morning workshop began with participants viewing The Backwards Bicycle and relating it to the redesigned curriculum. Then the table groups completed a jigsaw activity unpacking the language of the transformed curriculum. After defining the vocabulary and discerning the critical questions, grade-specific table groups co-created draft unit plans.

Shifting Pedagogies:
Shift from teacher as knowledge reservoir to teacher as designer for and activator of curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in all subject areas.
(from Shifting Minds 3.0)

In keeping with the theme of “Building” student success, the teachers were tasked with creating the “blueprints” for learning. While the resulting unit plans looked different, they shared significant common elements.

For comparison and inspiration, the Delta Framework for Innovative Teaching and Engaged Learning (thank you to Neil Stephenson) and this Visual Arts unit plan and overview (thank you Jacqueline Lindenbach) were distributed to the teachers.

Shifting Governance:
Reduce fear of failure by increasing opportunities for experimentation and learning from the results
(from Shifting Minds 3.0)

In reviewing the work of the “blueprint” developers, it was interesting to see the correlation between their unit plan frameworks (see page 1) and “building codes” (see page 2) that is, the Principles of Quality Assessment.  This working group will gather in the new year to continue co-creating and critiquing their “blueprints”.

Shifting Citizen and Stakeholder Engagement:
Capture and share the excitement and energy occurring in successful schools
(from Shifting Minds 3.0)

By the end of October we learned that two teams of high school Lead Learners were now contributing members of the K12 Innovation Strategy (see this innovation project and this partnership project).

So what shift is happening in your learning communities?

We can have the best curriculum, policies or assessment, but first we need the practices. As our pedagogies change, our assessment will follow.  And new pedagogies and new assessment will beg for new curriculum and these changes force both shifts in policy and engagement.  And finally our learning environments should reflect our practice so as the practices change the learning environments will follow.”
(Chris Kennedy, What Comes First?)

With humble gratitude, this blog post is dedicated to the educators from my own backyard, both sides of the fence, and the Twittersphere.  As members of my ever-expanding learning network, their courageous vulnerability as learners continues to form, inform and transform my own professional growth.  I thankful for their hospitality (in welcoming me into their learning), and generosity (in sharing their learning with me).

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The Ode of a Pro-D Omnivore

“A key to growing as a teacher is to keep company mainly with teachers who uplift you, whose presence inspires you and whose dedication drives you.”
Robert John Meehan

So began my first attempt at presenting an Ignite.(I am confidant that this statement has shocked my PLN given my addiction to attending Ignite events.  And yes, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Anxiety and adrenaline made the experience both terrifying and exhilarating.)

My captive audience was the Physical Education and Home Economic cohort pre-service educators at the University of British Columbia. My former colleague – Steve McGinley – the cohort’s faculty advisor invited me to reflect on what it means to continue to grow in our profession after the degree and certification.

This was the message (Slides and Script) I chose to share:

Photograph by R. Pillay 2015

Photograph by R. Pillay 2015

The home hidden behind this immense hedge of trees caught both my attention and imagination. I wondered whether or not the homeowners even bothered with Christmas lights, Halloween decorations, or landscaping their front yard.

There was a time in my former life as a secondary teacher where my practice resembled this home. In the busyness of day to day routines and rhythms, I sentenced my professional development to solitary confinement.

What growth could occur in this darkness? Five years ago I broke out of this imprisonment shifting from cloistered to connect-ed.

So how did I get paroled into professional growth? The simple answer?
Someone showed me THE bird. As in Twitter … and I have never looked back.

From lurking and learning in the twitterverse, 140-character exchanges have led to face-to-face encounters with “A”-game educators. Before I knew it Twitter became a gateway, a portal to my metamorphosis into a Pro-D omnivore.

Year after year of sit n’ git conferences, monthly staff meetings listening to memos about the mundane, my professional learning became emaciated. My learning diet was missing essential vitamins like Vitamin C: conversation, community, and collaboration.

Twitter supplies an ample dose of this Vitamin C through face-to-face, after school professional learning including EdCamps, Ignite Nights, and One Word Evenings.
Practical to Personal
Resources to Reflections
Connections to Conversations
These time-out experiences are simply “networking on steroids”.

Deliberately avoiding the traditional pro-D model of monologues of expertise, EdCamps and Ignites are networking over nachos; learning with libations.

Sometimes we just need to hit the pause button and re-charge, you cannot help but be energized by individuals who spend their evenings and Saturdays to grow professionally.

After attending his first Ignite Night, Chris Kennedy, Superintendent of West Van Schools, enthused: “You could walk around the room; it had a greater sense of community and was more connected than any staff meeting … People were inspired and also reminded they are not alone — others are trying to do similar things. … It is these types of coalitions that are going to bring about change in education. This is the new world of affiliation — people connected not by role, not by location, but by passion.” (see his post Affiliation and Ignite)

These social networks have synaptic roots. Our brains crave Vitamin C.

Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Lieberman has studied the brain’s inherently social nature: “this network for social thinking switches us from being information consumers to information DJs motivating us to share what we learn… Getting more social is the secret to making a smarter brain.” (watch The Social Brain and Its SuperPowers and read his book, and research)

Being more social accelerates and amplifies the professional growth of the Lead Learners – an interschool, interdisciplinary, cross-grade team of high school teachers. They meet monthly to pool their growing expertise, learn from the experience of out-of-district educators, and explore other classrooms.

These Vitamin C experiences support them in reimagining high school and reclaiming learning:
Alternate timetables
Going gradeless
Midterm moratoriums
Genius afternoons

Because of frequent doses of Vitamin “C”, they are shattering the status quo of school.

Your school is a professional learning pharmacy of Vitamin C: conversation, community and collaboration.

What if …

  • your professional growth plan included frequent in-school “staycations”?
  • you used your spare block to be an edu-tourist in your own school?
  • you took an in-school fieldtrip during your free block?

What if …

  • peeping through classroom doors and peeking through classroom windows were part of your prep time?
  • you went “trick or treating” for ideas, insights and inspiration at your colleague’s door?
  • you didn’t need to leave school to learn and grow as a teacher?

What if you only had 3 minutes or 180 seconds to spare?

Elementary teacher Joy DiNunzio created Chat180: “the in-house, self-driven, record-breaking fast, professional development chat”. Her reason? “not for a moment do I forget the valuable resources in my own backyard, the brilliant co-workers around me.”

How will you avoid becoming like the house with the hedge?

When you enter into your own classroom, how will you grow in your practice?

How will you get your dose of Vitamin C: conversation, community and collaboration?

From “Learn Something New, Teach Everything Better” by Jamie Green (Educational Leadership Summer 2013): “Good teachers aren’t born—they’re made, and they’re continually getting better. It’s important to remember that teachers are not created (or limited) by their degrees or salaries alone. They’re constantly developing and refining themselves. They’re constantly learning—and their students reap the benefits.”

Thank you.

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June 24, 2015 Lead Learners Celebration Supper: Courage

After a year of learning with and from the high school Lead Learners’ interschool community, we celebrated with an early evening dinner. The guest list included rookie and soon-to-be-retired educators from K-post secondary coming from independent and public schools. In addition to enjoying good food (BBQ dinner), Lead Learners were treated to great “food for thought” served by an impressive set of guest speakers. Each elaborated upon the “one word” that best defines his/her paradigm, passion, profession, or pedagogy. (see this storify for details about the One Word Celebration Supper)

So what was on the menu?

To whet our appetites, we heard from a group of five grade nine students who had 2 minutes each to read aloud prepared statements to describe his/her chosen word; for example, Devoted, Perseverance, Music, Enjoy and Courage. The students set the bar with respect to poise and presentation. I felt badly for the adult presenters who had to follow them.

The selection of entrees included five minute elaborations of one words by six educators. They may have begun with the same word “YES” as in positively responding to my invite but I was impressed by what they brought to the #oneword potluck. The edu-stars included Dr. Steve Cardwell (FLOW), Kristi Blakeway (UBUNTU), Anne Yam (RUN), Sean Nosek (KUZUSHI), Doug Lauson (CHANGE) and last but certainly not least Jacob Martens (PRESENCE). I was genuinely surprised by their word choices. From tickling our funny bone to touching our hearts, the narratives were memorable. Whether or not they chose to use props, powerpoints or photographs, the storytellers inspired us with their word, wit and wisdom.

To end the evening the dessert course was served via mystery skype with Dr. Yong Zhao. Nothing could have prepared me for the moment when Dr. Yong Zhao graciously accepted my invitation to share his one word. So from June 13 I kept this secret from everyone with the exception of my brother who was going to provide tech support for the skype session.

So many of his words were the basis of the Lead Learners professional reading this past year. I was first introduced to him as a “critical friend” of BC’s education system even though he refers to himself as a failed peasant farmer. He has 19.5K followers. His published curriculum vitae is 30+ pages long and includes a table of contents! Larry Espe once tweeted that it was not a coincidence that the mystery man’s last name rhymed with “Wow“.

When Dr. Zhao appeared behind me on the screen, I could hear the collective gasp of the audience as they recognized who came to our dinner. And yes, I did have my “fan girl” moment when I was finally able to share aloud the secret I was keeping for the past few days. What a relief!

There was no way we were going to keep Dr. Zhao to the 5 minute time limit! He was so generous to give us a 15 minute window of time. Several of us thought his one word was going to be “entrepreneurship” but he “one”derfully surprised all of us by reflecting on the English translation of his name: “COURAGE“.

At that time, I could not recall what Dr. Zhao said because I was in a state of shock that he was actually spending time with this group of educators gathered in a high school library in Vancouver, BC at the end of June!

When time came to say goodbye to Dr. Zhao, I was initially speechless. I wished I had rehearsed something eloquent and profound regarding his research or latest publications. I wish I had told him how much his humility, humour and hope has influenced the learning of the Lead Learners this year. But in the end I discovered how hard it is to articulate any words when one cannot stop grinning from ear to ear.

Thankfully one of the Lead Learners took the initiative to record his presentation. Here are some highlights from Dr. Zhao’s five minutes of defining Courage:

“willing to take responsibilities for what you stand for and willing to take risks and also very great excuse when you do something wrong: I am just courageous … We need courage in education, in teachers, and in our students. We have a system that really puts us as cowards to comply with government systems through standardized testing, with what is handed to us… We need the courage to make the change … To help our students to do what is right …To make things right for our children and our students”

“Assume the responsibility, the autonomy you might get and it also means that you are able to create that something that will be different. And we keep talking about entrepreneurship, creativity, innovators, and the one big thing they have is confidence and courage … it can scare you as well. … And I get scared all the time. Right now I am working on a paper that is focused on why don’t we study, to research about side-effects in education? And as you know in schools we never give warning labels as we would get with a bottle of Tylenol or Advil: It always warns you: This might cure a runny nose but may cause a bleeding a stomach. Or in education policy or textbooks nobody tells you or gives you a warning label …Now the government says: Standardized testing might help you raise test scores but makes your children hate schools forever.”

“Thank you for taking a courageous journey. For helping each other to maintain that courage and that’s what we need for a better world, for all of us, our children …They will not accept the future but create the future and they all need courage.”


Dr. Zhao’s one word: Courage resonated with my own childhood experiences.

Diagnosed as a stutterer, I grew to abhor speaking aloud in class. I chose to be mute than suffer mockery. I chose to not raise my hands. I chose to remain silent than test people’s patience. Well-meaning teachers would spare me public humiliation and embarrassment by not calling on me during read-alouds. What happens when individuals no longer hear his/her name called?

Then in Grade 7 encouraged by a teacher, I faced one of my greatest fears by entering speech arts’ competition. It was no easy feat for me to stand and recite the selected pieces of scripture and prose. During the first festival I entered, I vividly recall fleeing the stage in tears even before I spoke a single word! I feared to hear the voice that I had willfully silenced for so long.

But a handful of adults in my life were relentless in bringing me to one stage after the next. They heard/believed in my voice even before I could say one word. They worked with me in calming my nerves while I practiced my breathing. The more they en-courage-d me, the more courageous I became.

Then several months later I stood confidently, courageously in front of a microphone. And the words cascaded out of my mouth.  For the first time the words didn’t feel like paddling the grand rapids. Each word was birthed without pain. No words somersaulted in my mouth. In that moment it wasn’t that people could hear me but I heard my own voice. I could hear “me”.

I still have a speech impediment but I am thankful every day for the opportunity to take risks, make mistakes, and learn. I still get butterflies before opening my mouth in public. One of my colleagues has said on more than once occasion: “give Rose a microphone and she is a totally different person.” But perhaps the microphone amplifies who I am?

I concur with the hope of Dr. Judy Halbert and Dr. Linda Kaser for “all learners to walk the stage with dignity, purpose and options”. But I wonder if we could make room for more than one stage and multiple microphones, too?

Before school closed for the summer, I was privileged to read the Innovation proposals drafted by a handful of my high school colleagues. Through exploring and experimenting with interdisciplinary inquiry learning, STEM, alternate timetables, flex blocks, going gradeless, midterm moratoriums, passion-projects, academies, genius afternoons, technology-enabled learning, and challenging “honour roll”, these teachers are redesigning the stage. They are re-engineering school so that all students’ voices are heard. Because they want to encourage all of their students, these inspired educators are being courageous, too!

So to extend the metaphor with a few questions:

  • Do students get opportunities to be courageous in your classroom?
  • How courageous are you? What stage do you need to stand on? Which microphone do you need to speak into? What have you done for the sake of your students that scares/scared you?
  • What are you doing to provide all of your students with the microphones they need?
  • Can you hear your students? Why or why not?
  • Can your students hear themselves? Why or why not?
  • What’s your one word?

Needless to say Kare Anderson’s TEDTalk: Be An Opportunity Maker resonated with me:

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Storify: A Year of Learning

Trust the story, and yourself – through each word and sentence – until your page is alive with the wonder of creation, until you are in wonder at the life of your creation.

(Mark David Gerson, The Voice of the Muse)

A few years ago I organized a workshop presented by George Couros.  By the end of the workshop, he had convinced (or should I say shamed) me to change my twitter avatar and “hatch” into an actual profile photo.  But he also publicly challenged me to storify the tweets shared that day.

My ego prevented me from admitting I had no idea what storify was!   So I googled and embarked on a self-guided discovery of storify learning by clicking and experimenting – “I wonder what that icon does?

Storify has become my default with respect to archiving and sharing what I have learned with and from the professional communities and networks  I am growing with as an educational consultant.

Grateful to everyone who contributed the words of insights, inspirations and ideas that I weaved into story, these are the 21 stories (and counting) of the past school year:

  1. “PSII: Forever Learners”
  2. “Shatter Silos: “Teaching as if people mattered””
  3. “Inspired Learning in a World Class System – Day One”
  4. “Inspired Learning in a World Class System: “Stop Making Sausage””
  5. “Building Community in a Time of Change”
  6. “Innovation Zones: Estuaries of Transformation”
  7. #ATIcon: Learning Vicariously ”
  8. “Odyssey 2015 Langley School District Pro-D”
  9. “Ignite Night with Dean Shareski”
  10. “TEDxLangley Saturday January 17, 2015”
  11. “Ignite: Sharing Our Stories Part I”
  12. “Ignite: Sharing our Stories – Side-Effects”
  13. “Focus on Learning: “We’re doing this is for you.”
  14. Leadership & Learning with Jordan & George”
  15. Ignite the Shore SD 45 v
  16. “Larry Espe: From Tailoring to Transformation”
  17. #noii2015 Passion and Purpose”
  18. “SD36Learns: Engaging the Digital Learner”
  19. “Jan Unwin: Repurposing, Rethinking and Reinventing”
  20. #oneword2015
  21. DENapalooza “Butterflies””

This past Saturday I attended Denapalooza hosted by Dean Shareski.  During his welcome he called me the “Queen of Storify“.

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March 9 QUIO and FreshGrade Seminar

In March I organized an all-day workshop to introduce the high school lead learners to two (2) new pieces of software for Communicating Student Learning that supports ongoing formative assessment as opposed to other summative assessment software that is designed to crunch data and spew out numbers and letters.

We explored these two digital forms of archiving the process and products of learning: QUIO and FreshGrade (e.g. see A Window Into Learning).

During the warm-up (pre-workshop discussion), the high school teachers engaged in a pair of conversation starters including Conversation Cards and this question: “In the high school context, what is the difference between reporting and communicating student learning?

In response to the question, formal REPORTING of student learning was defined by the participants as an end-of-term, computer-generated, one-way, filed-away “official” communication of percentages, letter grades and comments from teacher to parent at scheduled intervals throughout the year for such purposes as ranking and rewarding academic achievement (e.g. honour roll or wall of “horror”).

In contrast though the small group table talk yielded this list of descriptors for COMMUNICATING student learning:

On-going, informal, real-time, two-way dialogue around understanding and mastery between teacher and student (with parents via conferences, emails, etc…) discerning and sharing “how are we going to better accommodate for student needs?” with the feedback and time for improvement. Primarily within the classroom, this organic process is predicated on the voice of the student often visualized through portfolios with minimal references to grading.

In the morning the teachers engaged in a hands-on workshop to test-drive QUIO before an afternoon presentation about FreshGrade. Both forms of e-portfolio software have noted strengths in aligning with the different aspects of the transformed curriculum, visualizing student learning, and mediating improved communication between teachers and students with parents.

Able to visualize answers to such questions as: “What does learning look like? How can we picture learning? What did you learn in school today?”, I was most impressed by the multi-dimensional features of both e-portfolios to foster much more meaningful and purposeful communication between the teacher and student with his/her family.

For example, summative reports had a 3-D feel highlighting all the evidence of learning (e.g. products, observations and conversations) that “went in to” the “mark” while formative reports were akin to “marking” without “marks” as one teacher asserted. More than a digital scrapbook of student selfies, these digital collection boards are learner-centric.

But what was most significant was how operating the apps made the individual teacher’s assessment practices and proficiencies remarkably transparent. In making the classroom walls porous if not invisible, the software showcased the individual teacher’s fluency in and familiarity with the assessment for learning paradigm.

Both the learning and the teaching are visible.

In my opinion such digital software strengthens the individual teacher’s instructional agility as described by Tom Schimmer:

When formative assessment is viewed more as a verb, teachers begin to create a different assessment paradigm within their classrooms. As a verb, assessment is instruction and teachers need not “stop” in order to “conduct.” The lines between assessment, instruction, and feedback, while still distinguishable, are blurred as a teacher sees assessment as an action or process, not a tangible. … To be instructionally agile is to understand the strategies, processes, and practices that allow teachers to have a fluid exchange of assessment information with their students in order to keep learning on track.

Presented as tools that will never replace the critical role of teachers, these e-portfolios promote a hopeful pedagogy that values learning as an iterative process. I find it to be very much aligned with the sentiments of Pope Francis:

The educational relationship of the teacher must be such that each student feels “loved for what he or she is, with all of their limitations and potential,” he added. … Similar to parenthood, at least in a spiritual sense, the Pope stressed that teaching “allows us to see the people who are entrusted to our care grow day after day.” … More than simply a job, Pope Francis said, teaching is “a relationship in which each teacher must feel fully involved as a person, to give meaning to the educational task towards their students.”

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“In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you live?
How deeply did you let go?”
Gautama Buddha

As educators and students entered the home-stretch towards summer holidays,
I had mixed emotions about this past June 2014.

It was the end.

For some teachers, it was the end of their rookie year. When I first met them in August 2013, I asked the first year high school teachers to complete this sentence starter: “At the end of this year, here’s how my students will remember me…

At the start of their professional career, this was their response:

“(His) class taught me a lot and went by way too quickly”
“A role model of faith & virtues”
“A teacher who cares”
“As a dedicated professional, who loves & treats each student with respect”
“As a firm, but fair, enthusiastic and caring teacher”
“As a teacher who liked to try new and exciting things”
“As someone who listens”
“Firm but fair, has a sense of humour, cares about their success”
“I am the teacher who conveyed concepts through the many anecdotes from my life, I am obsessed with coffee. And I love them. Truly.”
“Interesting, equal and fun!! … I hope!”
“Oddly funny, supportive and honest”
“They will recall learning in a fun, creative environment that was based on faith and respect”
“We learned, we laughed, we worked hard, and we had a great time.”

For others, it was the end of their teaching career. For example, I said goodbye, good luck and God Bless to my former and favorite high school teacher who retired after 36 years at my alma mater.

And I am awed by those who never want it to end; for example, my high school English teacher and former colleague who is in his 53rd year of teaching because “the fire is still burning for him in his vocation.” (see

With no apparent plans to retire anytime soon, I asked him on August 19, 2013 to respond to this question: “Best teaching advice after 48+ years …”? In hopes of inspiring the first year teachers, I wanted to learn why he does what he does year after year.

A day later he responded: “My favorite piece of educational advice appears in a movie, A Thousand Clowns. A “free-thinking” uncle, Murray, attempting to raise his intellectually gifted nephew, Nick, in an environment judged by the authorities to be unsatisfactory explains to his girl-friend what he is hoping to accomplish with his nephew. It’s a short speech which essentially says that Murray wants above all for Nick to be a critical thinker and to realize his potential. I cannot state with certainty the entire speech, but it concludes with the line, ‘I want him to know the sneaky, subtle, important reason he was born a human being and not a chair.’”

He not only provided an email response but somehow managed (on his summer holidays nonetheless) to find copies of the movie on video and script of the play version for me to retrieve from the school.

Here is an excerpt from the script of “A Thousand Clowns”:

“I didn’t spend six years with him so he should turn into a listmaker.

He’ll learn to know everything before it happens, he’ll learn to plan, he’ll learn to be one of the nice dead people…

I just want him to stay with me till I can be sure he won’t turn into Norman Nothing.

I want to be sure he’ll know when he’s chickening out on himself.

I want him to get to know exactly the special thing that he is or else he won’t notice it when it starts to go.

I want him to stay awake and know who the phonies are,
I want him to know how to holler and put up an argument,
I want a little guts to show before I can let him go.

I want him to be sure he sees all the wild possibilities.

I want him to know it’s worth all the trouble just to give the world a little goosing when you get the chance.

And I want him to know the subtle, sneaky, important reason why he was born a human being and not a chair.

A week ago Friday at the Catholic Educators’ Conference, he received a standing ovation from more than 1200+ educators as he walked to the stage for his certificate and gold ring. Before he returned to his seat, he was asked to remain on stage as the MC asked everyone to be seated except for the individuals who were taught by him. Because I was standing in the front row, I could not see who else was standing behind me.

I would later learn that my former English teacher would see empty chairs … as nearly 100 people stood up to applaud him. In front of him I stood with three generations of educators who left their chairs to thank him.

Whether at the start or finish line of your career paths, what have you learned?

Did you learn the difference between connecting with and correcting; teaching and telling; prioritizing people and pushing paperwork; teaching children and covering curriculum; learning and grading; individuals and ID numbers; human beings and chairs; etc…?

In the end it is not important what you have taught but what you have learned.

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#igniteyourstory Shark Sisters

“Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It’s the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all.”
Guy de Maupassant

Next week Wednesday February 11 will be Ignite Sharing Our Stories inspired by Ignite Your Passion for Discovery hosted by Dean Shareski.

Reflecting on my own experience at #yvrignite this past November, what advice would I give to first time Ignitees?

Advice #1: This is the door prize I won that evening.  It’s a novelty flash drive. (Not actual size.) Why? Because I was the first person to say “hello” to one of the organizers. (I didn’t know it at the time. I just looked for the most friendliest face in the crowd.) Don’t get me wrong: it is not in my nature to walk into bars and engage complete strangers. But the magic of ignite for educators is the opportunity to grow their professional network. So just for that night, ignore your mom’s advice, and talk to the other 79 “strangers”. Would it not be interesting to learn why they chose to be here on a school night?

Most likely you will learn something (practical, personal, or professional) from one or more of the fifteen fascinating storytellers or Igniters.  However I would encourage all Ignitees to make the effort to learn the name of someone whose story you have not heard (… yet).

As for me at #yvrignite, I said “hello” to inspiring Ron Dorland @rondorland who is now  part of my twitter community (thanks to @hughtheteacher for the introductions).   Several weeks later I would hear him present at #sdlearns Teachers are Superheroes:

Disclaimer: saying “hello” is no guarantee of a door prize.

“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.”
Mark Twain

Advice #2 and #3: The second shark USB went to my friend Tammy (I worked with her on the first ever TEDxKidsVancouver and we’ve stayed connected through twitter and random EdCamps). She won her USB because she was the very first person to register for #yvrignite.

Huddled around the bar tables listening to the amazing speakers, people were avidly tweeting about their experience.

At one point during the night, Tammy turned to me so happy that someone had retweeted and replied to one of her tweets.

She asked if I knew the tweeter: his handle was @GabrielPillay1. Of course I did: he’s my brother.

Then I pointed out to Tammy the man seated to my left and introduced Tammy to my brother!

The irony of communicating in the virtual world with someone who was seated just a few feet away was not lost on us.

So two more pieces of advice from this anecdote:

(1) Tweet: pick up your device and use #igniteyourstory to tweet-all-about-it: share your learning (including photos) with those who could not attend and

(2) Talk: put down your device between presentations, stop tweeting, start talking and make face-to-face connections with your PLN.

For example, because I made the effort to connect during the breaks at #yvrignite, I was rewarded with the opportunity to meet, thank (and hug) the remarkable Kristi Blakeway @kblakeway for her poignant reflection:

In the end #igniteyourstory is all about putting the “social” into social networking. It is not just about friending and following but making connections and having conversations in real-time, in person.

“I call this “permission networking”. My network is not the list of how many people I know. The strength of my network is how well everyone on the list of people I know, knows each other. Most people don’t know this important principle.”
― James Altucher

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