It Makes You Wonder

Posted: 25th March 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I lived through the experience of parenting four articulate curious toddlers. I experienced first hand the life of a kindergarten teacher and preschool teacher for several years. I promote the use of inquiry by students and teachers. Believe me when I say that I have heard a lot of wondering questions. The best ones seem to come spontaneously from young children unafraid to explore their environment and make meaning of all sorts of things that we take for granted through our own experienced eyes.

But if educators are life long learners, Shouldn’t we be getting back into the practice of wondering?

Here goes. My wonders for today:

1) how in the world did it get to be the end of March already? Why does time seem to fly faster the older I get?

2) how does snow melt when the air temperature is below zero still?

3) why does the air in my house feel warmer when there is more humidity even though the temperature is the same?

4) how can I promote a greater use of our outdoor space as a valuable learning environment for our students (beyond its role in recess and PE?). How can I sell this to teachers? To students?

5) how can we (educators) better communicate to parents the shifts in educational practice…and convince parents those changes might be different than what they know but they are good for kids?

6) how do I maintain growth in a personal leadership learning Goal I have when it is no longer really a top priority for me? Is this how students feel when they are just done with a unit/inquiry? If I’m not motivated or interested any more is there any benefit to my learning (or in my connection, to students’ learning) to keep pushing because I haven’t met a timeline for a goal?

I need to practice what I preach. Wondering is good for kids. Wondering is also good for educators. While I might not share all my wonderings here, I will be making a more conscious effort to reflect on my wonderings and see where they take me. Do you wonder?

There is something to be said for how deeply new ideas or approaches end up permeating into far reaching areas of your thinking.  What started off as simple may end up being so multi-faceted that you can’t quite believe that is where you’ve ended up.

It started for me with the idea of promoting student voice and choice in learning.  The idea that self-actualized learning (or facilitated rather than directed learning) is more engaging, more personal and more meaningful for students and better prepares them for the challenges of modern life.  It starts by asking students to think through their learning needs, exploring information and making connections collaboratively, and then deciding how best to demonstrate and share their new learning.  A shift, for sure, but doable and understandable, I think.

But once you understand the role of student voice and choice, it is difficult to cage it into these narrow confinements.  If we want students to think for themselves, create new knowledge and apply their learning meaningfully, where does it go next?

Well, over this March break, for me, it went to weird places.

First I read this article in the Globe and Mail about a local principal and the changes in discipline in his school.  You can read it here:   How A High School Principal Curbed Suspension

I will admit that the whole suspension/expulsion/punishment side of administration is one of the least favourite roles I have in this job.  As this article hints at, the effectiveness of punishment in education is being questioned.  I know that I would much rather devote my time to counselling students; teaching them to think through their actions, the effects of those actions and to plan out how to better approach situations in the future.  I understand that punishment isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, but if we are dedicated to shifting student learning from a system of “You learn this because I said so and here is how you will learn it” to a system that says “You learn what you need to learn, how you need to learn it and I will help you get there”, then wouldn’t our system of punishment have to change too?

This leads me to the next weird place I landed.  If you have been on social media in the last few days, you have probably heard about #Odinbirthday.  A young boy in Peterborough, Ontario was celebrating his 13th birthday and not one of his invited peers responded about coming.  His mother claims that Odin has difficulty making friends and that he has dealt with issues of bullying in school.  One must be hesitant to believe without critique everything in the media, but one truth we know is that he invited other kids and no one came to his party.  Why?  I don’t pretend to know the missing perspective here – the kids who were invited may just not have been able to make it.  But, let’s say that there is a possibility that the kids didn’t come because they don’t like Odin.  Did they break any rules?  No.  You aren’t obliged to go to a party are invited to.  They had that choice, right?

OK.  Stay with me for a minute and I’ll get to the point.  Say these party invitees had been raised in an education system of punishment/reward.  Right/wrong.  Do as I say because those are the rules.  It’s not unlikely – this is a pretty pervasive system in education.  These invitees didn’t break any rules by not going to a classmate’s party.

But now let’s say they instead went to a school like that described in the Globe and Mail article.  One that encourages students to be part of the learning process and to understand their own need for learning, and thinking through their own behaviour.  One that encourages students to value each voice as adding to our collective learning.  One that understands that we need to work at creating rules for collaboration together so that we all benefit.  That just because it isn’t something that you aren’t punished for doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good.  Did Odin’s classmates break an official rule?  No.  Did they value Odin and the contributions he could make (or consider how their actions may have impacted someone else)?  Maybe not.

This leads me to one more weird place.  My daughter’s toque.  If you hang around any teenagers, at least in this part of the world, it is not uncommon to see teenagers wearing a few key accessories:  a phone and a hat.  Guess what two things are most often banned in a high school classroom (at least in my very small and admittedly biased study)?  You guessed it:  phones and hats.  My daughter was angry about the no hat rule at school and wanted to know why it was a thing.  What purpose does it serve?  Why do you get reamed out for wearing one in class?  Why must everyone put their phones in the bucket on the teacher’s desk at the beginning of class?  While she knows that I am not responsible for the rules in her school, she figured I must at least be able to explain the thinking behind this rule.  I really couldn’t.  Telling her that that is just the way it is and that she should be respectful of the rules just to demonstrate her respect of the rule keepers didn’t feel right.  She wasn’t saying that she wouldn’t follow the rules, just that she questioned the validity of them and that no one would explain the thinking behind them to her to make her want to follow them.

I want my daughter to have a voice and I want her to know that that voice is respected by her peers, her teachers and her administrators.  Telling her just to leave her hat in her locker wasn’t making me feel like that was the way to do it.

I have no resolution to these three separate, but connected scenarios.  School rules exist.  School punishments exist.  Hurtful decisions by students exist.  But, I wonder as we further own up to the responsibility we have to student voice and choice – not only within curricular assignments – if we would see some shifts in these things.

So there you go.  It was no beach vacation for me for March break but I did go to some weird places in my head.

 

Dancing As If No One Is Watching

Posted: 12th March 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I picked up two of my daughters after a high school dance last night. On the ride home, they were chattering on about watching some of the students dancing like they were alone in their bedroom, with no inhibitions. I haven’t been to a high school dance in a while, but I suspect some things never change. Some will dance to have fun without any cares, others will dance to show off, others won’t dance because they are too scared of what everyone else will think.

I don’t dance but I do write. We all write for many different purposes and audiences. One of my favourites is this, right here: blogging. It is my chance to greedily take 15 minutes for myself, to think clearly enough to express myself, to connect my thinking to my own other thoughts and to other’s thoughts. Self regulatory, selfish, reflective bliss.

I know, as I write, that someone else may read this. Maybe someone will read it and even add to my thinking with comments or questions, maybe not. But I can’t write with that intent in mind. I have to focus on writing for the purpose of reflecting; I have to dance as if no one is watching.

If I wrote with an audience in mind, it would change my content and skew my thoughts. Audience and purpose are too intertwined. Change one and you affect the other. If I write thinking about those other people who may read it, I have stained the purpose of self reflection. It would become narration with the intent of feedback/challenging/celebrating/informing/entertaining. I’m happy to let anyone read it and take from it whatever they want, but I have to write it for me.

That got me thinking about our students. We want them to be self reflective and take the time to think through their thinking in order to further their learning. There are, at least in Ontario, a surprisingly substantial number of expectations that clearly show that it is a skill we need to develop in our students.  So my question is, when do we get them to reflect like no one is watching…or judging…or expecting? How do we provide them with those authentic opportunities to reflect without that effect of an other audience haunting their reflective efforts? Is there a way to balance this need for autonomous thinking and reflecting with our need to further their skills AND (just to make things complicated) evaluate those skills?

I’m curious. How do you get your students to think like no one is listening, reflect like no one is evaluating, and learn like no one is watching?

 

 

Things I Know For Sure

Posted: 1st March 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

By three methods we may learn wisdom:  First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”  ~ Confucius

Confucius may have been on to something.  We know that there are different ways that we learn and acquire knowledge and wisdom.  Current educational research tells us that we need to give reflection a substantial time, place and weight to allow for a greater depth of learning.  It seems to fly in the face of our busy, fast-paced, multi-tasking world.  Good educators and learners, though, I think carve out the needed time and focus to allow for it.

I propose a challenge of reflection to all you striving educators and life-long learners.  Can you stop and reflect on your learning this year?  What are 5 tidbits of wisdom you have gained?  What can you share with others?

Here are mine.

1.  Everyone is on a learning journey, whether they want to be or not.  Taking the time to find out what motivates them, what scares them, and how to support them, is worth it.  Supporting someone using their agenda instead of your own makes a difference, and may make the reluctant learner more willing.

2.  Listening is a HARD skill.  You only get better at it with practice, focus and a heavy dose of putting others’ needs before your own.

3. Looking for ways to celebrate progress, achievement and effort should be an on-going goal of anyone in leadership.  But you need to be able to clearly identify and relate what it is that is worth the celebration.  Vague congratulations and good jobs are empty efforts at promoting progress.

4. We all have a finite amount of time, energy and resources.  For the biggest impact, focus your efforts, stay the course, and let the rest go (for now) with as little guilt as you can manage.

5. I learn best when I can share and learn from others who share too.  I get the sense that I’m not alone in that.

 

So, what are 5 things that you know for sure that you have been learning?  What can you stop and reflect about?  Let’s make Confucius proud.  Reply in the comments, or post your own blog “Thing I Know For Sure”, or just reflect and share in person with someone if that’s what helps you.  There is power in reflecting; why not use it?

 

Listening for the Quiet Whispers

Posted: 23rd February 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I consider myself a life long learner, and I am hoping that you can see this in this blog. I’m always trying to learn, reflect, question and enhance my professional knowledge and skills. As a relatively new administrator, I have freely admitted that some of my biggest goals revolve around leadership skills. This year, I have focused on a leadership goal that has been somewhat nebulous. It has also been frustrating at times, slow moving at others.

A few weeks ago, several leaders were together reflecting on our personal leadership goals and discussing our next steps. One general piece of advice from one amongst us was to make sure that we are not so busy with the doing, changing, and making moves to step back, observe and reflect on what change we actually see. Good advice, I thought. It happened to coincide with a Professional Activity day in our board, followed less than a week later by a school staff meeting. I forced myself in both situations to step back, quietly observe and reflect.

Do I see progress on my specific goal for change? Was there anything to celebrate? Did it help me gain any clarity?

In my quest to observe and listen, the feedback I sought didn’t all come from the sources I expected. I expected to get some first hand accounts from participants and some observations from my perspective. I got those, but my most meaningful reflection information came from unexpected sources. On both the PA day and the day of the staff meeting, different people pulled me aside for a quiet conversation. Each of these people have been outside my goal – they neither know what my goal is nor have they been part of the work of the change. And yet, in these outsider positions, each offered me feedback about their own observations that gave me clear evidence of the effects of my work.

They had no idea about the evidence they provided me. They still don’t.

It doesn’t matter that I haven’t specifically declared this goal publicly (and I haven’t for a reason – it affects other people who may not be agreeable to this goal being publicized). By stopping, listening, observing, and taking in the evidence – even when it surprised me – I’ve been made more reflective towards my work of learning. I can’t tell you how much I needed this breath of refreshment. The work of learning can be hard, tedious, frustrating.

We teach students and educators to reflect on their work as part of their own cycles of learning: plan, act, assess, reflect. But I wonder how often we teach them to find ways to reflect outside our normal spheres? How often do we ask them to look for those quiet pieces of evidence? How often do we – as celebrants of life long learning – pull people aside to be a quiet voice of refreshment too?

 

When Two Worlds Collide – Adventures in Feedback

Posted: 8th February 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I love feedback.  I love getting it, giving it, talking about it, reading about it.  It is a teaching and learning strategy that is often misrepresented and misunderstood.  It deserves more thinking time by educators.  Let’s call this my contribution to the cause.

In Ontario there has been a greater buzz about feedback since Growing Success came out as our guiding document in assessment and evaluation.  It is smack in the middle of the Assessment Continuum:  learning goals, success criteria, descriptive feedback, peer assessment, self assessment.  While all five of these elements are important, I believe that feedback is the most critical.  Without feedback, students won’t use the first two items to enhance their learning and evidence of their learning and won’t have the modelling needed to learn how to do the last two effectively.

With the rise of Growing Success, I was fortunate to be part of many conversations about descriptive feedback with educators in a variety of schools and situations.  One of the researchers I relied on to enhance my own understanding of feedback was Dylan Wiliam.  Wiliam wrote the book on feedback, Embedded Formative Assessment   (and the articles, and the youtube videos).

This one is one of my favourite short videos of Wiliam talking about feedback.  

From all of Dylan Wiliam’s work, and that of many of his research colleagues, I learned these key understandings about descriptive feedback.

  1. Not all feedback is helpful for a recipient’s learning.
  2. Feedback should be more work…more thinking and doing work…for the recipient than it is for the giver.
  3. Feedback shouldn’t be about ego but about task.  (e.g. “You’re a good thinker, Johnny” = ego; “Your explanation about how the author convinced you was well thought out” = task)
  4. A considerable amount of good feedback is in the form of questions.
  5. Feedback is directly related to the learning goals and success criteria the giver and recipient both know and commonly understand.
  6. Good feedback accelerates learning.
  7. Feedback is actionable and targets a specific recipient’s next steps.  What actions does the recipient need to take to make it better?

I really don’t do the research justice by reducing it to these few thoughts.  If you haven’t read Wiliam’s work, I highly recommend it.

Last week, I was fortunate to be at a conference about Visible Learning, the work of John Hattie.  Hattie is a researcher who has (in his spare time…he actually called it his “hobby”) analyzed the findings of 1200+ reliable research investigations and found a way to figure out what are the strategies and conditions that affect student achievement and then to compare them in a meaningful way.  138 strategies in total were evaluated and ordered.  Through his research, he uncovered which strategies have the biggest influence on student learning, which really make no difference at all, and which ones are actually detrimental to student achievement. For a full explanation of the list and the research, please see

http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

Without spoiling too much for you, know that feedback is consistently in the top ten list of most beneficial to student achievement, with an effect size of 0.75.  This essentially means that good feedback can accelerate student achievement almost 2 years worth in a single year. As an important strategy, Hattie and his colleagues dug further into it and came up with these findings:

1. Feedback can accelerate student achievement at almost twice the expected rate.

2. Students need lots of feedback, but that feedback has to be clearly understood by the student in terms of why it is given, what they need to do next and how to do what they need to do next.

3. Students often see feedback negatively because it either comes too late for them to act on it (eg written feedback on an assignment) or because it is offered in a group setting (class, small group) and individual students don’t know how the feedback directly relates to them.

4.  Praise is often confused for feedback.  If the comments are not related to learning goals, not providing new information about how to to further a task, or not having student self reflect on their own next steps, it’s probably not feedback but praise.  Currently, a large portion of teacher to student comments fit into the praise category, not feedback.

5. Feedback needs to be timely to be supportive.

So far, Hattie and Wiliam show some distinct similarities in their views on feedback.  But when I have worked with teachers around feedback previously, many of the questions they had included:  what kind of feedback do I give to that student who is already achieving at a high level? I know feedback needs to allow for critical thinking and connect to my success criteria but what if what a student needs to do next is outside of these parameters – what if they aren’t ready yet for this higher level of thinking and reflecting?  This is where Hattie gave me more to think about.

6. There needs to be a high degree of trust between the teacher and student when providing feedback.

7. There are different levels of feedback:  Self (praise), Task (specific, knowledge based), Process (metacognitive thinking processes used to consider and present learning), and Self Regulation (transferable skill and self evaluation).

8. It is important to provide feedback at the appropriate level (see #7 for levels) at the appropriate time.  Students who are novices to some new learning will need task level feedback.  As they gain proficiency, feedback should shift to the level of process.  When students are highly proficient, feedback to encourage self regulation (allowing students to transfer learning to new applications and to self reflect to a high degree) is most successful.

I’m still thinking about the implications for what advice I would give teachers to provide students with good feedback.  Some of my suggestions won’t change:  know your students, encourage self reflection, have a common understanding of goals, and ask more questions and give fewer statements.  But perhaps some of my suggestions will change.  I see the task/process/self regulation levels of feedback as being somewhat related to the Achievement chart in our Ontario curriculum documents  (see an example here:  here ).  I have usually encouraged teachers to focus on the “meaty” part of the achievement chart:  thinking and application.  But now I wonder if a teacher needs to determine if a student is a novice and need more task / knowledge and understanding feedback, or gaining proficiency and need more process / communication and thinking feedback, or highly proficient and need  self regulation / thinking and application feedback.

The other thing I wonder about is praise.  I have debated all of the “good job!” comments and stickers and considered whether they were limiting student learning, as Wiliam surmises.  (I wrote a blog post on my angst over the sticker debate here ).  But now I wonder if it is a critical piece to help gain develop trust:  trust between a teacher and student, or between students, and in all cases, towards feedback.  I’m still thinking about this one.

I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone.  I’m still trying to process it all myself.  Synthesizing the work of these two researchers is going to take me a while when it comes to practical applications.  I do know that feedback is good for students, though, and worth the brain strain.  I’d love some thoughts from all of your on-the-ground feedback researchers.

 

One of the jobs I had before I came to work for the HWDSB was for a local child protective services agency.  I would go into the homes of parents and try to help them learn skills to keep their children safe, healthy and learning.  It was a job that had very few resources and required lots of creativity.  For example, I had to find a way to teach one new mom how to know when to feed her new child…however the mother couldn’t tell time in traditional ways.  The mother did, however, keep the television on all day.  So, we started by using the shows that were on at certain times as a sign of when to feed the baby.  Not a traditional tool, but a starting point she was comfortable with and we had available.  Another time, I was working with a young parent who had a very limited income but wanted to learn things to prepare her preschooler for school.  We made letter and number cards out of cardboard cut from food boxes and to work on fine motor control, we made a stacking tower game out of some collected “pizza tables” (those little plastic things that come in the middle of takeout pizza).  Non traditional tools, but effective.

Tony Sinanis (@TonySinanis) challenged schools to join his school last week for No Worksheet Week (http://leadingmotivatedlearners.blogspot.com ) an opportunity for staff to find other ways to teach and other ways for students to learn than through the use of photocopied worksheets.  His argument is that worksheets rarely, if ever, support and extend student learning.  However, they are widely used because they are very good at keeping students busy and compliant, and are easy for teachers to find and distribute. I agree with Tony, and so issued the challenge to the educators at our school.  It reinforced our school-wide goals at providing students with tasks that are engaging, enriching, differentiated and allowing for student voice and choice. It also supported our board’s “Transforming Learning Everywhere” visioning document.  As our board works at providing the opportunities and experiences students this century need to excel, it plans to allow for wide-spread allocation of personal devices to accelerate learning opportunities.  To help fund this, it proposes far less reliance on paper, specifically photocopied paper and textbook purchases.  (I don’t really do the document justice here – these expenses are targeted because they also do not support the new teaching and learning strategies expected.  For a better look at Transforming Learning Everywhere, please see TLE document ).

I issued the challenge.  It was interesting to hear different responses:  some ignored it outright, or dismissed it as impossible/unrealistic.  Some took the challenge, but tried to find ways around it.  And others really took the challenge.

For those that took the challenge, there were still various responses.  Some found no change to their regular practice because they already don’t use worksheets. Others had to rethink their practice quite extremely.  They had to get creative. They included more accountable talk activities, relied more on students to determine how to demonstrate their learning, and increased their use of technology to capture student learning.  Students who had different practices this week noticed the change, and most seemed to like it.  Did they like it because it was novel or because it was good practice?  I guess that’s the next challenge:  if teachers continue to offer alternatives to worksheets, how will students react long term?  I hope some teachers will take the one week challenge and use it to reflect on how they can get creative long term.  They will be the early adopters who will help support the others when worksheets become even less of an option.

Perhaps some of out attempts to reduce worksheets (like, I admit, my attempts to teach time and engage preschoolers) we at a very basic substitution level. I have argued in the past that I am not satisfied with just substitution and that we should aim for choices higher up the SAMR model. I still stand by that, but I think some things – like worksheets and textbooks are hard for us to rethink teaching without until we have first just tried to live without them. So, this week I am happy for substitution, if only for the seeds of change it suggests to staff and students alike.

Sometimes we’re forced to be creative because of a lack of expected resources.  But sometimes we get to be creative because there are better resources we could use.  Thanks, Tony, for helping us reflect on a week of no worksheets.

Telling Stories

Posted: 23rd January 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I think I may have had an epiphany yesterday. Now, don’t mock me if what I end up saying is something that it so obvious you already knew it. It was some good learning for me. In a learning session today with John Clarke I learned that our best learning happens when we express our thoughts instead of when we just think them. So I am going to express and see what we all learn.

Yesterday I engaged in a day of learning with fellow administrators. We were involved in sessions that challenged our thinking about how our teachers teach, how our students learn and how we lead. One of the speakers, Dean Shareski (@shareski) talked about the responsibility of story telling. He said that when we talk about the 21st century learners that we are preparing to be our future leaders, we should not discount the importance of story telling as a key leadership skill. Um, pardon? Not collaboration, or problem solving, critical thinking? Not coding, documenting and reflecting, or questioning? Nope. Storytelling.

I had to think about this one. What could it be about story telling that links to leadership? I think we like to learn from people who teach through stories, but isn’t that just because it’s more interesting?

It made me think about some of the stories I’ve learned from. Some stories were from gifted speakers who have used story telling to emphasize a point, like educational speakers, teachers, pastors. Many learning experiences have come from written stories – those in printed texts, visual ones (like a movie) or auditory ones (like a song). What has made each of these learning through storytelling opportunities more memorable than someone just saying “don’t do this because this will happen” or some other wise tidbit?

I think it is because we are both social and egocentric. Socially, I am curious about YOUR experience because it’s interesting to learn about others, but I also want things to be about me. If this learning is going to be important to ME, I need to find ways to connect it to my life and my story.

I think story telling leaders provide this seemingly dichotomous balance to their listeners. They are saying, essentially, “here is a story about me…or Johnny…or Cinderella…here is some message we might get from that, but how that message translates into something meaningful in your own life is what I am leaving in your hands because you are the expert on you.” Great storytelling leaders would then be able to say “But I think what you’ve taken from this is important and valuable to my learning too, so once you figure out your new story from this learning, it will be your turn to be the leader and send us in a new direction.”

Back to my epiphany. Telling a story is the perfect tool to differentiate instruction. You dispense thoughts to be imparted that are then translated and made better by each one of your audience members, each with a unique and highly personal translation. Further, those translations can then be shared to deepen the learning of all again. Huh. Storytelling as reiterative, differentiated, engaging, personal learning.

So if my story here today, as a new version of Dean’s story yesterday, resonates with you, then what does that mean to you? How does story telling fit into leadership? Into teaching? Into learning?

 

 

 

Risky Business

Posted: 17th January 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

We often talk about our current generation of students in terms of the skills they have or lack.  They are tech wizards.  They have an ability to adapt to progress.  They have an inability to persevere in tasks.  They have a need for support in problem solving and critical thinking.  It makes me wonder how much of that is due to the influence we, their parents and educators, have had.  Some of those influences have been intentional:  if you give a 2 year old an iPad to play with and explore, it seems you would expect that they pick up the use of devices quickly and naturally.  Other influences, I think, are more nebulous and unintentional.  We talk about a subset of parents of this generation as “helicopter parents” (or, likely, educators).  Adults who swoop in and save students from problems; adults who fight battles for them, or who limit the battles and decisions they might have to make by planning and organizing their lives for them.

I’m not someone who spends much time in an RV, but I like the commercial created by GoRVing.ca, which you can see here:  Wildhood Video

I don’t profess to be the best parent ever (as I’m sure my children and husband would readily agree), but I know we have worked hard to allow our kids opportunities to take risks.  We let them jump on trampolines, toboggan, climb trees (and walls, and buildings, and once the Loggerman’s Arch in Stanley Park), cliff dive, and swim with sharks.  I will readily take a 6 year old zip lining through the rainforest (and I will zip line too, cane and all).  I will let my kids fight their own battles in the classroom and on the playground and with friends and frienemies.  I will let them get jobs and figure out how to manage jobs and school work.  I will let them train in sports that are dangerous.  I will let them get hurt in those sports, then bandage them up and let them get out there again to train some more.

 

In our house, we have made a decision to let our kids grow up having to be decision makers, problem solvers, risk takers.  We want them to persevere through trials, to learn from pain and from success.  Do they make all the decisions I would want them to make or I would advise them to make?  Not always.  But then sometimes they make better decisions than I would have advised.

Those are my own kids.  I share the responsibility of their well being but my husband and I are willing to let them take some risks.  In a school it is a little different.  We are entrusted with the responsibility of other people’s children, and I know that they wouldn’t want us to take as many risks.  So we don’t throw snowballs at school, or climb trees, or take them anywhere near water.  And I get why we don’t.  There are risks involved.  We want our students to be safe.

But.  If we as educators are not helping our students learn to take risks and parents are swayed by the media, or fear of injury, or from worry that a child may afraid or suffer a little (although maybe that suffering may also result from good learning and joy and pride at overcoming an obstacle), how do our children become risk takers?  How do they learn perseverance?  How do they discover what THEY can do?

I think, unfortunately, some of our children who are most sheltered from these experiences are ill prepared to deal when serious risk comes their way.  It is hard to shelter an adolescent from all hurts:  drugs, alcohol, mean spirited “friends” are hard to avoid completely until adulthood.  While I totally see that those risks are often very serious, especially when compared to conquering climbing a really tall tree, how will they face the really serious stuff if we have sheltered them from the other things?

I don’t want my kids to grow up in a virtual world.  I want them to experience it fully.  That means they will try things and sometimes fail and sometimes succeed.  Sometimes they will try things with me holding my breath and closing my eyes.  Sometimes they will try things while I bite my tongue.  Sometimes they will come venting or crying when it doesn’t work out.  But other times, I get to celebrate with them and cheer them on.  That makes it all worth it.

How do we encourage our students to face risks too?  How do we make them into the decision makers and problem solvers that we want them to be, while balancing out our need to keep them safe?

 

Name Your Carrot

Posted: 14th January 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking about change lately. How do you encourage lasting, progressive change for a group of people? What are the things that inhibit change? What are the things that enhance change?

Today I reflected on this with some other school leaders. We were given several words that represent puzzle pieces to support change. Some of the words – resources, vision – were understandable and ones I think we consider when supporting growth and change. But there was one puzzle piece I am still thinking about.

Incentive.

People generally like routine; they like knowing what to expect and how to do what is expected. We need a push of some kind to make change. We need a big push to make long-lasting, significant change.

In education, we ask people (educators, students, leaders) to make changes to their practice and their thinking quite regularly. Some changes are ones people are eager to make while others will take more convincing.

We know that the most sustainable motivations for change are those that are intrinsic. If we are all waiting for extrinsic motivation – a sticker, shiny new toy or award to make change – change is going to be sporadic and limited at worst or, at best, require constant vigilance and support. I’m trying to figure out what the intrinsic motivations we have to make good change.

For educators, our incentives could include our passion for our jobs and a desire to do the best we can, or our strong belief in life-long learning, or our understanding of how change can positively affect our students, or our understanding of how working collaboratively with colleagues towards change is good for students and for a culture of learning.

I think we all recognize that change is hard. If incentive is the missing puzzle piece to make change in education, what could those specific incentives look like? What do educators feel they need to want to change? And in particular, what kinds of intrinsic motivations do they need to want to make change?