Category Archives: Future

How do you connect to the world?

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Current World Events

That was a title on a board that has been in a few rooms when I’ve taught Social Studies. The idea is that students need to connect with what is happening in the world.

Sounds simple.

Not really.

With the different worldview students bring to the classroom, world events can be a somewhat hotspot for discussions. Events around the world aren’t simple, not that they ever were. But we are now beginning to discuss what previously was non-discussable and that can be difficult in a classroom.

What are some of the different options that teachers have when trying to use current world events as points of discussion in the classroom? How can they address some of these issues? What if they have no idea where to start?

Avoidance

One option is not to. It’s sounds rather odd that the events happening in the world would be ignored but, for some teachers, this is the simplest way to avoid any type of controversy. Surface treatment of issues that mentions or references events can pass as “covering” if techniques of “read the article, answer the questions” is used. Short discussions that name people and places pass as covering the issue as teachers, worried about what might be said, avoid discussions or debates that might come up and certainly avoid any discussion of privilege, discrimination, oppression, persecution and other discussions that may make people, including the teacher, uncomfortable.

It’s important to reflect upon how our actions and words impact and influence students. When I began teaching, I wasn’t aware of my own privilege or how it provided a very narrow worldview of events that took place in the world. As I have been made aware of my privilege and come to understand that this privilege taints my own view of events, using world events in my own teaching has changed.

As a young teacher, I use to think that I had a pretty good idea of the different points of view of various events. Naive as I was, it did not stop me from using various sources to examine and open discussions about events as they took place. As the opportunity to connect with others became easier, the opportunity to see different views of events also became easier. Just as the images in a kaleidoscope change as you turn it, so to do views of any event change depending on the point of view. For a teacher, it can be somewhat difficult to know what to do or how to approach any topic in the classroom.

It  can be a challenge. Most definitely.

But the great thing is that students can often lead us if given the opportunity.

But we have to be willing to speak up.

Being Quiet Isn’t An Option

Early this year, David Theriault wrote a post The Injustice of Staying Quiet. Like all great posts, this one has had me thinking since I first read it. David makes some great points as he describes his own journey, one where I glimpse myself a few times but, truthfully, is much different from my own childhood growing up in a small town in Saskatchewan with little exposure to other cultures.  I was unaware of the various privileges that I had as I grew up and it wasn’t until much later in life I began to realize how this influenced my worldview and the impact it had on my teaching. My mother, who has had a great influence on me, was a leader, one of the first females to serve as a union representative, working at many projects as she raised three children and took care of my father who was hurt in an accident.  I was aware of being different,  not having the same “normal” family made one an outsider but I didn’t realize until much later the great sacrifice she made or the abuse she suffered because of her work. To this day I am forever grateful for all that she taught me, and still teaches me, about helping others.

When David says

And that’s one of the points I would like to make. If you are not listening to other voices, it’s hard to move beyond your fixed notion of what is right and wrong. What we call, in my family, social justice.

I still struggle with uneasiness, unsure of what to do or what to say, fearful that I will offend someone because of my lack of understanding or my ignorance of what is happening or simply because I do not understand at all.

So I remain quiet.

That is a mistake.

Connecting Students with the World

This past Thursday during #saskedchat, our topic for the chat was Connecting our students with the World. It was focused on different ways that teachers can use current events in their classroom. During the chat, I kept wondering how teachers approach social justice issues with students. Teachers offered ideas for discussing issues with students such as using different sources to examine how different points of view reporting the same issue and how social media sources such as twitter can be used for social justice issues. Whatever we do, I agree with David:

So what can we DO?

Well I’ll tell you what we can’t do. We can’t make excuses and we can’t just ignore things and hope they will go away.

I highly recommend you take a moment to read through David’s whole post as it is extremely thoughtful and thought provoking plus David has taken the time and effort to add some great resources. One great resource that David shares is a social justice twitter list with different people on twitter that I recommend following. However, for me, one of  the greatest resources that David provides is his honesty and straightforward approach to the subject and his challenge for educators to address social justice issues.

How Do I Connect?

Just this weekend, Vincent Hill, someone who I know via twitter, shared  the resource Speaking Truth To Power with me that I then shared with others. Twitter is a great place for finding and accessing different resources for the classroom such as Unpacking Culturally Responsive Pedagogy,  The Truth and Reconciliation Report , and an article focused on the Truth and Reconciliation Report. 

But what good are resources unless we are willing, as David says, to set aside our own “fixed notion of what is right and wrong.” and begin to question what is happening? To start bringing these issues into the classroom? To open up the dialogue with students?

I don’t have answers. In fact, I have many questions and am still uncertain about so many things. One thing I am certain about though is that, as teachers, we cannot avoid talking about these issues. With so many resources available and, more importantly, access to people who can help us and speak to students about these issues, there is someone who is wiling help us if we just reach out and ask for their help and guidance. We live during one of the greatest periods of change in history and it’s important that we involve students in discussions about what is happening.

I Wonder….

So often our focus is planning and assessment, an almost obsession with assessment in its various forms, that relationships and the changes society and the world are experiencing seem mere data points on someone’s data chart.

…. what might change if we began with the conditions and stories of students lives before we worried about which assessment tool/format teachers were using?

…. if learning is truly the goal, why we are fixated with assessment instead of all the wonders of learning and possibilities that are available for children to explore what is happening in the world?

…. if helping students develop skills for the future, why so much emphasis is placed on knowledge of the past?

…. how teachers might change their practices to allow for more opportunities to explore various societal issues in meaningful ways?

No, We Don’t Want You

Rejection.

It’s a hard to accept.

According to Jia Jiang and his work on rejection,  it touches us deep inside and causes pain that is equivalent to being struck, like a slap in the face. 

Most of us get the advice to make a plan for our success. 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year. Each year we are suppose to revise, reflect, make adjustment and move on. But what if our plan runs into the Rejection Roadblock?

What does Rejection do?

I heard about Jia Jiang’s 100 Days of Rejection story through Todd Henry’s Accidental Creative Podcast episode Confronting Rejection In Life and Work. Later, I listened to Jiang’s interview with Jeff Brown on The ReadToLead podcast. In both interviews, Jiang describes how his fear of rejection almost paralyzed him from going out and chasing his dream of being an entrepreneur and how his wife really pushed him to not quit but keep going. In the 100 Days of Rejection, Jia purposefully seeks out rejection in order to become better at dealing with it.

Rejection as Learning and Change

“Sorry, but you’re just not what we’re looking for.”

In a four year span I heard that phrase, or something similar, over 30 times in my attempt to obtain a central office position. Yeah, that’s a lot of interviews and most people when they hear that comment

“Why keep trying?”

I also believe most people think “What’s wrong with this guy? There must be something wrong with him.”

That’s what I began to think too! There must be something wrong with me.

This is exactly what Jia says we do with rejection, we make it about us when it really isn’t, it’s about the other person. I recommend you listen to the interviews and check out the website.

The first couple of times I heard that I had been rejected it was really, really hard. At one point I decided that I wasn’t going to try any more, rationalizing that I didn’t have the skills or ability for such work. Compounding this was my battle with depression into which I would plunge after each attempt. I knew I wanted to do something different but was getting nowhere. Climbing out of depression became harder and harder.

Like Jiang, my wife supported me and encouraged me to continue. Without her love and insistence, I wouldn’t have faced my fear of depression and sought help. Eventually I tried again, only to meet more rejection. I began to wonder what was happening during the interviews. Was it something I was doing? Was it my answers? My experience? My suit? What?  I began to ask for feedback. What where two or three things that I could do that would help. I received some great feedback at times. Others times, not so much.

As Jia Jiang points out, we take these rejections as affronts to us as individuals and, usually, we try to avoid such pain, avoiding any chance that we’ll be rejected. As I did more interviews and went through the process it helped me to become much more reflective and honest about my own strengths and weaknesses but, more importantly, what I really wanted to do. I came to realize that, in fact, it was time to do something different.

Maybe’s It’s Time to Quit

Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt book, Freakonomics, is an interesting mix of economics and seemingly miscellaneous and unconnected phenomenon. Their podcast – Freakonomics Radio – hosted by Stephen Dubner, is a continuation of this exploration. The Upside of Quitting explores why people will stay in a job even though they don’t like it and why people who seemingly have a great job quit. They examine whether “Quitters never win and winners never quit” is really a good thing to be telling people when it comes to a job, if quitting just might be a good strategic choice and a good plan, and most importantly, how our past investments keep us where we are.

To help us understand quitting, we look at a couple of key economic concepts in this episode: sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past – it’s the time or money or sweat equity you’ve put into a job or relationship or a project, and which makes quitting hard. Opportunity cost is about the future. It means that for every hour or dollar you spend on one thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else – something that might make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost. If only you could …. quit.

For me, having put a great deal of time and effort into the sunk costs for education, I didn’t think there were any other options for me. However, over time I realized that all I was doing was limiting myself if I continue to knock at only one door. Through a series of events, I found myself in a position where I decided I needed to give myself a push to make change. So, on May 4th, 2013 I sent in my resignation even though I had no other job nor was I certain what was to come. Instead, I was going with the “gut feeling” that such a move was going to be the beginning of a new and wonderful adventure.

Quitting isn’t for everyone but it is for some people. Too often, as both Jiang and Dubner point out, we limit ourselves because we are afraid of rejection, of failing, of looking to other options and not trying. We are afraid of people saying to us

“Why would you do such a thing? I could never do that, it’s too risky. What about you pension?

Like so many, I was working in order to put in time so that at some date in the future I could retire and start living and doing the things I wanted to do. By stepping out of the rut, I pushed myself to look at life and what I was doing from a new perspective.

It’s Not Easy to Fail

FAIL –

First

Attempt

In

Learning.

I imagine many people have seen different versions of this. Or heard that schools and teachers need to be risk takers and innovators in environments of trust and safety. It’s easy to say –

“Take risks. Fail fast. Be innovative”

It’s completely another to actually take risks, “fail forward” or innovate. That’s hard. Really hard. Harder than most people will let on.

Seth Godin in Icarus Deception discusses how our Lizard Brain, that portion of the brain that developed for survival, is still keeping us from taking risks because risks are scary, lead to failure and failure leads to pain which is to be avoided. It’s easy to say we need to take risks and be risk takers but, in reality, many people would rather stay in a situation that was not doing them any good rather than venture into the unknown and change. Recent studies show that approximately 60% of employees worldwide are disengaged from their work but many stay where they are rather than make a big change. Like Jia Jiang, fear keeps many people from striking out on their own or taking risks. In a society where playing it safe is the norm and taking chances is for a few select who are brave enough , suggesting that schools, places that have traditionally been slow to change and embrace innovation, do an sudden about face and becomes places of innovation, experimentation and embrace failure as learning is a tall order.

Yes, there are teachers who will embrace these concepts and a few schools will begin to blaze a trail of their own but without a titanic shift in the worldview of parents, many who are reluctant to allow their children to face too many negative experiences in their childhood, schools are in tough.

Tell A Different Story

If we want schools to be places of innovation, risk-taking, and experimentation where “fail forward” (whatever that actually means) is acceptable for students and teachers, then the stories of school must change. The current hierarchical system inhibits people who are innovators and risk-takers, both students and teachers, through policies of conforming and norming. If our stories are still similar to what they have always been about learning and school, how can things be much different?

I Wonder….

My experience is that most teachers were pretty good students. The story that comes from school is very similar to what it has always been, to what the story was for them as students. As someone who hasn’t had that story, even my story as a teacher wasn’t similar to other teachers. Is it possible to change this story?

…. how we can change the story that is told about learning that will embrace risk, failure and change?

….. if people who call for more risk and change fully understand what they are asking of people in schools?

….. if we don’t change the story we tell about learning whether innovation and risk-taking can ever be part of a majority of schools?

…. if people who ask others to be risk-takers and change agents have ever faced their fears of rejection or know what it takes to step boldly to the edge of possibility and look around?

It’s about being Curious

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Ever watch a small child with something they have picked up? How they study it and become fascinated by what they are looking at? Or how they will watch insects just crawl around? If you’ve done this, then you know that it will be followed by questions. Many questions! Oh so many questions. But….. the wonder and awe…. and joy in those questions.

Rediscovering Curious

I’ve always been curious about the world. Growing up on a farm, I had so much freedom to roam, search and discover. Some of the discoveries were amazing – watching a calf being born or holding a small chick were amazing. Climbing trees to touch the sky and lying on the hill in the pasture just watching the clouds flow by …. wondering how they stayed up there. I was actually disappointed when I learned that I couldn’t ride one. Somewhere along the way, that curiosity slowly changed into wondering about how things worked – how does a motor run? Taking things apart to find out and then putting it back together to see if, indeed, it would still run led to fixing things which led to breaking things to see just how far to the edge things could be pushed. Yes, I know what the sound of a blown motor sounds like!

The wondering about changed but I was still curious. However, being curious and wanting to know why, asking questions isn’t always popular. Or desirable. I learned that asking why wasn’t necessarily a great trait in the system of education. Eventually the wonder wandered. It was gone for a while, replace by the search to fit in and move up.

I almost missed finding my wonder, almost gave up that the best that I could hope for was to mull around the edges of fitting in. I almost missed it because I was scared. As Jamie Forest explores in her post What’s holding you back? fear holds us back and gives us an excuse not to. It reminds us that being curious has consequences that might not be pleasant so we back off. It keeps us from exploring and wondering. As Jamie says about sharing our ideas:

Deep down, however, the dialogue is different.  Who would want to read it?  My ideas aren’t worth sharing.  My ideas aren’t original.  What if what I write doesn’t match what I mean?  What if I get negative, or downright mean, feedback?

Fear keeps us from wondering and then creating. It holds us back and reminds us that it’s safe. “Let others take the chance. A few might succeed but so many fail” bounce around whenever we begin to flirt with the idea of publicly sharing our wonder. We rationalize our fear – use big data to defend it – “There’s only one Great One.” We strip away the awe, wonder and curiosity in order to be safe. We forget to look at the ants in awe and wonder, instead thinking “I hope they don’t move any closer to the house. That will be a pain to get rid of them.” We see problems and roadblocks, ways that disappointment will lead to hurt and pain. “I just want a normal life” becomes something we allow to seep into our thoughts as Fear gains hold. “Be safe. You might not like your job but it’s safe. The pension is good. It’s only 8 more years.”

Safe. Secure. Without Risk. Life in a box …… let someone else take the chance.

I Danced in the Rain

This year I spent every weekday morning with my son being a stay-at-home dad and

I FOUND MY WONDER!

There it was, dancing and splashing in the puddles on a rainy day. My first urge was to stop it. To remind it that there would be wet shoes and sticky shirts and, even worse, sticky underwear!

And then I joined in. Splashing, dancing and catching raindrops on my tongue. I didn’t care if the neighbours saw us. Since then I have skipped across parking lots, rolled in leaves, stared at ants, rolled in the snow, gotten wet, cold, muddy and sweaty. I’ve played and read, coloured and drawn.

But I was still afraid to share what I was doing. Afraid because that’s not what real men do.

And then I wandered with wonder to the edge, a place I hadn’t been in a long time for Fear had told me that to fit in, being near the edge wouldn’t work. But the box of wonder had been opened and the lid wouldn’t go back on.

Being Curious is Where It Starts

This week, ISTE has been filling my twitter feed with updates and blog posts about different things. Some are the excited and exhilarating tweets of people who have found their WONDER again. Mostly, they tweet about tools and different ways that this or that technology has them wondering. They are curious. They want to know more.  Some are disappointed by the lack of a shift away from the tech and tools. I get that – I’m not often wowed any more by a tool. And it is important to remember that learning is about relationships – helping others to seek and learn, to fan the flame of curiosity, awe and wonder despite the adult desire to calculate, allocate and fixate on data. Tools can enhance the learning in many, many ways.

I Wonder

Seeing adults excited and rekindling their wonder is a start. Excited about Genius Hour, Maker Space, Flipped Classrooms, Problem Based Learning, Justice Education, Emotional Intelligence, etc – moving past their fear to wonder and explore. That’s good. It’s changes the story we are telling, which changes the language we use to discuss learning, which allows for a different story to begin to filter to others…..

Being curious is where it starts.

Helping spark that curiosity is a gift of sharing wonder. No, not all teachers are joining in the discussion. But it’s more than it was – and that’s good!

Join Us

Jana Scott Lindsay’s post Thinking Beyond the Box explores some of the reasons why teachers don’t blog and share.

These are only some of the questions that would most likely surface:
What would I say?
Who would read what I wrote anyway?
How will I react to negative feedback?
What if no one reads what I wrote?
Why would I want to share my thinking with others?
 
In reality, these are very natural feelings.  Ones that seem to plague us as a society, no matter what age or category we fall into. Fear and insecurity have been known to drive us not only towards that box, but force us to exist entirely within it for most of our lives. Feeling safe is sometimes more than a fallback, it becomes a necessity.
However, she invites readers, as I do, to join us as we get out of the box.
Please join us as we take on a new adventure- follow along here at #skblog15
Today might be the day that begins a journey that you will look back on years from now and wonder why it took so long. Unless you are willing to go beyond the box, you just might never know.
She’s right. Although Fear might be whispering at you to take it safe, we offer that rediscovering your wonder and awe is worth it. Please, join us.
Dance in the rain.
                               Watch ants or that butterfly or the clouds float by.
Experience your Wonder and Awe!

No More Box

I will not be confined by the box of Fear

Nor the worry that others will not understand

That some will push back while others ignore

Will no longer stop my Wonder and Awe.

No Box will inhibit my search at the edge

Nor will Fear keep me back from moving along

Looking and dancing and skipping and seeing

It’s time to Bust Open the Box that disabled

Wonder and Awe are back on the table.