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Archive for January, 2010

My Friend,  

I so badly wanted to send this to all of my administrative colleagues but fear my rant will land me more empty seats at my table at the monthly Principals’ meetings, more jokes about the “techno-guru” that can fix the LCD projector or the PowerPoint show and certainly even less interest in “picking up what I have been laying down” since the technology workshop with David Warlick in August. I am gonna lay off on the “Join Twitter chatter”. I am losing real life friends faster than I am gaining virtual followers. So I decided just to send it to you (and my few Bloggings Readers). So go ahead……hate away.  If you decide to join and follow and need some guidance drop me a line or send me your @.   See the email below. 

Friends,

 An article in ASCD’s Educational Leadership endorsing the use of Twitter for professional learning for teachers. Check it out.

 Why_Teachers_Should_Try_Twitter

Educational Leadership by ASCD

Just think, If you got on Twitter you could start ignoring my annoying “pleas” that come with these emails. If you want to talk about it…..just drop me a line (or your Twitter name).

 Tweetly Yours,

 Cowpernicus

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The New Tag (thenewtag.wordpress.com) writes about happiness in a Blog entry entitled:  Want kids to be happy?  Teach gratitude. 
 
“The biggest difference between people who are generally happy and people who are generally not, is this: Happy people recognize, focus on, think about, talk about and attribute value to what is good in their lives most of the time. Unhappy people don’t. It really is that simple.”
 
This entry reminded me of a draft I started months ago and finish here.  It was after a tough day at school.  I asked two different kids these 2 questions:  Are you happy?  What makes you happy?   The first child responded “I don’t know. I am not really happy.”  The second child responded: “Yes I am happy. A lot of fings make me happy like. . .” and then she answered in this exact order in about 3 minutes:
 
popsicles
playing with Haley (friend)
sunshine
school
reading
spelling
playing
Mommy
Daddy
Having Tea
Gavin
Playing with Gavin
Helping Daddy
Counting and Math
Richie
My whole family
Avery the cat
Having dinner
Grandmas
Music and dancing
 
I learn so much from kids everyday.  Especially from the contrast between those at work and those at home. Thanks The New Tag for reminding me of this event in my life.  I attempt to bring the kind of happiness my daughter feels to the students I work with everyday.  We all have so much to be thankful for, to be happy about.  According to my daughter’s list they are one and the same I presume.

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I am on a quest.  Many of us are.  The journey we all tend to has many destinations yet no end.  Kind of like time travel.  Freaky eh?  Relinquishing to this concept is a huge step for educators and for schools.  Many educators (or is it schools?) need a finale just like an opera.  We need an end, a goal to reach, a consequence of action.  When you finish grade 4 with proficiency you go to grade 5.  When you “make to throw snowballs you go to box, and you feel  shame.” 

We must step back and say in an Einsteinian way (or is it Hawking) “There is no end.”  The perceived end is just another beginning.  We are not selling a product anymore.  It is not about how much we can squeeze into a mind.  It is not about how we were taught or how we learned.  Instead it is about harnessing the innate power of the human mind for adapting, learning, and using new tools that will only allow us to do more of the same.  Kids are different these days because the world is different in which they were born.  Yesterday my 3 year old Skyped with his grand-uncle (Nova Scotia) as if he was born with the ability to do so.  I was blown away.  He used the touch pad, bent the screen to his height, folded his arms across the desk, buried his chin in and said “Hi, Papa.  Is it morning there?”  It should be noted that I have never explained the concept of a rotating earth to my son!  He picked this up from looking at the weather on the family Wii I assume!

I digress.  I am reminded of the 1.21 Gigawatts scene in Back to the Future(s).  What took Dr. Brown 50 years to develop was completely revamped after one trip to the future…..he went from 1.21 Gigawatts, Plutonium and Lightning bolts to a rotten banana peel and a Coca-Cola can to power his machine.  Technology changed but his curiosity and need for more learning never ended.  Actually it was only the start of the trilogy.   What a great set of films. 

Now.  I am not saying there isn’t a need for goals.  On the contrary.  I use my own personal SMART goals for my learning.  Learning is the key.  The goal is to get to the learning, demonstrate the learning with results and then move on.  Saying that there is no “end” is not synonymous with saying there is no need for goals.  Goals have a place in education.  SMART goals, as we are all taught, are the best way to work through to results. 

Is is possible to make the ultimate goal of education a SMART one.  Can we actually quantify and qualify that which we earnestly attempt to accomplish daily with children?  Here is an example.  A horrific Earthquake happens in Haiti and the next day a kindergarten student hands me a toonie for the “water jug bank”.  I made one announcement.  No note home.  No special reward for bringing in money first.  Certainly no SMART goal.  Just a child and a conscious need to help.  I believe we must combine our learning goals for our students so that academic goals and social/emotional goals are intimately tied.  This is the key to learning in the 21st century.   Students with a deeply embedded and well developed social conscience will do marvelous things for our world.  In setting academic learning goals we must incorporate big ideas that have social conscienceness at their heart.  If we had done this before now what would the world look like today?  Oil depletion, CO2 levels, Glacial melt?  I wonder.

We have done enough damage here.  Let’s start fixing the place up.  Let’s exercise that which every parent hopes to do with their own kids.  Let’s give our children a better life than we had.  (And we had it pretty good at the earth’s expense)  Let’s help them to understand what a good life truly means by first understanding that they want to contribute to the conversation.  We have already been to the box.  Let’s let our kids out so they “can get free.”

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I have to meet this science teacher.  I mean it.  Having a student work with these mediums and allowing for this level of responsibility must have required much work.  I want to know what was involved in terms of his or her (the teacher’s) learning.  This student must be completely engaged.  Great work.  Another example of the work teachers do to engage young people in learning.

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A member of my larger PLN, @couros, asked his greater following if he would be the only one reading a student’s new blog?  His tweeps responded.  I included this response (with some minor edits).

Hello Caitlyn,

actually no, Mr. Couros is not the only one that will read your blog.  As a matter of fact I presume a whole bunch of people read your blog. I am interested in what teacher candidates are learning and are capable of as that directly relates to what I do daily, lead a school in learning. I am a Principal in a school where it was a gentle “nudge” to get 100% of my teachers blogging.  It is a subtle expectation that our teachers become literate (at least) in the language that our clients (students) are speaking in these days. I have a letter I would like you to read from a blog that I attend sometimes. While to many it may seem harsh it is the reality of the learning environment these days. As a Principal I make it my mandate to support teachers in learning. Whether that is technology learning or learning about their students or whatever, we must practise what we preach…we must first be learners.  Blogs are great ways to illustrate your learning, be reflective about your craft and invite others into your conversation and your classroom. I learned something when I read your blog. You should not stop your blog. You should track and record your learning. If you sit across a table from me hoping to get hired as a teacher I will definitely ask you for your “digital citizenship card.” With this card comes great responsibility. I will have already looked you up on the “internet” and probably know a lot more about you than you think. There are many of us that are not savvy yet and may not ask you these questions or know about your digital footprint. Are you willing to gamble?

Anyway…read this letter ( http://teachpaperless.blogspot.com/2009/08/letter-to-teachers-of-my-children.html ) and then Blog about the thinking that was going on in your head when you read it. I look forward to your response.

I am available at cowpernicus.wordpress.com if you are interested in my “transparent learning.” You can view my teachers’ blogs from eastwoodeagles.wordpress.com. Keep in mind we are all at different stages of learning of course and support is key.

Good luck with Mr. Couros.

Caitlyn’s Response can be found @ http://caitlynbartlett.wordpress.com/

Keep up the good work Caitlyn.

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The Speed of Trust is the New York Times best seller about “the one thing that changes everything.”  Today I earned a chance to engage with the author (Steven M. R. Covey) on a multi-national conference call.  Starting at 1:00 EST Steven gave a live talk about the nature of his newest book.  As I listened, blogged and tweeted I thought about how all of the elements of his book fit so nicely into the role of the administrator in the creation and cultivation of the Professional Learning Community.  Yesterday at school our Learning Team engaged in a values activity where 60 values were paired down to 3 that the team of 10 had to agree on.  Trust came first.  Clearly in a school setting if trust is high, speed and outcomes will also be high.  I am willing to test this theory with our outcomes, student outcomes.

During the conference call Covey attempted to answer the 700 questions that were submitted to him for the 1 hour session.  He got to 10 of them.  Funny enough my question was posed to him 5th.  How to improve the culture of high trust when trust is extended to upper management yet it is a challenge amoung collegial groups in “subordinate” groups.  His answer was simple:

Formal Leaders need to go first.

1.  Inspire Trust first

2.  Extend Trust next.

This is the job of the leader.  Always modelling trusting relationships.  And then let it build.

Covey’s definition:  Trust=confidence, confidence, the opposite is suspiscion.  Instead of a text book definition he stated “you know it when you feel it.”  The essence of trust comes from others perceptions of your character and your competence.  You must inspire integrity and deliver results.

Why is Trust the new commodity?  Covey states there are 3 major reasons. 

1.  Trust fuels collaboration and is the currency that makes the world go round and relationships develop.   The nature of the current economy has shifted to a collaborative community rather than a competitive market.  This is the essence of the Professional Learning Community.  He states that “Trust is the one thing that changes everything.  It is a performance mulitplier.  Everything is made better by it.  Lack of trust creates a tax on the system.  If you get better at trust it will make you better at collaborating, innovating and engaging people.” 

2.  Trust is not all that you need but it is the foundational piece.  It is the highest leverage piece.  He does not advocate for only focusing on trust but states that is the single most important foundational piece.  (He sounds an awful lot like my Dad.)

3.  We operate increasingly in a low trust world so we must leverage that with high organizational trust.  If you have the ability to create and cultivate trust in a low trust world you have an advantage over all others to create and cultivate even more.

He then chose to answer a number of pre-determined questions:

Q–Why is the book called The Speed of Trust? 

A–You can build it faster than you think.  Once you have it nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.  Without it you have to take many more steps to get to the same end.  Trust goes up and Speed goes up and dividends go up.

Q–How do you demonstrate Trustworthiness as a leader? 

A–Model it.  Credibility is needed so model the behaviours.  People look to your character and competence.  Results plus credibility cultivates trust.  The steps are three fold.  1.  Declare your intent.  2.  Signal your behaviour.  3.  Do what you say you would do!  Tell your organization what you are going to do and then do it.  Talk straight.  Tell the truth.  (Sounds like my Dad)   It is like driving on the highway.  “When you are driving a car and want to turn left, signal a left turn for the people behind you to learn your intent.”  Signalling intent is very important to the relationship.   Just as important as declaring your intent.  But more importantly than all is doing what you say you will do.  Follow through, making and keeping committments.  This builds or trust very quickly.

Q–What about when people on the front lines do not trust eachother? 

A–Trust is reciprocal in nature.  Low trust or high trust perpetuates itself.  Covey’s next book is scheduled to be on the reciprocal nature of trust.   Listen first and involve people in the problem, be transparent so that there are no percieved hidden agendas, talk straight.  People might think “I may not like what I hear but at least I trust it to be the truth.”  Covey states: You must behave your way out of a problem you talked yourself into.  Rather than blaming say “I am responsible” and then fix it.  Time is needed to behave your way out of a situation of eroded trust.  Steve  Barkley Pondered Out Loud on Relational Trust to this effect.

Q–Can you trust too much?

A–Yes, we all call this blind trust.  This is not a valuable technique.  Steven is obviously not an advocate.  He does not advocate blind “lack of trust” either.  Rules and regulations should not be made for 5% of society.  Neither extreme is where you want to be.  A third alternative is “Smart Trust.”  Trust and verify.  Lead with trust and then verify.  If risk is so great (life and death) you may want to verify first but really, leading with trust is the best way to build relationships. 

Steven Covey’s concluding thought was a quote from Confucious as he responded to the question of what made good government:  “Many weapons, Much food and trust.  If you must give up one it must be weapons first, then, if you had to, you must give up food second.  Never give up trust, for without trust we cannot stand.”

Thanks to M.R-R and L.P. for allowing me to use “the office” for this call!

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