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Eastwood Eagles

The most important thing is to be kind.

Dear Parents, Students and Eastwood Community Members

It is with profound happiness that I address you this last time as your Principal in saying thank you from the bottom of my heart for 6 years of absolute joy working as your school’s lead learner.  As you may have heard I have been asked to move on to support the learning and work of another great community in Kingsville at Kingsville Public School.  I am happy to announce Principal Nick Arundine (Ah-run-din-ay) as Eastwood School’s newest Eagle.  Principal Arundine is ecstatic to join the team!

 I have always asked our teachers and students to embrace change and view each change as an opportunity to grow and learn.   I will model that philosophy by using the skills I have honed here and the strength taught to me by Eastwood students in making a successful and enthusiastic transition to my new school.  I will take with me the fond and everlasting memories of students at Eastwood School.

Eastwood has been my home for 6 academic years.  I have raised my own children through my time here.  We have added a family member from the very student population at Eastwood.  The parents and teachers in the Eastwood community have helped shape my parenting and my life.  The students of Eastwood have trusted me to help cultivate a positive vision of their futures.  I am eternally grateful for the trust given to me to work with every child and every adult in an effort to bring a vision of a great and successful future to our community and to each individual.

We made kindness the most important part of being an Eagle.  We walked together on the sweet grass road and reminded and helped each other when we fell or forgot.  We were always there for each other, apologizing, picking each other up, supporting and listening to our understandings.  I witnessed incredible acts of kindness and courage at Eastwood and was inspired daily by our children and our leaders.  Often our children were our leaders.  Their voices and thoughts brought honesty and integrity to our work.

In the time that I spent at Eastwood school I always did my best.  I stepped up to challenges and made decisions based on the needs of our students.  I relied on the experiences and observations of our great teachers and our parents.  It is in working collaboratively, reflecting and dialoguing with each of you that we were able to make great things happen for kids.  Our work together was not without failures, mistakes and missteps.  These were essential to our learning together.  One might say that if we weren’t making mistakes we just weren’t trying hard enough!

Eastwood is a safe and kind school.  It is this way because of you.  Every member of the Eastwood family contributed to its greatness and will continue to shape its future and define its culture.  I am a better man, principal, parent and human because of my time at Eastwood among the Eagles.

I wish all of you the best in life.  I am only a tweet away!  Follow my learning and let me know about yours.

Wake up each day be your best self and remember that it is a great day to be kind.

My Sincere Thanks,

Mr. Cowper

James

@Cowpernicus

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Photo by @Jaymaisel

First Snow, Elizabeth Street Photo by @Jaymaisel

I woke up today after whirl wind of recent days past.  ECOO, EdCampSWO and back to the school house and family!  I am always tired at days end. Its the kids and my kids that bring me great joy that I do not realize my fatigue until 9 pm at night when I K.O. in 3 minutes flat.  This morning I woke at 5 am to head out to the gym to realize it was snowing.  Falls first snow.  It has been amazing to me since I was a kid.  I get real joy out of listening to the kids oh and ah at the window. I decided to stay home from the gym and wait for them to wake up just to hear them this year.  It was as I expected.  Zoe threw on boots and took Hawksley Sirius (the dog) out for a run in the snow.  The flakes were huge here in Essex County.

When ever this happens for the first time I remember the words I heard Taylor Mali speak at Learning Forwards Annual conference in 2010.  He blew me away with this one and I have never forgotten.  So today to honour kids, snow and learning everywhere I picked up the P.A. handheld and read Undivided Attention to the entire school with no intro or warning.  I share it with you here.  Enjoy.

Undivided Attention
by Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps—like classical music’s
birthday gift to the criminally insane—
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth‐floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-­‐shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second‐to­‐last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over—
it’s a piano being pushed out of a window
and lowered down onto a flatbed truck!—and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long‐necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-­‐falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

Mali. Taylor. “Undivided Attention.” What Learning Leaves. Newtown, CT: Hanover Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN: 1-­‐887012-­‐17-­‐6)

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How many times have you heard “Research shows that…”

I saw my first “Back to School” commercial yesterday (July 26) and the How Soon is Too Soon question popped in my mind. Here in SWOntario we don’t start school until September 4th. I digress.

This ad claims that “laboratory tests, over the last few years,” have shown that babies fit in better during those awkward pre-teen and teen years after drinking cola.

Hmmmm…..my math isn’t that bad.

Be careful when you quote, listen to, claim and read research that might strengthen your point. Read critically, question, seek further resources and by golly make sure the math adds up. When it does it makes a world of difference. When the math doesn’t add up we lose the trust we are building in the public education system. As Douglas Reeves says “It makes us all look bad.”

Do you still:

  • have spelling tests?
  • “do” calendar?
  • work in isolation?
  • say “they mark too easy” when referring to colleagues whose students excel?
  • give a student a grade a week later, a month later, never?
  • think a grade is feedback?
  • ban handheld devices in your classroom?
  • show movies on the SmartBoard?
  • believe social media is a fad?
  • believe the best learning environment is a quiet one?
  • demand (parents) or give worksheets (plural) for homework?
  • say “respect must be earned?”
  • use the sentence “the problem with kids these days…”
  • blame the teacher, the administrator, the parents, the students, the school district or rock and roll music…etc.

Now, do you know what the research says about these practises? Does it align with your thinking or challenge your thinking?

It is time to learn something new. Step out of the comfort zone and into the learning zone, the risk zone. Take a learning stance. Find new research. Heck, develop your own research out of an inquiry.

This school year, abandon a practise that you are hearing questioned more and more. Replace it with something new, something different, something from a colleague or even “scarier” a colleague’s blog! Something that makes the kids say…”What has gotten into Mr. Cowper?!? This guy wants us to Tweet our learning? OMG He has changed! He is CRAZEE!”

Yup…there it is. The magic word. Change. Do you believe they used to allow ads like the one above in magazines? They also used to smoke on airplanes, have back seats, with no seatbelts, the size of Montana, give children bottles of ink and a fountain pen? My gosh…the Principal used to use a strap to teach learnin’!

“They” is actually we. We have segregated our schools, isolated our most vulnerable students away from schools, assimilated the culture out of our students and myriads of other draconian practises that kept us from being true learning institutions. Institutions with a culture where the most important learning was about ourselves, about our interconnectedness with the earth with each other (our kids) and about learning.

This year connect. Research shows that, good or bad, the greatest and most impactful aspect of a student’s life (no matter the grade) is their teacher. Connect with them. Learn with them. Know them.

And have fun doing it. (I know Ms Rotundi, I am never supposed to start a sentence, let alone a paragraph, with a grammatical conjunction.)

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Talking with Daniel Pink about Motivation, Engagement and Education in Two Parts. Cross posted at Connected Principals.


My wife Tricia “failed” her first driver’s test. There, the world knows. Her father had dedicated the previous few months to teach her proper. During the first lesson she, her father and younger brother got into the sky blue ’88 Caprice Classic station wagon that was parked in the two car garage.

“Place the keys in the ignition place your foot on the brake and turn the engine over.” Her father stated in his stoic and serious manner.

“But Dad, shouldn’t I. . .”

“Listen, if you want to learn you have to listen. Do not interrupt and listen. I’ll teach and you listen. Now turn the engine over. Good. Place the car in reverse and slowly take your foot off the brake.”

“Dad, when am I going to . . .”

“Tricia, you have to listen and do what I say. Don’t interrupt. I am trying to tell you, you need to listen.” The electrical engineer inside was getting the better of Dad. Learning about things like driving and electricity was not done through trial and error. This was life or death. Get it right the first time.

Tricia was making every attempt to engage with her teacher. She was instead being told to comply. Let’s face it. From the driver’s perspective learning to drive is an engaging process. From the passenger’s seat compliance seems entirely appropriate.

Until you realize you just instructed your 16 year old daughter to drive through the closed garage door. The 13 year old boy in the back seat stating that “she was trying to tell you Dad,” didn’t help.

On one of our snowed in nights this winter I had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Surprisingly he was snowed in at his location in Washington D.C. as well. For over 45 minutes Daniel, Jodie and I talked about motivation and engagement versus compliance in the educational setting. His insights into the system of education and the connections to his research for Drive are timely and certainly transferrable.

The text below is a record of that conversation presented here with Daniel’s permission. The conversation has been edited for presentation purposes. Thanks to Daniel Pink for his interest in sharing his thoughts, ideas and perspectives with educators.

JC: Variations of the carrot and stick can be seen in classrooms all over the world, certainly in North America. How can we unlearn some of these practices, practices of – to be kind of flippant about it–candy and detentions, so that kids can be motivated to learn more?

DP: For adults unlearning things is far more difficult than learning things so it’s a very tall order. One of the things that‘s happened is that we essentially created a set of assumptions that the way people, whether they are big people or little people, perform better is if you offer a reward or threaten them with a punishment. What’s disconcerting is that this is true some of the time. The danger with our kids is that if we treat them in a way that suggests that the only reason to do something is to get a good grade or to avoid a punishment we essentially sacrifice an enormous amount of talent and capability. When learning is open-ended, collaborative, when it’s about the strategy rather than the right answer then the approach is valuable in terms of helping kids think.
JC: In Ontario we have had a recent change to our report card system driven by a document called Growing Success: Assessment Practices from K-12. Learning skills are at the forefront of a child’s progress. The rest of the report card uses the traditional letter grades to rate a student’s performance. What are your thoughts on assessment, evaluation and reporting processes that happen in schools?

DP: You have to know how kids are doing. The problem is that often the assessment ends up driving everything. It basically becomes the purpose rather than feedback on the purpose and that is incredibly distorting. When you focus entirely on the performance goals, you often have a very thin, fleeting mastery of the material. It could actually be doing kids a disservice. You want to measure learning skills and you need a measure of performance. What concerns me is less grades per se than when grades basically become the goal rather than learning as the goal. If grades are the goal then people will go for the grades and may miss out on the learning. Again, I don’t think you necessarily have to get rid of grades but you have to put it into context. I don’t think there is an ideal evaluation system but before you get to the ideal evaluation system you have to go to the first principles. We are evaluating things because we want to give people feedback so that they can learn. We are not evaluating things as the end in itself.
There’s a difference between a learning goal and a performance goal. They are not the same. Our schools, especially in the States, are focused entirely on performance goals because they think that learning goals and performance goals are the same. Policy makers, even parents, haven’t reckoned with the fact that they are two very different things. I’ll give you the best example of this I can an example that you can relate to in Canada. I took French in secondary school and in university for six years. Every marking period of every semester I got an A in French. I can’t speak French. Why? The reason is I didn’t learn French; what I did is I performed on tests and quizzes. But if you throw me on the streets of Quebec City, in a French speaking part, and I get lost, I’m not going to find my way back home. If I had focused in those six years on actually trying to learn French maybe I would have gotten a B but I would probably be able to speak French. We’re obsessed over performance goals and we’re sort of thinking that if the performance goals are right then the learning goals will follow and that’s just not true. In fact, the opposite might be true. That is, if we focus on the learning goals then the performance will end up taking care of itself.

<img class=”alignnone size-full wp-image-582″ title=”carrots + sticks

JN: How do we change the minds of the students who have been going for that grade all along?

DP: It is really difficult because as an individual you are taking on an incredibly heroic and daunting task. You’re saying how can I deprogram and reprogram my 25 students, and then all the students in the school, and then all the students in Ontario. It’s a very daunting task because every other message they are getting, whether from parents, from policy makers, from the design and architecture of the school’s evaluation system itself, is telling something opposite. So you’re going up against really ferocious headwinds. The way I look at this is you’ve got to start small. Try to reach one or two kids. If you can do that, that is progress – you’ve made a difference in one or two kids’ lives. Try to reach one or two parents. Find one or two fellow educators who are with you and you have a little alliance and that’s how institutions change. That’s how society changes. We all want to be able to say “Whoa! Here we go – we’re going to change it all.” And it doesn’t work that way. It’s slow and it’s one by one. What keeps teachers going is the opportunity to affect one or two kids and to have those kids be better human beings because of their presence

To Be Continued . . .

carrots + sticks < love, “Click” change and Teacher / Learner by Libby Levi for opensource.com

You can follow Daniel (DP), James (JC) and Jodie (JN) on Twitter

@danpink, @cowpernius and @iteachELL

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I just finished watching The Effective use of Consequences on my PD 360 account. This video was great as it reminded me of so many ultra-important philosophies when dealing with kids (my own included). Here are some examples:
1. Most kids would rather be seen as behaviour problems than slow learners.
2. There are no punishments, only consequences and consequences are opportunities for learning.

I found the poem below in an email one day.  The subject of the email was “do you read bad poetry”  This was a reflection activity on the relationship between consequences and punishments. After I read it I deepened my belief that we must understand the student’s perspective and stance on consequences and punishments for it to be truly reflective.  Many schools have them.  Detention rooms, Reflection rooms, Room 104, The “Thinking Room”.  What ever you might call yours I ask you, what are they for?  Who do they serve?  Is it effective or is there a better way? 

Reflection Room–author unknown
I have spent too many nights – sleepless,
fighting with you in my head.
I cannot live with it.
Yet each day that it continues
without my action condones it.
My soul hurts
for kids like Kye-
punished for who his parents are,
and where he comes from,
and because he is a bother-  to us.
Kye doesn’t get what he needs.
Kye gets what we think he needs
from our privileged position.
Kye gets our pity,
but not our compassion.
When did we forget-
what it looks like and feels like
-school for Kye?
Maybe we didn’t forget-
maybe we never knew.
When did good intentions
become a battle for control-
Us vs Them? Final SMACKDOWN!
When did being on Kye’s side
mean that I’m not on yours?
Look in the mirror-
I can’t live with the reflection. (room)

I am reminded of so many important learners that have shared their experiences and beliefs with me over the last 6 years.  Todd Whitaker’s stance on relationships and student behaviour-“they need to leave the office happy because hurt people hurt people.”  I think of Kevin Cameron’s empty vessel analogy in reference to students that need “one caring adult in their lives to make a difference.”  Ruby Payne’s work goes without mentioning a single quote just the simple idea that discipline without relationship breeds resentment.  I thought about many things when viewing this segment.  What I thought about the most though was that I wanted my boy to be loved and treated with patience and understanding when he enters school.  And that is why I will extend that same right to all the students I work with.

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