Tag Archives: Take-A-Ways

…thoughts from my first edcamp – #edcampok…

EdCamps have been on my radar for a few years – following event hashtags and speaking with people who have attended them.  I’ve been near ready to spend 4 hours in the car to participate on a Saturday event with zero participants I know personally…just to take it in.  I understand and really appreciate EdCamps’ collaborative, and almost ‘organic’ approach to professional development.  In a nutshell:

EdCamp is the edu-space created when engaged collaborators ask “what is my current reality?”  &  “what am I interested in learning & sharing today?”

The EdCamp model is so successful for so many participants because of its ‘freshness’…versus a ‘staleness’ of sorts.  I offer these two words because this is often how educators view big-box Pro-D…as a one-size fits all approach to an idea or topic that might or might not (often not) have any direct impact on classroom experience Monday morning…

This freshness is evident in the EdCamp format – you sign up and suggest topics you wish to learn about…and in turn…you suggest ones you feel comfortable leading.  Now, when EdCamp says leading, it really just means one thing:  You are responsible to ask the first question, OR, you are responsible to start the discussion…and allow the room to take over.  Here is a photo to help you see the topic suggestion process at work, tweeted by the organizers themselves:

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending my first EdCamp here in Kelowna, BC.  Early in the day participants received wonderful advice from EdCamp guru and former Principal turned Educational Consultant Tom Schimmer (@tomschimmer) regarding each of our own mindsets and attitudes as participants at this EdCamp:  

Be selfish with what it is you want to learn…go out and find it…

The day was a pleasure.  The people there truly wanted to be there.  This showed in each conversation I was involved with, and it also showed in the backchannel as educators joined the discussion from Twitter.

As of today’s post, three people have offered their reflections on EdCampOK via their blogs.  There, they give more detail about the contents of the day’s sessions and each highlights a different aspect of an EdCamp.  Each of them are worth a read – I recommend them all.   They are at the bottom of this post for your reference.

Now for some of my Take-A-Ways:

1.  Conference Culture:  I often measure my take-a-ways through my twitter-filter…in other words, can my take-a-way be a one-liner?  Or, did someone’s tweet stick in my mind and cause me to reflect?  Well, the following tweet is from an outstanding Math teacher at OKM in Kelowna.  He is comparing a very large Pro-D conference to the one we just experienced: 

I hear him highlighting the community feel, the partnering, and the value of a local PLN that can be present when educators from the same region get together.  Additionally, it was very special for me to finally meet face-to-face with many educators who I have followed via Twitter and Blogs for quite a while.

2.  Fresh Grade:  One of the sessions I attended was on the topic of Assessment.  It was well voiced by all present.  One participant, Steve Wandler (@stevewandler), admitted that he was not an educator at all.  Rather, he was just a concerned parent.  This got my attention.  He shared that he knows of many parents who really desire to know how their kids are doing in school – beyond the required report cards (3 in elementary and 4 in high school) that schools must legally provide to parents.  So, he did something about it.  

He has co-founded Fresh Grade, an edu-assessment start-up that aims to help teachers more easily collect both small and big pieces of data (formative and summative) and to provide that information clearly and meaningfully to parents.  Our campus school currently uses a web-based assessment and attendance program that provides parents with a daily report card of sorts.  At HCS, when a family changes schools, I know first hand that the number one thing that family misses about our school is that they miss knowing their child’s updated marks each day.  Good on you, Fresh Grade (@freshgrade), for helping parents and educators connect around their shared students.  Keep up the innovative work!

3.  No Risk – No Reward.  What does this mean you ask?  Well, it means that during the first time slot I ended up leading one of the three sessions that were offered.  At the start of the day I added this to the collaboration white-board:  Hands on with a Chromebook & GoogleApps for Education.  Prepared or not – I just put it up there.  I did bring two Samsung Chromebooks with me (that I didn’t even end up putting on the WiFi).  But, because I had a bit of material on this blog regarding the CBs and GoogleApps, I thought I could tell our 1:1 story.  It wasn’t the most attended session of the day and I am very thankful for that.  Similar to the tweet above, our small-ish group fostered open conversation.  To be clear, I certainly did not have any answers or definite best practices to share.  I simply gave an account of what we are up to as a registered Google School, with the use of Moodle as our LMS, and in our being WiFi friendly for grade 8/9s and having a 1:1 BYOD & school provided hybrid in grades 10-11-12.

4.  Professional Proficiency:  On a personal note, although it was only one day, and by no means did EdCampOk claim to have the Okanagan Valley’s exhaustive group of cutting-edge educators, it just felt good be a part of the day’s events.  I felt like I was at the table, like I had things to offer, like our small school’s voice was heard (and even caused some to take note).

This is my 10th year at Heritage.  I love it.  One year turned into ten.  I have transitioned from full-time teacher to half-teacher and half-VP, and now this year have begun my 4th year as high school principal and Math teacher (two teaching blocks but teaching 4 courses…yes…I am the scheduler!).  I have been given incredible freedom to explore, listen, lead, try, fail – all of this in our great community of families, teachers, and students.  I am thankful that my school saw potential in me and covered the entire cost of my graduate degree through Gonzaga.  I am also defining a PLN in our school’s Christian school association, ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International).

Yet, somewhere, in the back of my mind, I feel like I have ‘missed out’ on something by not being in the public district.  I feel like perhaps I have not developed as much at HCS as I would have in the big-machine.  I don’t know.  Hind-sight is always 20-20 and I know that the greener grass next door only exists because it is fertilized like crazy…and then they hire someone else to mow the lawn…  I just know that being at EdCampOk provided me a sense of personal and professional validation and confirmation that God, for the time being, has me where He wants me.

5.  Self-Admitted Failure:  Like the point above, this will be another personal note.  [ I am not against personal notes on this blog…I mean, it’s my blog.  Yet, often in a professional setting I hesitate to share as openly as I sometimes wish to.  Has that ever happened to you? ]  Anyways, part of the EdCampOk registration was to add topic ideas to a GoogleDoc.  I added this: Possible round-table discussion on helping increase student accountability and responsibility in a 1:1 or device-friendly environment with today’s ‘instant-on’ and ‘easily distracted’ teens.  I really wanted to hear what other schools are doing about student self-discipline in our device-crazy culture.  I wanted to know if others are seeing a need to talk about this topic.  I wanted to share that my school has many students who use their 1:1 device for PLAY all day, yet continue to FAIL their courses.  I wanted to find the golden key that would unlock the answer to the question of student self-motivation and self-discipline.

Sheepishly, when I returned home following the EdCamp I realized that I was the one who needed to learn this skill.  I was the one who showed a lack of self-discipline and a lack of discernment.  You see, as professionally awesome as this EdCamp’s potential was, my family was home sick.  And I went out to edu-‘play’ on a Saturday.  In the grand scheme of things I landed on the wrong side of the life-balance spectrum:  I chose work over family.  Unfortunately, as educators, we do not have a 9-5 job.  We will forever have marking, prepping, IEPs, sporting events, Grad events, and students needing extra times in our classrooms.  All I know is that in the future moving forward, my family is far more important to me than one great day of Pro-D.  As good as my EdCamp day was, I failed to make the right choice.

Ah, isn’t it by Grace that we walk day-by-day?  Sure is wherever I walk…

By the way, here are the refection blogs mentioned above from #EdCampOk – each worth a read:


…thoughts on king’s cross by tim keller…

This is not a book review.  This is simply a book recommendation.  This year I set a goal of reading 20 books.  Here is my list for accountability’s sake.

Tim Keller's take on the Gospel of Mark...

Tim Keller’s take on the Gospel of Mark…

I strongly recommend this book…

I’ve read three books by Tim Keller.  Each of them have been amazing.  His podcast is amazing.

King’s Cross is Keller’s walk through the Gospel of Mark.  It is a fresh take on the gospel account.  It was exactly what I needed – it was refreshingly ‘new’.

In my second year at Capernwray (a discipleship-based Bible school) I did an extensive research project on the Gospel of Mark.  I say this only so you understand that, in my mind, I felt I had a pretty good handle on Mark.  Boy, did Keller open my mind to my ignorance. Continue reading

…take-a-ways from gladwell’s blink…

Is there a more beautiful example of a snap judgement?  This is the gift of training and expertise – the ability to extract an enormous amount of meaningful information from the very thinnest slice of experience.  To a novice, that incident would have gone by in a blur.  But it wasn’t a blur at all.  Every moment – every blink – is composed of a series of discrete moving parts, and every one of those parts offers an opportunity for intervention, for reform, and for correction.  Gladwell’s Blink p.241

The above quote was the final paragraph in a piece about a Police Officer who, in the moment, decided not to shoot a young offender who pulled a gun.  This is a powerful paragraph on its own.  Yet, in my mind, it is also serves as a fitting summary for Blink.  In understanding and trusting our instantaneous responses to stimuli, [in addition to Police Officers, Gladwell references Firefighters, Improv Teams, even Voters] we must move towards self-reflection and self-training to best partner with our impulse thoughts leading to decisions.

This is my first 20-in-’12/’13 book review…and I even hesitate to call it a review.  Really, it is not a review.  My reviews will not be exhaustive.  They are not a replacement for the book.  Rather, they are my quick take on what stuck out in my mind.  It’s a flashback for what was meaningful to me.  Please hear me – right or wrong – they are my take-a-ways.

Continue reading

…pro-d & prep-time – take-a-way 2 from #21stedu – part 3…

When was the last time you had an hour of no-questions-asked time at work to get to the list of things you never get to?  Or to start working on a task that’s been on the back-burner all year?  Or were given paid release time to ‘play’ on or with anything that had to do, ever-so-slightly, with your job?  Well, Google-Time does just that – they give their employees 20% of their time to work on para-work items.  This blog explains it well.

Along the same line as Google-Time, in his most recent book, Drive, one of my favourite authours, Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind) unpacks the idea of the FedEx Day which was invented by the folks at the Australian software company Atlassian.  There, FedEx Days gave employees permission to work on any project they wanted to, as long as it wasn’t part of their regular job.  The only condition: they had to show what they’ve created to their colleagues 24 hours later.

“But isn’t that very expensive?  Having to hire one extra person for every four employed? Or giving up productivity for these non-work days?”  Yes, but the results say that Google’s employees are just that much more productive in their regular 80% time, and, they have generated some pretty amazing ideas during that 20% time.  Now, I am not proposing 20% time for educators – I only use this as an example to question the amount of time (often the result of how much we appreciate/value/commit to something – time & money) we provide our staff with preparation & release time.

My last post shared my #1 take-a-way from the Vancouver Symposium of 21st Century Christian Education as being Planning.  Today I share my #2 – Professional Development & Teacher Preparation/Release Time.

One of the largest issues that struck me at this year’s symposium was the vast amount of change that is making its way into schools & classrooms – specifically technological options and tools.  In building from my first take-a-way where I realize & admit my responsibility to grow & communicate vision & planning, I must make sure the plans I have for my school include appropriate processing/play/exploration/training time for my staff.

Dr. Barrett Mosbacker, Superintendent of Briarwood Christian Schools, made the comment that any new technology in his schools is sure to be in the hands of teachers for 6-14 months before it makes its way into the classroom.  Wow.  I’ve heard that statement from him twice in the past 2 months and both times it put me back in my seat with goosebumps.

On one hand, I hear his desire to make sure the implementation of new technology goes well.  He was clear that technology is a tool that enhances instruction & learning – not replaces it.  On the other hand, I would hope a policy like that doesn’t get in the way of a great innovative or user-friendly technology that could see itself adopted quickly with strong impact.  For this last point, I trust the leadership and staff at Briarwood to make appropriate decisions regarding curricular implementation & introduction.

Because change is so rampant with new tools popping up daily, in terms of prep-time and pro-d I must re-evaluate:

  • the time (minutes) & method (purposefulness & activity) of the prep/release & pro-d time Heritage provides our staff
  • individual & collaborative time provided
  • implicit & explicit goals & expectations that are communicated
  • the process in which pro-d is chosen & delivered/created/explored
This week I had the pleasure of spending a large amount of time in two classrooms for the evaluation of two teachers.  It was a pleasure to see them work with their kids.  After spending 80 minutes in their room I also had an hour-long sit-down with them individually to go through the notes I generated.  Since these were both experienced teachers it was very much a peer-to-peer process full of great dialogue & encouragement with a bit of food-for-thought.  One teacher, though, said this time together was the best pro-d he’d experienced since his pre-service time.  That was a flag for me.  Although I was glad to hear that this time was meaningful, it made me realize the opportunity & responsibility I have to be doing a similar activity in all my classrooms with all my teachers.  The simplicity of having another set of eyes in the classroom with the intention of “what would you like me to look for today?” can lead to such meaningful dialogue about purposeful teaching for that group for that course.
When was the last time you had a peer in your work-space providing observation, feedback, and discussion?  Was this helpful or not?  What would be meaningful pro-d for you right now?

…planning – take-a-way 1 from #21stedu – part 2…

So, I’ve had two full weeks to consider my key thoughts & learning from this year’s #21stedu Vancouver Symposium for Christian Education. I am now confident to publish my #1 take-a-way. I know it is my #1 because of how many times this topic – by example and non-example – has surfaced this month both in reality and memory…

This year’s conference confirmed in my mind the amount of change that a school, organization, and individual must undergo in order to remain ‘current’, ‘with-it’, and ‘educated’. Certainly there exists an option to remain ‘dated’, ‘staunchy’, and ‘ignorant’, but that is not an option I am interested in. Rather, I must commit my school and myself to learning & speaking this new language, exchanging & producing this new currency, writing & performing this new music genre. As a fellow servant-leader at my school, I must re-double my efforts to learn all that is available for education & vocation for the staff & students in my care so I am able to help train & mentor those willing to join me on this great sinusoidal journey.

Because change is happening at such a growing rate and because our technologies are creating a space & expectation of instant access, now more than ever I must communicate and model vision & leadership for my school. But, in order to do this, I must commit myself to the time and effort of planning these items to best help them take shape. Therefore, my first key take-a-way from #21stedu for 2012 is PLANNING.

John is a principal who I have had the pleasure of getting to know these past two years. This year he shared with me that his school had just finished producing a Strategic Plan. Their school now has a 1-3-5-10 year detailed plan according to specific goals. I gasped and asked, “How was that for you?” He replied with the answer I absolutely did not expect, “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to our school. I now know exactly where we are and exactly where we are going. Now I just need to stay the course and do it.”

Wow, what a document they have. What a great communication, vision, and purpose tool at their fingertips. I am envious of that school…and I look forward to getting a face-to-face update at next year’s Symposium. No doubt that took months and months to prepare – weeks and weeks of prayer and meetings and debates – edits and revisions and re-dos…but what a document on the back-end. Wow… Planning
IMHO, planning is the ingredient necessary to communicate vision. Planning is vision worked into a step-by-step experience.
I am a terrible planner. Terrible. Terrible. I have a wake of destruction in my past with regards to planning. Here are a few horrifically embarrassing professional & personal examples…from the near past:
  • Two weekends ago I spend 20+ hours at school getting ready for our external evaluation that happens every 2nd year. Now, I try very hard to not work evenings and weekends unless I have to. But, the sour part of this weekend was that I did a month’s worth of work in two days (isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish with no distractions, no interruptions, no pressing situations). At the same time, isn’t it sad that I left this work until the weekend before it was due rather than doing it when I had originally assigned it to my staff? (past students/current staff…are you reading this??? #ouch) 20+ hours now, or 20+ hours in Sept/Oct…it’s the same time either way. But, I caused so much collateral damage this way – to my family, to some of my staff, and to myself as well. This time-intensity & pressure could have been avoided. Planning
  • June 2011’s quarter 4 report card process & high school awards night might have been the near-end of a few of our office ladies. Bless them. Fortunately for me, this was our current Lead Secretary’s first month…so…so…so…so she didn’t know any better. Why did I leave so many of the tasks I knew about ahead of time until the last day? Why did I plan to and still decide to drive the bus for our Grad’s photos that day? Why did I not delegate some of the data-driven tasks to others who were willing to help earlier in the week? I have bad answers to these questions. All the overtime, the stress, the last-hour heroics – really, the collateral damage that effected so many involved – it was honestly just really immature. And, this could have been avoided. Planning
  • On my way home from #21stedu I was issued a very, very, very expensive ticket for failing to produce a valid driver’s license. ‘What?’ you may be asking. ‘What?’ was exactly what I was asking… But, yes, my birthday had come two weeks prior and, although I had been reminded both by ICBC and by my lovely, beautiful, and brilliant wife, I failed to change over my license. Not speeding…just camera scanned and flagged…because I don’t have a driver’s license…awesome… And, this could have been avoided. Planning
  • In this year’s high school schedule I had to make a difficult decision for our staff and students in this last hours before the start of the semester. I had known about this problem issue since August…but I had also assumed that I could arrange an acceptable solution. As it currently sits, it did not end up in a way I am happy with and proud about. And, yes, this too could have been avoided. Planning

‘I promise to lead’. Nice picture – take from a wall in this Men’s salon in Victoria, BC. Speaking doesn’t scare me…neither do hard conversations – these are skill areas for me that have come naturally for me and that I have worked at in previous jobs and experiences. What does worry me is sitting down and planning – looking ahead – putting what is in my head down onto paper in a way I can hand it off to someone. I’m great in the moment, but I lack the communication of systematic detail work of orchestrating and building a future vision.

Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People had a great time management table:

This photo has caused me much reflection. I must work harder to find make time for quadrant 2 activities. Not urgent…but very, very, very important. Planning

An area of thinking I haven’t explored yet is how closely linked planning is to organization. In the mean time, this might be a great chance to share the book I’m currently reading, Getting Things Done by David Allen. A good friend, Richard, who has a budding career full of creativity, leadership, and God-given potential, recommended this to me. He also has three young children…so his time is perhaps being stretched more now than at any other period of his life. This book helped him. So, I too am giving it a listen. I’m three-quarters the way through…and yes…it is quite good…

Another book I have just ordered is ‘First Things First’. I loved the 7 Habits…and I hope to get as much from this one as I did from the original.

Action plan: Well, for schools and administrators, I explain May and June like a Jack-In-The-Box: just keep winding until it pops. There are many small things and three major things that are on my schedule for the next month. To take a cue from this post in either a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ or a ‘like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly’ kind of way, I have committed myself to Tuesday and Thursday nights in May and June for extra planning and detail work. It is my hope that these extra dedicated work times will help provide school-time to be available for in the moment issues and staff, and so that I am ready and prepared for all the these two ‘Jack-In-The-Box’ months will bring.

What are some of your planning tips & secrets? I’m all ears 😉