Why School?

This is a question I ask myself regularly.  I have been part of the school system as a teacher for almost 20 years. If you do something for that long, it must be because you believe in it, right? My intentions were never to stay in education for very long. I thought it would be something I did while I figured out what I really wanted to do.  

But then I fell in love with it.  

I love the idea of school – a place where kids and teachers come together to learn from and with each other. A couple of years ago I even began to “Imagine A School…”  My vision of school is not the same as yours – not in its entirety. I think we all think differently to some degree when we think about school and what it could and should be. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 23.17.58
Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters

My husband showed me a remarkable slideshow of children heading to school in various parts of the world.  Despite floods, garbage lined streets, kilometers of soggy rice paddies, and the brutality of war, there are children who are determined to go to school, come hell or high water – literally. They endure such hardships in order to simply go to school.  

I look at these pictures and I know the kids at my school do not face such hardships, but they do have their own rivers to cross: divorce, language barriers, departed friends, being new. And all for what?  Why are they coming to school? What am I adding to their experience once they get here?  How will I make it worth the journey? 


To help me synthesise my thoughts, I am re-reading “Why School?” by Will Richardson. The subtitle reads: “How education must change when learning and information are everywhere.”.  I am hoping it will give me some guidance on how to be the type of teacher that students would want to traverse a mountain path, or cross a flooded river to learn with. 

Why School? What keeps you returning to school every day?


What Are You Teaching?

Kid President.

What’s not to love?

Sharing this with all the teachers who have inspired me and continue to inspire me.  You know who you are!

What are you teaching the world?


Brain Research, Inquiry, Mindset, Play

Let Them Explore Their Passions!

Passion.  It is one of my favorite topics when it comes to education.  I know that there are people who will say that asking kids about their passion is a fruitless task – they are kids, what do they know about passion?  I tend to move away from those people and ask anyway.  I think kids are DEEPLY passionate about things.  As teachers (and as parents) one of our biggest challenges is to not get in the way and to allow for their passions, their curiosity, their sense of wonder, and their natural inquisitiveness rise to the surface. 

Last year, I worked with a small team at school on exploring the concept of authentic inquiry through Genius Hour.  Ultimately we decided an hour wasn’t enough and as a school, we will be looking into the idea of incorporating Genius Hour into every hour, every unit.  I have no idea how it will work, but I am excited to work with teachers to give it a go and see what we can come up with. 

To that end, I was intrigued when I read an article tonight titled, “Four Skills to Teach Students in the first Five Days of School” via Mind/Shift.  Here is one of the points from the article:

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 21.08.45


This is a different take on the idea we grappled with all last year, but I like it.  I think like anything different, it will take some getting used to and some won’t know what to do, where to begin…but they will.  And in doing so, they will learn.  Lots.  About being self motivated, setting their own goals, or even learn how to ask for help when they need it.  

I love structure but I also love the freedom of an idea like this. As I throw around all of my beliefs about the importance of play, of collaborative learning, of cooperative learning, of finding your passion, the more I am becoming convinced that learning comes not as a result of pre-determined criteria and one way of showing what you know via an electronic flip-book or 3D sculpture.  

Learning is messy.  Learning sometimes is when things don’t work.  Learning is hard work. 

Thankfully, we were born to learn. 

Born to Learn

I know some people will argue that putting up posters,  or creating these sorts of posters with kids, or adding self affirming statements to papers or posters, and discussing the idea of a growth mindset with your kids will not do a thing.  Some people will even go so far to say that it feels fake, forced, artificial.  I disagree.  The idea that individuals can shape their destiny and that learning is real work are important things kids need to know to help them through the parts of their passion journey that aren’t so smooth.  

It will be tough.  You may want to quit.  Don’t do that. Today is just the first day….

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 21.35.54



 Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 12.11.55

Khan Academy have just unleashed a range of graphics and videos that are designed to support the idea that you can build up your intelligence by embracing the struggle of learning.  Could there be a better message to begin the year with!?

Failing is just another word for growing – Just keep going!

In a nutshell, a growth mindset is when students believe their abilities can be developed.  A fixed minset is when they think they just have a certain amount of brain power and that is it.  Listen to Sal and Dr. Carol Dweck discuss the idea of a growth mindset:

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 12.12.11



Student Generated Essential Agreements

This morning on my newsfeed was a post from PE Teacher Andy Vasily, an amazing PYP educator who talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to authentic integration and cross curricular teaching in the PYP.  His blog is definitely worth checking out to get ideas for PE but also for excellent teaching practice ideas and ideas on how to collaborate across the school within a unit of inquiry.

He posted:

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 06.25.23

I really like the idea of starting with a question and using those responses to draw out your essential agreements. As a Learning Technology teacher, it would be easy for me to substitute ‘PE’ for ‘Technology’ and see where the kids take it.  The same would be true for other single subject teachers.

For homeroom teachers, asking “What is important about 2nd grade?” could start to illicit some ideas that could lead into essential agreements. The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown could be a helpful lead-in to this discussion. Or you could go deeper with a question such as: “How can we motivate students, increase participation, and encourage deeper thinking in our classroom?”.  Or, “What will students in our class be known for at our school?”, “How will we make this year remarkable?”, “What do you want this year to be like?”. 

You could gather these ideas using one of my favorite tools, Padlet, which lets students paste virtual post-its to a collective noticeboard.  This requires no usernames on the part of the children, they just click on the board and paste a note. 

Thanks for the inspiration, Andy





Instructions For A Bad Day

School, for many teachers, is either starting for the new year, about to start, or already in full swing.  Quite like no other profession, teachers are paired with a room full of tiny humans and set about their day together on what can be exhilarating, all-consuming, rewarding, heart-breaking, exhausting, and empowering – and that’s all before first recess!

One of my favorite bloggers posted the video below on her blog with the accompanying text.  I am reposting it here (and linking back to her blog which you should read because it is awesomely inspiring) because it is almost certain that in the coming school year, there will be a bad day.  Maybe for you.  A colleague.  A student.  And we all need to remember that we don’t need to let the bad days define who we are.

So, in the calm, assuring words of the video:

Be confident.

Be gracious.

Be diligent.

Be forthright.

Be honest.

Be lucid in your explanation.

Be sterling in your oppose.

Be accepting.

Be ready.

Be aware.

Be a mirror, reflecting yourself back.

Be forgiving.

Be persistent.

Be resolute.

Be considerate.

Be patient.

Be loud.

Be open.

Be calm.