What Do You Make?

I Make A Difference

Last year we had Taylor Mali visit our school and share his poetry with our faculty, staff, and students. I never got the chance to speak with him personally but I wish I had.  If you have seen or heard his poem about teachers, you might have some questions for him – I know I did.

I was told by a great friend to always give the benefit of the doubt to someone – to always believe something good, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.  My friend would tell me that everyone operates from the best of intentions, and I try to believe that this is true.  When working in a school that offers a values laden curriculum, I would hope this to be true.

So, with that said, listen to Taylor’s poem with the benefit of the doubt. Some people say he is too strict, too controlling, too self-centred.  I say that he is trying to make a point and is using poetic license to do so.  Don’t dwell on the fact that he makes kids sit in silence or not use the bathroom, dwell on the good in his poem.


“I make a difference” – this is the crux of the poem.  

How will you make a difference in the life of your students this year?

Creativity, Inspiration

Dear World….

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For the past three years, I have ended the school year with a “Dear World” inspired photo shoot. This is a chance for my kids to express who they are and the message that they would like to leave as they depart our classroom and head on to new things.

This past June, I did it again with my gorgeous kids.  Their quotes were original and heartfelt and their photos make me cry! They are strong, determined, passionate kids with so much to offer and they possess the determination to see them through anything.

Here are our messages of love and hope from us to you….enjoy!


Dear World….xoxo MIS 4D 2013/14 from Munich International School on Vimeo.


Creatively Tinkering…

Tinkering School is a place where kids can pick up sticks and hammers and other dangerous objects,and be trusted. Trusted not to hurt themselves, and trusted not to hurt others. Tinkering School doesn’t follow a set curriculum, and there are no tests. It sounds like my kind of school!

Gever Tully shares more about his school in the following TED talk:

I came across this video when looking for ideas about Genius Hour and Genius Year – the latter being the idea that self-directed learning be embedded into daily school life.  This was interesting to me as that was the outcome of a year-long group study into Genius Hour: that time be allocated – or more accurately, prioritised – so that students have a chance to engage in truly self-chosen projects that see them pursuing their own interests and passions throughout their time at school.

Time is definitely of the essence – and is something Tully acknowledges children need a lot of if their creativity is truly able to flourish:

“we can offer the kids time — something that seems in short supply in their over-scheduled lives”

Will you be a passionate teacher this year and help your children explore their inner genius?


If you are looking for a regular boost to inspire your creativity, Creative Something is for you.  I came across this website a while back now and every now and then I find my way back there for some inspired reading.  Check it out. 

Creativity, Inspiration, PYP

The Sound of Silence

Clint Smith is a teacher, poet, and a doctoral candidate in Education at Harvard University.  In July of this year, he shared a TED talk that was just over four minutes long. It is a spoken word poem that I listened to three times and could easily watch again…and again.

Chris talks about “your silence” and how it is important to start giving a voice to those things you never say.  Your voice is one of the most powerful things you have.

How do you create a classroom in which your students are free to express their silence, to say what has previously be left unsaid?  How do school administrators create an environment in which faculty feel the same way too?

As a teacher in a PYP school, we talk about cultivating an attitude of empathy.  But how? I think one way is to start having the conversations that are a little uncomfortable – but perhaps not as a first step.  Like most things that you want to see flourish and grow on their own, building empathy can take a little ground work. 

An article posted on Edutopia fits the bill well: Empathy – The Most Important Back to School Supply.  

Mostly, I think we will find the silence will end when our students start to realize that what they have to say matters and that their silence actually speaks volumes. 

Creativity, Design, Inspiration

Don’t Wait For The World To Whack It To You

I am tired. And I should be in bed. But I am reading my email because the tiny human, furry human, and loving husband are in bed and the house is quiet.

And just delivered from GapingVoid is this little gem, hot off the press:

Shine Your Light

It comes with this explanation from Hugh:

Instead of waiting to be hit by the light, I decided to become the light instead.

It was my decision.

It was also one of the happiest and most profound moments of my life.

To use a familiar tennis metaphor, you’re spiritually better off once you teach yourself to always keep the ball inside your own court. Don’t wait for the world to whack it to you. A-men.

~Hugh MacLeod

I have had a lot of work to do with my students pastorally the last few weeks. I think we have reached the tipping point and things are now on the rise.  I hope this is true.  One of the things that changed my outlook on the situation was when I stopped and remembered one of those lists that I had read once – you know, the “things that you need to remember to live a happy and fulfilled life” lists. It was this one.

And part of that list read:

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Never take things personally.  Let me repeat that: NEVER TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY.

I really started questioning what I was doing as a teacher – or more specifically, what I was (or wasn’t) doing that was resulting in the behavior I was seeing.  How had I gone wrong?  What had I done?  Why am I so terrible at what I am supposed to love doing?

Then I remembered #8 and I remembered #10 and I remembered that according to #7 the Universe (which at the time meant a very supportive and proactive Principal) had my back.  And I decided to take a different tack. I decided to be the light. I decided to take the ball instead of waiting to be whacked – repeatedly – in the head with it.

I did all these things and then Hugh, bless, made me my own cartoon to commemorate my somewhat disastrous but ultimately insightful week.


Creativity, Inspiration

At Least I Tried….

I love GapingVoid. Always, it seems to me that Hugh writes his cartoons specifically for me.  Here is what was in my mailbox this morning:

At least I tried


It was accompanied by this text…

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My kids are one week into two week Passion Projects.  We are doing this ‘extended Genius Hour’ as a precursor to Exhibition.  It is fascinating for me as a watcher of tiny humans to see who does what, how inquiry looks to different children, who is flourishing, who is going under – or thinks they are.

Make a decent go of it. 

I like that.  Maybe you will be rubbish but you’ll never know unless you try and you can’t just try – you have to make a decent go of it.

Can’t ask for more than that.

Creativity, Innovation

Ready to Make Your Mark….Again?


International Dot Day is coming up.  On or around September 15, 2013, over a million people in 79 countries have pledged to ‘make their mark’ in the spirit of courage and creativity.  Last year, I shared some resources for this day and for possible ways to connect the dots within your class, school, community and world.

Writing the phrase, ‘connecting the dots’ just now, reminds me of an inspiring leader and challenger of the status quo for the purpose of moving forward.  Will Northrop of “What If Concepts” is poised to help groups and individuals make their mark and uncover their purpose.  In working with him at my school last year, he reminded us that our students should spend more time connecting rather than collecting dots in their learning journey.  That it was important that their learning was meaningful, significant, relevant, engaging and challenging, and most of all that it helped them to connect to previous learning, their community locally and globally, and to their future learning, whatever that might look like.

I know there are teachers who are not in favor of ‘one off’ days of celebration as they prefer to integrate an understanding of the themes of these days into their program in a more holistic manner.  Whether this describes your philosophy or if you are someone ready to celebrate on the 15th, take a moment to reflect on the learning in your classroom and ask yourself, “Are my students collecting or connecting dots in my classroom?”

Happy Dot Day!

Dots made by my students last year on Dot Day.
Dots made by my students last year on Dot Day. Each dot had a diameter of approximately 70cm and was made using wax crayons, water color wash, and glitter – because everything is better with a little glitter!

Success – What it really looks like.


I want to start by saying that I really like this quote. I think success can often be thought of as an individual pursuit and it is a good idea to think about it in terms of how others can be inspired by the things we do.

In thinking about success, I came across this video:

Loved it. A brilliantly simple reminder of how we all learn things differently. I showed it to my kids and then asked to them draw their own version of success and explain their drawing. Awesome. Do it with your class – it is great. Here are their responses: