Tag Archives: kristen swanson

You Should Read… (November 25, 2012)

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Plug Us In

I have been off and on writing this “weekly” post but I think that it is important to recognize some of the great content that I am reading out there that may have been missed in tweets and I like trying to culminate some of my favourite content for others to share in one space.  Here are a few things that I thought were great to share:

1.  Teachers Should Change How They Teach Students Today – There constantly seems to be a back-and-forth about changing teaching practices vs. teaching the way that worked for us as students.  In this great article that was a response to a New York Times piece and then offers a comparison to another article discussing students in an Ethiopian village and how they had learned to hack into a device and do some pretty amazing things:

Kids without schooling, without literacy, HACKED the Androids to turn the camera back on . . . without instruction.  That is a breathtaking example of how learning can happen with new technology if we are open to new ways of peer, community-based, shared learning…What the teachers in the NY Times piece need to take from this Ethiopian experiment–what all of us as educators on every level have to take from this experiment–is that, if we do not think learning is something so dreadfully dull that it has to be regulated, assessed, made compulsory, rule bound, divided into disciplines, and in all other ways “measured out in coffee spoons” (as T. S. Eliot would say), then the potential of kids and all of us to learn is enormous.  I have had to unlearn a lot of my own didactic forms of teaching over the years and have had to learn how to practice what I call “structuring possibilities for openness.”   It means biting my tongue, not solving the problem or coming up with the answers, but providing the opportunities in which students can help one another to learn and having faith that, if I stay back, they will in fact learn because, as humans, learning is what we do, it’s how we thrive.

Has learning changed or the opportunities that make it more conducive and engaging?  Just a question I thought of when reading this article.

2.  The Daily Routines of Famous Writers – I just love some of the quotes and thoughts from this article as that many people are exploring blogs and how we can have students engaged in their own writing.  What I get from the article is that there is not “one-size-fits-all” approach to this but we just have to just start:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”

But if we are blogging do students have to write?  Darren Kuropatwa offers a different perspective on what the blogging medium provides and how text is not the only option.  What are some tips that you have to get students and/or teachers to write?

3.  Freedom < —  A Vehicle For LeadershipKristen Swanson refers to a recent Leadership 2.0 session offered by Chris Wejr and shares thoughts on the differences between “Freedom From” and “Freedom To”:

Chris caught my attention by talking about freedom. While everyone wants freedom, some people want “freedom from” and others want “freedom to.”

In unhealthy, fear-based organizations, people want FREEDOM FROM the rules that exist arbitrarily. They want to escape the entire situation. They seek points, credit, dollars, or some other external reward. A leader in this type of organization must constantly monitor the team’s compliance.

In vibrant, collaborative organizations, people want FREEDOM TO innovate, create new structures, and solve problems. A leader in this type of environment simply needs to nurture the ambitions of the team.

So here is my question on this…can a healthy organization have elements of both?  For example, if a leader provides “freedom from” boring staff meetings so that teachers have the “freedom to” spend more time focused on professional learning, is that not what we want?  Kristen discusses this in her own post but what are your thoughts? Is one more important or is there a correlation?

So Star Wars and Disney have created a partnership and I love this “Disney Song” that was created from the movie.


Meaningful Staff Meetings

I read this great post by Kristen Swanson yesterday on collaborative meetings. She shared some great insights from a meeting she attended on what should be done at a faculty meeting.  Here were some of her suggestions:

  1. Give people an agenda with specific times and goals relative to each component of the meeting. Setting these expectations helps people to understand how and when they can best contribute. It helps people understand why they are there and values their time.
  2. Put the school/department/classroom mission on the top of the paper. Use it as a tool to steer conversation in positive directions when it gets off track.
  3. Have people self select specific roles to make the meeting run more smoothly. For example, have people volunteer to be timekeepers, note takers, or prodders. (Prodder is my favorite role. That person should ask provocative questions or keep conversation moving forward when it’s stuck.)
  4. Design the space and the size of the meeting to allow for extended dialogue.  Groups shouldn’t be too large and the furniture should allow for people to have eye contact with comfort.
  5. Use language that honors and values people throughout the meeting. Shut down dialogue that is disrespectful to students or colleagues.

I have always hated staff meetings and as principal, I tried to keep them short and sweet.  My philosophy was that if I could email you the information, I would email you the information.  From reading Kristen’s post though, I tweeted out the following statement.

Seriously, the worst words that I personally can hear at a staff meeting are “Ok everybody, I want you to get up!”

It gives me instant anxiety when I think I am going to have to do something embarrassing in front of my colleagues.  I don’t think that meetings have to be all business all the time and I encourage a light hearted nature as you can get into some pretty heavy topics.  But the focus should not being on making them “fun”, but as I said, “meaningful” to participants.  I know the intention between many ice-breaker activities is extremely important and focused on building teams, but I also think that you can build those connections in meetings in other ways.

I want to respect the shortness of time that many educators have and then focus on making the content engaging enough that they want to be there.  That is a tough task, but do you think that if you show how much you respect your staff to have meetings that are short and engaging, do you think that will help build connections?  What about meaningful conversations?  Won’t that help build connections?  I know that many people think that these ice breaker activities are great ways to break up the meeting but is that sometimes because the meeting is so boring?  The focus should be on making that meeting relevant.

Many might comment here and say, “Well I like…”, but remember, it is not about the person putting on the meeting, but the people attending the meeting and what they feel comfortable with.

Am I crazy or is anyone with me on this?