Tag Archives: Lesley Cameron

New Tricks


cc licensed flickr photo shared by JB London

I am honoured to have another one of my teachers, Norm Usiskin, guest post on my blog today.  Norm is a shining example of how you can be leader from any position in a school, and that learning is continuous as educators.  He inspires me daily by his work with kids and staff.

I was fortunate this past week to attend an inservice at my school intended for a parent audience on the subject of “Connecting and Sharing – Building Learning Communities Using Web 2.0”. This workshop was delivered by my principal, George Couros and one of my colleagues, Lesley Cameron to approximately 15 parents from our school community.

As I listened and watched as the parents were given an overview of some of the current thinking on educational reform and the initiatives involving technology that we have undertaken here at Forest Green School in Stony Plain, Alberta, I couldn’t help but sense a feeling of apprehension and uncertainty amongst some of the parents. This caused me to reflect on my own thoughts and feelings when I was presented with an opportunity at the end of the last school year that would see my teaching assignment change fairly drastically.

You see, George came to me and asked me if I would consider taking on the challenge of being a Technology Integration Facilitator at our school. No big deal I can hear some of you saying. Possibly true, but let me give you some insight into who I am. I am currently in my 27th year of teaching which to most of us makes me an “old dog”. New tricks aren’t supposed to come all that easily for people like me – and I am the first to admit that I have always liked using technology, but my knowledge of using it effectively and in ways that meet the needs of the students we face today was, at best, limited. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about my ability to fulfill this role that I knew came with high expectations from “the boss”!

Fortunately, I have always enjoyed learning new things, and I have always enjoyed collaborating with colleagues so once the year started and we had mapped out a plan for rolling out some of the initiatives we were wanting to introduce to our teachers and students (which included providing email addresses for students in grades 3 – 6, establishing blog sites for students in grades 3 – 6, introduction of the use of Google docs, a 1:1 laptop initiative in the grade 5 and 6 classes), that while overwhelmed at times by all of the minutiae of setting things up, the work with the teachers and students was fun, challenging, and invigorating. The prospect of helping our students into the world of Web 2.0 tools (not to mention the teachers) continues to make more and more sense as we progress through this year.

I have observed our students being very engaged by the opportunities to Skype in with teachers and students from around the world, to receive comments on blog posts from people both within and outside of our school community, and having everyday, all day access to information and tools that assist them in their studies. And on top of all of that, I have benefited and learned from great mentorship from George and great interaction from my colleagues and the students in our school.

I guess I am living proof that old dogs can learn new tricks – and these tricks are going to be of benefit to me and my students as I continue to travel this path. Can’t wait to see what might be around the corner!

Respecting the Foundation


cc licensed flickr photo shared by iwona_kellie

Tonight I had the opportunity to co-present with Lesley Cameron, a teacher at my school (if you are on Twitter, follow her) about “Connecting and Sharing“.  Earlier in the year, I, with many others, was inspired by the following video:

When I watched it tonight, I sat back and thought about how we are now achieving so many of the things that were shown in this video, and how in one short year, our practice has paralleled many of the changes in society.  I felt like a proud dad.  I am so proud of our teachers, students, and community.  We have all grown so much together.

Although this growth has been amazing, I think back to some words of wisdom our superintendent imparted to us last week at our administrator retreat.  Paraphrasing, he said the following:

I really believe in innovation and moving forward but we need to ensure that we really respect the gifts and talents that our staff already impart to us everyday.  It is essential that we respect many of our past practices that will continue to ensure the success of our students.

Those words have stuck in my mind since I have heard them.  Our teachers this year have been very successful being innovative, taking, risks, and trying some amazing things.  They have this opportunity because they are already gifted and talented in creating strong relationships with community.

Organizations do not grow without a solid foundation.  Although I am happy to see our learning community continue to implement innovative practices into the classroom, I am more committed to recognizing the strong base that our teachers have already created that allows us to do so.

Through talk of change and growth, as school administrators, we must all remember (this especially includes myself) to recognize the gifts our staff already have. Before we can truly ascend to great heights, we must first respect the foundation.

Does it matter where we meet?


cc licensed flickr photo shared by ☺ Lee J Haywood

I had the opportunity to work with a group of parents today talking about the changes in education and the impact of social media within our school.  We had a fantastic discussion and I was honoured to present with two of my colleagues, Corre Mahan and Lesley Cameron.  It was great to talk about the changes in education while watching my teachers share how they are taking advantage of many Web 2.0 applications to connect and engage their students.  Although it was a small group, it really gave us a great opportunity to talk about education and how we want to do better for our kids.

After the session, I was sent an email from one of the parents asking me about the connections that I have made personally online.  The timing of this question was amazing since I am so excited to meet several of these “online” friends this weekend at Educon.  There have been so many posts that I have read about how these relationships are real and meaningful, but I think it is important to figure out why they become meaningful.

Patrick Larkin and I have become very good friends and are even presenting together this weekend (we have actually never met in person).  Through our continued interactions, I have seen a really good person that has many of the same interests and passions that I do.  Through this open and connected media, we tend to connect and find others that are like ourselves and share these same interests.  Through the Connected Principals website, I have met a ton of other great school administrators that are passionate about what they do and also have a lot in common with myself.

Because of these relationships, those somewhat unknown online friends may be as influential—or more so—as a running buddy or a next-door neighbor. You and I are just as likely to accept their recommendations for restaurants and plumbers. They may influence the books you read, the movies you see, or the news you click to. Because you know they have common interests, you may trust them even if you don’t know them well enough to describe their hair color or favorite sports teams….As a result, these relationships are much more than “social.” They are hugely influential. (I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works, Nick Bilton)

This does not mean that there are not these type of people that I know in my “offline” world.  There are and I appreciate them greatly.  But it also shouldn’t lessen the genuine relationships that I have created using social media as well.

Passion, common interests, and often our vision links us; does it matter where those bonds are formed?

P.S. It would be great if you shared any stories about how you have connected personally with your PLN or how these relationships have affected you in  a deep and personal way.  I would love some evidence from others for our parents.

Risk Taking Does Not Fit With Perfection

Lesley Cameron is a teacher I am proud to say I work with at Forest Green School.  She has rejoined our staff after a year maternity leave, yet this has been our first year working together.  She has done some amazing things and has shown tremendous growth this year as an educator within her grade 3 classroom.  I have said that the signs of the best teachers are that they are continuous learners; Lesley embodies this as an educator.

It’s the end of August.  Time for a new school year.  My maternity leave is over.  Back to school with lots of ‘new’ things – new administration, new grade, new students.  Change is in the air.  I knew returning to school after a maternity leave was going to be difficult.  As I was gearing up for a new school year and mentally preparing to leave my two babies when returning to work, I have to admit, I was a bit stressed.

I am a huge perfectionist and always have been.  I have high expectations for myself and always have.  Throughout grade school and university, I always needed to strive for top marks and beat myself up over anything less.  Was this a bad thing?  At the time, I didn’t think so.  It led me to work hard for what I wanted to achieve and to achieve the success I had dreamed of.

On the first PD Day, my new principal showed a short video clip entitled “Two Questions” inspired from Dan Pink’s new book, Drive.  One of the two questions focused on in the video was “What’s Your Sentence?” So I got thinking, “What is going to be the one question that drives my year?”  More broad than that, what is going to drive my teaching?  In conversations with my principal, George Couros, about my control and perfectionism, he suggested, “risk taking does not fit with perfection”.  Instantly, I knew it fit.  Something I wanted to work on was being more of a risk taker so that I can model it for my students.  Being a risk taker to me means trying new things and learning from my mistakes.  Knowing that everything will not be perfect is okay.  The process of learning never ends and is even heightened as we make mistakes.  This included learning about using technology, my Smart Board, our classroom blog, e-portfolios, and the list goes on.  To be honest, these new technologies worried a perfectionist like me.

So… how’s it going?  I must say, it has been pretty great!  I decided to jump right in, take on these new challenges, and try to live my life more as a risk taker.  I love using my Smart Board to actively engage my students in their learning, am actively blogging, and have a “Blogger of the Week” program in my classroom.  We have our e-portfolios set up and will begin adding to them in the New Year!  Further to that, I am learning about social media and am so amazed and excited to have connections around the world.  Thanks to a great blog post written by one of my students and the many comments made on it, George connected me with a teacher living in Jakarta, Indonesia, as an expert for a research topic in my Social Studies program.  We Skyped in with him and learned so much about the Muslim culture and celebrations.  We have a great video of our conversation to look back on embedded in another post on our blog!  What an unbelievable experience for my students as well as myself.  I have recently created a Twitter account and am looking forward to the connections possible through there and the wealth of knowledge, information, and ideas through the great networks of educators!

The second question in Dan Pink’s video was “Was I better today than yesterday?”  What a great reflective question to ask oneself as a means to continually strive for improvement.  I am always looking for ways to be a better teacher, communicator, staff member, and leader in our school community.  I think it’s important to reflect on my practice and ensure that I’m meeting the needs of my students the best I can every single day. Being able to show my students that I’m willing to take risks and learn along the way has been an important part of my year.

While it has been a challenging year for me trying to balance everything, I must admit I like a challenge!  It has also been one of the most rewarding years for me (and it’s only 4 months into the school year!) as I feel I have shown growth already and I have committed to bettering myself, becoming a risk taker, and am trying to be more reflective along the way.

If you don’t already have a sentence, now is a great time to ask yourself, “What’s My Sentence?” and reflect on your day with the question, “Was I better today than yesterday?”

Check out the video below: