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Archive for December, 2012

top3

My “Top 3″ blog list is becoming a bit of a tradition with previous Top 3 lists for 2011 (here) and 2010 (here). This “top” list is an opportunity to review ideas that have become a big part or our learning over the past 12 months, which may have been missed in the “drinking from the firehose” approach (what has become social media and the Internet). I continue to shuffle the categories, trying to take a different approach to these year-end lists.  They are a great way to raise topics, discussion, debate, and perhaps shed some light onto areas deserving more attention (or topics missed) as the year went on.  I look forward to others adding their thoughts on my “Top 3″ of 2012.

Top 3 “Culture of Yes” Blog Posts which have Generated the most Traffic this Year:

1.  The Multi-Sport High School Athlete

2. If School Was More Like Swimming 

3.  How My Teaching Has Changed

Top 3 Used (and often overused) Terms in Education for the Year:

1.  Game Changer

2.  Perfect Storm

3.  Flipping It

Top 3 Growing Trends I See Continuing in the Next Year:

1.  Self-Regulation (but more broadly social-emotional learning)

2.  Outdoor learning (outdoor classrooms and full outdoor programs)

3.  Low / No Cost Conference Events (e.g. Edcamps)

Top 3 Books I have Read this Year that have Influenced My Thinking:

1.  Why School? by Will Richardson

2.  11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era by Nilofer Merchant

3.  How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough

Top 3 Professional Development Events I have Attended:

1.  Visit to Finland (Here and here are my two posts on the visit)

2.  Two Library-related events:  the BCTLA PSA Conference in October and the Changing Times; Inspiring Libraries Summit in December

3.  West Vancouver Opening Day with cultural-anthropologist  Jennifer James

Top 3 BC Edu-bloggers that I didn’t know about 12 Months ago, and now Follow:

1.  Anthony Ciolfitto – Principal, Riverside Secondary School, Port Coquitlam

2.  Stephen Petrucci – Director of Instruction, Fort St. John

3. 180 Days of Learning – Delta School District (cool project!)

Top 3 Non-education New Twitter Follows:

1.  Rick Reilly – ESPN

2.  Nate Silver – New York Times (FiveThirtyEight blog)

3.  Andy Borowitz – New Yorker Magazine

Top 3 School-related Videos from British Columbia (that I bet you haven’t seen):

1.   What a Teacher Makes – West Vancouver

2.  VSB Transition from Elementary to Secondary School (VSB has lots of great videos)

3.   Gino Bondi – Innovation and School Libraries  (BC Libraries also has a number of other great videos)

 Top 3 School-related TED Videos Posted this Year:

1.   Will Richardson (TedxMelbourne)

2.  Thomas Suarez: A 12 year-old app developer

3.  Stop Stealing Dreams:  Seth Godin

Thanks to everyone who continues to engage with me on my blog and push my learning.  Our digital community is continuing to grow and I am thrilled to be connected to so many thoughtful teachers, parents, students and community members.  Blogging is not easy, but it is exceptionally rewarding.  I look forward to continuing to grow and learn together in 2013.

Chris Kennedy

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front-cover

Len Corben is very well-known on the North Shore for his writing and commitment to athletics; a commitment that includes 31 years as the coordinator for North Shore Secondary School athletics, and as an accomplished writer with his Instant Replay stories that regularly appear in the North Shore Outlook.  Having previously enjoyed his first book, an anthology of his newspaper features, it was great to catch up with Len and also read his latest book based on hours of research and interviews with Ernie Kershaw: The Pitching Professor:  The Life & Times of Ernie Kershaw.

The book was of particular interest to me as Ernie Kershaw began his teaching career at West Vancouver Secondary School at about the time my grandfather, Charles Kennedy, was teaching at the school in the late 1930s. And, personally, as a history teacher and huge baseball fan (Field of Dreams is in my all-time top three movies), it’s difficult to imagine anything more appealing than a slice of local history with a backdrop of education filled with baseball stories.

The story starts with Ernie Kershaw’s birth on October 6, 1909, and as he describes it in the book, “My birth was premature at seven months and I started my career at two-and-a-half to three pounds in a shoe box in the warming oven of our Gurney-Oxford kitchen range, being for some time fed partly with honey and water via an eye dropper.”   With Spanish influenza and typhoid fever also part of his childhood experiences, Kershaw went on to play semi-professional baseball for the Vancouver Capilanos from 1939-41 and again in 1946 after serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II.

Kershaw was playing baseball at the same time as many of history’s most storied individuals, and the book links to Babe Ruth and others, while also telling the stories of the grassroots stars in Vancouver, in the era before Larry Walker and Justin Morneau.  Of course, Kershaw’s “big curveball and humming fastball” are also highlighted from his 4-0 five-hitter in his pro debut against the Yakima Pippins at Athletic Park on Hemlock Street, to a post-war performance described by Province columnist, Ken McConnell: ” Kershaw came back from the war fat and sassy.  He has a sweeping curveball that even [umpire] Amby Moran seemed to have difficulty following and his fast one sings as it burst across the plate.”

It was not an era of “just” being a baseball player — Kershaw was also a teacher.

Kershaw says of his teaching experience “In September 1936, I found myself back in the classroom” where he taught until 1941 and then again after the war from 1945-1973.   The book overlays Kershaw’s stories of West Vancouver with stories of many other well-known figures in West Vancouver including Dick Wright, Bill Nicol and Brian Upson.  All well-known names who come to life in Kershaw’s stories and through Corben’s words.  The stories also tell of a teacher making sense out of algebra for more than three decades of West Vancouver students – so proud of their accomplishments – he shares a real pay-it-forward legacy.

Notable for his teaching and his baseball, Kershaw also acknowledges he is notable for his longevity (the story is subtitled - One of Professional Baseball’s Oldest Living Former Players):

My first 50 years were quite unusual and interesting because of the variety of my interests and activities in a period which included a major epidemic, two great wars, several booms and depressions and the rise and collapse of many regimes and nations.  By sheer chance, I found myself at some critical places at historically important times.  As a result, I met many famous and talented people in various fields and from many countries.

Almost a Forrest Gump style story.

Ernie Kershaw died on February 13, 2012 at the age of 102.  In a story in the book, relayed by his son Ian, “When it was close to Dad’s time,” Ian recounted, “I said to him ‘Dad, I guess this is the bottom of the ninth for you.’  He replied, ‘It’s more like the bottom of the 12th.'”

Corben’s book and Kershaw’s story are a wonderful window into our recent history — a story about baseball and a whole lot more for those interested in sport, history, education and community — a really wonderful read.

To order a copy of the book or for more information, contact Len Corben.

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Story

At last month’s Provincial Educational Leadership Conference, the former Deputy Minister of Education from Ontario, Ben Levin, reminded us all of the good story we have in public education, in our province and Canada.  There are exciting conversations around educational transformation, where to go to next, and that we continue to be one of the world’s top performing jurisdictions. We do have a great story to tell.  The West Vancouver School District Board Chair, Cindy Dekker, picked up on this theme in her latest Taking Action column in the North Shore Outlook:

The many success stories coming out of public education across Canada never cease to inspire those of us serving as trustees on the West Vancouver Board of Education.

Our latest source of inspiration came from Ben Levin, former Deputy Minister of Education in Ontario, who delivered a powerful, positive message at a recent Educational Leadership Conference in Vancouver.

He reminded us that Canada has one of the highest performing public education systems in the world but suggested we haven’t “hit the top of our potential and the drive to improve must be unrelenting”.

Levin challenged us to continue to push for better teaching, better programming and better use of resources – goals our staff strive to achieve every day in West Vancouver, Lions Bay and Bowen Island.

How do we reach them? His ideas align with ours; by continuing to provide relevant curriculum and classrooms, building personal relationships with students and families and forging strong community connections.

I have spent some time over the last couple of weeks collating items around our graduation rates in West Vancouver.  Once again, it is a very impressive story to share.  Our overall graduation rate continues to hover around 97-98%, with about 60% of our students graduating with Honours (B average or better).  This high rate continues at a time when classrooms have become increasingly diverse, and with increases in our English Language Learner (ELL) numbers.  If anything, the trend has been upward over the last several years, and is a tribute to our outstanding teachers who work with amazing students each day.

Finally, at least week’s meeting of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), I heard our schools tell stories of pride, on a range of rich and diverse topics including:  a school transforming a  library into a learning commons; a school with an inquiry /technology focus going deeper with its learning; another school looking at inquiry, but more through the lens of the Arts; several schools adopting self-regulation principles including MindUP; several schools giving back to the community with ventures like the Cinderella Project and the Harvest Project; several schools committing to environmental education initiatives, including school gardens and outdoor learning projects; several schools that have seen aesthetic upgrades outside and inside their buildings, and a number of schools highlighting well-rounded, parent education projects.  At each school there was a sense of great pride, and outstanding schools trying new and better things for their kids.

I have written in my blog before that “we don’t have to be sick to get better” — but we do need to step back, once in a while,  to remind ourselves about the outstanding system we have.

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Growth

I have written a fair bit about how my teaching has changed.  The post I wrote earlier this year generally described three basic stages.  At the start of my career I saw myself as a content provider and storyteller. When I became more comfortable with the craft I gave more ownership to students over their learning, which created a range of simulations and role-playing opportunities.  More recently, I have searched for more ways on how to do give students ownership and, now, opportunities for real world experiences as well.

Just as my teaching has evolved and changed, so has my learning. Early in my career I was hungry for any and all professional opportunities.  This was pre-social media and during the early days of the Internet.  I wasn’t that selective, but I did know I wanted to know more and improve.  I would read any article or book I was given. I would take gently read copies of Educational Leadership from my principal and vice-principal, and attend any opportunity offered for professional learning — from classroom management strategies and instructional design, to creating a democratic classroom.

As I moved into school administration I loved the big names and the big conferences. It truly was exciting to see and hear the big thinkers on education around the world. And, truth be known, there was something thrilling and honouring in attending these big conferences; the kind where thousands are in the room together — and I was one of them!  I sat at tables with some of the key leaders in my district, the province, and the world.  We all heard the same message from Michael Fullan to Sir Ken Robinson and had perspectives on where key leaders in our educational world thought we should go. I was sharing the room with edu-celebrities (I liked this word that Chris Wejr used recently, and committed to using it in a blog post).

Having recently attended two well-run, high-profile conferences, I realize these events with the speaker at the front of the room with all of us listening to the same message, no longer really works for me.  They are still great events, but I don’t feel they are actually pushing my learning.  What I need now is a chance to spend time making sense of what I am hearing — I crave the opportunity to engage with the smart people who are with me in the room.  I like Rebecca Rosen’s notion that “The smartest person in the room is no longer a person but the room itself.”  I have seen what is possible in the social media era. If I want to watch a speaker deliver a keynote I can watch it on YouTube. If I am going to see that keynote in person, I need to have some focussed engagement with others on what is being said.  If I am going to travel to conferences, then I need it to add value — not only to come away with new ideas, but new tools that I have had the chance to try, and the experience I couldn’t have had if I were not there.

I don’t mean to criticize the traditional conference because it DOES have value and there IS something powerful about being in a room of people hearing a similar message. Personally, however, I have moved past the learning options that were available to me a decade ago.  So, having also recently attended an EdCamp, I can say there is something between that and a traditional conference that would be best for how I want to learn.  And, I am okay with giving up a Saturday (with the promise of a bagged lunch) to sit in a high school to talk teaching and learning.

A couple of TEDx events I attended were also closer to hitting my learning mark, with shorter times for the keynotes and longer times for participant interaction. I am also finding events that bring people together from outside education, other government sectors, non-for-profits, or the corporate world, to be valuable in adding a range of views and perspectives to conversations.

And what else do I find is making a difference?  Focussed visits to districts, schools and classes are very powerful, with specific objectives and learning in action and not only in a presentation.  I also find the traditional ‘study group’ to continue to have a huge impact on my learning.  My first principal, Gail Sumanik, would bring donuts and coffee an hour before school started on Wednesday morning when interested staff would discuss an article, a strategy or part of a book.  I have carried this simple structure forward to other roles and find these conversations to be extremely valuable.  Another structure that I find valuable is some sort of networked learning – the kind that Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser have led so well in BC for well over a decade.

And yes, I find the ongoing engagement on my blog, the dozens of others I regularly read and other ways I connect in social media, to be very powerful on my learning.  I love the opportunities, both face-to-face and virtual, that are about sharing and learning together.

Last, but by no means least, I guess what I want for my learning is what I want for my kids, some form of personalized learning.  And, I am realizing my learning has changed, and that I have become a different learner than I was even five years ago.

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