Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Change’ Category

My One Word (2019)

This is the 4th year of my “One Word” Tradition.  In 2016 I wrote about Hungry and then in 2017 my first post of the year was dedicated to Hope.  I feel both words were ones that were good ones for the times they were written.  In looking at 2017, it was a year of hope with shifts in education and a new provincial government.  When it came to the world of teaching and learning, it was hope realized.  Last year I wrote about what I described as my desperate need in my work for Relevance.

So what about 2019?

This year my word is Delight.  I have actually tested a few different words.  I wrote partial blog posts on Optimism and Enjoy.  Then a teacher colleague of mine Spencer Capier shared a Jessica Lahey article, Teaching, Just Like Performing Magic.   The article which shared Teller‘s (of famed Penn and Teller) view on education really resonated with me around my hopes for this year.

I loved the argument from Teller talking about his early teaching days:

 “I’m 5’8” and was about 160 pounds those days, so I was not the kind of person who could walk into a room of rowdy kids and [they] would just pay attention to me. What I have, however, is delight. I get excited about things. That is at the root of what you want out of a teacher; a delight in what the subject is, in the operation. That’s what affects students.”

Delight.  What a great word.  Kind of a new twist on the ideas of my friend and colleague Dean Shareski and his commitment to joy.

This is what I want for myself this year.  I want to continue to get excited about things.  It does come back to the Culture of Yes notion, the idea that we default to yes.  And this is really about getting excited about what others are excited about, and then getting others excited about what you are excited about.  And delight is such a great word.  Not one we use too often. For me to be full of delight, it is about showing up, bringing energy and being constantly curious.  I know in the adult world, whether at work or home we often think we should hide our glee.  Like it is kind of childish.  I know that is how I felt as a beginning teacher, new principal and rookie superintendent.  But our outward excitement is actually so often important.

I think of my super-talented colleague Diane Nelson who runs our academies.  She is always excited.  Her excitement is almost exhausting for those of us who work with her.  She does amazing things, and builds incredible programs.  And when we think she is finally done, she creates another.  It is this glee, excitement and delight I want to show more of in all aspects of my life this year.

I love this further idea from Teller expressed in the article:

Teller argued, the teacher has a duty to engage, to create romance that can transform apathy into interest, and, if a teacher does her job well, a sort of transference of enthusiasm from teacher to student takes place. The best teachers, Teller contended, find a way to teach content while keeping students interested. “If you don’t have both astonishment and content, you have either a technical exercise or you have a lecture.”

And just as Teller speaks of doing this at the classroom level, nothing changes when we think of the work we do at the district level.  As we continue to teach and learn – some astonishment and content pulled together can go a long way!

So in personal life and my professional – I am looking for a year of delight.  If you see me, keep me honest with it!

Read Full Post »

Welcome to my final blog post of 2018.  While perhaps not as iconic as the various year-end lists we read at this time of year, this is my 9th annual “Top 3” List. (My favourite list was always the Siskel and Ebert Top 10 Movie Lists. I am dating myself but their year-end show on Sneak Previews on PBS was the best!)

Previous Top 3 lists for:  2017 (here) 2016 (here) 2015 (here) 2014 (here) 2013 (here) 2012 (here), 2011 (here) and 2010 (here).

As per usual, I will try to take up topics you probably don’t see covered by other year-end “Best of” lists and my topics do change from year to year:

Top 3 “Culture of Yes” Blog Posts which have generated the most traffic this year:

  1.  Soak City Elementary Announced
  2. The Problem With Basketball
  3. They Will Keep Coming Until They Don’t

Not sure how I should take it that I write dozens of posts on education, and my most popular one is an April Fools post and my second my popular one is on basketball.  Maybe I should stick to comedy and sports.

Top 3 Places I saw Paul Simon perform:

  1. Queens, New York –  outdoors for his final concert on his Farewell Tour
  2. Las Vegas, Nevada – a great weekend getaway (thought the enthusiasm of the crowd at the concert was a bit disappointing)
  3.  Portland, Oregon –  best memory was him forgetting a line and penalizing himself by playing 59th Street Bridge (he hates the song but the crowd loved it)

Top 3 Things I got to do when I wasn’t at work:

  1. Visit New York City – It was only for 3 days, but it was my first time.  In addition to Paul (above) we got to Hamilton and a Yankees game.
  2. BC Summer Games – I got to go with my younger son and his teammates to Cowichan for the Games.  It is like a mini-Olympics.  And if nothing else, three nights sleeping on a school classroom floor is something you will remember.
  3.  Chicago -80 basketball courts and about 800 teams competing in the Convention Centre at the NIKE Tournament of Champions.  An absolutely incredible event.

Top 3 Things I got to do when I was at work:

  1. Visit classrooms –  The past few months have been amazing for me. I have been in well over 50 classrooms and not just for the 2 minute walk-through but generally for some real sustained visits, often up to an hour. I wrote earlier about this HERE.  It has given me great insight into the learning in our classes, the changing nature of how our teachers are approaching their classes and the visits have offered a reminder of just how much has changed in recent years – the classroom looks very different from a decade ago.
  2. Launch new programs –  I love how our district is always on the cutting edge with developing programs to meet the changing needs of the world, and the passions of our students. A few new opportunities for students this year included an AP Environmental Science Program that takes place in an actual science research facility, a Computer Animation Program that partners with the faculty from Capilano University and gives students a first glance at post-secondary in this area and a Table Tennis Academy which I saw first hand last month and was so incredibly impressed by the quality of instruction and the inclusivity of the program.
  3.  Add great people to the team –  The people are key to any organization.  So much credit for the success of West Vancouver Schools needs to go to our Human Resources staff and school administrators for their excellent attraction and hiring of such outstanding teachers and support staff.  I am fortunate to be in on the hiring of many of our management staff.  I love it when we can add people to our team that make our group stronger, more diverse and I am surrounded by people who I know make me and our team better.  We were able to do this again this past year, adding Trevor Kolkea a super talented principal from Coquitlam to our team, and recently luring Ian Kennedy back to West Vancouver.  He will start as Director of Instruction in March.  Having Alex Campbell and Jamie Ross as key members of our team and all the expertise they bring to our district was also a great opportunity for us.

Top 3 Somewhat Odd Ongoing Streaks I am proud of:

  1. 5 years  of at least 10,000 steps a day according to my FitBit
  2.  300 days as a full vegetarian (the previous 18 months my meat intake was limited to fish)
  3.  9 years of at least 20 blog posts a year on Culture of Yes

Top 3 Quick Takes I have about students based on all of the visits:

  1. They don’t care about SOGI as “an issue”.  While a small vocal group made a lot of news during the School Board elections this fall, it is something students don’t care about.  They are so passed this an issue – the adults could learn something from the kids here.
  2.   Cell phone use has not gone crazy.  I keep hearing stories in the media about how students are on their cell phones all the time.  I have spent hundreds of hours in classrooms this fall and can say it is not true.  Each of our high schools has some sensible guidelines and routines around their use, and I saw students engaged in their lessons.  It is the parents at school games, concerts and elsewhere who seem to have the much stronger addictions.
  3.   They are excited but cautious about “changes” in education.  We have engaged students around the new Career Education programs and they are genuinely excited that the system will be better built around their needs and their voices have been included in the design.  That said, they see themselves as having “figured out” the current system, so they are nervous about changes to the system and how they might negatively affect them and their post-secondary goals.

Top 3 Celebrity Stories about people I work with:

  1. Martina Seo – A dynamic Foods Teachers from West Vancouver Secondary was a breakout star on the most recent season of Amazing Race Canada.  For all of us who know Martina we would agree she is perfect for reality television.
  2. Sean Nosek –  The guy in the office next to me published an absolutely amazing book this past year on Vancouver street artist Ken Foster.  It is the “coolest coffee table book ever”.
  3.  Bryn Hammett –  I found out still story by luck.  I was visiting Bryn’s Math 9/10 class (photo above) and he was doing a problem based on his recent trail race.  He finished only 8 places behind Daniel and Henrik Sedin in the 25 km race in Whistler.  Super impressive!

Top 3 TED Talks that I liked which my colleague Julia shared with me (love how she shares good stuff):

  1.  Confessions of a recovering micromanager

2.   Why You Should Treat the Tech You Use at work Like a Colleague

3.  Why Being Respectful to Your Coworkers is good for business

Top 3 People I think really make the case for the transformation in B.C.’s education system:

  1. David Burns –  I heard David  (photo to the right below) speak three times in 2018 on how his institution (KPU) is working with the K-12 transformation and making changes themselves.  It is all the more powerful when post-secondary schools are supporting the shifts K-12.  And for West Vancouver readers – he is speaking at our PD Day in January!
  2. Kris MagnussonKris, like David, has extra weight to his words since he is the Dean of Education at SFU.  His longtime efforts around career education have really come to life in the grad program changes.
  3.  Jan Unwin – Jan is the undisputed champion of the K-12 transformation in British Columbia.  This is a title she inherited from Rod Allen, and over the last five years has been unwavering in her passion and commitment to helping be sure the ideas became reality.

Top 3 Courses / Programs I would take in West Vancouver Schools if I was a student:

  1. Environmental Sciences Academy – Doing real science with real scientists and it is held at at the Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental Research (CAER) and under the leadership of Tom Harding – so much good going for it!
  2. FAST (First Aid Swim Training) – All of the programs that students take to become a lifeguard are built into an every afternoon program in West Vancouver offered by Rockridge teacher Dave Dickinson.  You get school credentialing and probably more importantly all the outside credentials as well.
  3.  YELL (Young Entrepreneurship and Leadership Launchpad) – This is another great example of doing real world work.  I have written about the program several times (like HERE) in the past, and the Jo-Anne McKee taught program continues to draw great speakers and mentors.  I had the pleasure of sitting in this fall with Anthony Beyrouti speaking to the students about going from being a local North Shore high school student to running one of the fastest growing businesses in BC in a few short years.

Top 3 Ways I am going to push myself professionally in 2019:

  1. Start my doctorate –  Classes start in January.  This will be my first time really being a student since I finished my Master`s Degree in 1999.  I am doing it with a few current and former colleagues which will make it all the better.
  2. More real visits –  The class visits over the last few months, whether to observe, participate or teach have been so rewarding.  I am looking to doing more in the new year.
  3. Focus on assessment –  Somewhere between all the discussions about curriculum and reporting we have lost some of the attention on assessment.  With curriculum fully in-place and reporting templates and structures confirmed, there will be more time to talk about the really important topic of assessment in the coming year.

Top 3 Things People Will be Talking About in B.C’s education system next year:

  1. University Admissions –  This has been a hot topic this past year, and will continue into 2019.  With the changes to K-12, how will post-secondary school change their admissions requirements.  And it is not just in response to K-12, many institutions are talking about their beliefs that they need to find better ways to select students who have the best chance to be successful.
  2. What Needs to Change Next – I can`t go to a meeting without someone talking about another aspect of schooling that needs to change, now that other changes have been made.  From exams, to reporting to calendars, there are numerous comments that for change X to be fully realized, Y and Z need to change as well.
  3.  Bargaining –  On the political side, teacher bargaining will likely occupy a fair bit of the mainstream education news for 2019.

As always, I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and engage with me through the blog.   I love having a portfolio of my thinking – it often reminds me how much my thinking has changed over time and the process (and stress) of writing and publishing still brings me great joy.  All the best for a wonderful 2019!

Chris

Read Full Post »

The classroom. We can all picture it. The desks, the boards at the front, the cupboard at the back. Asked to draw a classroom almost all of us would have a similar sketch.

As I have visited numerous classes not held in traditional classrooms this fall I have been struck how different they feel.  Just the act of moving a class away from a traditional classroom creates such a different feeling.  And the act of learning away from school is very powerful.  And there can be many factors at play, but in each of the more than 15 classes I have visited not in rooms in schools, I have found all the students to be universally engaged in their experiences.

I have been struck by how students rise to the level of their location.  In visiting the Environmental Science students who meet at the Centre for Aquaculture & Environmental Research (Federal Government site) the students climb to the level of the real scientists. The students are doing real work, alongside professionals doing real work.  Often schools can feel quite simulated, with the efforts to emulate real world work, but the location helps the work and the students rise up to think and work differently.

I am also struck by the various sports and arts academy programs how a more focused environment can be so helpful.  Whether it was field hockey on the turf, baseball in the batting cages, or dance and ballet in the community studio there is just a different feeling when you are in the community.  It feels more natural.  Students seem more focused.

We often talk about the power of field trips, work experience and other constructs we have to get students out beyond the traditional classrooms, to rub shoulders with professionals in their area of study and gain “real world” experiences.  And when you speak with graduates, it is very often these opportunities they remember.

Of course it is not possible for all schooling to take place outside of traditional classes but giving more students more of these kind of experiences is a really positive move.  All of the sudden we no longer solely equate learning with classrooms.  Learning is more about experiences with teachers and fellow students in a variety of settings.

Read Full Post »

If we were starting over with school and community sports, I don’t think basketball would be a school sport.  It is a bit of a round peg in a square hole.  And this is not easy for me to say, as someone who first coached a team in 1987 and has been involved ever since including some time as President of BC High School Boys Basketball.

The most recent impetus for this post comes from the response I received to a recent post I wrote – Some Different Ideas to Increase School Sports Participation.  I had more emails, texts and in-person commentary on this post than any in recent years.  And the post came out just as high schools across the province were selecting basketball teams, so that likely led to the basketball-heavy feedback.

So, let’s start with the question why are some sports school sports, some community sports, and some both?  The most obvious answer is that because they have always been this way.  And what sports fall into what categories in different provinces (or more broadly across North America) is not the same.  And increasingly most former school sports are at least as popular in the community.  Another good answer on which sports fall into which category is based on who owns the facilities.  Schools in British Columbia have gyms – so gym sports are often school sports.  Schools in British Columbia do not have ice rinks or pools, so ice and water sports are often community sports.

This is quite simple, but I want to come back to the title – the problem with basketball.

Basketball popularity has been booming in Canada.  It is 3rd behind hockey and soccer in participation for 3 to 17 year-olds.

Young boys and girls start playing basketball starting about 5 years of age.  By the time they are 12 or 13 there are various club program, travel teams and other opportunities to play basketball.  When students show up in grade 8, in some schools several dozen boys or girls will have played a number of years of community basketball – often on teams described as “Elite” or “Rep” or otherwise denoted with some special status.  And these players will show up at tryouts – sometimes more than 100 in the gym, and 15 will make the team and 85 will be told they are not on the team.

And even that team of 15 is really big.  Only 5 players play at a time in basketball, so 2/3 of the team will always be off the court.  And the coach of the grade 8 team, is now often an older student or a parent or well-meaning community member sometimes without deep training or experience.   Basketball is a great game but just imagine the ongoing tension of a sport where 100 kids want to play, 15 make the team, 5 play at a time, and really often only 2 or 3 regularly touch the ball.  And the coach has limited skills and experience.

Well is this really different from the way it has always been?  I would say yes.  What is different is that kids are playing a lot of basketball at a young age.  In the past when kids showed up at grade 8, if you didn’t make the team, it was not as though you had ever invested any time in the sport, now you have.  You may have played 7 or 8 years and are not making the team.  This is a huge shift.  When I showed up for tryouts in grade 8, yes a lot of boys did not make the team – but most of them had barely been exposed to basketball – they had not quit other activities to focus on basketball, and really, they didn’t actually play basketball so not making the basketball team was no big deal.  Basketball was not the 3rd most popular sport in Canada then so didn’t need the infrastructure to support it.

And schools values have changed?  Again, I would say yes.  I know people worry we don’t have competition for young people anymore and they have to learn to deal with failure.  But we also know that students being connected to their school is a really positive thing – whether it be a club or a team.  And the thing about high school basketball is, if you get cut, it is not like community sports where you go to the next tier down, you stop playing.  There are not many places in school this happens.  Yes, the school musical has an audition – but almost all the kids who want to be involved usually get a small role or help as part of the crew.  Yes, student council has elections, but they non-elected executive are usually still part of the larger council.  Yes, some classes have criteria – but if you don’t get into Honours Chemistry, you still get into Chemistry, you are not shut-out completely. Yes, other teams have tryouts – but actually most sports are very inclusive and can take everyone.  Whether it is swimming, track, cross-country, wrestling or football, these sports find places for almost everyone who is interested.  Volleyball would be in the same place at basketball on this issue.

Other than basketball and a few other sports – name other experiences in high school that if you want to do X and you don’t qualify for the top tier you are completely shut out from X?  I think the list is very short.

And before you use “but Michael Jordan got cut from his high school team and he turned out just fine” story, that is only partly accurate.  As a grade 10 he didn’t make the Senior Team but he did play Junior Varsity that year.  I think the Michael Jordan got cut story, actually helps make the point for a different system.  Our system which narrows the number of participants is also doing so just as many are starting to grow.  Some grade 8’s will be 12 inches taller before they stop growing.

Basketball Should Be Like Soccer.   If basketball was structured as primarily a community based sport with different tiers and where when you signed-up you knew you would get to play, it would be so much better.  Community organizations could ensure coaches were certified and adopt a common philosophy.  And you could still have elite programs as soccer does.  And you could still have school programs as soccer does.

I was struck by the disappointment and anguish from parents in the responses to my post on school sports.  And it is something I see every year as a parent and coach.  Kids love basketball.  But schools have limited resources – with gyms and coaches.  Schools are not the answer to provide 5 teams for grade 8s, this should be done by the community.

The problem is we are trying to fix a plane that is already in the air.  Club programs have come in to supplement and at times compete with high school programs.  These programs are a mix of non-profit and for-profit ventures with limited oversight.  Parents are left to shop around blindly for opportunities for their children and too often kids don’t make a grade 8 basketball team and their basketball career is over.  We are going from hundreds of grade 7s playing in the community and the numbers dramatically dropping in grade 8 as there are scarcity of spots on high school teams.

If I had a magic wand – basketball would be a primarily community based sport.  The programs offered would be non-profit, with all coaches requiring certification.  There would be paid coaches heading up coaching staffs of well trained parents and other community volunteers.  Teams would have a maximum of 10 players.  At younger ages the kids would play 3×3 to maximize touches on the ball and this would transition to 5×5 by upper elementary school.  There would be tiers, maybe based on age and gender, maybe not.  And yes school basketball would still exist as there is something about school sports that is special.  But there would always be a place in the community for those wanting to play basketball.  And there would be a universal facility / field sharing arrangements between all schools and local communities so communities could easily get into the gyms, and schools could easily access the fields.

If we started over, the primary focus of school sports would be those which are largely fully inclusive – if you want to participate you can.  The focus of community sports would be these team sports that allow for tiers and levels that keep all interested young people involved.  Knowing this is not possible, we continue to muddle forward, with basketball – the fastest growing game in Canada with a development and participation structure that is really quite a mess.

Of course, maybe I am wrong.  Love to hear what you think.

Read Full Post »

I have lost track of an exact number but I am well over 50 classes visited this fall. I wrote before about my goal to not just do a walk through, but have some sustained time in classrooms.  And there have been amazing takeaways from the classes I have visited.  One visit, now a few weeks ago that I continue to think about was my visit to the robotics program at West Vancouver Secondary.  I first wrote about robotics just over 3-years ago (HERE) as our then new Robotics teacher was taking his show on the road to various elementary schools sharing his passion about robotics.

Flash forward to today and the robotics program is booming.  This past weekend we had 33 teams competing in a competitive robotics tournament, and we have grown from an after school club to an at-capacity high school academy and a jam-packed elementary program.  This post, though, is not about the success of the robotics program by the numbers, it is about the hour I spent in the robotics area and what I saw.

The students were dialed in like nothing I have seen before in school.  It was crazy.  There were two rooms full of students across the hall from one another, with two teachers and every student was fully engaged.  Here are some of the specifics:

  • Students arrived early to maximize their time
  • I am pretty sure the high school students had phones and other electronic devices but I did not see one student using electronics off-task
  • Students were working largely in groups, and called on other students if they were stuck or needed some expertise
  • Part-way through there was a class (team) meeting and the students largely ran the session as they discussed the most recent competition and the upcoming schedule
  • Much is made of the notion of “flow” – every student I spoke with and observed seemed to be in this zone
  • Students I spoke with said they would regularly choose to stay until up to 8 PM Monday to Thursday to continue to work on their robots
  • There was a sense of individual and team pride – they were working for themselves and they were part of something much bigger and had responsibilities to this larger team

I often get asked, What does student engagement look like?  It looks like 60 students working together with teacher support on short-term and long-term goals.  It was crazy.  And the photos I have included in the post only do it partial justice.  When people say that students today just do what they are told, lack initiative, are micro-managed by their parents and are not gaining real world skills – I call BS.   I have so many great examples that tell me something different, and anyone who has seen our robotics students in action know the kids are going to be OK.

Read Full Post »

If I wanted to grow my blog audience, I could probably just write about youth sports, they are typically my most popular posts with anywhere from 2X to 10X the audience as when I write about other topics.  One in particular – Is There a Future in School Sports? gained a lot of attention, and was also published by the AASA (the School Superintendents Association) in their School Administrator Magazine.  Few topics I write about find people as polarized, passionate and wanting to engage.

I don’t hide my love of school sports.  I think they are a wonderful part of our community.  I loved playing as a student, I see the joy my children have and this is year 32 where I have been involved as a coach or administrator with school and youth sports.

So, a lot of people talk with me about the future of youth sports, school sports and ideas to reverse the perceived trends of decline in both.  This post is about ideas, some of my own, some suggested by others, some a combination of the two, that are not just the little changes around the edges – but larger changes.  I find too many people involved with sports organizations and responsible for making the rules often fall into two camps 1) they love the rules more than the kids so they think the answer to a problem is always more rules or 2) they are completely self-interested, and look to rules and structures that benefit their sport or their school without larger perspective.

My goal here is simple – we want more kids playing, more teams competing and more adults coaching.   So with that background here we go.  In no particular order:

Change the seasons

I think school soccer is smartly done.  They run boys in the fall and girls in the spring.  I know lots of people who coach both.  We all know how difficult coaches are to find so this makes a lot of sense.  Why not follow this for other sports? I would look to the two largest sports – basketball and volleyball.  Rather than both running all levels and both genders in single seasons – why not do girls basketball and boys volleyball in the fall and then do boys basketball and girls volleyball in the winter.  Or vice-versa, or alternate them.  You would absolutely get some coaches to double-up.  And this would also help with officiating challenges.  I know, club programs would not be happy in either sport, but they would adapt.  And Ontario has found a way to make this work, so there is an example out there.  I think the same could be done for girls and boys rugby as well.

Automatic Eligibility for Some Sports

The next story I hear about someone transferring schools so a competitive advantage can be gained in curling, will be the first.  We have transfer rules that apply to all sports, but really the bulk of concerns are in football, volleyball and basketball.  As a start, exempt all primarily individual sports like cross-country and wrestling from transfer rules and consider extending the exemption to team sports.  If a student changes school in grade 12 and wants to swim, ski, or run – let them – no appeal, no extra process.  Focus the resources on those sports where there are concerns of recruiting and competitive advantage.  With changes in education, more students are going to be more flexible with their learning plans and likely more shifts in schools.  We also know sports are a great way to connect students to a school – getting to play sports in a new school should be encouraged, not always subject to a one-year penalty.  And yes, I get the challenge of sports like football, basketball or volleyball becoming regional all-star teams – but let’s then focus on them and not worry about the cross-country runner or ultimate player. This would get more kids playing – that is a good thing!

Make Fair Play a Thing

One of the arguments I make for school sports in an era of great growth of club sports is that they allow school-values to be applied in ways that we may not see in community sports organizations.   In many sports there are no cuts made – for example I think in almost all schools everyone who comes out for rugby, cross-country, swimming or wrestling is on the team.  So, I will focus on two sports again – and again the big ones – basketball and volleyball.  What if, as some local associations have done, we mandate at younger ages some fair play rules.  Here is how it could work:  in basketball you would need to have at least 10 players on the team and for the first half or three-quarters you would play shifts (this is already done in a number of places).  Then the end of the game could be open substitution.  This would apply some school values – increasing participation, and also make it different from club or community programs which are often win with the best players while the others watch.   If more kids play, they will keep playing.  One of the reasons kids quit is they sit on the bench.  And I am told by some this model would mean we don’t know who the best teams are then.  Wrong.  We would know and maybe even more than ever as it would require you to have 10 players not just 5.  Some coaches do this kind of system already but if we mandated that all grade 8-10 basketball teams had to shift at least 10 kids in the first half, and all volleyball teams had to play at least 12 players one set each, I think our numbers would grow.  And yes, there would need to be some caveats for schools unable to field these numbers of players.

Play for Your Neighbouring School

Here is a controversial one.  If your school does not offer a sport, play for the next closest school that does.   If the goal is more kids playing more sports, why not.  It is often too much to ask all schools to offer all sports.  Just as students are taking courses at multiple schools why not also sports at multiple schools.  This is fraught with challenges, including the worry that some teams would fold to create all-star teams at others and actually this might lead to fewer students playing, but it is worth exploring.  I know the concerns around competitive advantage – but maybe those with students from another school would play up a tier, or be their own tier.  Some sports are dying.  And we want students to have the option to stay at their home school.  This would be challenging, but interesting.  (Not to distract from this one, but I think it is poorly thought-out to not make it easy for middle-school kids to play up for their catchment school – remember the goal is more kids playing more sports.)

Pay Attention to the Cool Cousins

The Olympics get it.  It started with Beach Volleyball, then Rugby  7s and at the next Olympic Games it is 3X3 basketball.  These offshoots of traditional sports have grown immensely in popularity.  And while there is some crossover in each with their traditional cousins,  they also tend to draw some different athletes to the sports.  Rugby is beginning to do some 7s competition between schools, and I think all three of these (and I am sure there are others) are worth considering.  What if beach volleyball and 3×3 basketball each had a weekend in the spring (ideally before other sports have their provincials) where there were High School Provincial Championships.  I do think there is something to wearing a school uniform that is different.  This would help grow these sports, engage some students in an additional sport at school and help keep our school sports relevant.

Think Activities Not Just Sports

I am sure there are others, but let’s use robotics and eSports as the examples for now.  There are inter-school robotics competitions played throughout the fall and winter (the first one was this past weekend).  These are schools competing with each other and winners being recognized with awards and getting the chance to advance to further competition.  This sounds a lot like what we are doing in sports.  And I think eSports is fascinating.  There will be eSports teams in our schools within the next couple years (there may be already).  We are already seeing them in the United States. So where should they fall for regulation and coordination.  They could go on their own, or we could broaden the tent of “Sport” to “Activities”.  I know this is a huge shift but there are probably other competitive activities between schools that could be included.

Hold the Community Accountable

If you have been involved with school and community sports long enough, you have probably come across the softball coach who says she wants multi-sport athletes but then says if you play school volleyball in the fall and don’t come to off-season training you won’t be eligible for the rep team next spring.  Or maybe the soccer coach who also thinks that students should play a range of sports, but won’t allow his players to play school soccer because they might get hurt.  I am not exactly sure how to hold these people accountable.  But, for example, what if schools and communities gave preferential gym and filed rental rates not based on one’s profit or non-profit status, but on their commitment to encouraging students to play multi-sports including any school sports they want to play.  This is large conversation – and an entire future post around the hypocrisy of many in the “we want multi sport athlete” community.  It is silly that students cannot play school sports – largely between 3-5 PM because of rules set by community programs.

Conclusions

So, there is the list.  Seven ideas to challenge thinking around school sports.  And yes, with just a couple hundred words on each, they are at the 30,000 foot level, and easy to poke holes in without more detail.  And also true, they all require more scrutiny.  So, which ones resonate with you?  What else would you suggest? I intentionally left off ideas with a big financial burden – I think no matter any of our personal feelings, there is no huge cash infusion coming for school sports.   If we can agree on a collective goal of more young people playing school sports, more schools fielding more teams, and more teachers and community adults guiding our teams – what could we do?

 

Read Full Post »

Fun times hiking the Grouse Grind with Rockridge Principal Judy Duncan and more than 100 Grade 9’s earlier this fall.

If you are an administrator you have probably been asked some version of “you must really miss teaching and the kids in the classroom?”  It is often said in a way to make you feel guilty somehow, that taking a job as a principal or vice-principal, although may have more responsibility and a greater scope to your work, the insinuation is that you have lost the best part of education.

The official correct answer for “Do you miss the teaching?” is “yes”.  You are supposed to say that working with kids in the classroom is the best and I miss it every day.  Even though it is an unfair question, you are still supposed to answer it in the affirmative.

Well, when I get asked this guilt-inducing question – I say no.  No, I don’t miss teaching.  Teaching is awesome.  Most of my best friends are teachers, my parents were teachers, most of the smartest people I know are teachers.  And I loved it!

I am surrounded by teachers and I still love teaching in a K-12 classroom when I get the chance to do it.  But I don’t miss it.  Just because we love something doesn’t mean we need to do it forever, nor does it mean we miss it when we do something else.  And I don’t define teaching as something strictly with a finite group of students in the classroom over a 10 month period of time.

I have been thinking about why I loved teaching.  It comes down to purpose and satisfaction.

I actually get amazing purpose and satisfaction as an administrator.  Both at the school and district level there are significant chances to make a difference and have a great sense of accomplishment.  It is different, the feedback is far more immediate as a classroom teacher – you know right away from the students how you are doing and the difference you are making.  This satisfaction is not as easy to see, but just as powerful in other roles in the system whether you are working with one student, a group of students, teachers, parents or others in the community.

In many industries as you are successful you move up a ladder – that is far less true in education.  Education is one of those funny jobs around the notion of promotion.  It is not really true that becoming an administrator after being a teacher is a promotion.  They are two different jobs and while some people are good at both, I have seen great teachers become mediocre administrators and teachers who were just OK in the classroom become excellent school and district administrators.

And the suggestion that you are removed from young people once you become an administrator is just not true, at least not if you don’t want it to be true.  I have been in about 30 classrooms so far this fall – working with teachers, learning with and from students, and ensuring I know how the decisions I make are influencing teachers and students.  You can be the administrator who is removed from kids, I guess.  But that would be your choice – we all make choices on how we spend our time in our work.

I love my current job, but I often tell people my absolute favourite job in the system was high school principal.  Being in a school of 1400 students, with over 120 adults coming together everyday – exhausting, exhilarating, challenging and on most days a lot of fun.  And never once did I think I had given up “kids” for a job.  This feeling continues to this day in my current role.

As we finish-up celebrating National Principals’ Month (October), here is to all the great school and district leaders who are working with and for students everyday. I am lucky to work with so many awesome ones in West Vancouver!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »