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Posts Tagged ‘Gail Sumanik’

Photo Credit:  Nutmeg Designs

Photo Credit: Nutmeg Designs

Dean Shareski shared a very thoughtful talk at TEDxWestVancouverED  last spring, arguing the need to include more joy in our schools and in our lives.

He also argues that in our standards-focused world, we need to take time for joy within the curriculum, and because it is a great thing to do even if it is not part of required learning.  He shares five pieces of advice:

1)  Be mindful

2)  Create something

3)  Commit regular random acts of kindness

4) Turn pseudo learning into real learning

5)  Be silly and laugh everyday

I have known Dean for a few years and regularly follow him online, and it is great that he lives this life full of joy. He is often approached by others who wonder how he can find the time to do some of the things he does — it is all a matter of priorities and what is important.

I was recently reminded of his talk when reading Anchorboy – True Tales From the World of Sportscasting (when you have a brother who works at SportsNet you get gifts like these) by Jay Onrait.  Jay is an anchor on FOX Sports 1’s FOX Sports Live out of Los Angeles, having recently started there after a successful career in Canada.  The book is a collection of essays tracking his career at Global TV in Saskatoon, to a very successful decade plus-long run at TSN.  The essays give an insider’s view to the media business and a look behind the scenes of television in Canada.  So, just how does this link to joy, education and Dean Shareski’s TEDx Talk?

Jay, clearly understood that people could easily obtain sports highlights from the Internet anytime they wanted.  He says of his early work at TSN, “For whatever reason, even though I knew we would alienate a large part of the audience with our shenanigans, I was utterly convinced we were taking the show in the right direction. Streaming videos on the Web was starting to take off.  Soon people would have access to highlights on their tablets and phones whenever and wherever they wanted.  No need to wait until 1:00 a.m. eastern time for your day’s sports highlights anymore.  We needed to deliver something more, give the viewers another reason to tune in.”

People would tune in to watch Jay because the show was far more than a sports highlights show — it was a show about people who loved what they were doing, who were informed, but who were also trying to bring a smile and a laugh to their audience. He recognized that the current sports highlights format needed to change, and that meant he needed to reinvent his work to stay relevant.

I think there are some parallels to what Jay says about covering sports, to what Dean argues about joy, to teaching and learning in our schools. Not that we need to turn our schools into edu-tainment, a mix of education and entertainment, but just as Jay realized sports highlights shows needed to offer something more and different from what viewers could get on the Internet, we need to have the same view of our schools.  If our classes are the same as what students can find in a video on YouTube, or a lesson from Kahn Academy, they will become increasingly less relevant. And, at least part of the answer is “joy”.  Dean illustrated this in some of his examples of real-world, hands-on learning kids were engaged in.

The power of young people coming together to learn needs to be fun; it doesn’t need to be fun all the time, but it does need a good dose of joy — not only joy for the students, but fun for staff as well. Show me a school that is doing well, and I will show you staff who enjoy having fun in their class, and with each other.  Mark Twain said, “To get the full value of  joy you must have someone to divide it with.” This is definitely part of what we are trying to do in our schools.

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received was from my first principal, Gail Sumanik.  In a reference letter she described me as “a serious thinker who doesn’t take himself too seriously.”  I know I stray from this description from time to time, but it is something for me to continue to aspire to, and to more joy.

Here is to a 2014 filled with more joy.

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As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day, I want to celebrate some of the teachers who, early in my career, have influenced and shaped the teacher I have become. Last year, I celebrated my own teachers — in particular, Mrs. Caffrey — and the influence she had on me as a student.  Today, I want to thank a few teachers who made all the difference in my very first year of teaching.

There is a bit of luck involved where one lands as a new teacher.  When I started in September 1996, I landed at McRoberts Secondary in Richmond.  I was teaching outside my area (as a Humanities teacher in a Math/Science assignment), but was immediately partnered with Bill Lawrence as my mentor. Bill, was a kid-magnet and made science and math relevent and engaging. That first year, I remember how he gave up his October PSA Professional Development Day to spend the day planning with me.  We both taught a double block of Math/Science 8.  We took the time to build several units we could do in tandem.  He was also so willing to share.  Admittedly, I had some colleagues who protected their lesson plans and resources like state secrets, but Bill’s filing cabinets were always open to me.  And even though science and math were not my areas of expertise, he treated me like a true partner in our teaching  — although I know I was getting far more from him than he was from me.  From “egg drops” from the roof to “the science of breakfast cereal” he helped me see the course wasn’t the textbook.

It was not only Bill who made a difference in that first year.  When one is surrounded by excellent teachers, that excellence is bound to rub off.  I watched how Doug Sheppard built an outline for a course around student outcomes and not activities — this was a new way of thinking for me.  I also saw Doug use a final exam that had only one question, and certainly different from the multiple choice tests I assumed were the only final exam option.  I also worked with Gail Sumanik who was in the role of principal, but was a teacher first.  She challenged and supported me as I began to figure my way in the profession.  And, then there was Fred Harwood, who quietly offered to switch one block in our teaching assignments that first year; it gave him one extra course to prep, and me one less — one of the little things that can make a big difference for a first-year teacher.

It was a bit of great luck I had in my first year, to have mentors who took time to help me become successful, to be surrounded by excellent teachers sharing their craft in a culture that was accepting and encouraging.

As we celebrate World Teachers’ Day — and all the wonderful ways teachers are making a difference; making our world a bit better, one child at a time, I want to thank Bill, Doug, Gail, Fred and all the others for their insightfulness, taking the time to help me find my way, and welcome me to the most amazing profession in the world.

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

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