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Posts Tagged ‘Jordan Tinney’


I was recently part of an interesting national conversation “Future Proofing Education – The Past is a Prologue” with four other superintendents from across Canada. In 2011, early in my superintendency, I joined the C21 CEO Academy which is a national group of superintendents that meet virtually once a month and find other ways to collaborate on thought papers and make other connections. For those outside of Canada, this is always interesting, as education, unlike in most places in the world, is provincial in jurisdiction and not federal – though there are many linkages we have across the country.

At the bottom I share the video with thoughtful comments from my colleagues, Jordan Tinney, Pauline Clarke, Gregg Ingersoll and Elwin Leroux. Here is some of my thinking on the questions we were wrestling with:

What have been the most significant shifts over the last 10 years?

I think our school system has shifted far more than I would have imagined in 2011. If you walk into a classroom today, it very often looks quite different than a decade ago. I can’t be sure, but I am not sure we would have said that as boldly in the past. Did a classroom in 1995 look that different than a class in 1985? In 2011 we were immersed in the conversation of the WHY of change. We would show videos about the world changing around us and act as though we needed to convince those around us that shifts needed to happen. We felt stuck in a world where our system was regarded as one of the best in the world, but many saw the world changing. Flash ahead to today, and even without COVID, things have really changed. And it has not just been technology.

We all probably knew there would be new technology and students and staff would have access to modern gizmos, but beyond the technology, curriculum, assessment and pedagogies have really shifted. Of course this is never ending – we will never be done as the world is always changing. And I have been really struck that across Canada there is far more alignment among leaders. Yes, there are differences between BC, Manitoba, Quebec and the Maritimes but we have similar visions on the future of teaching and learning.

What do you notice about the pandemic shifts?

The first thing I notice is that the pandemic has been exhausting.

I haven’t necessarily worked more, but every day my work has been different than what worked looked like in the past. This is a great reminder for what our students, teachers, principals and other staff have been experiencing – doing new things is taxing. Of course, it is also incredibly exhilarating. We have also seen during this time that we can shift our school far quicker than we thought. We moved from in-person to remote learning over spring break, and since then have had multiple models. We redesigned secondary school timetables in August and we were ready for September. In the past we acted as though any of these changes would take years, but when there is a will and urgency to change shifts can happen.

We have also fully embraced new ways to connect.  Rather than superintendents being filtered by media and others, we have used videos and our written words to reach out to students, staff and families.  Full credit to my colleague from Surrey Jordan Tinney who has modeled the use of video to make a large school district feel like a tight community.  Everyone is thirsting for information, and school and district leaders are seen as honest brokers of information and many have used new platforms to build connections.  

It is also interesting to see the Federal Government now an active participant in education. With a billion dollars invested this past fall in schools, they too have been promoters of a national conversation. And then in classes we have really had to rethink time. With less in-person face-to-face time, what is really important to be done this way, and what can be done other ways. When in-person time is at a premium how does that change our system.

And a final change which I think has permanent ripples in our school system is we have become great partners with the health system. Because of COVID, I talk with, listen to, and share information with doctors, nurses and others in health every day. And I don’t think this should change post-pandemic. This could have lasting positive effects on topics from the overdose crisis to well being and mental health to physical literacy. Our new partnerships should be here to stay.


And what about the future?

My worry is that if we try to focus on everything coming out of the pandemic, we may focus on nothing and snapback to the system we had before. And as good as it was, nobody I talk with just wants to go back. I am curious about what do we need for a future world that is increasingly digitized and automated? If it is my magic wand, we will focus on 1) equity and our most vulnerable in our system and 2) the structures and delivery of secondary education.

And I often get asked what are the three things I think will stick post-pandemic. At least right now my list is:

• Digitization – we are not going to unplug our virtual classrooms – they are forever part of our experience
• Flexibility for students and staff – our kids and adults have had greater ownership over their learning and we have rethought time, this will continue
• Learning is often an outdoor activity – if it was the healthy thing to do to get outside during a pandemic, it certainly is as well after a pandemic


Interesting to see these three in combination as they may not seem to be aligned, but a future system with students outside more, owning their learning, and more digitally connected to the world is a pretty exciting system!

These are those kind of questions with no “right” answers, but are important to think about. We have one of the top education systems in the world, and we will need to keep pushing to keep it that way!

As I said with my last post – I am full of optimism.

Here is the video featuring my wonderful colleagues from across Canada (click on the photo to open the video):

 

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The Culture of Yes turns 10 this month. 364 posts later, and here we are.

Starting this blog seemed like a natural fit.   In an earlier time I had been a newspaper columnist so was pretty familiar with organizing thoughts into 550 words at a time.   And in 2010 I was just officially starting as Superintendent so I was looking to differentiate myself and find a way to have a voice in a way that was authentic and made sense for me.  At the time I had a blogroll that was inspiring.  I would read Dean Shareski, or Will Richardson, or David Warlick and be excited.  The world of web 2.0 was booming and each post I read was opening me up to new ideas and a new world I was trying to understand.

The world of education blogs has really felt like it has had a boom and bust era.  My 2010 entry was just before the boom.  We had a community in BC of edu-bloggers including Chris Wejr, Elisa Carlson, Cale Birks, Dave Truss, Brian Kuhn and others.  It was just as the way we get education news was shifting.  Blogs were opening up classrooms, schools and districts to the community.  It was interesting to see what was being written in local blogs driving conversations in school and in the media.  What I saw in a blog post Monday, I would read in a Janet Steffenhagen story on Thursday in the Vancouver Sun.  The modern network was truly coming alive.  I also loved how blogging came alive in our schools.  We still have a number of staff blogging – including Cari Wilson who is still so great at posting every week!

And yet within 4 or 5 years the internet was littered with well intentioned but discarded educational blogs.   It is not as bad as it sounds.  Like with any trend or fad you get this huge growth, and then some people decided it wasn’t for them, and moved on.  We began to consume more through social media – twitter posts were far easier than 500 word blog posts. And as I wrote, the comments really slowed down (ironically that post about the lack of commenting has 86 comments). And the comments that came were not on the post but on Facebook or Twitter.  The conversation actually happened in multiple places which was not really a good thing – I would often think of a conversation of a post on Twitter, that these people should meet the people talking about it on Facebook, they would really learn from each other.  That said, my thanks to the close to 4,000 comments that have been shared directly on the site – they have challenged me, taught me and encouraged me.  I looked back at my first post – thanks to Brian Kuhn for being the first person to leave a comment.

In my first post I wrote:

It is an exciting time in education.  I feel like we are in the middle of a dramatic shift in what “school” looks like.  We will look back on this time as a pivotal point of change.  I look forward to sharing ideas, and connecting with those inside and outside our system as we work our way through it. 

And it was an exciting time, and is an exciting time in education.  This blog has really been career defining for me.  I love to look back at what I used to think and write about, how I believe some things more strongly now than when I wrote them and on other topics my views have changed – that is what is great about learning in public – I can share this.  And if nobody else even reads it, the act of writing down ideas and taking a position has been exceptionally powerful for me.

When I was asked to describe my blog goal, I have said, I know I am not the New York Times or Wall Street Journal of education blogs.  I am more USA Today.  And while we need the more formal writers, we also need those who are trying to be accessible to those not in education.   I have tried to be a serious thinker who doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Today, I love following other superintendent bloggers.  In BC I read everything that Dave Eberwein, Kevin Godden and Jordan Tinney write.  I just wish more of my colleagues would blog.  As my regular readers know, my doctoral research is around the role of the superintendency and I am fascinated by the role and the work.   I also really appreciate how supportive Jay Goldman and the AASA (School Superintendent’s Association) has been to regularly highlight superintendent blogs in their magazine and to take several of my pieces and work with me to convert them into magazine columns and articles. 

As to my posts – if I want to chase clicks, I find if I write about parenting and sports those fuel interest.  I really enjoy writing about both topics so it is fun to stir debate around them.  They are actually the easier posts to write.    My most-read post to date comes from November of 2010 on Stuart Shanker and Self-Regulation.  I have written about Stuart’s work a number of times, and it is an example of thinking that has really changed my view of education in the last decade.  More personally, my post Teacher during the 2014 teacher’s strike about my dad really sticks with me.  

And yes, every-time I still hit publish I feel anxiety.  I think my high school English teacher is out they’re noticing grammar errors (that was intentional).  And I worry (it has only happened a handful of times) someone will splice a  part of my text and re-post it social media to try to embarrass me or make a political point.  But my blog has changed me.   It has opened doors for me for work, it has introduced me to many new people and given me a platform to share.  Most importantly, it has given me voice and confidence.   I am still a proponent of having everyone write for the world, as we all have stories to tell and we want our children to feel this comfort from a young age.

So, to all who have read and engaged with me over the last 10 years – thank you.   Hopefully I have helped assure you that superintendents are actually human being and not just “those guys” in the board office.  I love our community and my head is full of ideas I want to write and think through with you in this space in the months and years ahead.

I look forward to the next 10!

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TOP3

Welcome to my final blog post of 2013 – My “Top 3″ lists for the year.  This has become a tradition with previous Top 3 lists for 2012 (here), 2011 (here) and 2010 (here).  I know we are abandoning ranking and sorting in our education system, so this is more about highlighting some of the blogs, videos and ideas that have engaged me over the last 12 months. As always with these kind of lists hopefully it will start some discussion and debate as well.

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

1.  What About Final Exams?

2. Dr. Shanker and Self-Regulation – Continuing the Conversation

3.  Hopes and Dreams for my Kids’ Schooling

Top 3 Used (and often overused) Quotes in Education for the Year (some are past winners):

1. We need to focus on the learning

2. It’s not about the technology

3. The 21st Century is more than 10% over (YES – people are STILL using versions of this one!)

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

1. Embedding Aboriginal teachings across the curriculum — BC’s new draft curriculum is a great example

2. Devices becoming invisible — more and more kids have devices, and I am noticing them less and less

3. Rethinking of report cards — we are in the midst of a dramatic shift in reporting

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

1.  Spirals of Inquiry by Linda Kaiser and Judy Halbert

2.  Calm, Alert, and Learning – Stuart Shanker

3.  Communicating the New – Kim Erwin

Top 3 Professional Development Events I have Attended:

1.  TEDxWestVancouverED — it has been so great to have a TEDx event in our community with so many of our staff and students involved

2.  Connect 2013 — a wonderful chance to see so many Canadians present who I have met over time through Twitter and our blogs

3.  Barbara Coloroso — the Guru of parent education was hosted by our District Parent Advisory Council

Top 3 BC Superintendent Blogs You Should Follow:

1. Jordan Tinney — Surrey

2. Steve Cardwell –Vancouver

3. Kevin Godden — Abbotsford

Top 3 Non-education New Twitter Follows:

1.  Roberto Luongo (Canucks)

2.  Gerry Dee (from Mr. D)

3.  Mr. T (of pity the fool fame)

Top 3 Jurisdictions We Are Going to Turn Into the Next Finland:

1.  British Columbia — high achievement, high diversity, high equity – lots to interest people

2.  Quebec — Just what are they doing different than the rest of Canada in math?

3. Shanghai, China — We are concerned about their methods but their results are stunning

Top 3 TEDx Videos from WestVancouverED (that I bet you haven’t seen):

I earlier wrote a post here that highlighted some of my West Vancouver colleagues, so these are some of my favourite from the non-West Vancouver staff

1.  Katy Hutchinson — an extremely powerful personal story of restorative justice

2.  David Helfand — a new approach to university leadership

3.  Dean Shareski — he has a wonderful perspective and a great way to connect with people

 

Top 3 Fun and Interesting Educational Videos:

1.   What Came First — the chicken or the egg?

2.  Canada and the United States — Bizarre Borders

3.  What Does Your Body Do in 30 Seconds?

Thanks to everyone who continues to engage with me on my blog and push my learning. Some of my greatest professional joy is writing, reading, engaging and learning through my blog and with all of you.   I look forward to continuing to grow and learn together in 2014.

Chris Kennedy

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