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Posts Tagged ‘One Word’

My One Word (2021)

2021 is going to be better than 2020.  I do read all the “good riddance” to 2020 posts, and it is true there was a lot of crappy things.  The horrible toll of COVID on lives and livelihoods combined with a series of other events that seemed to lead to one downer after another.  There were also glimmers of the future.  Like many, I wrote posts about school, and sports, and life in general could emerge from the pandemic not with a return to the way things used to be, but to something new – where the lessons of the last year were applied permanently changing behaviours that never would have changed if not for the pandemic.  I actually considered a word like “pumped” for 2021, but I scaled it back a bit.  I still feel building energy for the year ahead.  

So, that leads into my word for this year – Optimism

This is the 6th 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 2018 I wrote about what I described as my desperate need in my work for Relevance, and then in 2019 it was Delight – a new twist on the power and importance of joy.  Last year my word was Hustle.  Despite 2020 being very different than what any of us would have predicted, hustle really fit well.  It was a year where I worked more days than any year in my life, doing different work than I ever imagined and spent the year creating on the go.  

Optimism is central to so many educators I know.  It really helps define our work.  When asked about how many chances a child has, the answer is almost always – at least one more.  We believe that our efforts can positively change the trajectory of young lives, and that all our students are capable of changing, improving and growing.   To quote Colleen Wilcox, “Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.”

OK, but why particularly this year?

I will start professionally.  We have learned a lot during the pandemic about different ways to deliver education.  It all hasn’t worked perfectly.  And yet, particularly at secondary, new models have seen a lot of positive feedback, and in many cases, created better connections between teachers and students, and greater ownership of students of their learning.  As we likely have more flexibility next fall in how we deliver our programs, we have the opportunity to take the positive learnings from this past year and apply them and hopefully not need to be as rigid with cohorts and other health and safety rules that continue to be in place now.  This is truly the once-in-a-career moment for us as educators to think differently about schooling and not just revert back to the way it used to be, but to take the experimentation of this year and develop new models for the future.  

And personally, this should be the year I finish my doctorate.  I have moved to the candidate stage and I am writing and hopefully soon fully launch into the research.  I have written before HERE about my project, and I am so interested in better understanding the role of the superintendent, and how it is done similarly and differently across the province.  The work will hopefully be a launching pad for conversations around the superintendency.  And maybe, finally, my kids will be able to explain to people what their dad does for a job.

And of course there is COVID.  We are likely in for some dark days still ahead across the globe.  But here comes the vaccine.  I am hopeful my 80-year-old mom is just a couple months away from vaccination and maybe by summer all of us will have this layer of protection.  Seeing the end, even if it not yet clearly defined, bring hope and optimism.

2021 is going to be a really good year.  I am excited about traveling, coaching basketball, going to conferences, watching school events in-person and helping transition child #2 to university.   I am also ready to change and not just go back to 2019.  I love that I walk more, go to fewer unnecessary meetings, and even get a bit more sleep than I did before the pandemic.  

I chose to be in the optimism business – and I have got a really good feeling about the year ahead.

So, what is your word?

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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!

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My One Word (2018)

 

This is the 3rd year of my “One Word” Tradition.  In 2016 I wrote about Hungry and 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.

So what about 2018?

This year my word is Relevance.  It is interesting to see the social media posts as others post words for the year.  I see words like love, gratitude, empathy and others.  And when I test them out for me – they do not work.   My digital colleague, Dean Shareski suggested my word should be “Lucky” and he actually had a good point.  But, I landed on relevance.

I am desperate to be relevant.  It is part of why I blog.  Blogging forces me to make my thinking public.  It is easy to shy-away from the big conversations, but I want to be in the middle of them.  I want to continue to think about education in ways that helps shape the narrative about our future.  I do not fear disagreement, but I do worry that I get to a point where my thoughts and ideas are just ignored.  That would be way worse.  I want to be part of the dialogue.  And relevance is largely up to me in this regard.  I need to continue to read, question, explore and get out and see what others are doing.  I work in a very high performing school district, which has a great reputation for innovation.  But we always need to be looking beyond where we are.  Our job is to be looking around the corner, to help people see what is next.

It is not just my own need to stay relevant to the educational world, and ensure our district stays relevant.  Relevance speaks to what we need to have happening every day with students in our schools.  From the “what” we teach to the “how” we teach it, we need to ensure we do it in ways to meet the needs of the modern student.  Just before Christmas our Board approved new programs that will create specialty programs for high school students in areas including:  table tennis, environmental sciences, engineering, computer animation and volleyball.  These add to the choice program opportunities that include options from robotics, to rugby to honour choir classes at night and basketball academy classes on the weekend.  Everything we hear about public education being the key to a democratic society is very true.  And it is true that public education is about the ongoing growth of our communities.  And it will stay that way if our system continues to be relevant for our students in this changing world.

So, as someone finishing their 11th year in this district, and 8th year as Superintendent, I know relevance could be a blind spot for me.  It is easy to do this year just like last year.  I know that in the long run, that will not work.  So here is to a 2018 of doing things everyday that add to the conversation, push the work forward and keep me, my thinking, our district, our students’ experiences and public education relevant.

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