End of Another School Year – Now What?

Another school year has come to an end. Students in Gr.12 are leaving their schools for the last time. It’s been along time since I graduated, 1990, but I still remember the feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and unease towards the future. For over 12 years students are forced to attend K-12 schools and then we release them into the real world. We try and get them registered to a post-secondary school, trade school, etc but many students leave not knowing what the future will entail.

The world is a far more complicated, expensive, and confusing place than the world 20-30 years. The price of homes, food, etc has skyrocketed, the cost of post-secondary has risen exponentially, and competition for jobs is intense in most professions. Kids need to navigate a world that is tough, confusing, and very challenging. Do schools prepare students properly for this world? Schools educate just like schools did 30-40 years ago but the world is changing a lot quicker and is far more challenging to navigate than previous generations.

What could schools do to better students? More work experience opportunities, more hands-on experiences that lead to real-world experiences and knowledge, more connections with professionals and workers outside of school, and maybe more flexible scheduling so students could try out these new opportunities. These are just some ideas. As I talked to students the last couple weeks many of the Gr. 12’s had no idea what they were going to do. They graduated, had a transcript with some grades, and a diploma but they had no real-world experience, no opportunities to jump right into work, and no opportunities to instantly jump into work-education professions.

Gr.12 is an exciting year for kids but it is also a scary year with a lot of apprehension and uncertainty. It’s fun to see the kids leave school excited about graduating and many of them have plans to travel, to continue schooling, etc. But many leave lost with no sense of direction. Do we not owe them more than a mere diploma? Something to ponder over . Congrats to all the Grads of 2021 and good luck in the future. My piece of advice is go see the world, travel, meet people, try different food, etc. This is the best eduction you’ll ever get.

The Important Things In Life

What are the important things in life? This question has been running through my head lately. I’m almost 50 years old and usually at this point of your life you look at where you are, where you’ve come, and where you are heading. I’m not saying I’m going through a mid-life crisis but I’m reflecting on my life, how its going, my future goals and aspirations, etc. A few days back I was having a conversation with someone and we were discussing my career, etc. With limited Principal positions coming up in the district I work the suggestion came. up that I look outside of my district if I want to further my career and find a Principal position. I immediately said that I was not looking to move districts to find a Principal position as this would take away from my family time. Anyone that lives in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia knows the traffic gridlock and mayhem on the #1 Highway during the peak hours. At this point of my life I already work 9-10 hours per day. My time, especially the time with any family, is valuable. Too valuable to be sitting in traffic.

Its been about 3-4 days since this conversation and I still hold true to this statement. I believe our time on this earth is short and we need to prioritize what is important to us.  Would I prioritize work and future promotion over my family? The answer to the question is no.  Anytime an administrator retires some of the things they always say are – spend more time with your family, go home at a reasonable hour, don’t stress too much, etc. At this point of their lives they truly understand that everyone is replaceable and someone will easily fill your shoes and life at your school will continue on without you. Life is like that as well. I think it’s important that we prioritize what is important to us.

My father passed away in March due to COVID. For years I would meet him after work and we would go for coffee at Tim’s. Sometimes we hardly had much to talk about and we just commented on things like cars going by on the road, etc. But these were special moments as we were together. In the last year or so we didn’t have these meetings due to my work hours and I regret putting work over family. I think we all have to reflect on what is important to us in our lives as our time on this planet is short and we will soon be a mere memory to the people that were important to us. But these memories are what will be remembered. The moments that create these memories should be the most important things in our lives. Let’s try and leave that last email or voice message for the next day. Go home…be with your friends and family, talk to your neighbour, do something nice. These things are the most important things in life.

 

2020 Pivotal Moment in Time for Education

The COVID pandemic has been a shadow of dread, uncertainty, and fear for the last year and a half. Thousands of people have died, many have recovered,  and the effects of COVID will be felt for years to come. The world seemed to be descending into chaos as people were scared, confused, and uncertain when the pandemic would end. The pandemic has become an important moment in time which people will look back on, and study how we survived this world-wide event. It will also be looked back on and compared to events such as the Spanish Flu pandemic, World War I and II, and other world-wide events. With the end of the pandemic in sight many people are wondering what the world will look like after. Governments have spent billions of dollars, people have lost their jobs and homes, and many countless people have been affected and will be affected by the COVID virus for years to come. COVID has also dramatically affected the lives of children throughout the world. Their education, their sports, their relationships, their sense of normalcy, etc have been altered and affected in ways we will never understand.
With the pandemic coming to an end the lives of children will start to recover and a sense of normalcy will come upon them and their lives. Education is a huge part of every child’s life and many people were hoping to see education transform and change due to the COVID virus and the effect it had on education systems throughout the world. But will it? Or has its revealed that the current educational system and schools work and are vitals  part of the community they reside in and to the lives of every child that attend them. Prior to the COVID pandemic many people lauded online learning as the future of education. Would students be better educated through an online platform?  If students weren’t hamstrung by the current schooling system – limited course selection, rigid timetables, etc maybe education could meet every child where they are and allow them to prosper and flourish. The pandemic seems to have eradicated this notion. Why? The educational setting, the school, is not just a place where students learn the ABC’s. The pandemic has proven it to be a place where students learn academics, learn music, etc, it’s a place where they play sports, instruments, and engage in numerous social interactions a day. Its also a place which teaches them structure, rules, and a sense of responsibility. Students also have the opportunity to make meaningful and lifelong relationships with other students, staff, etc. On a daily basis students are supported, guided, and assisted by numerous adults within the schools. Schools are not just a place of ABC’s it’s a place of growth, nourishment, caring, love, and support. The pandemic has proven that schools might be one of the most important institutions within our communities and within our society.

Where do you find Inspiration?

Life is about routines. We wake up the same time of the day, we have the same routines at work, we do the same things during our spare time, and so forth. These routines make our lives less complicated and easier to manage, but these routines also inhibit our ability to aspire to new things, to accomplish certain tasks, and to grow as individuals. As more time passes, we look back and wonder “Where has the time gone” and sometimes a sense of frustration and dissatisfaction sets in as some of our goals and aspirations have not been accomplished and might never be met.

The COVID pandemic made our routine-filled lives even more obvious. During the pandemic many people started filling up their spare time by Netlix binging, watching old re-runs, and spending more time with their family (one of the few positives of the pandemic).  But during the pandemic the days turned into weeks and weeks into months. Time seemed to be just passing us by as we waited for the end of the pandemic. For myself the pandemic revealed how fast time was flying by and how many of my goals, dreams, and aspirations had not been met.

With this realization I sought to make some changes that would create opportunities for change, growth and inspiration in my life. The first thing I did was join the Inner Circle. This is an online platform where “people come together to network, collaborate, and stress test their big ideas”. Ozan Varol, creator of the Inner Circle and author of Think Like A Rocket Scientist, defines it as group of people “drawn to those who carve their own path — the misfits, rebels, and troublemakers”. There are approximately 250 people who belong to the Inner Circle and you can contribute as much or as little to the group talks, the weekly monthly online webinar, and various other platform posts, discussions, and learning sessions.

What have I gotten from the Inner Circle?  It’s a place where I feel “encouraged and supported to take big — sometimes terrifying — leaps forward in my life”. How has the Inner Circle impacted myself, my dreams and my aspirations? Some of my long-term goals are writing a book and undertaking a EdD or PhD. The Inner Circle members, who have a wealth of knowledge and life experiences, are supportive and encouraging. They have provided numerous resources, podcasts, etc that are helping me work towards my goals. I have also started to read more scholarly articles and educationally based books. I rejuvenated my blog and have been writing more using a 15 Minute Ninja Writing format. This format was proposed by a member of the Inner Circle to help me establish a daily writing routine. I have also started to learn to play the ukulele. I have been practicing for about an hour a night for about two months now. I am no Jake Shimabkuro but I am getting better and I haven’t quit. If you don’t know who Jake S. is google him – amazing!!!

The changes I have made in my life have allowed me to free myself from my routine-filled existence. I now am more focussed and am working towards a number of different goals every day. Joining the Inner Circle has also allowed me the opportunity to become part of something bigger than myself. The Inner Circle has become “my new group of misfits, rebels, and troublemakers that are working together to “carve their own path” in this crazy world.

 

 

 

A Take-Away from Education

Students at my school have to do exit interviews with their Vice-Principals to finish off a course requirement in one of their grad required courses. It’s during this interview that the student explains their future plans, how they plan to get there, and various other things related education, etc. I have been asking my students another question, one not on the course rubric. Before I tell them the question I give them this brief spiel: You have spent the last 13-14 years in school. The K-12 system has taught you the prescribed skills and knowledge dictated by the Ministry of Education. In the end you will attain a dogwood diploma and a transcript of the courses you took from Gr. 10-12. My question is: what is the most important thing you will take away from your K-12 education other than your academics and the diploma you will receive.

This question, which sometimes can be forgotten in the rigmarole of education, is important to ask. We, as educators, sometimes forget that education is more than academic progress and grades. The K-12 system is much more than the acquiremnt of skills and knowledge. Maybe this statement, and belief, would hold true 40-50 years ago but in today’s world it is much, much more.

Its amazing the answers I get from students when I ask them this question. Their answers might be different if they had more time to process the question. But the question needs to be asked. Its an important question that should help drive our educational system, its growth and development, and help shape where education is going and what it will look like in the future. I would say 80-90% of students say learning social skills and learning to work with different people is the number one answer. They all say school has allowed them to better enter the work force and to engage and  interact with other people. It has taught them about friendships and a means to find a social group that fits them where they are in life at that time of their life.

I think at a time when education is changing and we are looking at where / how education will look in the future I think it is imperative that we ask the people in the system, the students, what they are taking away from their time in school. With school becoming an institution that does far more than teach a prescribed curriculum its important sometimes to self-reflect and ask these vital and important questions.

End of History Illusion – Who are you chasing?

I watched an interesting Ted talk by Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard Psychologist, who talked about how people stop growing, learning, and changing due to the illusion that change happens at a slower, almost non-existent, rate than when they were younger. Its like a self-actualizing prophecy where people start to believe that who they are at their current moment, whatever age they are currently at, is where they will be forever. He argued that people change throughout their lives but due to this “illusion” they lessen their growth development, and ability to change due to a fixed mindset and a belief that change doesn’t occur, or is unable to occur, the older you get.

As an educator I strive to teach, encourage and enable students to become life-long learners. For many people education ends at the end of high school. Many people go onto trade school, college, university, etc but this is a formalized form of education. Is learning occurring for the love of learning? Is it occurring because people want to grow, change, and evolve as individuals? Unfortunately I believe for a lot of people learning stops after high-school or their formalized education. They start their career, have kids, grow old, retire, enjoy retirement, and then die. Do they change much during their life time? Sure they change – they get older, they acquire new musical tastes, they might take up a new sport for a short time, they might travel a little bit, but do they actively seek out knowledge? Do they take time to grow as individuals? Do they constantly seek out information, knowledge, and ideas? Do they create and make things? Do they change the world?

Unfortunately “the end of history illusion” that Daniel Gilbert talked about holds people back. This fixed mindset and their inability to see the future and to work towards change creates a situation where people do not change as much as they could, inhibits creative, innovative thought that might create amazing opportunities for them and the world around them.

Benjamin Hardy’s Future-Self strategy talks about how important identity and how identity drives your personality. Your ability to see, or actualize, yourself in the future is a means to create meaningful change in your future self.

Here’s the checklist for how it works:

See your future self as a different person from who you are today.

  • Imagine who your future self is.
  • Hold your current identity more “loosely,” knowing that who you are right now is temporary, not permanent.
  • Have the courage to admit what you truly want (tell people about your future self).
  • Use your new narrative, focused on your goals, to drive your daily decisions and behavior.
  • Measure your progress (deliberate practice).
  • Invest in your future self (escalation of commitment)
  • Never be defined by who you are right now.

Who is your future self?

Where will you be in 10 years?

Who are you “chasing”?

I think that last question is an important one: WHO ARE YOU “CHASING”?

The answer to the question will help you become to the person you want to be in the future and who you believe you should be inside (Deep thoughts by Jack Hande, LOL – SNL reference from 80’s) LOL

Wabi-sabi – Being Imperfectly You

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review and it got me thinking about life, our career choices, and our passions. When I watch shows like MasterChef I am always amazed at how many of these amazing home chefs have great jobs/careers. Many of them are professionals – lawyers, doctors, etc. Many of them have very successful businesses and are financially well off. But all these people have one thing in common – they love cooking. They are passionate about cooking – to the point that they have signed up for a show that might jump start their new career as a chef. Without this show many of these people will continue to be great home chefs but their daily job/career will probably remain the one that they chose, or was chosen for them, during their university years. But for many contestants, even if they don’t win, they go through a mind shift and realize that this passion or love is what they want to do in life. Why does it take a show to make them realize this? Why do we get stuck in a life that maybe we don’t want? Why is it that once we acquire a career its so hard to step away from it?

In the article the author, Don Cable, argues that people shouldn’t’ be following their passions or bliss but their blisters. People should invest their energy, passion, and love into the things that “you always come back to – eventually moving past the blister age – into the toughened skin stage”. At the end of the article he mentions the Japanese term, Wabi-sabi, and defines it as the “beauty caused by the personalized texture you have earned and the places you are not quite symmetrical”. Think back to those people who have a desire and need to cook, to create beautiful meals, and to transform food into something like a work of art. But their real jobs are doctors, lawyers, vets, etc. In these areas they are “perfect’ – they understand and can control their world. But in the world of cooking they are “imperfect”.  Another way of looking at Wabi-sabi is “embracing the perfection of being imperfectly you”. I think this is hard for people, very hard. How do you leave a life of control and security to a life of chance and imperfection? So much insecurity in this and people, who are conditioned to avoid this things, work hard to avoid these things. But this is where people find the most satisfaction and self-worth once they get there. The big question is how do we get people to follow their blisters in a world that shuns imperfection?

 

Article link: https://hbr.org/2020/11/what-you-should-follow-instead-of-your-passion?utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin&utm_campaign=ascend

Life’s Little Distractions

It’s funny how much of our lives is consumed by the little distractions in our lives. Just think about how much of your time is consumed by things like television, social media, cellphone usage, Netflix binging, etc. These things, which are mere forms of entertainment, consume massive amounts of our time and energy. This time and energy could be used to do something productive, fulfilling, creative, and ambitious. Can you imagine how much you could get done, how many books you could read, how many hobbies you could take up, how many instruments could you learn to play, etc if you were willing yo shut off these forms of distraction and place your energy and focus on something else. It makes me wonder why, we as a society, allow ourselves to be sucked into these forms of entertainment, or distraction. We only have a finite amount of time on this earth but we allow our time and our potential to be sapped by these distractions. Are we, as a human race, limiting our potential. Most of the brightest minds alive advocate for people to read more. Some of these people read hundreds of books per year. But most of us limit our growth, potential, and creativity by not creating the conditions for these to take place. Why do we choose the path of limited growth when we have the capability and ability to become much more than we are? I wonder how we can change people’s perceptions, beliefs, and mindsets? Could this problem be a consequence of our educational system? Are we destroying people’s willingness or love of learning through our Ed. System? Are we creating life long learners or people lacking the drive to learn and grow on their own? It’s something to ponder but think of the possibilities if everyone reached their true potential in our world.

The Stagnation of Education

If you google images of early 20th century education you will be shown a number of pictures of classrooms that are quite similar to the classrooms you attended and the ones your kids are attending. Someone’s education is a recollection of memories consisting of classrooms, different teachers, good times, bad times, lockers, fights, and so forth. People from different generations can easily discuss and talk about their education as their experiences are quite similar. Too many people this makes education a traditional institution that has stood the test of time. But too many people this reveals the major flaw of our educational system, its inability to change.

Can you imagine if cars, phones, air travel, media forms, clothing, and other forms of popular culture remained the same as the early 20th century. This statement seems absurd and ludicrous as things have to evolve and change. Nothing stays the same. Just like human beings – we grow, evolve, get old, and we get wiser. We are in a constant state of flux. But the educational system, throughout much of the world, has not evolve or changed. Its like its stuck in some temporal vortex (Star Wars term, lol) that doesn’t allow change.

One question that arises when one ponders this situation, is ‘What is preventing change within education?’ Why does the institution of education remain stagnant, seemingly stuck in quicksand, unable to adjust to the ever-changing world around it? Education, which is one of  the most important institutions, within society, has been unable, or unwilling, to adapt over time. Is it perfect already? It must be, right? What other institution would disable change if it wasn’t perfect in every way? This question should be the one that we, as educators, should be pondering. Forget about if we should add more creativity in the classroom, or whether kids should learn more outside, or whether we should have standardized tests. These are just minor issues that create bulwarks to change and reform on an institutional scale rather than on a minor, indistinguishable level.

 

This is the 1st post of my ‘Ninja Writing’ 15 Minute Write Sessions. Thoughts will be expanded in later posts.

 

“It takes a village to educate a child”

‘It takes a village to raise a child’ is an old African proverb that is commonly used today when we refer to the importance of the people or  “community” that helps raise a child. Raising a child is not an individual effort. A communal effort is needed, and necessary, if we want to effectively raise our children. Within the educational system the classroom teacher has always been lauded as the most important factor to a student’s success. Since the turn of the 20th century and the introduction of public education the importance of the teacher has been written about, researched, and become an indoctrinated fact within schools and society. But when I walk around my school it becomes abundantly clear that ‘It takes a village to educate a child’. Our children’s education is not merely a teacher’s responsibility it is dependent on a lot more people within and outside of our educational institutions.

Since the beginning of man anyone who passed on knowledge to someone else was a teacher. A mother and father passing on skills, values, ethics, and information are teachers. An older brother teaching their sibling how to throw a baseball was a teacher. Somewhere along the way the title of “teacher” became formalized and regulated. To be called a teacher one had to go to post-secondary institution, attain a degree and then attend a teacher education program. Some countries, such as Finland, expect people to attain a Masters degree of Education to gain the title of “teacher” within their country. By attaining a degree and attending a teacher-ed program society decrees that a person is capable and fit to educate and pass on the needed information to create effective and educated citizens within our societies. I’m not here to argue if the formalization of the “teacher” status in society has had a positive or negative role in education. I believe that education and the teaching of students is not merely the passing on of knowledge by the teachers within the classrooms. Education is much more and it takes a lot more people, a village, to to be effective in today’s society.

Teachers are the predominant people within our educational system. The majority of a school’s staff are teachers. They pass on the knowledge, they assess our kids, they pass on values, etc. For the majority of the day students interact with teachers. But a student interacts and learns from more than the teacher in the classroom. For many students the first person they interact with in the morning, beside their parents/guardians, is the bus driver. Bus drivers ensure our kids get to and from schools safely. They also interact and talk to students. There have been many times I have been contacted by bus driver to let me know that a child has had a bad morning and might need a check-in, or that there’s been an argument between two kids that needs resolving. Bus drivers create meaningful and important relationships with the students on their busses. Another person that plays an important role within our schools is the custodians. Nerd Alert moment (LOL) – I always remember Jean-Luc Picards relationship with Boothby, the old groundskeeper at Star Fleet Academy. Picard noted, in many episodes, that Boothby was a invaluable source of advice and support throughout his years at the Academy. For many people, the custodians and bus drivers, are overlooked within our educational systems but they play an important role within our schools. Another group of people that play an important part of student’s education are the office staff. For many students these people are invaluable sources of support, information, and advice within the schools. These three groups of people are just the tip of the iceberg of people are schools that play important roles within our students education. They are sometimes overlooked but their role is invaluable within the village that is educating our students.

Another group of people that is fundamentally important within this village are parents. A child’s first teacher is their mother and father. From these people they learn their values, manners, ethics, sense of morality, their sense of belonging, etc. Through interacting or watching their parents they acquire a love of reading, playing sports, etc. Unfortunaly once a child enters the educational system the role of the parent starts to diminish in many aspects. Nowadays it seems that as students get older and proceed from elementary-middle-secondary school parents take more of a backseat in regards to their child’s education. A students’s success in school has been taken off the shoulders of parents and placed on the shoulders of teachers and their schools. Why has this shift occurred? What impact has this had on student’s education and growth? These are challenging questions but my point is that parents, who are fundamentally important to a child’s education, have started to play a smaller and smaller role in their schooling when it should be a vital and integral part of it.

As schools transform and change within the 21st Century another important part of the village is the community. More and more community connections and professionals will be connecting, collaborating, educating, and learning with students in our schools. These people will not be formal teachers within our society but they will bring ideas, challenges, and knowledge to the students within our schools. These professionals and other community members might not even be from our local communities. With the internet the world has become a much smaller place where students can connect and learn from people all over the world.

When we think of the old proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ you think of a small African village where everyone from the parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, neighbours, etc all play a role in raising the children within their community. The educational world is not much different than this African village. Schools are vibrant and complex places where large numbers of people are needed to create caring, thoughtful, and supportive learning environments. It is  important to remember that schools are more than just the teaching of facts and information. They are institutions within the community or “village” that are fundamental in creating the people that become are neighbours, friends, and community members.