Monday, December 26, 2016

Patience: A Christmas Messsge

The following is what I shared with my school community this Christmas season:


Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.” 
- Henri Nouwen

Advent is a time of patience and waiting. We are reminded that in waiting for Christ’s birth we are blessed with many unanticipated gifts - most importantly getting to know Him better.
As a parent, teaching my children about the importance of patience and waiting can be challenging.
For example, here is a typical exchange at home in the build up to Christmas:

Kids: “Dad, can I open the gifts from under the Christmas tree?”
Dad:  “But it's only December 5th! You need to be patient.”
Kids: “How about just one? Please…...”
Dad: “You know that patience is a virtue!”
(And the debate goes on from there)

We are living in times when immediate results get the most and loudest attention and instant gratification is the norm. Ironically, despite this growing sense of impatience, we know that the practice of patience offers us important spiritual and cognitive benefits.

Here at school, waiting and being patient is an important aspect of the learning process. Many of us might get frustrated when we encounter a problem, concept, or skill that we cannot understand or demonstrate immediately and might choose to give up or (worse yet) sabotage our own efforts for fear of failure.

Interestingly, patience in the learning process often requires us to be very “active” in our patience by requiring us to persist and to embrace the value of perseverance, even when the waiting is longer than we'd like.

In the first four months of school I’ve seen our teachers reinforce many of the virtues of “active” patience with our students and their learning - whether in the classroom, on the field, in the gym, or on retreat. I have also seen the benefits of this “active” patience in our efforts around continuous school improvement and campus redesign efforts.

As we look to embrace more patience in our lives, especially during this Advent Season, on behalf of the faculty and staff of Vancouver College, I extend to each of you a restful and blessed holiday, a very Merry Christmas with wishes of hope, health and happiness for the New Year.

Monday, November 21, 2016

When Pedagogy & School Design Intersect

I have written before about our Vision for Learning & subsequent Dashboard of Learning and how these processes were (and are) a vital aspect of our plans for building new spaces on our campus.

Now, some two years later, we are on the verge of beginning the first phase of construction. This short two minute “fly through” video captures, to scale, the spaces we are planning to build. What is also very important is that the Learning Priorities identified by our faculty, parents and students are already being implemented so that when the new spaces are completed, our pedagogy will be able to optimize the newly imagined, designed and constructed learning spaces.  One might say that these spaces have been imagined and created at the intersection of pedagogy and design.

As you watch this video keep in mind some some of our Learning Priorities such as: Learning that is mission driven, connected, visible, formal and informal, informed and empowered. You will notice new spaces that we currently do not have such Learning Neighbourhoods, informal common learning spaces, small multi-purpose breakout rooms and a large learning commons.

Still Figuring It Out......

Saturday, October 29, 2016

I Used to be Present to People But Now I Check Email

I was recently invited to give an Ignite talk as part of the Ignite Your Passions event held in conjunction with a Canadian Education Association conference. As presenters we were as asked use the theme of  “I used to ____________ But Now I __________ ”. 

I chose: I Used to Be Present to People But Now I Check Email

My presentation itself, part serious and part facetious, was a brief synopsis of my "hot and cold"/"off and on" relationship with email.

Personally, email hit mainstream as I was beginning my career in the mid 1990's and came with some exciting promises - it was going to save time, remove barriers to collaboration, streamline communications and improve work flow!

To some degree email has accomplished some of this. Today email can be a good "gateway tool" to access, sort and share information.

But there are some problems.....

The biggest issue with email is that it is being used as a  "one size fits all" communications tool.  Metaphorically speaking, email is seen as the "Swiss Army knife" of communications when, in fact, it should be seen as one part of the communications "knife".

Information Smog and the flooded inbox
We are living and working in an era of information smog and our flooded email inbox - often perpetuated by the misuse of email functions such as "Carbon Copy and Reply All" - is compounding the problem.

Has anyone ever tried to schedule a meeting using reply all?  Organizing a meeting with  four or five people with everyone replying all can easily generate 15 to 25 emails!

Too much emotion
Another concern is that email be can lead to harmful miscommunication and misrepresentation (cue the ALL CAPS message here). From my understanding, email was never intended to communicate sensitive and/or emotion filled messages.

More screen time and less people time
Another, more philosophical concern, is whether email has allowed for an unrealistic sense of time.  Put more simple, are we overly available?

I would suggest that the daily and even hourly expectation to clear our in boxes is drawing us more to our desks and screens and, by extension, contributed to what Charles Hummel coined, the  tyranny of the urgent.  The implications of this, from a leadership perspective are serious.  I worry, for example, that in our need to manage the day to day clearing our of inbox we are seeing an erosion of slow and thoughtful strategic thinking and diversions from what is core to who we are and what we do as educators.  On a personal level, my need to clear my inbox is taking me away from being present to those that matter most to me!

Today, before I send or respond to an email, I ask myself if there is a better way? Should I, for example, use a different tool or pick up the phone or have a face to face meeting over a cup of coffee?

Below is a copy of the slide deck I used for the presentation.

Still figuring it out....

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How Can We Re-Imagine School? An EdTalk

Recently I had the privilege of being an "EdTalk" speaker at the 2016 FISA Convention.  Below is the video of my 8 minute talk in which I attempt to answer:

"How can we best reimagine school for our students?"

Below are the slides from the presentation.

Still figuring it out....