Exploring Personal/Professional learning, one day at a time.

kellywchris

Professional development is a daily pursuit of improvement. It requires small steps, critical reflection and feedback, and venturing just beyond where one was yesterday! Sometimes, when we're ready, we can leap into new adventures but it's the small daily steps that lead us...

Learning


Learning often involves struggle as we try to make sense of something with which we are not familiar. It is through this struggle that what was unfamiliar becomes familiar. Every day is a PD day! #myPDtoday

Press On or Pause & Reflect


Sometimes during learning, we need to press on when we're struggling, other times we need to pause and reflect. Knowing when to do each is often the difference between success & utter frustration. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday

Settle Ourselves to ReFocus


Each day is filled with tasks, deadlines, & people to support with more than one thing to do at a time. Yet, if we take a few moments to settle ourselves, it helps to refocus on our destination. Every day is a PD day #myPDtoday

ReNew ReFocus ReCharge


As we learn & grow, it's important to take time to re-evaluate if our current direction is still where we need to be going or if, with what we have learned, we need to seek out a new path. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday

Innovation isn't always about something new



"It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas" Charles Péguy

Innovation. Creativity. Change.
Each of these often comes with the underlying premise that there needs to be some sort of big upheaval in order for things to happen. That, in fact, the way things are right now will be very much different in the not too distant future. We can all point to major innovations such as the smartphone, transportation, social media and communication that have had a major effect on peoples’ lives. Big changes that, for better or for worse, have altered the way most people go about their daily lives.
Yet, many of these ideas began with simple ideas which then required the advancement of technology for them to happen. The improvement of the technologies then allow people to fill a gap that they see. In the marketplace, these gaps are how companies start, grow and expand. They fill gaps and supply a need, often that we didn’t know we had until we see it in action - the whole idea behind marketing! Create a demand for the product. Advertise to show people that, yes, indeed, they need this product. Through this cycle, eventually we arrive at the ‘we can’t live without it’ paradigm which makes the use of the technology a common practice - until it is replaced by something new.
Education is Not the Marketplace
In education and learning, this work in the same way. Yes there are gaps. There are students who need supports and there are a variety of different strategies to help them. Individual students have individual needs and teachers work to find different solutions to meet these needs. But it’s not about creating a demand for products. Or it shouldn’t be. Unlike the marketplace, the idea isn’t about creating a product and then creating a demand. It really is about finding ways to meet the needs of students to help them to learn and there are many different ways to do this.
In education there is this drive to find system-wide solutions to address issues. Concerned about student behaviours? Employ a system-wide program to monitor and reinforce particular behaviours. Want to address communication with parents? Adopt a system-wide solution to communicate with parents. Again and again, systems look to address different needs with system-wide solutions using a marketing approach that everyone needs this particular solution. If it’s system-wide, it’s easier to control, monitor, support and train people to use. It happens all the time. "I didn’t know what I was missing out on but now that I’ve used this, I don’t know how I ever lived without it!" Replace the "this & it" with some type of technology or system. And it happens. It fills a need for some people and becomes a regular part of their routine. For others, it becomes something more to do in a day that is already over full. Those who don’t adopt are often seen as ‘Luddites’ - resisting the inevitable adoption of various technologies.
But do they? Maybe, instead of approaching this from a marketing perspective of "Let’s get everyone doing the same thing because there was a gap", students would be better served by having teachers being able to access different strategies to meet the need of the particular student. Yes, it means that there might be a variety of different strategies being used which would make it more difficult to monitor but isn’t that the essence of learning? Of innovation? Of creativity? How can we help students develop their unique voices and talents if everyone has to do the same thing in the name of monitoring and sharing? Shouldn’t we start with why and how instead of what and when?
Has it really changed?
And, despite the rhetoric about schools helping students find their unique voices and develop their talents, there appears to be a greater focus on conformity and developing particular behaviours using technologies that isn’t much different than it has been in the past. We don’t put a dunce hat on them and sit them in the corner. We’re much more knowledgeable than that. Instead, we give them tokens to behave in a certain way, praising their correct behaviours or display a fuzzy little monster that we add and subtract points from when they behave like we want them to, all displayed for everyone to witness. Instead of encouraging students to go home and tell their parents about what they are learning, we get them to record it and have the parents log in to see how they are doing, wowing them with the technology but doing little to change the actual learning or activities the students are doing. I know, things are changing and teachers are doing some amazing things with their students all the while under a great deal of stress and pressure from all sides to meet testing requirements and make changes in their classrooms to keep up. But maybe in the race to "keep up", we’re seeing the marketing gap and not the learning gap. We’ve been shown different ways to address needs that, sometimes, we didn’t know we had but now we need to address.
An Analogy
A common analogy that is used when discussing how teachers need to be better with adopting and using technology is that doctors no longer use leeches and medieval techniques to treat their patiences. Instead they use the advancements in medicine to help their patiences. What is often missed in this analogy is that doctor training, at least the ones I am aware of, are emphasizing listening to the patient and being a support to the patient, spending more time hearing what the patient has to tell them and seeking non-intrusive techniques in help. Yes they use new technology but, in my recent visits, they still use a stethoscope, they are using the same basic tools in the examining room and I’m still sitting for a long period of time to see a doctor. What has changed is that my doctor is asking more questions about my lifestyle and what I am doing and how I am feeling. There is more time spent getting to know me as a person. In my last visit, my doctor suggested I try doing yoga and stretches for some discomfort I was having instead of providing something to take the pain away, sending me to a physio-therapist. No fancy gadgets. No technology unless you call a rubber band and a mat technology. The catch, I have to do some work. I have to be part of the solution. It’s not easy. I have to make time to do it. I’ve had to relearn a few things.
Simple Ideas
Sometimes innovation is about big things and big inventions. However, innovation is often taking simple things and seeing them from a new perspective and then developing a way to meet that need. Yes it may lead to a new invention or a new way of applying an old technology. But it also might lead to changes in habits that lead to improvements because of the way we are doing things. Yes technologies are important and should be a part of the learning environment but they shouldn't be our sole focus. Instead, let’s focus on supporting teachers to identify gaps and finding solution to support student growth and development.

Creativity and Innovation require space to Thrive

How much time and space do we give students to create and look for innovative ways to solve problems?

How often do we seek simple solutions to help students and support them as they struggle to learn?

Do we begin with the Why and How of supporting student learning?

Do we recognize the power of the relationships with students in meeting their needs and supporting them?






It's 2020 And ....


Welcome to a new year full of promises of what might be, of new adventures and dreams unrealized — YET!
For the past few years, I’ve taken part in the popular #OneWord for the new year. Instead of a bunch of resolutions such as I’m going to get in shape or I’m going to eat better or I’m going to read more books, the #OneWord focuses on selecting one word that you use as a guide throughout the year. There are a number of sites that can help you with this if it is of interest to you.
One word you can focus on every day, all year long…
One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.
It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you. It will become the compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps.
You might want to check out Alli Pollin and look at her explanation for exploring one word and ways to select a word for the year.
As I said, I have been doing a #OneWord focus for the past few years. Last year my word was UNBOUND which means to be not confined, not fastened. At the time I was feeling confined by what I was doing and past experiences. I was seeking to move past these, to be free of them and to move into a new stage of my life. I wanted to THRIVE.

Life Happens and I’m Not Unbound

The year started off rather well in many regards, making progress in many areas. Then, beginning in February, a series of events began which made focusing on Unbound seem unimportant. First, my mom, who was dealing with the beginning stages of dementia, had to be moved from her independent living apartment to extended care. I knew this was going to happen as I had been visiting her weekly since she had moved into assisted living in July of 2018. However, it was very hard for my sister and aunt. When she moved, I began visiting twice a week and taking my children to see her more regularly and then calling my sisters to give them an update.
Then, in late March, my mom suffered a brain bleed from which she didn’t recover. She passed away on April 2nd. All thoughts of being Unbound were lost in the immediacy of dealing with her death and all that was involved. For me, I was not unbound but coping, suffering, hurt, angry and many other things. Definitely not unbound. This took a toll on me and my depression was becoming more difficult to manage. This carried over into the summer.
Then, at the end of June, we moved across the city. As anyone who has moved knows, it is a very trying experience, even when it’s just across town. This pushed me deeper into depression until at the end of July a family friend came and had a heart to heart with me that it was obvious that I needed to see someone or do something because I wasn’t handling things well. In fact, I was a mess. I was spiraling downward into the darkness. I was supposed to be beginning my research for my PhD and maybe begin thinking about future work but I couldn’t. I was lucky to just be able to get out of bed some days.

Definitely not Unbound

Not only was I not Unbound but I was completely bound — unable to see past the darkness that had surrounded me. I was feeling helpless and hopeless, not coping at all. Finally, with assistance, I took the necessary steps to seek help and get myself back on track — as much as that was possible. That meant not only seeking therapy and trying medication but getting back to exercise and healthy habits in all parts of my life. To some degree I was successful. However, in October, November, and December, I fell off track in many areas of my life as deadlines for my PhD thesis dominated my days. And although I met all the deadlines, other areas of my life suffered.

Holidays And a Different Perspective

Because my wife is a teacher and I was a teacher before my detour into the grad life, we have always spend a lot of time during the winter holidays just doing family things — slow mornings, going out for day excursions, and evenings of puzzles and board games. This year, I took a complete break from my thesis because I needed it. Although taking a break meant being a bit behind timeline wise, I knew that I needed to take this time. Other areas of my life needed to my attention.
I not only spent time with family but I did more non-academic reading than I had in the past — reconnecting with one of my favourite authors Todd Henry. Todd writes about living life as a creative, as a person who creates for a living and is expected to be creative in order to solve problems and deliver solutions to various customers. He has authored the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder than Words and Herding Tigers. Todd’ s writing and ideas about being a creative have had a great influence on how I have begun to approach how I think about the work that teachers do and how professional development for teachers needs to recognize the amazing creativity that teachers do each day in their classrooms. But I digress!
It had been a while since I had had any time to read and his work was a good guide for helping me get perspective back and realigning myself. This time though, I reflected on how I had let the different parts of my life become unbalanced and I wasn’t able to Thrive.

It’s Not Balance — It’s Thriving

I’ve come to my own understanding that finding balance is, for me anyway, an unattainable quest which causes me more anxiety than anything else. Instead, through reading authors such as Todd Henry, Sunni Brown, Adam Grant, caroline arnold, Hal Elrod, Greg McKeowan, Patti Johnson, Cal Newport, and Gillian Tett, I’ve begun to focus on thriving in all aspects of my life. For me, this means that all parts of my life are intertwined creating a whole. To try to separate them into different parts denies the wholeness of who I am as a person. Trying to create silos of the different parts of my life and then trying to balance them is incompatible with me as a whole person. With this in mind, I have been exploring different ways to help myself thrive throughout the upcoming year. Given the experience of the past year, I knew I needed to make some changes.

Focus for Each Month

Because of the nature of life, trying to focus on #OneWord for a whole year just doesn’t fit for me. There is too much happening and things change. I want to THRIVE! For me, this means changing the way I look at my days, the work that I am doing, my own talents and abilities, and the risks that I take. It also means being much proactive and reflective when it comes to my mindset and what I am doing each day. The idea of #OneWord did break me of the habit of setting unrealistic resolutions for the year that I never did accomplish. However, it didn’t help me with making the gains and changes that I wanted to make. After reading small move, big change by caroline l. arnold, I began to incorporate the practice of micro resolutions. Each of these micro resolutions are small things that, over time, lead to big changes. I highly recommend this if you are wanting to make changes!
In order to better reflect what is happening in my life, I have decided that at the beginning of each month I will select a new word to be the focus of the month. In January my focus is on RECOMMIT. It underlies my desire to THRIVE as a person. I know that for this month I am recommitting myself to different practices that I have let slide and recommitting myself to narrowing my focus to only those things that will help me to THRIVE in all areas of life. That means that I am also having to say NO to things that, although good by themselves, are not helping me to THRIVE in my life.
Some of you might be thinking, well just use THRIVE as your word for the year. I mean, it’s why you are doing all that you are doing. And you’d have point. It is my why. But, it will always be my why. So, to support my why — THRIVE — each month I want to have a focus on HOW. How will I Thrive? This month, it’s be recommitting to doing what needs to be done in order to THRIVE. At the end of the month, I will take time to reflect on what I have accomplished and what I want to accomplish in the upcoming month. It provides manageable timelines. Goals can be spread across weeks, months or the whole year but each month I will review these and then see where I need to focus — a HOW for the upcoming weeks.

Moving Forward

Overcoming inertia is difficult but once we can begin to move, continuing that forward progress requires consistent attention to the many parts of who we are as a person and ignoring any one area can cause progress to halt. Monthly focuses, I believe, will help me to ensure inertia doesn’t set in again.
I believe in order to truly be successful in supporting and helping others, we first need to be taking care of ourselves. I’ll be checking back each month as a way to support my own growth. But I also would like to hear from you. How do you continue to make progress on your WHY? What is your WHY? Why is it your WHY? What areas do you struggle with? What are you doing to support yourself and your growth and development?
I hope each of you has an awesome year. Remember — Every Day is a PD day!
#myPDtoday

Take Time to Dream Each Day

Give Yourself Time to Dream Each Day


Each day is a new opportunity to make progress and improve who we are as an individual. Sometimes we get caught up in a narrow focus of looking at improvement as being about work and the our professional development. But we are more than the work we do, although it is an important part of who we are, there is more to each of us. That’s why it’s important to take time to DREAM - to envision something different than what is right now.

Dreams help us to get outside of a constant focus of development being professional and expand it to be about who we are as a person. It helps us to break free of being constantly tied to the work we do and see ourselves as being a sum of who we are as a person.

Take time each day to dream - to see yourself in a different way - the sum of who you are as a person.

Every day is a PD day!
#myPDtoday

Self-Discipline


It takes self-discipline to to be prepared to learn & grow each day. Routines & habits free up precious mental energy that can be used when an opportunity comes our way. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday

A Clear Destination


To use our focus and energy optimally, having a clear destination is critical. A lack of direction zaps creativity & stalls innovation. How do you ensure clarity of destination? Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday


You Don't Have to be Alone


Some days it's easier to handle change. There are many reasons for this but it doesn't make us any different if we seek out help & support. Changes doesn't need to be done alone. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday