Saturday, December 11, 2010

Time for a change!

Well I'm switching gears. I just don't feel that I should continue blogging on this site as it is a blog set up for EC&I 831 and I was using it to reflect on the things I was learning in the class. So I've decided to embark on a new journey; I am starting a new blog that will focus on the positive things going on in school. I am hoping that some who have followed me here will take a look, but really this is not about followers; this is just where I need to go. Thanks to all who have commented and visited this blog; I hope my new blog, LLCS Principal's Blog, will be worth a visit from you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Farewell my Friend

One of my good friends from High School, Rod Jackson, was supposed to turn 48 today and it was his goal to be alive for one last birthday. He didn't make it missing it by just five days; he had esophogeal cancer and died on September 13th. It's been on my mind since I learned of his passing and I feel compelled to write.

I went for a walk this morning (September 18) with Rod on my mind. It was a glorious fall day with brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds catching the suns rays reminding me that yet another season was passing. As is my custom when walking alone; I said a few prayers, but this time thinking of Rod. It occurred to me that it was Rod's birthday when I observed something roughly a kilometre in front of me cross the road but I lost sight of it on the side. This distracted me from my thoughts and I continued forward keeping my eyes on the place ahead in case the animal could be a threat to my dog. I finally saw the animal move off into the trees and relaxed a little. By now I was less than half a kilometre from the spot and the animal re-appeared, but now I was close enough to see that it was a coyote. The coyote came out of the ditch and turned and looked at me for what felt like a long time even though it could see I was approaching. Finally, it started to go back the direction it had come from stopped, turned and with a final look at me went the other way. The rest of my walk was spent looking to see if my coyote companion would return.

I didn't think too much about the coyote until I started to tell my wife about it. My wife is a strong believer in signs; she just thinks we need to be open to them. She tells about grieving for lost family members and little things that happened that she connects to them. She told me about two angels, one orange and the other purple, she found in a store one day after she had fallen into sadness remembering the passing of her cousin, Lucy, and than her cousin's youngest child, Erica. These were the only 2 in the store and it just so happens that orange was Lucy's favourite colour and purple was Erica's. Some would call it a coincidence; my wife believes it was a message to her from them, and it helped her come out of her grief.

Anyway as I told her the story of the coyote, it occurred to me that I had never seen a coyote here before despite the fact I've lived here for over 24 years and I remembered that just before I saw the coyote I had remembered that it was supposed to have been Rod's birthday. Maybe it is a coincidence, but I know Rod had wanted another visit together so I wonder was his spirit at work, was this his good-bye? I will never know for sure, but in my heart I know it was!

Rod was a good friend through high school and, though as adults we were not in contact much, whenever I did see him or whenever I talked to him it was like the time that separated us melted away and I was with my buddy! The mind is a terrible thing though as I have trouble remembering details; my memories of Rod are more like a collage! I remember a friend we teased because he couldn't put his knees together, I remember a friend in the late 70's very concerned about his mother's health, and I remember he used to repeat things a lot almost annoyingly so. For example, whenever one of us would say "Deadly" Rod would reply, "Deadly Dudley" and give a grin. He always grinned! I remember camping trips on the Queen Charlottes with Rod the summer after we graduated and I remember we worked together with school district #50 in Masset one summer. That summer Rod was working on reframing a wall at Tahaygen Elementary School and was being tormented by horse flies. We all know horse flies can drive you mad and Rod evidently lost it that day because when he reached the breaking point he lined up his hammer on a horse fly that had landed on his knee - it was time to strike back. Rod slammed the hammer into his knee while the horse fly fled the scene! I believe this was the summer Rod started smoking and when I questioned him why? He explained it was okay to take a break for a smoke, but if you weren't smoking you had to keep going.

In 1980, we graduated from High School and made plans to go to school. Rod was off to SFU to study criminology and I was off to Victoria for Arts and Science. We left the island together that summer and it was then he told me a story that I still laugh about. There we were on a 737 flying towards Vancouver and he told me about his first experience with a girl on a beach near the Sangan River and how the next morning his mother was complaining about all the sand in his clothes! That was a grin I tell you!!! I don't know if he ever told her the truth about that.

The Rod I want to remember always made me smile. He was a person who trusted his friends, a person who shared stories, but most of all a person who loved life and loved to laugh. Rest in peace Rod. I hope we meet again!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A few thoughts on Religion

I have been on Twitter this morning and following the Tweets of Alec Couros as usual and I followed his links as usual which lead me to Joseph Hack's blog and and an article called ipod Religion. Not only did Alec post a link to the blog but then he tweeted, "But in thinking about this, how do ppl currently choose "religion", do they rly "choose"? Is it not most likely ur born into belief systems?" Well my mind got working and what follows started as a comment on Joseph's blog but evolved into something I thought more appropriate for my own blog. To make sense of what I write you really need to visit the links in this introductin first.

Interesting questions raised by the article and as I respond to this my conscience is challenging me about my own non-attendance in church today, but I'll have to resolve that issue in my own conscience.

I do no give modern media any more power in the changes that are happening to people and their faith today, rather I think it is just an extension of what has been happening through the last half of the 20th century and maybe even earlier. After all, I think the Beatles can be given some credit too as they were singing about "No Religion" long before the ipod and easy access to the internet; I believe they had quite the influence on the parents and grandparents of kids today. And to just single out the Beatles is unfair because there have been many other forces in the media that have presented images and ideas that are contrary to Christian beliefs and teachings. Organized religion has been challenged by the diversity of ideas for quite some time and in our part of the world (the west) organized religion has lost its political power to punish those who question. Remember the Church once considered those who believed the world to be round to be among the worst of sinners. We have progressed as a people to be more tolerant, but it has come with some costs to those who wish to preserve insitutions as they were.

Young people are continuing to evolve in their thinking and belief systems and if it looks like teens are seeking answers and experimenting with other faiths, is it really any different than it was when I was a skeptical teen in the 70's questioning the Catholic faith that I was "forced" to attend to.

Yes people are not attending to their faith the way they once did, yet it seems to me that spirituality is alive and well. It just doesn't look like it did centuries ago; I'm not sure that's a bad thing either. I am a Catholic but as a young adult I drifted away from Church; was it I didn't believe or is it something many young people go through? I think many young people are struggling to find themselves in an increasingly complex and multi-cultural world. Should we blame technology or should we blame learning? For me it goes back to an essentially spiritual question, "What is our purpose here on earth anyway?"

As I have grown older (I'm in my 40's), I have become much more aware of my own spirituality and now I usually attend the Catholic church in my community and I regularly take a turn with doing a reading. Does it mean I am practicing the faith the way Christ intended? Does anyone really know that answer. Many believe they do, but I know the church I attend has been molded by people with their interpretations of what Christ taught based on stories that have been passed down. I am educated enough to know that man has twisted the words to meet their own perceptions and have used the words of the bible to create laws and rules that suit their own purposes. I am also educated enough to know I need spiritualism of some form; it bonds me with a community, it comforts me when my mind is tormented with the fears and apprehensions of being mortal, and it defines a way of living that does not harm my fellow man (not to be confused with the fact that the Catholic Church has had members who have done harmuful things to people in the name of God).

I think the fact that young people can find information about other religions so easily is a positive thing; it is allowing them to explore their own beliefs. I believe we can learn from other cultures and all religions which can only help eliminate some of the ignorance of others that lead to such horrific events like the Holocaust. Those who think their belief system is right and should not change are similar to the Luddites who smashed machinery during the industrial revolution. Not all change is good, but some is and change is inevitable.

Anyway, I've recorded some of my thoughts on a topic I do not normally speak out loud about because of its sensitive nature. I trust those who read these words understand that this is me making sense of the world the way I see it and in no way is it intended to be judgemental of others or the way they see the world. Thanks Joseph and Alec for taking me down this road.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wikispaces Orientation

Later today, some colleagues from and I will be presenting wikispaces to a group of teachers in my school division. Consequently, I've spent a lot of my evening trying to think about how best to demonstrate wikispaces to them; I know very few have much of a background in web 2.0 tools so I'll have to be careful not to overwhelm them.

I've decided to start with Suzie Vesper's Learningweb2 wiki as a starting place and follow it up with the slides below. I hope can a least spark a flicker of interest in those attending; perhaps some will be using wikis in the classrooms of Northern Lights School Division before Christmas. Without hope, where would we be?

I wonder how others would present wikispaces to beginners with only 30 minutes to work with and no computers in the hands of the learners?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moving towards online learning!

I got a call from Ted Green, the principal of in La Ronge, the other day and he was inviting me to help him and his staff present at our annual teacher convention coming up this week in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. I had been planning to attend the session, "Getting Connected," anyway and immediately agreed as I realize that my limited level of connectivity places me ahead of most in our school division. I also believe in the spirit of sharing that I have to credit my PLN for instilling in me which means I am obligated to share my knowledge that I have learned from others. Anyway, the call actually turned into a bit of philosophical discussion about the state of affairs of technology in our school division and the need for a Digital Learning Consultant to take our Division to the next level.

One of the pieces of the conversation centered on the issue of getting teachers to start using the web tools available to connect with their students, parents, and the world in general. In my world as a principal, I have been encouraging teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms, I host interested staff at Tech Thursday sessions, and I am thrilled that a few have started (Melva, Megan, Tessa, and Sarah). Nevertheless, I am struggling with why it is so hard to get some to see that there are new things in education because of technology that can really engage a learner. In fact, I've been warning people that the day is coming when teachers will be expected to use online tools to make their classrooms available to students and parents. How long will it be before teaching jobs come with advertisements that call for teachers with the skills to use Moodle, blogs, and wikis (to name a few)?

If I could get some to read Jeff Utecht's blog titled Preparing for the worst = opportunity from September 21, 2009, they might begin to understand that increasingly it is normal for teachers to use the internet to work and communicate with their students. He also points out that there are external forces at work on schools like influenza that may make it necessary to work with students in non-traditional ways.
He says, ...I believe every classroom today, especially in the middle school and high school where students are more tech savvy should be a blended model of both classroom learning and online learning…

This is something I've been saying in my school where the problem we face is irregular attendance. We need to find ways to meet the needs of learners who do not do the traditional school day the way it was intended and an online - classroom blend may be the solution. I just need staff who are willng to try the idea with their classes.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is technology really that scary?

I've been back in school now for almost a month and I continue to turn to technology to make my own work easier and to find ways of sharing with my 100+ colleagues. So far this year, I've used Wordpress to build a site dedicated to the Northern Lights Jr. Games that my school was chosen to host in March 2010. I've been contributing interesting items to a school Ning site that I help administer, I've been posting items including my schedule to a wiki site I built last year, and I've been sending weekly memos by e-mail to the staff. I even had a Technology Thursday session with staff to visit the idea of classroom blogs like Mrs. Cassidy's Classroom Blog.

And I've seen some progress, baby steps I guess. I have a teacher who has embraced technology and is busy incorporating our Smart Board into his teaching; this is taking off as other teachers now want a board in their room. I also have staff who have started blogs and are beginning to share; for example, there is a new teacher blogging about her experiences and an intern invited me into her digital world a couple of nights ago. Nevertheless, I am feeling somewhat disappointed; it seems like some are choosing to ignore the powerful medium that the internet offers preferring to do things the way they've always done them. Is the technology really that scary?

How many of us reluctantly gave in to the cell phone craze and now cannot live without them? What is so different about picking up a new computer application and embracing it as a new way of doing business.

Today, a teacher shared with me that people see communication as a problem within the school and feel that we need to stick to one way of sharing information. I am not so sure. I believe we need to put the information that needs to be shared in multiple places in hopes that one actually works for each individual. I know I've tried the paper memo thing in the past and failed to communicate a message, I've called meetings and failed to get everyone I needed in place, I've published newsletters that not everyone read, and I've even tried the old intercom thing but was not listened to. All methods have a place, and all in way, rely on technology in one way or another (some newer than others). I really see today's technology as offering many novel solutions; we can now seek information when we want it not just when someone is presenting it. However, we are at the mercy of the individual receivers of information and their interest in learning something new. Unfortunately, some teachers are resisting learning something new; some are modelling what frustrates them about their students (they are reluctant learners). Ironic!!!

There is hope though; the cell phone thing was not embraced enthusiastically at first by all, but when people saw a use for them, they became widely accepted. I even know retiring teachers who have learned to text; if a teacher on the way out of the business can learn new techological skills then surely there is hope for the teacher who thinks he/she does not have time to learn "another" thing! I look forward to the day when we do not have to work to peruade staff about the powerful network tools that exist; I look forward to the day when people accept that technology provides us with tools that make doing business easier!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dreams versus Reality

I took the principalship of LLCS because I believe that I can have a positive impact on the the staff and students of the school. I dream about the students doing very well in school, I hope the teachers who come here love their experience teaching here as much as I did when I first came, and I want to strive to build positive relationships with our parents and the community in general. The realities are still there though and we, the staff, have so much work to do.

I have to be realistic about what is in my control and what is not though. I felt things started off fairly well for me, but change has allowed me to do some new things and see some new things. I have managed to spend a few hours at the Ducharme Building and see the K-6 end of things; the differences I have seen have been an eye opener. At the k-6 level I am seeing students anxious to please adults, students who are curious and want to learn (one grade 5 boy taught me that Dandy long legs have venom), and I am seeing students who are quite cooperative. On the other end of the spectrum, I am seeing high school students who seem disconnected with the purpose of school. They challenge authority and rules, and some appear to have little interest in attending classes although they do want to be in school. What causes this change? It is too simplistic to just blame it on adolscence because there are teens who remain focused and who do want to pursue a good education. I wonder what kills the dreams of childhood of those who get lost on the journey? I wonder how do we rebuild those dreams? I wonder ... I wonder....

I approached one class in the high school on Friday afternoon after I witnessed some of the students from the class arriving excessively late. I went in to talk to them about what they want from school. I tried to reason with them that to get educated you need to work at it. They have a very hard working and enthusiastic teacher in their class; I could see her frustration though as she was struggling with them to meet their responsibilities. I felt at least for a few minutes some of them were understanding that we, the staff, are not the enemy, but I have a feeling it is a lesson that will need to be re-taught and in more than one room. I really hope the staff are willing to adjust their expectations for what a student should be and learn to meet the students from where they are coming from. I dream that the staff will see the strenghts of their students, will see their humanity, and do their very best to take them in a positive direction. I know after the first week of wandering two buildings with nearly 1000 students, I am seeing many staff working very hard to make it happen. That has to be regarded as a good thing! A new week is coming with new challenges; we have to realize we won't always make the progress we dream of, but we also must realize that we have to dream or we have already failed.