My first EdCamp: Full of light and brightness.

I participated in my very first EdCamp at Delta Secondary School in Vancouver B.C. on Saturday. The day was a whirlwind, full to brimming with conversations ideas, and joy.  As it was my first, I was uncertain about the outcome; I had heard of EdCamps but wondered if one day of conversation could have REAL impact on me and my practice. I have been to Pro-D days where by 1 PM, I get a “I need a nap” attack and feel drained, checked out and antsy by the end of the day.

This was different.

The day was full of light, brightness and solidified my belief in the transformative power of connection.

The bag of rocks I have dragging behind me lately vaporized and vanished. The weight of struggling to change, lightened and lifted. The cloudiness of vision brightened and cleared.

The day was a celebration of a culture based on support, community, togetherness, and openness; to honest reflections, differing ideas, new ways, and failures.

The day provided me with the gift of time and space to connect and reconnect. Reconnect to what matters, connect to people who have influenced, encouraged and pushed my thinking over the last year and discover new connections to ideas and people. Sometimes it is hard to hear your own voice when you let in too many doubts and begin to question your goals; your dreams and heart begin to hurt, as you wonder is it worth it?  At times, I have felt I have been living two contrary, opposing lives; one of hope, vision, bravery and courage and a contrasting one of shame, fear and frustration.

The connections and the opportunity to embrace and celebrate these connections that have made a significant difference to my life, my practice, my thoughts as I drive to school, the way I look at the world. The encouragement, be it in the form of a RT from a virtual colleague, the face to face meeting with people I rely on and trust, to a student who came up to strike up a conversation with me, all spotlighted what really matters.

The support and encouragement I have felt in and from this community is a gift; I feel so rich and enriched with real examples I see of kindness, community supported growth, risk taking and innovation all nourished and tended to with passion and intent.

After the long day I return home, still feeling uplifted and when I wake in the middle of night, with a thought so clear and loud, I get up to Tweet it (and because this world is amazing someone tweets back!). I have been focusing on the things that I cannot change (report card formats, curriculum, department assessment practices etc), structures that are too big for me to push out-of-the-way by myself and right now (sometimes I get impatient).

Change isn’t about what I can’t say, it is about what I can say.

Change is not about what I can’t impact and control, it is about impacting with intention what I can.

It is not about the negative comment from one, but the support I feel from many.

I need to focus, move, extend towards (like a plant reaching for light) what I can change, what I can impact and where I can experience growth… I can encourage, support and advocate for other teachers to get connected. I can do that. I can continue to grow and draw on my connections, to my own voice and dreams, to the people who support and care for me.

I can do that.

A day that was full of light and brightness.

P.S. A loud shout out to Aaron Akune for our conversation at lunch that helped to push my thinking forward and provide words for how I have been feeling.

Why I fall in love with #flipclass everyday anew.

Last year I did some renovations to my teaching practise. The process was exhilarating, demanding, and left me with taste for change. I did some exploring over the summer and charted out a plan for the coming school year. I came back in September with some great new ideas: portfolios, full on standard based grading, 20% time.

I was ready to bring it.

Thing is….my students were NOT.
They had not spent the summer immersed in books, online courses and a trip to MIT.

All this change I was craving was not embedded in anything meaningful or reasonable for my students. I might as well shown up talking Japanese for the amount of sense it made to them.

Maybe you are saying: “Well if you just kept plugging away, if you just kept at it, eventually they would come around.”

Maybe your right, maybe they would have, maybe slowly, they would have had some magic transformative moment and inspiration would have been lit in their learning souls.

But by then…. I might have become a drooling zombie.

I could not push any harder, I could not…

In this space where students have very specific and prescriptive expectations about how things will and should work, and will say right to my face “Don’t you dare mess with it Ms Durley cause I need to get 90% for the nursing program.”

I hate to admit defeat, it is the hardest thing for me, a perfectionist people pleaser, to do. I hate to be so emotional about it, but I am. I have been carrying this silently inside for many weeks and it has been bogging me down, draining my drive and making me feel generally like a failure.

I have regrouped and gone back to the drawing board, I will give portfolios another shot, just scaled down. I still am working on standards based grading, with others in my department this time, to make it fit within the points driven paradigm of this system. I will offer some exploration time but in smaller chunks and with slightly different parameters.

Many of you out there in my circle of influence, write in dramatic landscapes of absolutes: no homework, no worksheets, no videos, no direct instruction, no marks, etc.

Do you know how it feels in a room of 30 Grade 12’s who want you to be something very specific, in a school of 60 staff members, and in a community with their eyes resolutely on the prize?

It eats at you slowly, bit by bit, erodes your confidence, your energy, your dreams, your ideals…..you.

I am fairly energetic and spend time on my practice. I am ready to take risks and change. I love reading the big sweeping ideas about how education needs to change and I need to read them, as they serve an important function in my evolution as a teacher.

But what I need, what I crave, what saves my sanity, is a sturdy and safe bridge to get me there. A bridge, a walkway, a map, a blueprint…. pick whatever metaphor you want.

I need to know HOW… how to get there… and get there safely with these kids, the ones right in front of me with their mindsets, their parents’ pre-conceptions, the report card parameters, the school final exam policy, the AP exam in May, with ALL these realities on my plate.

So I fall in love with flip class everyday anew because I can do it within these four walls and my one mortal life. I can get out of school by 5, get to the gym, and be present in body and soul at the dinner table.

I can see and feel tangible changes in my practice, in how students are interacting in the room with each other, with me and with the content.

I can show up each day, have the wherewithal, the time, and the energy to look each child in the whites of their eyes and say: “Do you get it, what don’t you get, and how can I help?”

I have to remember how huge that is.

Flip class is my bad ass bridge, I will continue travelling with it to get me safely and sanely…there…with these kids….in this time and place.

Growing Dreams in the Social Media Landscape.

What do you dream of? What do the inner whisperings of your soul say to you? Can you hear them? Are they muffled by what you think you should do or should become?

I love big challenging projects that don’t seem to have obvious and immediate purpose. I love to daydream and imagine…the impossible, the really impossible.

Do you?

Since September I have been working with a group of kids (what I call my students) outside of the timetable in a very free-form manner. On the surface and to an outside observer, I am sure it looks like quite a disaster; we meet one morning a week and when we do, it is not like “class”; there are no handouts, no lesson plan, no assignments for marks, no due dates, no projects for the sake of projects, no lectures…no… not a lot of what I was trained and told a good teacher must and should do.

When we meet, we all talk at the same time, and in a very non linear fashion; the conversation pings all over the place. Crazy ideas peek out. Instead of playing whack-a-mole, we grab them and embrace them as long-lost friends. We then scatter, like seeds to the wind, and do what we need to do. Each growing our project and seeing what it grows into or if it will even be viable. We ask each other for help and reach out to others beyond our classroom and school. We collaborate frequently via text, phone, email, Facebook and share a Wikispace to create a trail of our musings and dreams.

Maybe you think… well… what a waste of time….how random and non-productive.

Except…

The most wonderous and fabulous thing happened. We imagined a crazy, wild, out-there dream and went for it full-bore. We worked non stop over a 6 week period to put together a project that we hoped would create buzz and interest in Social Media at OKM to create a culture of sharing and connectedness. We envisioned that students might want to connect to something fun and exciting rather be told to be interested in something outdated and stale.

Children should dream, a lot, and often. They should know that they can change their world, their community and their school. Not just hope that maybe one day down the road they can hopefully, maybe, if they play their cards right, make some meaningful change.

So Thish, Aaron, Stanley, Freya, Spencer, Cam, Harrison, Arpan, and Mackenzie…you are, each of you, the bees knees. Love you guys to bits, up to the moon and back! My heart is full to bursting watching the joy on your faces.

Leanne, Mark, Ryan , Ed, Meghan, Keith, Melinda, Cryil, Travis, Kaare, Amy, Jaiden, Rick, Graham, Fausty, Murray, Jenn, Olivia, Karla, Solenn, Katie, Maria, Mr. Skeleton and OKM H. Usky…thanks for supporting and believing in our dream.

You ALL made it happen!