Celebrating some amazing teachers who share!

I know some amazing teachers! Teachers who share their work with the world. I know many have benefited from their openness and ethic of sharing. I know too, that sharing can come with challenges and disappointments.

Here I wanted to celebrate 3 teachers I know who share and whose sharing has inspired me (I know many others who share as well).

The first teacher I want to celebrate is Crystal Kirch, who is the queen of blogging, WSQ and highlighting!! Crystal is a blogger extraordinaire; her commitment to regular and detailed reflections have benefited 100’s of teachers. Crystal’s letter home to parents is exemplary and moreover she has collected parent letters from many other educators to share (double share).

My other favorite sharer would have to be my work partner Graham Johnson who has the most amazing You Tube channel (no bias at all) that is viewed across the country and has helped countless students through math. Graham even made a fancy pants video for parents welcoming them and providing relevant information about the upcoming semester in his #flipclass. Moreover he maintains a stunning website with his course materials.

Last but not least, I am always inspired by my incredibly talented #flipclass colleague Stacey Roshan for her high quality and through work. it is evident that Stacey loves her job, her students and is committed to producing high quality work for her classes. Whether on her blog or her You Tube Channel Stacey demonstrates excellence and exceptional commitment. Below is Stacey’s welcome back to school video.

Kudos to Crystal, Graham and Stacey for setting the example and willingly sharing with all of us.

You all make me proud to be a teacher!!

On Collaboration and School Culture.


Did they “teach” us that one at teacher school?
Do you hear it talked about in staff rooms?

Do you know what it looks like or feels like?

It is like that urban legend you heard about in grade 4, someone’s cousin had spiders hatch out of their cheek while sleeping one night.

Yeah that one…the one that scared the pants off of you, even though you never actually met the person. I am not implying burnout is an urban legend, I am saying it is treated as such in teacher culture.

Teaching can be a tough job and there is a “survival of the fittest” culture in schools I have worked in. You can admit you are struggling…but only to a point, to certain people and in specific situations; if you show too much weakness others fear you might drag them under.

So how does this work if we are going to get teachers to grow, take on big bold risks, and try new things? How to support teachers when parents, critics or even other teachers have a go at what you are doing or trying? Attacks, no matter how well-meaning, can feel personal, consuming the small reserve in the energy tank.

Further, if the very adaptations that we as teachers have evolved over the courses of our careers have allowed for our survival how then to change AND not go extinct at the same time?

Last year I travelled through a wormhole of change. That I came out the other side is attributable it to one thing: a committed collaborative partner, Graham Johnson.

Graham and I, Pikes Peak, June 2011.
Graham and I, Pikes Peak, June 2011.

I have a strong support network outside of school, people who I trust, a husband who is in the biz, but they were not what kept me afloat. What kept me going and stopped me from giving up (cause there were days when I did consider giving up on change) were the continuous conversations that Graham and I had daily, sometimes hourly, about what we were specifically doing. When either of us hit a wall we dealt with it then and there, we brainstormed and co-created a viable solution. We established common goals (we wrote these out on paper) and committed to (even though he teaches Math and I Biology) common ground with certain practices (flexible assessment, Hot Seat, Whiteboarding, Learning Journals are all examples) We communicated via Twitter DMs dawn to late, phone chats and face to face debrief after school.

You might be thinking by now…yeah we know that collaboration is important, yesterday’s days news….next.

BUT. Hold up…

Collaboration is NOT just something you should really try someday and when you do it will be fun; it is like having a snow plow with no blade, a motor boat with no motor, or an axe with no blade. You cannot do the intense work of change without real-time continuous, connected collaboration that relates DIRECTLY to what you actually doing in your class. To collaborate I had to be willing to co-evolve, to commit to a common end (and by this I do not mean improve Grad rates) and at times (more than I might like) I needed to compromise; I had to first converge in the here and now to survive, before I could diverge and thrive later.

I used to think that if I controlled everything I could assure the final outcome would be high quality, this was a guaranteed ticket to burnout and was never sustainable. Now I know that through cooperating, compromising and collaborating I can evolve AND survive.

If we continue yelling out and waving our arms at teachers: Change this way! Come on let’s go! Pick it up! WITHOUT the collaborative, connected mindset and ecosystem firmly in place, we will perpetuate the medium for burnout.

We need to out the culture of “survival of the fittest” and replace with a flourishing visible ecosystem that is fluid, open and dynamic. We need to buoy teachers with collaborative partnerships, collective groupings, tools to connect in real-time and conditions that normalize collaboration as an integral part of the day-to-day.

Then…we can wave away.

“We can see the very beginnings of a new story beginning to emerge. it’s a narrative spread across a number of different disciplines in which cooperation, collective action and complex inter dependencies play a more important role and the central, and the all important role of competition and survival of the fittest shrinks just a little bit to make room.”
Harold Rheingold

From the horse’s mouth to your ear, #flipclass student speaks!

Kaitlin Graf is a Grade 10 student (now Grade 11) at Okanagan Mission Secondary. This is her second semester in a Flipped Math class with my colleague and fellow flipper, @Math_Johnson.

My name is Kaitlin Graf and I have experienced two semesters of Math (Math 10 and now Math 11) in a Flipped Class.  At first I disliked the Flipped Class but later I realized that it was actually very helpful.

I remember the first flipped class lesson I had. We all filed into the classroom and were handed a notes package along with a checklist of things we should complete before a test deadline. For example, there were journal entries we had to complete, several practice Moodle quizzes and of course math problems, we were assigned to do.  Instead of my teacher proceeding to teach us our 1.2 notes on surface area through the typical method of lecturing, we were given time to work through the material at our own pace. The concept of the flipped class and that we would be watching videos at home, and doing our homework in class. As a student, one of my favorite subjects is math, because of the structure and because for some reason I loved the boring, obvious, lesson plan. Since the flipped class took away the standard and traditional ways I didn’t like the flipped classroom at first. I felt that because our teacher was no longer teaching us and that there was no point on coming to class.

However, after a while in the flip class, I began to see the benefits of the flipped class and use them to my advantage. As a motivated student, I was no longer sitting around, waiting for the other kids to finish, I was no longer annoyed with the questions certain students asked and was not forced to re-learn things I was already confident I knew.

As well, I could move through the course as quickly as I liked, do as much or as little homework as I felt I need. After a couple of weeks into the flipped class, I actually started to like the overall idea of it. I also realized that during class there was now more time for the teacher to help you one to one, which in Math is extremely helpful.

The videos provided are additionally helpful because you can re-watch them as many times as you want. When you don’t understand something, you can just go online and find the section that explains your problem and move on.

At the end of the day, I cannot imagine returning to a regular Math class.