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Our future is in good hands

Today I had the privilege of being invited to attend presentations from students in the teacher education program (TEP) at the University of Fraser Valley (Chilliwack).  Being from a relatively small district, our administrators are often involved in interviewing and hiring; today was an opportunity to see and hear what some of our future teachers believe is important in the world of education.

We were to listen to a very short presentation from each student and then provide some feedback.  One would think that after 18 presentations, I would be tired, hungry, and unfocused.  In actuality, at no point during the day did I feel this way; I felt quite the opposite, I felt energized and excited to see such passionate and motivated people ready to teach and learn in our schools.  Listening to these students made me want to be teaching more in the classroom; I felt like wanted to be teaching in the classroom  next to them and then collaborate with them on how we can better the current system of education.

Following the presentations, I had a chance to write down some common themes that the students from the TEP program highlighted:

  • Meet student where they are: although these student-teachers had only been in a classroom for a few months, I was amazed at the examples of ways in which they engaged their students and learned from them the most effective ways to teach them.
  • How we teach is what we teach:  I mentioned the importance of modeling in my previous blog; the presenters today were not only talking the talk, but walking the walk
  • Arts ARE important: I was pleasantly surprised at how many students were passionate about the arts.  From music to drama to visual arts, the teachers discussed how important fine arts was in education.  Sir Ken Robinson would have been proud!
  • Assessment for Learning: the teachers spoke of the many ways to have students demonstrate their learning; it gave me hope that the days of a summative-assessment-dominated world may be in the past.  There are so many ways to assess that go beyond the traditional pen and paper tests and quizzes.  Assessment is NOT an event, it is ongoing.
  • Risk takers:  these new teachers are questioning the way things are done and trying new, innovative ways to encourage student learning.
  • Tapping into strengths: we often hear of teachers tapping into their students’ strengths; it appears that these teachers are not only doing this but have also tapped into their own strengths and are bringing these talents into the schools
  • Community: each presenter mentioned something about community; global citizenship, local community resources, and professional learning communities were all discussed.  These teachers understand the movement from “me to we”.
  • Connections and Relationships: there were so many examples of memorable connections that were made with a student or class.  Effective teaching and learning can only result with the care and trust that results from positive relationships.
  • ASCD: very impressive to see how many of these teachers are already involved in the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.  A great way to stay up to date with latest research on teaching and learning.
  • PASSION: I was in awe of the passion in the voices of these new teachers… enough said.

I want to thank UFV for inviting our district to attend these presentations.  I had a wonderful day and if Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is accurate in stating that our first impressions are generally correct, then from the 10 minute conversation we had with these student-teachers, my impression is that our future students are in good hands.

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As an aside,  at my school there are many experienced teachers that have this passion and caring quality about teaching and learning.  Unfortunately, experienced teachers never get to do a short presentation on what they think about education; they never get a chance to showcase their talents.  All teachers need a chance to brag a little about the amazing things that they do with kids and maybe this is something we need to do more of in schools.

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Summary: Sir Ken Robinson in Nanaimo

On April 26th, I had the privilege of attending the Windows of Opportunity seminar in Nanaimo, BC that featured world renown author, speaker, and educator Sir Ken Robinson.  He did not disappoint as he used his dry wit to not only entertain the audience but also motivate us to participate with him in his educational revolution.

Although there were too many things to possibly write down, here are a few key thoughts (paraphrased):

“All people have talents; some find them while others do not… Some are provided with ample opportunity to showcase their talents in the school system; many have talents that are not emphasized in the current system… the education system needs to provide opportunities for students to reveal their talents.

“The education system does not often respond to who students are.”

“It’s very hard to know what we take for granted… Because we take it for granted!”

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save the country. — Abraham Lincoln

“Our current education system was designed for the industrial revolution and remains a manufacturing process where conformity, standardization and linearity is the norm.”

“School subjects are still divided into “useful” and “useless” according to the opinions of society/schools. Things that are useful are those that lead to university or can supposedly get you a job. Those that are considered useless are things like the arts.”

“We often punish people by taking away the things they enjoy doing.”

“Human life is not linear but our education systems are; human life is inherently creative.”

“We are in a state of cultural evolution.”

Flowers came to life in Death Valley following the extremely rare rainfall in 2005.

Flowers came to life in Death Valley following the extremely rare rainfall in 2005.

“Analogy of gardening: Gardeners do not grow plants – plants grow themselves. Gardeners provide the optimal environment for plants to flourish (sunlight/shade, water, heat, etc). One environment can cause one type of plant to flourish while another to die or become dormant. In Death Valley in 2005, it rained 7 inches. In an environment that was supposedly ‘dead’ of plant life, under the right conditions, a beautiful layer of flowers formed. Under the right environment, people flourish.”

“Education must be personalized, not standardized.”

Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” “We have no choice but to push the system and start to blossom.”


For more on Sir Ken Robinson, please watch his TED Talks Video or read his book, “The Element”.