The Reflection Pool

Champion, Promote, Defend, Support

Everyone deserves a champion. We find it easy to support and defend the people we love.  When it comes to our work, it’s also effortless to champion those who think the same way we do. Surrounding ourselves with like minded people is very comfy.

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Brett Jordan via Compfight cc

When I first started using Twitter for professional networking and learning back in 2010, I read and watched quite a few “How to Twitter” resources. Lots of folks recommend that we don’t just follow those whose views we identify with but also those who have views we do not agree with. The same holds true for our other professional (and personal) interactions. Inviting those who don’t agree with me broadens my perspective and lessens my complacency. It’s hard, but every time I do it, I grow and learn. People with differing views working together can lead to deeper discussion and then on to greater understanding.

Here’s the challenge: who in your school or workplace needs a champion? Is it that student that’s a little hard to like? Is it a teacher who has leadership skills but just doesn’t know how to use them to get others on board?  It is a true test of my leadership when I can defend and support someone whose strengths I see, but who doesn’t think like me, or even agree with me all the time! My world is richer when I do it.

Wanted: Learning Organization that Seeks Problems

Problems can shut everything down. Sometimes the problem feels so big that we can’t see a solution. We give up. In a learning organization, the only way to overcome is to seek those problems out, putClassified them under a light and work together to find solutions. Sounds so easy, but I know it’s not.

Peter Senge‘s vision of a learning organization is inspiring and exciting as described in The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. According to Wikipedia, he says it’s “a group of people working together collectively to enhance their capacities to create results they really care about”. Wow! That’s an organization I want to be part of. Our district’s strategic directions echo his five characteristics, and we are trying to work in structures to move toward shared vision, personal mastery and team learning.

Senge also suggests that problems can stall the process of learning. This comes up for me when I hear people say, “We’ve always done it this way.” I get it. The way we’ve always done it is comfortable, it’s part of our culture and trying to change it seems to involve so many people and structures. And a lot of people get angry when you try to change something we’ve always done to solve a problem. They come up with loud counter arguments, they post on social media, or they call the mainstream media. It’s hard to move forward.

Still, I don’t think it’s a reason not to try. Although I may want to run from those tricky problems, give people that shout the loudest their way, or work quietly away in my own little corner, I need to always have the courage to face the issues, have the hard conversations and find solutions. And I certainly can’t do it alone. We need educators and partners with a growth mindset who have a nose for problems and want to collaborate to learn how to solve them. Let’s seek them out together.

3 Reasons I Go to Edcamp

I attended Edcamp Leadership this week: my fifth time at an Edcamp and a great day! Let me tell you why.

Credit to
Credit to

1) The Unconference Model:  Educators want choice and autonomy when it comes to their professional learning. They want to decide what they need to learn to meet student and staff needs better. They want to find out about great resources and ideas. Educators also want to hear about what others are doing in their classrooms, schools and districts. They want to listen, talk and reflect with colleagues.

Unconferences, of which Edcamp is a variant, offer all these to participants. There’s no keynote. There are no vendors. The success of the day is up to you! Participants build the schedule. No one edits or crosses off. If you want to engage others in an issue or topic, put it up on the session board at the beginning of the day. Choose whatever sessions you want to attend. Offer your ideas, opinions and experiences in person, on Twitter, or take notes for your next blog post. If one session doesn’t meet your needs, leave and head somewhere else. Go hang out in the lobby and chat with a new friend. Oh, and it’s free. Yes, free.

2) Connections:  There’s a strong link between Edcamp and Twitter.  Many people who see the value of social media connections also attend these unconferences. I use Twitter to connect to educators around the world, but especially in Canada and the United States. One of my favourite things to do on Twitter is participate in chats like #satchat, #iaedchat, #ptchat or #cdnedchat. It’s a chance to have a real time conversation about interesting and timely topics in education. The 140 character limit forces me to distill my thoughts to the essentials.

It was super to meet many “tweeps” face to face at Edcamp Leadership and especially those I’ve met through Twitter chats. I even got to participate in a live #satchat with Brad Currie (NJ), Scott Rocco (NJ) and Tom Whitby (NY) – what a privilege!!

I have to give shout outs to Vicki Day (NY), Tony Sinanis (NY), Jimmy Casas (IA), Ben Gilpin (MI), Reed Gillespie (VA), Joe Mazza (PA), Tom Whitford (WI), Sue Bruyns (ON) David Fife (ON), Anne Marie Luce (ON). These wonderful educators are worth following through their blogs and Twitter feeds. Each one is making a huge difference to their students and to the improvement of education.

I also met a number of interesting and committed teachers, vice principals and principals in sessions and break time.  I find the atmosphere at Edcamp open and friendly, much more than at a traditional conference. Folks are more than willing to meet and engage.

3) Learning:  I love to learn through conversations. Edcamps offer the chance to engage in deep thinking. When you arrive, you hang out in the main room and watch the schedule being built by participants. It’s a time to chat with people and listen to their realities, successes and struggles. You really can have a conversation about all of that in a few minutes!  Then it’s time to choose your sessions, where the “law of two feet” applies.

My thinking was challenged and stretched by sessions on leadership and struggle and how to put cultural competency in action. These discussions were so rich that I am drafting blog posts to address both.

What’s next? How about Edcamp Toronto, Barrie or London?

You should go.

 (I also blogged about Edcamp here. That post included links to Open Space and unconferences.)