Monday, February 18, 2013

Who Inspires You?

Inspiration comes from many places.

Today an email arrived in my Inbox from my Principal - not an unusual event obviously.  In a rush - as usual, I thought I'd better open it up and quickly read it.

When I opened it, it made me really reflect and question why I was rushing around.  Yes, there were assessments to complete, folders to set up, duties to be completed, hockey teams to organise - and the list goes on as it does for all of us, but what I read in that email stopped me in my tracks and made me remember in an instant why I do what I do.

I won't add any more of my thoughts here, but what I can say is that my students have just completed the same activity as in the email today.  I've shed a few tears over the beautiful, funny, caring words they've written about their classmates - whom they're so lucky to be learning with for a second year.

To answer the question of the post - Who inspires me?  My students inspire me - every day in so many ways.  They are the ones who make me want to be the best teacher - and learner I can be.

This is a copy of the email:

Too Busy for a Friend.....

One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name.

Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. 'Really?' she heard whispered. 'I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!' and, 'I didn't know others liked me so much,' were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another. That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that special student. She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.

The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. 'Were you Mark's math teacher?' he asked. She nodded: 'yes.' Then he said: 'Mark talked about you a lot.'

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

'We want to show you something,' his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket 'They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.'

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him.

'Thank you so much for doing that,' Mark's mother said. 'As you can see, Mark treasured it.'

All of Mark's former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, 'I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home.'

Chuck's wife said, 'Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.'

'I have mine too,' Marilyn said. 'It's in my diary'

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. 'I carry this with me at all times,' Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: 'I think we all saved our lists'

That's when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don't know when that one day will be.
So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Professional Learning - Whose Responsibility Is It?

The eLearning Buzz: Through the Looking Glass - Teacher Self-S...: Over the past few months I've been reading about, and investigating issues around, teacher self-study.  (Another form is Action Research ...

This post was written almost two years ago now.  I'm about to start my final Masters paper and have started to think again about all the learning that has happened over the past few years.  I'm also looking forward to finishing this paper and beginning more study.

My reason for revisiting and reflecting on this post is because I've just finished reading a post by Edna Sackson - Teachers' Action Research.  The full post can be found at and is well worth the reading and reflection.  What are your views on teacher responsibility for professional development and learning?
What percentage is our responsibility and what is that of the schools in which we teach and learn?  How far along the continuum are you as a learner alongside your students?  Do we 'walk the talk'?

Edna asks an important question:  "How can we create new models of professional learning in our school that help build our learning community, while embedding our learning principles in our practice?"

I've taught in schools where teacher responsibility for professional learning is expected and valued and it really does lead to rich conversations and exciting learning - both for the teachers and for the students.

What happens in your schools in terms of Action Research / Professional Learning?  Do you value different forms of Social Media as part of your daily professional learning? e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.It, LinkedIn.  How do you receive professional development - when and from what sources?  Does it happen because you're part of a contract and it's expected or do you take responsibility for your own learning?  Afterall, it's what we expect of our students...

I really like this quote and have had many discussions over the years around this.  I believe that you can have 'expertise' in an area but, the moment you think you are an expert is the moment you stop learning.