... and where do you learn those things that you need to learn?

Good luck with this list from Stephen Downes. He gives us plenty to ponder.
I have been reading and rereading this post by Danah Boyd at the same time that I am working with students on creating a presentation for the school about "Bullying" and the components of bullying. It has raised many questions for me about where we are going with our school's work on this and what other things might we be thinking about as we work with our school community on these issues.

I understand that Danah's subjects might be older kids but from my perspective some of our population is at the level that she illustrates. I felt that much of what she has to say has relevance with our middle school students.  

I like her focus on the importance of empathy. The ability to imagine oneself as another person is a sophisticated process and it is this that might make sense to begin to work on if possible. We, both students and adults, could use some practice at trying to understand and be able to see the other side of an issue. At the very least we need to learn or practice approaching an issue from many different perspectives. To be able to to this is not easy and maybe not developmentally appropriate for all but for the rest of us we could us some practice. 

As Danah also points out what children and adults subject themselves to with their consumption of media has such a detrimental effect on trying to learn empathy. How can one be expected to seriously think about the other side of a position, or how another person might feel with the present day's media portral of relationships. And we wonder why our society is not the one that we remember. 
The following excerpt and specifically the final sentence are where we might make a difference on this matter. Create and establish the environment for the change we want to see.
"Combating bullying is not going to be easy, but it’s definitely not going to happen if we don’t dive deep in the mess that underpins it and surrounds it. Lectures by uncool old people like me aren’t going to make teens who are engaged in dramas think twice about what they’re doing. And, for that matter, using the term “bullying” is also not going to help at all either. We need interventions that focus on building empathy, identifying escalation, and techniques for stopping the cycles of abuse. We need to create environments where young people don’t get validated for negative attention and where they don’t see relationship drama as part of normal adult life."

What is your reaction to Danah's post ?

cc photo: pierre phaneuf

Don't know about you but my math class could use a "make over" and Dan Meyer certainly gives me plenty to think about and to work with in this presentation. I have followed Dan for a few years and have enjoyed his work from a distance but with this presentation his work seems more accessible to me. There are many things that I can get hung up on in my teaching but Dan keeps this focused and very real for me as I look to "make over" my math experience.

Dan has been a leader for me to watch as he has made much of his experiences available online. His use of visual pictures and video is outstanding and allow me to see possibilities for my teaching experience.

Here is a link to the page of his presentation and lots of other related links. He also has a great TED Talk about this idea as well.
Here is a intriguing animation of Graphic facilitation. The topic is not new but the visuals are!  Enjoy

How can we embrace and fulfill what is close to our 
hearts and also accept and support 
others' passions and "ways of going"? 

This question that was posed at our meeting is one that has been often mentioned but never addressed. It is sometimes on agenda's but usually is left until there is no more time and then shows itself again at another meeting. Sometimes it is referred to as "climate" and once again we never got to this question at the meeting so here is what I wanted to say but got caught up in another topic that I seemed to have an opinion on. (Sorry about that. Jeff finally ask me to stop.)

I feel that the above question needs our attention so that we can bring this to a productive conclusion and move on. I feel that we as a group are at a point where we are trying to move in some very positive directions around education at AVS. It is not an easy path nor is it a short path but it is a path that I look forward to going down with all of you together and for this do be a productive journey we will need each others' support. I will need yours and you will need mine. 

I hear from many of you, and you from me, about the successes and concerns that you see and feel about our staff at AVS. It is this question of supporting others' passions and methods, of respecting each other as educators, that we need to look at so that we may move forward on this adventure. 

I have suggested to some who were, and maybe still are, frustrated with school climate, with where we are going, with how comfortable we feel within our group, that it is us as individuals who's responsibility it is to make the change that we are looking for. You, not someone else, will need to turn the tide so that we can all move forward together on this journey. There is no one person here who needs to be the reason that we cannot move forward. We all have a roll to play in this. There is no room for some not feeling equal on this journey. There is no space for feeling threatened on this journey. We need to do this together and all need to be in agreement as we begin this next chapter. 

So my answer to the above question is that each of us needs to step up and embrace what is close to our hearts, to feed our passion and to challenge ourselves on an individual basis (in your class) and at the same time make sure that we are supporting others' passions and methods that they are working with. (in their class) The diversity within this small school is a strength and recognizing that our variety is a greater asset than our uniformity is a valuable realization. I see us as a team where we all need to be there to play our roll, share in the victories and work through the tough times.  It becomes part of our job on this team to support and respect what others are doing and how they are doing it. We need support, we need respect and we need each other. 

It has been my good fortune to work at Appleton Village School where I have often said that I truly enjoy coming to work, to interact with you, to connect with you and for the support that you provide. This is a great little school and we need to be proud of what we do both individually and collectively, and at this time we need to be able to look each other in the eye and know that we are there for each other, that we support each other and respect each other so we may move on with this issue and together go a questing over the hills and dales of education. 

Thanks for reading and thinking.

p.s. I do not know that we need to discuss this.  I just needed to say this. It is now off my plate and can be recycled!


It was great to begin the conversation with the whole staff and school committee members present. Thank you all for the sharing and listening. 

As this conversation progresses we can see that there are many paths that it can take as it evolves and grows within our community. With this in mind I am aware that we need to both hear the various concerns and points that folks will bring to the table but that we also need to attempt to follow a path of some sort that will lead us to our desired goal. 

And what is that goal one may ask. I have been struggling to try and define it for my own thinking and it has not been easy. Hearing the conversation today helps me define this goal from my point of view. I had previously thought that we were looking for a list of priorities but this did not seem to fit for others so I am looking for a more useful way to describe this goal. Today’s conversation about promotion, relevance, time and excellence brought other ideas and perspectives to my thinking. 

With this comes more questions that need some thought:

What are you passionate about in education?  

What do we do here, or could we do here, that is outstanding, that needs to be shared, or promoted? 

In talking with folks after the meeting there were ideas of “mission statement” creation, how to do it and would it more us forward. After thinking it through and after more conversations I feel that I might not need a mission statement per se but rather have a conversation about a list of items that this staff feels are critical in our learning community. Things that we do that could be shared. Things that we are passionate about in learning. Things that we could do at AVS to continue growing a great school for our children. (Ex. Olweus Bullying program, outdoor education, creativity, experiential education, best practices, problem solvers, high test scores, thinkers, caring individuals, connection to community, environmental issues, etc.) 

So this is my newly defined goal. Let us come up with a list of  items that we feel are critical to our learning community as the education at AVS evolves with all the cultural and political changes around us. 

So what is your passion and what do you think should be on our list?

Thanks for your time and thoughts and thanks for the Wordle inspiration.

 Does this clip speak to you as we look to think about the priorities of what AVS offers our students? Would love to hear folk's reaction to this video. This video has been with me for a few years and I keep coming back to this to shake off the testing world that we work in. Can we address this issue? 
So here it is all in 5 minutes. Chris Lehmann is part of something exciting in education and this video shows why. He has the vision, energy and understanding to make a great learning setting.

What are you thoughts about this video as we think about AVS and where we could go with our leaning environment?

Over the last few days there has been plenty of traffic here on this blog.  These are topics that we feel are important and it is interesting to see how many have stopped by to read, reread, share ideas and comment from your point of view. Thanks to all for getting involved in the discussion.

 A few responses and comments from some of us:

We (the school) are the center of that entity called Appleton. Itry to understand the dollars and cents of it, but to me, the well beingof the children is the focus. My belief has always been that possibilities here are wide open. We can collaboratively build a school where excellence is the expectation. We will need to be open to new ways of thinking about and constructing the educational venue and what happens in it. I have always believed we can create a place where learning, rather than getting by, is the norm. We can build, within the existing walls, a superior learning environment, where success for students is the every day experience.  Wendy

I feel that the town of Appleton also believes that "the well being of the children is the focus" but I wonder if, as a town, we actually can fund that focus. I am hopeful that we can, which is why I am looking to get this conversation off the ground. What do we think are the priorities around education at AVS that can guide us as we begin to make some very difficult decisions for our school and community.

I especially agree with your urge to have us clarify what is really important to us at AVS, before we welcome a new principal and superintendent, whose insight and, perhaps, new ideas will be inspiring, too.  Our desire to be a 'great' school, despite our economic woes, will need to be a 'marriage' of old ways, new ways, and leadership.  We have moved in these directions before and I believe we can continue now.  Nancy

I appreciate Nancy's point that we do not need to totally overhaul things in this process and that there are many experienced parties who need to, and will be part of this activity. I hope that we can simply get to a point where we are all comfortable with the priorities and goals of our school as we move forward in these challenging times. 

I trust that others will chime in, as well.  It's time.  Mary

It is time and I am looking forward to where this may take us. 

Leave a comment here if you have ideas that you want to throw in the mix.

Photo: woodleywonderworks

At this time I am in the midst of the mid winter blues. The blog has had little action, the photos are all from the warmer fall days, and the temperatures are cold. Time to hunker down.

At this time I am working on getting material covered before the February break and I always runout of time. The school has begun looking for a new principal for next year, the budget is in the can, and these coupled with a moral adjustment that we all need has got me in a funk. 

The colds are beginning to set in for longer and longer time periods and folks are just stretching thin. Still a ways to go. 

The sun is around more than it was a month ago!

Other bright spots! The thought that we can be the force for change within the school to create a learning and teaching environment that is sustainable, successful and satisfying. The EduCon 2.2 gathering last week at the Science Leadership Academy, a public high school in Philadelphia, was a some of the finest winter blues tonic. Ten hours of great conversations around being smart, redesigning the class, redesigning the school, using technology, importance of play, schools of caring, and on and on. 76 conversations all together. A real winning combination. 

The students keep my head in the game. Marvelous work for a class using laptops to present microscope procedures. A very dry (boring) topic which most truly turned into a moment of fun, informative media. That is what keeps the winter blues at bay. Thanks. 

The Education Ideas tab of the site is a collection of resources that I am gathering in one place as I think about Appleton Village School's future and dream. Where could it go? What could it look like? How might we get there? Who will help us on this quest for education? These resources I come back to time and time again to review, to tease apart, to reassess and ultimately set off again with new ideas, a new course and possibilities.  

Photo: Horse Trailer - Eric Hart