No comment

monkey-987886_640I’ve just read a post on a blog that has comments switched off. I noticed this particularly because the topic was one that could cause some questions, debate or discussion.

This made me wonder why someone wouldn’t want comments on their blog posts. I came up with these:

  1. I’m worried that comments could be offensive or cause arguments.
  2. What I’ve said is final/right. It shouldn’t be questioned; there is no room for debate.
  3. I want to tell you what I think but I don’t want to hear your opinion.
  4. I’m too scared that someone might disagree with me.

To me, out of these, the first one is a fair concern, however, you’ve always got the option of moderating comments.

If numbers 2-4 are the reasons, then you’re not willing to be questioned, challenged, or to learn.

If you want to speak with authority, then you need to show you’re willing to back up your argument by allowing for questions and discussion, and be willing to hear alternative points of view.

Image in the public domain

The quiet learner

This post is part of the #EdBlogNZ 2016 Challenge for the bonus Leap Day challenge. The challenge was to “stretch yourself and create an audio or video post about a passion of yours”.

I have focused on being an introvert and a learner. My audio recording is below and beneath this is a transcript of the recording.

Transcript

 

introverts uniteIn a group I can feel isolated. I can feel alone.

Sometimes I can feel more alone in a group than when I’m on my own.

Words wash around me, over me, through me.

I might have something good to say. Something relevant to the conversation. But it’s too late. I didn’t speak up in time. The time has passed. The conversation has moved on.

I might be questioned on the topic. I had something to say, but now I’ve been put on the spot. My mind is blank. My thought has gone. And now I feel even more alone. People are waiting for a response and I have no words to speak.

Talk with me one on one. Give me time to think and to process and we can have an in-depth conversation. Don’t bother with small talk though, I can’t keep that up. I’ll answer your questions about the weather or about what I do. But they will be short and to the point.

Engage me with my passions and I can talk with you. In fact, I might not shut up.

You see, I’m an introvert. I value my own thoughts and my own space. I don’t need to be alone, but I don’t need constant attention.

When I was at school, I hated being put on the spot by my teachers. I might know the answer or be able to respond, but as soon as my name was called, it was gone. My stomach would start to churn. My face would go red. I appeared as if I didn’t know anything. It was unfair.

Yet, I found myself doing this as a teacher.

Why?

Because I hadn’t understood my own personality. I hadn’t understood my introversion.

I despised group activities as a student. If it was only with one other person, I could manage. But with a larger group I felt my voice could not be heard.

However, I found my way with working online. Put me in a collaborative doc, and I can contribute. My voice can be heard. Throw me into a fast-paced Twitter stream and I will love every moment. I’m in a crowded online space yet physically I’m on my own. I am happy, I am learning, I am contributing and I’m engaged.

 

Image source: Joe Wolf, Flickr – CC BY-ND 2.0

The weight of the world [A very personal post]

I’ve been considering writing a post like this for some time. It’s very personal to me. It’s not specifically about education, but I believe it’s relevant for us all.

holzfigur-980784_640

I’m living with depression. Not mine, but it’s in my house and has been affecting my life for about the past 2 years. After noticing that my wife was struggling to get things done, and was struggling to cope around people, retreating into herself, I wondered if she had depression.

A trip to the doctor. Diagnosis: Depression.

[Read a blog post from my wife about her experience, and a related poem she has written]

Medication prescribed. Assumption correct. All good right? Uh… No.

This is not the first time for her. She had depression as a teenager (before I knew her), but I had seen her go through both ante- and post-natal depression, including at one point at the same time! So I knew a little bit about the signs, but had never seen anything like this.

She was low.

Very low.

And there seemed to be nothing I could do about it.

Why? Because I didn’t understand what was going on for her. I didn’t understand that this wasn’t a feeling for her. She didn’t just feel sad or down.  It wasn’t something she could control. I couldn’t just get her gifts or do things for her, or to help her, to make her feel better about life. She would smile and appreciate what I was doing but she was still depressed and was still spiralling down further into the pit of depression.

She tried to explain to me what she was going through. I didn’t understand. She explained in other ways and while I kind of started to understand cognitively, I have not been through it myself, I don’t really understand so cannot fully empathise with her.

I learnt to give her space. That’s what she always wanted. Space from me, space from the kids, space from the whole world. She was happiest on her own, reading on her iPad or phone.

But she wasn’t happy. She was escaping. And it wasn’t people she was escaping, although that’s how it appeared. She was escaping herself and what was going on in her head.

It took me a long time to realise that. I often felt neglected. Rejected at times. From my perspective she didn’t want me around. She didn’t want the kids around. Our teenage daughter felt the same. She knew Mum was going through depression but she couldn’t help her and often felt pushed away. This has created a stronger bond between me and my daughter while I’ve tried to support her (and our other kids) through it. A positive out of quite a negative experience. The younger kids don’t really know what’s going on but there has at times had to be some careful stepping in from me to safeguard them. Not from anything dangerous, but also from the feeling of being pushed away.

My wife loves us all incredibly. There has never been any doubt. But sometimes it was hard to see. She went to huge efforts at times to show her love to us, which unfortunately cost her at times as she was then so exhausted from the effort that she ended up very low for the next few days. She tried to hide what she was going through and just keep living her life as best she could but when she did, she dropped lower and lower.

In the meantime, my teenage daughter has also been diagnosed with mild depression and was not in a good state for a while. I now have two people to support who have been diagnosed with depression. Two people who needed to feel loved, safe and secure.

The battle with depression in our house has included:

  • Isolation and loneliness for both those with and those without depression
  • Feelings of rejection
  • Suicidal thoughts / cutting
  • Lots of tears
  • Misunderstandings
  • Difficult relationships
  • A rollercoaster of emotions

It can be frightening for all involved. There are often more questions than answers.

What can I do? How can I help? Why are they so low? Why can’t they just switch it off? Why are they trying to hide it from me when I just want to help and support them? Why can’t I help them?

It’s heartbreaking to watch loved ones suffer this way and not be able to step in to help or fix it.

The weight of the world is on those suffering with depression, but in many ways it’s also on those loved ones trying to support them.

The good news?

My wife is currently much stronger than she has been in the past 2 years. Through lots of talking, discussion and tears from both her and I, we realised, only about 4-5 months ago, that one thing that wasn’t helping her was the constant feeling of not accomplishing anything during the day. She felt like she was doing so much but she could see no results from it. Nothing was quite getting completed.

The result of our discussions? A daily tasks list and a reward scheme. It seemed a bit odd to be setting this up for an adult, but what this has meant is that she has a clear plan of what needs to be accomplished every day and she doesn’t jump from one thing to the next and not finish anything. Her reward? Time out on her own. This is the thing she needs most to then be able to interact with people again, including her own family. She gets this anyway, but she appreciates being able to bank up her rewards and take a full day out if/when she needs it. Since setting this up, she has on the whole been doing much better. She’s happier with life overall and spending more time with and around people. Her medication has been changed and the dosage reduced.

I’m not trying to say that this is a magic bullet. We have other support mechanisms in place, but having this structure has contributed to helping my wife over the past few months and is now also helping my daughter (she’s trialling it).

My wife started studying again last year and is achieving well. She still has her ups and downs and we still have difficulties that we work through as best we can when they arise. It’s been a long road and continues to be one, but there seems to be a way up and out of this pit for us.


1 in every 6 New Zealanders will experience serious depression at some stage in their life.

If you think that you or someone you know is suffering from depression, get help:

Image in the public domain.

Should the Key Competencies be integrated into teacher professional learning?

10191190673_2cba7027f9_zI’ve been working on a workshop for use in a school around integrating the key competencies (KCs) into learning using digital technologies. This got me thinking about whether I should be purposefully considering the KCs in regards to teacher professional learning.

Question: Should the Key Competencies be integrated into teacher professional learning?

  • Are the KCs only relevant to school age students?
  • As a lifelong learner, shouldn’t I also be wanting to continue to develop these competencies in myself?

The Key Competencies page from the New Zealand Curriculum website states (emphasis mine):

People use these competencies to live, learn, work, and contribute as active members of their communities. More complex than skills, the competencies draw also on knowledge, attitudes, and values in ways that lead to action. They are not separate or stand-alone. They are the key to learning in every learning area.

The competencies continue to develop over time, shaped by interactions with people, places, ideas, and things.

Let’s take a look at the KCs… (all quotes below from Key Competencies page on NZC website)

Thinking

Thinking is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas. These processes can be applied to purposes such as developing understanding, making decisions, shaping actions, or constructing knowledge. Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency.

In teacher professional learning, I don’t want teachers to take everything at face value. I want them to think, to question, to critically examine what is being suggested/demonstrated. I want them to question their own ideas, beliefs, philosophies and practices. It sounds obvious, but teachers have got to continue thinking critically. It’s a part of growing professionally.

Using language, symbols, and texts

Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning of the codes in which knowledge is expressed. Languages and symbols are systems for representing and communicating information, experiences, and ideas. People use languages and symbols to produce texts of all kinds: written, oral/aural, and visual; informative and imaginative; informal and formal; mathematical, scientific, and technological.

Teachers do this daily. Not only do they support students to make meaning of the codes expressed in learning material, they also have to interpret the codes given through student body language, sometimes jumbled ideas/questions and more. In teacher professional learning it’s important for teachers to be able to make meaning of what is being shared within their own contexts for their particular group of students and their needs.

Managing self

This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners. It is integral to self-assessment.

If I’m running a teacher professional development workshop it is usually made quickly clear to me those teachers who don’t have a “can-do” attitude (at least towards the digital technology I’m using/introducing). They are nervous, and quite honestly, some of them don’t appear to see themselves as capable learners. Until now, I’ve always considered this as simply a lack of confidence but perhaps it’s more than that? It makes me wonder what I can do to help teachers manage themselves and boost their self-motivation.

Relating to others

Relating to others is about interacting effectively with a diverse range of people in a variety of contexts. This competency includes the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas.

Going into different schools is straight away putting myself in front of a “diverse range of people in a variety of contexts”. So I can see this important to me. For teachers in those settings, I guess I make that context change. Our teachers though will always have a diverse range of people in front of them and (at least) each year will have a different range of people as classes change. While the context might seem the same each year (it’s their classroom after all), the fact their is a new range of students means that the context will change. Those students have different needs and it’s so important that teachers continue to be able to relate to others.

Participating and contributing

This competency is about being actively involved in communities. Communities include family, wh?nau, and school and those based, for example, on a common interest or culture. They may be drawn together for purposes such as learning, work, celebration, or recreation. They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity to contribute appropriately as a group member, to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.

This is big for me. When in a teacher professional learning situation it is quite important that those in the room are able and willing to participate and contribute otherwise the session can fall flat very quickly. Yes, there is a need for good facilitation, but the active involvement is also critical. It’s also important that teachers don’t wall themselves off in their classroom but become involved in their school community both on campus and with the wider community. Being actively involved in subject associations, as well as professional learning networks (PLN) is so important to help ensure we continue to be lifelong learners and continue to think and question what we (and others) are doing for our students. How can we grow effectively without making those connections to others?

My challenge

So now the challenge to myself is to ensure that I purposefully consider how the KCs can be integrated into the professional learning workshops I facilitate. I need to think about how I am helping those I’m working with grow professionally.

 

Image source: Flickr – Denise Krebs CC BY 2.0

The Backwards Brain Bicycle … and change

Brain neurons
Brain neurons

I follow a YouTube channel called SmarterEveryDay. This channel contains over 100 videos of the host exploring the world through science (I’ve posted about this before: Smarter everyday). There really are some great videos included that could be useful in the classroom as well as being simply, interesting!

Last week they posted The Backwards Brain Bicycle, in which they have to learn to ride a bike where turning the handlebars to the right turned the wheel to the left and vice-versa. It made for some interesting experiences.

Watch the video here:

As well as being a potentially good resource for the classroom, this video made me think about the change process and how difficult change can be. In regards to anything we try in the classroom, often we have to push through the difficult stage until things work appropriately and try not to slip back into the comfortable what we’ve always done frame of mind. Not to say that what we’ve always done wasn’t good, but sometimes if we want to go beyond that we’ve got to step out of our comfort zone and move into the unknown. The video showed that to learn to ride the backwards bicycle took great time, effort and a rewiring of the pathways in the brain.

Bringing digital technologies into the classroom can be a bit like that. It can be easy to question why we need to use technologies when the students were already learning. But perhaps we can take things a step further using technology. There could be opportunities for further learning and creativity around a concept or topic that only a digital device can offer.

It’s not about thinking that things were already working. It’s about thinking where else can I take my students in their learning? Where else am I willing for them to take themselves?

 

Image by Fotis Bobolas – CC-BY-SA 2.0 Flickr.com 

Facebook and friends…

I’m amazed how many messages that come through on Facebook that say ‘don’t follow this person’ as they are hackers or whatever.

I decided it was time we shared a positive and I think sensible message so I created this image and shared it on Facebook. It’s nothing spectacular but I think it gives a better message than ‘don’t follow’.

staysafe1

The boy and the fly

They can fly! I thought they just disappeared!

This was the reaction my son had when he saw a fly flying for the first time. I believe he was about 5 years old and had just received a good pair of glasses (previous pairs were a lower strength in the hope that his eyes would strengthen). As far as he understood flies just disappeared. They were on the table or wall and then they vanished.

I’ve shared about my son with low vision in previous posts, but I was thinking about him again in terms of perspective and realities. My son, before he had a good pair of glasses had a different reality to the rest of us. This was quite a revelation to my wife and I and it really put things in perspective for us.

This was his reality. It made sense to him because that’s what he observed. It makes you think.