They Ask Me Why I Teach

Posted in Uncategorized on September 26th, 2016 by dkerr

So I had to deal with a few situations last week that truly made me appreciate being an educator, and that made me feel honored to have the opportunity to interact with young people each and every day. Most of the issues revolved around students who had made bad decisions, or who had made a big enough mistake that it warranted a hard conversation. Anyway, reflecting back on these interactions, I found that they were easily the best part of my week, as they reminded me why I love education so much…being with kids!

 

Having the opportunity to speak to students who have made bad decisions and mistakes is one of the best parts of the job in my opinion, because it’s then that you can really teach, and mentor, and get kids to become better versions of themselves. The mistakes that kids make are where the beauty of adolescence lies, and to have the opportunity to help guide a child through their formative years, which is at times hard for every child, is a true gift that educators have been given. That said, it is remarkable to me that with every conversation that I have with a student around making better choices, I am reminded so much about life and what education is all about, which is that the most precious and most teachable moments often happen outside of the academic classroom.

 

Teaching kids to be better human beings, and to learn from their mistakes, so that they can become better each and every day is the good stuff, and if we approach these opportunities with the right mindset and attitude then we can change and truly impact a young person’s life in immeasurable ways…and we get to learn about ourselves in the process. It’s easy to quickly go straight to the discipline approach, or to frame the conversation around consequences, but then we miss out on what’s really important, which is the learning. I always walk away from one of these conversations changed for the better, and with a deeper appreciation of the student who is with me at the time. Kids make mistakes, we all do, but it’s how we approach the outcome that makes all the difference. No other profession has the opportunity that we have, and it’s beautiful. How fortunate are we to be doing what we’re doing? How fortunate are we to be spending our days with kids? We get to be mentors and role models and we get to learn from the best teachers on the planet…our students. 

 

It all reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Glennice L. Harmon, which brings to life the reason why we all do what we do…we get to spend our days with young people, and like she says, where could you find more splendid company? Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

 

They Ask me why I Teach

Glennice L. Harmon

 

They ask me why I teach

And I reply, “Where could I find more splendid company?”

There sits a statesman,

Strong, unbiased, wise,

Another later Webster

Silver-tongued.

And there a doctor

Whose quick, steady hand

Can mend a bone or stem the lifeblood’s flow.

A builder sits beside him — 

Upward rise the arches of that church he builds wherein

That minister will speak the word of God,

And lead a stumbling soul to touch the Christ.

And all about

A lesser gathering

Of farmers, merchants, teachers,

Laborers, men

Who work and vote and build

And plan and pray into a great tomorrow.

And, I say,

“I may not see the church,

Or hear the word,

Or eat the food their hands will grow.

And yet — I may.

And later I may say,

“I knew the lad, and he was strong,

Or weak, or kind, or proud

Or bold or gay.

I knew him once,

But then he was a boy.

They ask my why I teach and I reply,

“Where could I find more splendid company?”

 

Quote of the Week…

Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops – Henry Brooks Adams

 

The Power of Great Teachers Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebN9VocKiyg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN3iLeq1828

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypFRxw9czi4

 

The Power of a Great Teacher Articles –

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104136/chapters/The-Power-of-an-Effective-Teacher-and-Why-We-Should-Assess-It.aspx

http://www.edutopia.org/teachers-power-shape-lives

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/06/06/anne-lamott-stitches-teachers/

A Week Without Walls

Posted in Uncategorized on September 19th, 2016 by dkerr
        So for the past two weeks, our middle and high school students (and many of our teachers) have been off discovering different parts of Ecuador through our outdoor education program here at AC. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with the middle school kids last week in two different locations, and to tell you the truth I was really inspired by what I saw. Our students were working tirelessly doing meaningful service projects for the local communities, as well as coming together as grade levels through team building and trust activities. They bonded as a group, they made new friends, the got pushed out of their comfort zones, and they learned a lot about themselves…it was amazing. It left me wondering why we don’t do this for more than just 5 days a year honestly, as it seems to me that these trips might just be the most profound learning that our kids will experience all year. I love the quote below by Walt Whitman because it gets to the core of what I believe in as an educator, which is that not everything that our children need to learn can be taught in a formal classroom setting.

        In my opinion, students at this Upper School age need to learn about and internalize the importance of things like trust, service, cultural awareness, environmental stewardship, risk taking, failure, teamwork, and a host of other life skills that will shape who they are, and how they view the world as they meander toward adulthood. Obviously, the best and most profound way to teach and learn these skills is through direct experience, which is why it is so important that we provide opportunities for students, like our Discover Ecuador Trips, where these kinds of experiences can be embraced. I also firmly believe that due to the somewhat sheltered, privileged, and pampered environments that many quality International Schools provide for kids (like ours), breaking students out of their comfort zones (no 5 star hotels, nobody picking up after them, next to no technology, room sharing, getting wet and dirty, trying new foods, giving their time to service, etc..) is an educational responsibility that we all share as a global community.

 

Inevitably, students return from these trips changed for the better (whether they like it or not)……..better attitudes and perspectives about themselves and their community, better cultural awareness and understanding, better relationships with their teachers and peers, and a better sense of what they can accomplish as young adults. Teachers also return from these trips changed for the better…… a better understanding of their individual students as people, better relationships with students who they don’t necessarily teach, better relationships with their colleagues who they rarely see outside of the school walls, and a better perspective on what’s possible when their kids are pushed past their levels of comfort. I cannot wait to hear the stories, the celebrations, and the life anecdotes that have been generated from this remarkable week away, and I cannot wait to see the positive changes in our kids. It was a wonderful way to begin our school year, and I think it’s time to think critically about how we can bring more experiences like this to life throughout the year. Seriously, if the learning is so rich and meaningful, and the service to our local communities is so impactful, then the question remains…why only 5 days?

 

Finally, I want to thank all of our teachers who spent these past two weeks with our kids. I know the hard work that is involved with trips like these, and the energy it takes to be with our students for 24 hours a day. You truly are mentors, guardians, and change agents for our young adults, and I could not be more proud of you all…thank you! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 


Quote of the week….

Now I see the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.
– Walt Whitman

 

Funny Commercial about Nature – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=70&v=Bf5TgVRGND4

 
TED Talks –http://www.ted.com/talks/emma_marris_nature_is_everywhere_we_just_need_to_look_for_it

http://www.ted.com/talks/john_francis_walks_the_earth

http://www.ted.com/talks/yann_arthus_bertrand_captures_fragile_earth_in_wide_angle

 

Outdoor Education Articles – 

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-benefits-of-outdoor-education-michael-becker

https://www.whatihavelearnedteaching.com/5-benefits-outdoor-education/

https://smartmom.co/outdoor-education/

Students Leading Change

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12th, 2016 by dkerr

So we are about 6 weeks away from hosting a regional GIN conference here at Academia Cotopaxi, and it’s exciting to think about the opportunity that we have to inspire our students around the planet’s most important issues. We’ve been trying hard of late to build and grow a culture around the idea of service, and to empower our students to think of themselves as true agents of change for our local and global community. In an effort to dig deep into this, we’ve created a specific GIN elective class this year for Middle School kids, who are excited to lead some powerful initiatives around several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which we’ve been breaking down over the past couple of weeks in class. The best part about this class for me personally is that I get to co-teach it, and watching the students think critically about their ideas, their projects, and their passions each day leaves me incredibly inspired and hopeful.

 

The students have already identified a few specific areas of need for our local community, and now they are ready to bring their projects to life. By working through the design thinking process, and by coming up with their own authentic and complex driving questions, and by following their specific passions, each group is truly leading their own learning…and the absolute engagement that I see each and every day is a beautiful thing to be a part of. We have groups that are tackling issues around gender equality, hunger, health and well-being, clean water and sanitation, reduced inequalities, and quality education, and the ideas are coming fast and furious. These groups are a multi-grade level mix, which provides so many opportunities for collaboration around student passions, and mentorship/leadership  opportunities for all of the kids regardless of age.

 

Last week we had our students prioritize the 17 UN goals, and the conversations and debates around which goal should be the world’s top priority was fascinating…kids lobbying to end poverty and hunger as the best first step, only to be challenged by other kids who were adamant that climate action and reduced inequalities were the way to go. I just sat back and listened to the rich and thoughtful conversations, and marveled at the level of maturity and higher level thinking that our middle school kids were producing…it felt like a high school theory of knowledge class honestly, and I just kept thinking that this is student learning at it’s finest.

 

The kids are now in the beginning stages of identifying teacher mentors, and community experts, and field trips, and solutions to their driving questions. One group has already begun work with our language center to bring Quito’s first true lending library to life, and the incredible change that these kids will help inspire with regards to literacy in our local community will be immeasurable…and that’s just one of the projects! Anyway, as we draw closer to the conference date, I want to ask you all to think of ways to help build a culture of service and action in all of our students. How can your individual classes contribute to this cause, and how can you help lead? Our student leaders will be coming around shortly looking for ways to bring you all authentically into the conference conversation in one way or another, so start thinking about how you can use this opportunity to empower your beautiful kids. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

       

 
 
Quote of the Week…
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children – Native American Proverb
Articles/Websites – 
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/03/160327-wilson-half-planet-conservation-climate-change-extinction-ngbooktalk/
http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/green-living/planet-friendly-tips/home-1
http://wwf.panda.org/how_you_can_help/campaign/plant_seed/
http://www.savingtheplanet.tv/
http://www.exploringabroad.com/travel-resources/environmental-organizations
The Lorax – The Last Tree Falls
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh31x2VICgc
Interesting Videos –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHnIJeE3LAI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8osYLeLTXE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRLJscAlk1M
Great TED Talks –
http://www.ted.com/playlists/342/talks_on_water
http://www.ted.com/playlists/151/earth_appreciated

5 Things I love…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5th, 2016 by dkerr
        So we’re two weeks into the new school year and I feel really good. The first couple of weeks sets the tone for the year in so many ways, and getting off to a positive start is so important when framing the attitude and experience of both teachers and students as the weeks begin to roll on. I spent a lot of time over the past 10 days thinking about what it is that I truly love about the beginning of a new year, and I came up with a quick top 5 list that I would like to share. Feel free to add to this list from your own perspective, so together we can celebrate the beauty and opportunity that a new school year brings to us all…here we go.
        1. The Arrival – I’m not sure there is a better day in the year than the first day of school. Don’t get me wrong, I love summer holidays as much as the rest of you but there comes a time when I really start to miss the kids. Standing there in the courtyard and waiting for the buses to arrive is so exciting for me, and when I see them spill out of the doors my heart almost bursts with excitement. I love watching them re-connect with their friends, and I love how eager, nervous, excited, and anxious they all are to begin this new chapter in their lives. There’s no better feeling in the world than when a student runs up and embraces you in a hug and starts telling you all about their summer adventures. It always brings me back to why I love teaching so much, and it makes me wonder how and why other people choose to do something else with their lives. I don’t understand how someone would want to do something else besides spending their days with kids…strange.
        2. The Relationships – I love walking around during recess and lunch and watching our kids interact with each other. It’s amazing to watch the new friendships form, and the old friendships deepen, and to witness those courageous interactions when kids put themselves out there to try and fit in. I love popping into classrooms and watching how hard our teachers are working to give our kids the start that they deserve, and the effort that they are making to build that ever so important relationship foundation which will carry them through the year. Finally, what is more inspiring than watching a student walk over to a new kid who is nervously sitting alone, and sit down next to them with a smile…or to ask them to join their table group. I’ve seen this a lot over the past two weeks at our school and it makes me ridiculously proud. I’ve seen teachers do the same as well, and it brings me back to what is really important in education…the relationships.
        3. The Collaboration – In many ways, the start of a new year brings out the best in educators. I find so much joy in watching (and taking part) in the collaborative conversations that happen throughout the school days all around how to set up the best possible situations for student learning to blossom. I listen to conversations around formative assessments, and peer and self assessments, and learning targets, and data analysis, and around finding ways for students to own their own learning, and around inquiry, and personalized learning and extensions/interventions for kids, and all the rest…and it’s awesome. We are so much stronger as a school when we work together for the betterment of OUR kids, and watching these collaborative sessions truly makes me smile. I love how open we all are to push in to each other’s rooms, and to team teach, and to work together to find ways to engage students…and to inspire them to learn.
        4. The Struggle – I love watching kids struggle a little bit, and get pushed out of their comfort zones. I love watching the messiness of adolescence and the growth that happens when kids make mistakes. I love watching kids take risks and fail…and succeed, and I love how a new school year brings all of that out in kids in very profound ways. The beginning of a new school year is hard for kids as they transition to new grade levels and encounter new and scary situations. New teachers, new expectations, new classmates, new learning, and new developmental curiosities. The beauty of school, and being young and growing, is this struggle and watching it unfold before our eyes is a gift that never stops giving. A young person’s life burns so bright, and this burning is on display every second of every day…it’s beautiful if you take the time to become a part of it. Real learning often happens outside of the classroom with kids, and as educators we have the incredible opportunity to teach, to learn, and to be role models as our kids struggle to find out who they can be for our world.
        5. Turning the Corner – There comes a time when the “start of the year” is officially over, and we fall into our daily routines. Kids and teachers turn the corner so to speak, and we find a certain level of comfort with our days. Relationships have been formed, schedules have been memorized, expectations have been set, and we move on to the work that lies ahead. We begin to dig deep into the curriculum, we have accessed prior knowledge, we have a sense of where to go with each student, and we begin to settle into the year. This often happens after the second or third week in my experience, and it’s a good feeling…especially if the first two weeks have gone according to plan. It feels good to be in this place honestly, and for us it finishes with the Back to School night with our parents this week. We get to showcase our programs and celebrate the work that we’ve done to make this our best year yet. There is such a positive feeling when you turn the corner successfully, and I’m proud to say that we’re almost there. Now it’s just a matter of keeping that positive feeling going, and sustaining that outstanding effort as we speed toward autumn…that’s certainly a lot easier when the first two or three weeks of the year have been amazing…and for us they definitively have been that!
Have a wonderful week everyone and send me a few more reasons why you love the start of a new school year…I’d love to hear them. Remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
        Quote of the Week…
The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows – Sydney J. Harris
        Inspiring Videos –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiCAMa65_JE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNRldP18bH8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miPYLJI247g
        Great TED Talk –
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jdTtnWMLVM
        Good Articles to Frame Your Year –
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept08/vol66/num01/Joy-in-School.aspx
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/classroom_qa_with_larry_ferlazzo/2016/08/response_begin_the_new_school_year_with_a_positive_mindset.html
http://thoughtcatalog.com/ayodeji-awosika/2015/06/8-reasons-you-should-learn-to-love-learning/
http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/are-you-ready-new-school-year

Everybody Leads…

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29th, 2016 by dkerr

So we have had an amazing start to the school year, and I couldn’t be more proud of our teachers, students and staff. It has been inspiring to see the attention that everyone has given to the relationship building piece, and truly heartwarming to see the tremendous effort that has been given to ensure that each and every one of our students has had a wonderful start to the year…it has been beautiful to watch. Our “all hands on deck” approach this last week really got me thinking about what true leadership is, and how we all have the power and opportunity to lead our students, each other and our community forward in our own unique ways. Leadership is not about position or title, it is about inspiring those around you to do, and to be better. I saw this in very tangible ways last week and I’m excited to see it continue throughout the year.

 

I love the quote by John Quincy Adams, which essentially says that to be a leader your actions must inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more…and I couldn’t agree more! Leadership, in one form or another lies down deep in all of us, and once we recognize/internalize this, and find a way to share it with the world, our lives and the lives of those around us will be profoundly impacted for the better. All that said, I think one of the biggest opportunities that we have as educators is to bring out and foster this leadership potential in our students. 

 

        Of all the amazing acts of leadership that I witnessed over the past few days in our school, some of the most inspiring came from our kids. From leading our house system games and cheers, to sitting with other students who were all by themselves at lunch or in the playground, and by actively seeking out our new kids who are going through the scary and intimidating act of transitioning to a new school, our kids in many instances have been showing us the way. Many times when schools look for ways to improve their community and culture they neglect to look for, ask for, or listen to, the input of their student body. I don’t want to be one of those schools. I want to bring our school mission to life, and truly “inspire ethical and empathetic student leaders”. We have outstanding students and student leaders here, and if we find ways to let our kids lead with us then we can achieve anything. If last week was any indication, it truly is the students who have the power to take our community where it needs to go. It was a telling reminder to me that just when we thought we had all of the answers as educated adults, the true inspiration often lies with the kids!

 

        Anyway, I think it’s important to spread the mantra of “everybody leads” throughout our school, and to make a concerted effort to be the leaders that we can be for our students on a daily basis, and to inspire the same with our kids. Leadership is not something that is set aside for the few, or for the ones who have specific titles, it is something that is in all of us, ready to be shared through our daily interactions with everyone and anyone that we come in contact with. I’m challenging you this year to embrace your inner leader, and to find ways to inspire others simply by being the person that you are. We had an amazing first week, and there’s no reason why we can’t make every week just like that.. You see, everybody has the power to lead in our school, and together we can transform our community in incredible ways. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be leaders for our kids and good to each other. 
Quote ​of the Week…

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader — John Quincy Adams

 

Leadership Articles/websites –

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/archived-issues.aspx

http://www.studentleadershipchallenge.com

http://teachforall.org/en/1000studentleadersabout

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/artificial-maturity/201402/is-everyone-leader

http://sourcesofinsight.com/everyone-is-a-leader/

 

Greatness – David Marquet

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqmdLcyES_Q

 

Great TED Talks on Leadership –

http://www.ted.com/playlists/140/how_leaders_inspire

 

School of Rock – Classroom Leadership

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMvpJDbWX_c

Searchlight Souls

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22nd, 2016 by dkerr

So there is nothing more exciting to me in my life than the first day of a new school year. Watching the kids spill off of the buses with wide eyes and nervous energy is an experience that never gets old, and one that fills me with so many deep emotions. I literally cannot wait to see the kids, and their smiles, and to share in their joy as they wonder about the year that lies ahead. The beginning of a new school year is such an opportunity, and such a clean slate for all kids, and every single one of our students comes filled with a little anxiety but a whole lot of hope as they enter into their new classrooms for the first time. The first day of school will set the tone for the year in many ways, and the responsibility that we have as educators to inspire our kids and to give them the start that they have been dreaming about is immense. We’ve all been working so hard to prepare for that first day…setting up our teaching spaces, preparing the first units and lessons of the year, finalizing the last few facility jobs from the summer projects, and meeting in teams to go over the year’s expectations and initiatives. None of this however, comes close to the real work that needs to be done once the kids arrive on Tuesday morning…the work of building strong and lasting relationships, which is the true foundation for any significant learning experience.

 

I remember when I was doing my practice teaching all those years ago, my mentor teacher (Mrs. Arbuckle) told me two things that have stuck with me throughout my career. Two things that have shaped who I have become as an educator, and two things that inspire me each morning as I walk through the school gates. The first thing, which she drilled into my head over and over again, was her belief that the true measure of any educator can be found in the relationships that they develop with their most difficult students. I watched intently every day as she found ways to connect with, care for, and love every single one of her kids, especially the ones who were the most challenging. She loved her students like they were her own, and she went above and beyond to find out who they were as young people…their hopes, their dreams, their strengths and weaknesses, their passions, and how they best learn as individuals. It was amazing for me to learn that teaching isn’t really about delivering a lesson or imparting knowledge to kids, it is about getting them to see the beauty and potential that lies within themselves, and getting them to recognize that same beauty and potential in others…it is only then she said when students can be truly open and ready to deeply learn. The first day of the year is when these relationships begin, so think hard about how you’ll greet and engage your kids when you see them for the first time…spend the better part of your first days and weeks developing the relationships in your room, as there is no better foundation to set to inspire learning.

 

The second thing that she told me, which I take with me everyday both inside and outside of the school, is that the most important job of an educator (and as a human being for that matter) is to be a searchlight soul for others, especially kids. She described a searchlight soul as a person who finds ways each and every day to be a mentor, an advocate, a counselor, and a surrogate mother/father to every kid that they come across. A person who actively seeks out those kids who are struggling in some way, or sitting alone, or making bad decisions, or finding it difficult to engage with others, or the kids who don’t do traditional school well and are unique in their approach to life. Not only is a searchlight soul teacher a beacon for a struggling student, and someone who students can trust in even the most difficult situations, but a teacher who purposely goes out of their way to be on the look out for struggling kids…and not just their own. We  all get caught up in our days, and in our jobs, and it is very, very easy to forget to pay attention to what’s going on around us with our kids. Every second of every day kids struggle with their relationships with their peers, and with their self confidence and self esteem, and with their body image, and with how they put themselves out there for others. It is up to us as educators to be watching for this intently so our kids know that they are constantly being looked out for. I’m asking us all this year to be searchlight souls for our kids, and  mentors/advocates who never take a break from looking to change a child’s day for the better. 

 

I love the beginning of a new school year, and I’m ridiculously excited about tomorrow’s new family orientation. It’s a chance to meet our new kids and to inspire them with the knowledge that they are now a part of an amazing school community. Then comes Tuesday morning when they all arrive, and I am so eager to pass out all of the hugs that I’ve been saving up over the past 6 weeks. It’s going to be an incredible day. Remember everyone, it’s all about relationships…with our kids, with each other, and with everyone that we come across. We are all the weather for those around us, and together we can make this the best year in the lives of our students. Have a fantastic start to the school year everyone, and remember to be searchlight souls for our kids…and good to each other!

 

Quote of the week…

You only learn from those you love – Goethe

 

Watch/Read these!

http://www.ted.com/playlists/400/how_to_be_a_good_mentor

http://www.upworthy.com/what-a-tube-of-toothpaste-can-teach-us-about-the-power-of-words?c=hpstream

http://www.upworthy.com/i-wrote-an-article-about-my-4th-grade-teacher-and-it-helped-me-find-him?c=tpstream

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91XDjGmalYk&index=2&list=PLzvRx_johoA908V5XG7r5wj2f3e9cqzZ5

 

The Power of Relationships –

http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/105124/chapters/Developing_Positive_Teacher-Student_Relations.aspx

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/importance-teaching-through-relationships-stacey-goodman

http://www.parentingscience.com/student-teacher-relationships.html

http://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/185/The-Power-of-Positive-Relationships.aspx

Summer Sun…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12th, 2016 by dkerr
        So here we are staring down the final four and a half days of the school year, and before we all head off to soak up that summer sun I want to take this chance to say thank you. The work that you have all put in to make us a better school over the past ten months has been staggering, and I want you to know that I recognize and appreciate your commitment, your effort, and your passion. This has been a year of change for us in many ways, and much of the transformative work that has been introduced is starting to take shape, and it’s all because of you. I feel honored and privileged and very, very proud to work alongside you on this journey, and I have become a better person, leader and educator because of what you bring to our students and to our surrounding community each and everyday…thank you!
        I wrote a post around this time last year all about the opportunity that we all have over the summer holiday to reflect, and to emerge in August a better version of ourselves. Not only is the summer break a chance to relax and recharge, it’s also a chance to grow and to critically think about ways that we can all improve our practice. I’d like to share again a piece of what I wrote last June as I believe it’s a good message to chew on as you chase your upcoming adventures…
        As you’re sitting on the deck of your cottage, or swimming in the lake, or playing a leisurely round of golf, or even engaging in some summer professional development, I’m asking that you think about the ways that you can emerge from your well-deserved holiday a better version of yourself. What are the areas of your life, and your teaching that need a bit of a push…are there ways that you can enhance your lesson planning and delivery…are there ways that you can build stronger relationships with your students, particularly the ones that you find the most difficult to engage…are there ways that you can become a better teacher leader…are there ways that you can push yourself out of your comfort zone and take more risks…are there ways that you can become a better teammate and colleague…and are there ways that you can become more innovative in your approach to instruction? My bet is that the answer is yes to most if not all of these questions, and the challenge that I’m giving to you is to not just think about them, but to act on them, and come back in August armed with concrete ways to make next year the best year of your professional life. There are many educators out there that get so comfortable and complacent in their job that they end up delivering the same year over and over again, and the only thing that changes are the beautiful and eager faces in front of them…don’t be that educator. 
 
        We have a busy week ahead of us as we speed toward the end, and I’m asking you all to finish strong, and to make this a week that our beautiful kids will remember. The last week of the year can be a very emotional time for students as you know…and for us too. Saying goodbye to leaving friends and families is hard, and couple that with the excitement around the upcoming holiday and emotions can start to overflow. Please keep a close eye on how our kids are doing this week, and be there for them…let’s be there for each other as well. The incredible work that you’ve put in this year to build strong and lasting relationships will pay off this week, so be present and make Friday’s send off a positive experience full of love, smiles, and heartfelt gratitude. Enjoy this beautiful summer poem by Carl Sandburg, and enjoy that beautiful summer sun that’s beginning to rise…all my positive thoughts and energy to those of you moving on, and for those of you returning, Im excited to do it all again next year. Have an amazing holiday everyone…you all deserve it!
 

Summer Stars – Carl Sandburg       

         

Bend low again, night of summer stars. 

So near you are, sky of summer stars,

So near, a long-arm man can pick off stars,

Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl, 

So near you are, summer stars, So near, strumming, strumming,

So lazy and hum-strumming.

 

 
 

Quote of the Week…

I wonder what it would be like to Iive in a world where it was always June.
– L.M. Montgomery
 
Related Articles and Resources- 
http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/50-top-sources-to-become-a-better-teacher/
http://www.edutopia.org/discussion/heart-teaching-what-it-means-be-great-teacher
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZTlJAS8_gE
http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2015/06/09/3-thing-you-can-do-this-summer.html
http://teach.com/who/great-teachers-have-goals

Bring Learning to Life…

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30th, 2016 by dkerr
        So recently I have had the absolute privilege and pleasure of watching our students showcase their learning in many different ways, and in many different forms. To watch kids put their talents, their hard work, their passions, and their learning on display is easily my favourite thing to do as an educator, and it always brings me back to the paramount importance of finding ways for all our students to make their learning visible for themselves and for others.
        It’s essential in my opinion for schools to set up opportunities for students to creatively show what they know, and to design performance tasks and performance assessments which will allow for all students to bring their passions and their learning to life. Here’s just a small sample of the kinds of things that I’ve watched over the past several weeks…
Spring Music Concerts
PYP Exhibition of Learning (Grade 5)
Middle School Poetry Slam
Middle School Social Studies Mock Trials
PYP Attributes of a Learner Assembly (Reflection) 
Middle School Science Project Showcase
Student Council Elections
Design Thinking Unit Showcase
Middle School Student Math Games Fair
Project Based Learning Unit Culminations
Drama Performance of The Witches
School Wide and Local Community Student Art Displays
Soccer and Basketball Championship Games
International Festival Cultural Performances
After School Activities End of Season Jamborees
Student Inspiration Projects 
        These performance opportunities not only allow students to profoundly learn for themselves, but to profoundly learn from each other as well. They engage in real world problems, they demonstrate a process, and they actively engage in their learning. By allowing for alternate assessment opportunities like these, students get the chance to showcase their learning in so many different ways, and in many different real life situations. These often push students out of their comfort zones, and encourage risk taking and reflection, which are exactly the types of learning experiences that schools should be promoting throughout the learning environment.
        I’ve loved the last several weeks here at our school, and I’m proud of our teachers for giving our kids these rich, performance-based opportunities. I’ve seen so much growth in so many areas from our kids over the past few months, which I wouldn’t have seen if they didn’t get the chance to publicly showcase their learning. If anything, I’m left wondering how we can create even more opportunities like these for our kids, and not necessarily wait for the end of quarter or the end of the semester or for the end of the year. Let’s all think of ways that we can make the learning of our kids visible throughout all of next year, and to create a culture where active learning and performance learning is at the absolute forefront of what we do. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

An acre of performance is worth a whole world of promise – William Dean Howells
Related Articles – 
http://www.brilliant-insane.com/2015/02/6-ways-make-learning-visible.html
http://www.pz.harvard.edu/resources/visible-learners-promoting-reggio-inspired-approaches-in-all-schools
http://gettingsmart.com/2013/12/performance-assessment/
http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/readit/readit051.shtml
http://www.fortheteachers.org/creative-ways-to-show-what-you-know/
Great Related TED Talks – 
http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_cameron_tedxyyc
http://www.ted.com/talks/miwa_matreyek_s_glorious_visions
http://www.ted.com/talks/black_my_journey_to_yo_yo_mastery
 
Feel Good Videos – 
https://www.upworthy.com/after-getting-sick-this-15-year-old-missed-her-favorite-band-until-they-surprised-her?c=pop
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQ3k6BFX2uw
https://www.upworthy.com/a-10-year-old-gets-the-birthday-of-a-lifetime-after-no-one-says-theyre-coming?c=tpstream

Student Appreciation Week

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16th, 2016 by dkerr
        So this past week a friend of mine shared a beautiful little story with me. He was running late for work one morning because his brother was staying with him along with his niece and nephew, and his morning routine was thrown out of whack…when he checked the clock and saw what time it was he frantically yelled to his wife from the crowded breakfast table, “Honey, hurry up…we’re not going to catch the ferry!”. Hearing this, his little six year old niece looked up at him with astonishment, excitement, and hope and exclaimed, “Wait a minute, you can catch fairies!!??”
        Well, not only did this story put a small lump in my throat, it also got me thinking about the beauty and innocence of children, and how if you really think about it, it’s children (all the way up to our graduating seniors) who are the world’s greatest teachers. You see, as educators most of us (if not all of us) got into this amazing profession because we wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of kids, and to play our part in shaping and inspiring their individual futures as well as the future of our world…and you know what, we do this everyday. Teachers work incredibly hard and are easily my favourite people on the planet, and they deserve to be recognized way more than they are but here’s the thing…when I really think about it, the best part of being a teacher and the true secret behind why we love it so much is that we may just get more out of this then we put in. Here’s what I mean…
        When I think about how much I’ve given to kids over the past 20 years or so, all over the world and all across the grade levels, I honestly don’t think it adds up to what my students have given to me. If I think of all the incredible life lessons that I’ve learned over the years, and all of the magical moments in my life, and the best belly laughs, and the person and leader and father that I’ve become, it’s all because of what I’ve learned from children. Their innocence and honesty, their willingness to shake off mistakes and try again, their ten-foot tall and bulletproof approach to life, and their ability to live truly in the present…all of the things that go into making a beautiful life…teachers get a chance to see this every second of everyday, and if we are worth our salt, it reminds us and inspires us to live this way ourselves, and to be this way for others.
        I don’t think we recognize enough the immense and immeasurable and beautiful contribution that children give to our world, and the positive effect that they have on us as adults. I think we all too often see ourselves as the keepers of the knowledge, and the ones who are going to make everything okay in the world but we might just be getting this backwards…I think that every school in the world should plan a student appreciation week for next year, much like our annual teacher appreciation weeks, where we spend 5 days (not nearly enough) doing nothing but thanking, celebrating, and recognizing all that our students give to us! It wouldn’t be hard at all to plan, and it would be super fun to get creative with it, but the message would be the right one to send. Field days, pizza parties, teachers serving kids breakfast and lunch, giving kids loads of time to research and share their passions during the day, and a beginning and end of the week assembly to bookend this incredible week…it’s crazy that we haven’t been doing this all along.
        So, as you’re planning next year’s calendar, take a second to think about who really and truly needs to be celebrated in your communities…the kids…and set aside some time for you to give them what they deserve. We don’t do this enough and there’s no better time to start than now. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week….
You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest…being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing.
– Natalie Babbit
Related Articles –
http://glad.is/article/10-reasons-kids-are-the-best-teachers/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jocelyn-kelley/10-life-lessons-you-can-learn-from-children_b_5014547.html
https://www.quora.com/What-can-adults-learn-from-children
http://www.localparent.ca/local_parent/blogs/kristi-prince-naturopath/mindfulness/
http://www.mindfulnessstudies.com/unlearning-busyness/
Feel Good Videos – 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLKlZYxXcl0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A-Egp0lECk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUQR5eMyp9U&list=PLEb3ThbkPrFYcsA7NXKOk4DhT_MQpNAjw&index=15
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsrV9FP_JKE&list=PLEb3ThbkPrFYcsA7NXKOk4DhT_MQpNAjw&index=33
http://www.wimp.com/teacher-writes-inspirational-notes-on-students-desks-before-exams/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=story/

Sustainability and Service

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1st, 2016 by dkerr
        So next October we will host a regional GIN (Global Issues Network) conference at our school, and the opportunity that this affords us is immeasurable. It’s an opportunity to deeply inspire our students and our surrounding community around the world’s biggest and most important issues like sustainability and service, which will hopefully transform not only how we educate our kids, but how we live our day to day lives.
        We’ve already been working hard to find solutions to important local and global issues through our ongoing curriculum units, which use a design thinking process and a project based learning approach, and this year our Grade 5 PYP exhibition of learning is focused on how student passions can be leveraged to make our world a better place. The trick however, is how to make this approach to sustainability and service well…sustainable! 
        We’ve had wonderful student led initiatives over the past several years here at school, and we’ve had incredible student leaders who have been working tirelessly to bring their passions for creating a sustainable world to life around our campus…but we just haven’t yet been able to turn the corner and create a culture of service and sustainability that is pervasive throughout all that we do…we’re getting there however.
        We’re hoping that the momentum that has been generated lately through our community service expectation in the Middle School, the amazing support that we’ve seen from our entire community following the recent earthquake, and the 85 students who have asked to join our new GIN elective for next year in the Upper School, will finally be the tipping point for us…this momentum, coupled with the hosting of the conference and our recent partnerships with other local international schools, makes me feel optimistic that the fabric of our school is about to change…forever.
        Giving our students the opportunity to impact meaningful change for their futures, and finding ways to make their learning relevant to their lives right now is our ultimate goal…and having kids think critically about ways that they can positively contribute to the betterment of our world is a huge focus for us…and they are responding incredibly well. I couldn’t be more proud of our students and our teachers for taking on this challenge, and for the ease in which they have been changing their mindsets around what is truly important in education…kids owning their learning and being true difference makers for their futures and for our world!
        I’m excited about the direction that we’re headed as a school, and I feel like we’re on the road to affecting incredible change as an international school community in our collective approach to sustainability and service…it all begins with our students as you know, so keep finding ways for them to lead the way. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our world and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…..
It’s not too late at all.  You just don’t yet know what you are capable of – Mahatma Gandhi