A Lesson in Perspective (Happy Holidays)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10th, 2017 by dkerr

 

So it’s a busy time of the year as we speed toward the holiday break, and it can seem a little overwhelming at times I know. With comment writing and reports, holiday concerts and performances, final summative assessments and feedback, end of semester parent and student meetings, recruiting conversations, and all the rest…it’s sometimes hard to keep the right perspective with regards to what’s really, truly important at this time of the year. When there is so much on our plates these days, it’s very easy to lose sight of how magical the month of December can be, and sometimes it takes something small to snap you back to the absolute beauty of this holiday season.

 

For me, that little something small came walking into my office on Thursday morning of this past week, and delivered to me a much needed lesson in perspective. I was standing at my desk, hammering through email, and lamenting the fact that there was no way that I was going to get through my to-do list for the rest of the week, when a smiley and spirited little girl came bouncing in through the door and asked, “Hey, Mr. Kerr, what are you doing, writing your list to Santa? I already wrote mine but my Mom says it’s too long but I don’t think so because I’ve been really good to my brothers and I sometimes clean my room and make my own breakfast…what are YOU asking for?” Well, the cuteness of that moment stopped me in my tracks, and literally made me laugh out loud with the quick realization that my perceived troubles and anxiety over work, and how seriously I was taking life and myself in the moment right before she walked in was borderline ridiculous. So I stepped out from behind my desk, and sat down at the conference table with her to go through my Santa list…it was the best 10 minutes that I have spent all semester.

 

As we were talking (mostly about her list as it turned out) I came to realize that what she was most excited about were the gifts and cards that she had made for her family. She very maturely told me that, “you know what Mr. Kerr, I love getting presents but I think that I like giving presents more…it makes me feel really good, like how Santa must feel when he gives presents, but his job must be so hard because there are a lot of people in the world who are good you know”. I agreed that Santa’s job must be hard, and yes, there are lots of good people in the world, and all the while I felt like my heart was about to burst out of my chest. Anyway, she bounded away just as quickly as she arrived, and she left me there smiling and happy and very much re-calibrated for the day. A must needed lesson in perspective from one of our world’s greatest teachers…a child.

 

She reminded me of what I love most about this time of the year…the opportunities that we all have to give of ourselves to others, to reconnect with the people that we love, to reflect on the year that was, and to recharge and refocus for the upcoming year ahead. We also get a chance over the next couple of weeks to share a little holiday cheer with others, and to spread some of that holiday magic around to everyone we come in contact with, especially our students! I want to casually remind you all of the beauty of this time of the year, and with less than two weeks to go, I’m asking that you take some time over the next several days to slow down and to take a breath, and soak up all the positive energy that is spilling out from our students, and from each other…..let’s smile a bit more, give out a few more hugs, and spread that holiday magic around!

 

Remember as well to keep your perspective everyone…it’s busy I know, and with what’s coming up it can feel a little overwhelming, but ultimately, we’ll get there together. Just like my little friend told me, there are a lot of good people out there you know, and over the next few weeks they all deserve a little bit extra joy and love and happiness. Please also remember that the holidays can be difficult for some people, so our extra joy and love and kindness is the best gift that we can give. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and magical for each other.

 

Holiday Videos – Take a break and watch these!

The Greatest Gift

The Fox and Mouse

The Wish Writer

Lily and the Snowman

The Snow Globe


My Favorite Holiday Poem – 

Holidays –
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

What a Beautiful Noise

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3rd, 2017 by dkerr

So this week I want to talk about one of my favorite things about school…maybe my most, most favorite thing of all the things that I love about coming to work each and every day. It’s something that many of us fail to pay regular attention to I think, or even embrace, and maybe something that may be a little annoying or aggravating for some educators…something that traditionally we have tried to suppress, and something that kids sometimes get in trouble for. But if you take a step back, and drink in what it ultimately represents, then it might just become one of your favorite things too…I’m talking about the noise of a school. The beautiful noise that is the soundtrack to learning and of happiness and joy, and what a child’s life should really be all about. Creative, imaginative, messy, curious, and beautiful noise.

When is the last time that you took a few minutes and really listened to the noise of a school? Walking down the halls, or when doing recess duty, or being in a classroom when kids are working collaboratively, or just standing outside the gym when kids are at PE, or outside the music or art room…or even when they are simply spilling off of the buses ready to tackle another day with their friends…it’s something that will make your heart want to burst if you just take the time to listen. It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to be in a position to walk from one end of the Lower School to the other several times each day…visiting classrooms, discussing issues with teachers, catching up with specific students, and being a fly on the wall watching when kids don’t think I’m paying attention. Lately I’ve been soaking it up, this noise, and it fuels my soul everyday…the singing in French rooms, the songs from the early childhood kids as they transition down the corridors, the wild excitement in the discovery labs as kids work on experiments, the math talk lessons and the read alouds and the book clubs and the students sharing their writing…it’s so beautiful to listen to the learning that is everywhere, in every classroom and school space all the time.

I have to confess that the first thing that I do after a tough meeting, or a hard conversation, or an issue that I have to deal with that takes me away from being around kids, is to pop into the library to listen to a story, or head out to the playground or the cafeteria just to hear the noise of kids…it centers me and it snaps me back to what is the most important part of my job…the kids. Nothing is more joyful than the sound of a playground, with kids playing and making friends and taking risks and finding out about themselves and others…so good. It doesn’t stop there though, I also love the sound of teachers collaborating together around what’s best for kids and their learning…the creative ideas about how to extend students, and the concerns about how to intervene with struggling students…the sound of educators caring about kids is also music to my ears, and it blares loud at full volume every day…the beautiful sound of a school…how can you not love it?

This week, as we speed toward the holiday break, and with comments and concerts coming up, and with our lives getting busier and busier, I’m asking you…no, I’m begging you, to take a few minutes to slow down and listen to the noise of a school. Take a second to listen to the kids at play, or just stand back in your classes and listen to the sounds of learning, or come down by my office in the morning and listen to the kids as they come in ready for another day with their teachers and friends…there is nothing more joyful or energizing and beautiful than the sound of a school in action. Take the time to listen everyone and it will fill your hearts like it does mine. It might just be the best thing that you can do with your days. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students, good to each other, and open to the beautiful noise of the school day.

 

Quote of the Week….

I think my happy is too loud  – 1st Grade student at ASP

 

Interesting Articles –

Because I’m Happy

Laughter and Learning

Happiness and Learning

Better Learners

Let them Talk

 

TED Talks –

Raising Brave Girls

Dangerous Things for Kids

Should School Start Later?

 

Inspiring Videos –

Traditional Schools

The Science of Empathy

5 minutes to Affect Learning

Design Your Own School (4 years old but still relevant)

Thinking About our new EC Playground

Defining Student Success

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26th, 2017 by dkerr

 

So we’ve been meeting as a small group over the past few weeks trying to prepare for our upcoming, “Journey Towards Inclusion” faculty meeting on December 11th, and it’s been super interesting. One of the discussion points that has stayed with me (and really got me thinking) revolves around the idea of student success, and what “success” truly looks like for our kids. It’s been heartwarming for me to listen to educators at our school, across divisions and departments, who are wanting to find ways to celebrate students in so many ways beyond just academic achievement. Academic success is only one small part of what makes up a successful student, and it’s exciting to be thinking of ways to bring that message to life for our community in the upcoming months.

 

You see, over the past few weeks I have watched our students succeed in sports, on the stage as they prepare for this week’s Pirates of Penznace, in musical theater club and our many other after school activities, with their service learning initiatives like the successful student store and the newly formed student leadership council, and with the showcasing of their learning and growth through Seesaw and in their daily classroom experiences. All in all, hundreds of young people succeeding in so many different ways, and growing so immeasurably in areas both inside and outside of the classroom. I guess for me, the idea or definition or measure of success cannot be simplified down to a single thing, like academic achievement for example…it incorporates so many things and so many aspects of a young person’s life.

 

I think we need to be careful as adults and educators not to place too much of a priority on any one aspect of a student’s success, and look to develop and celebrate the areas where a student is showing success in all aspects of their lives. Kids, as you all know, go through various stages of maturation and development, and a student’s “time” may not be in Lower School, or Middle School, or High School, or University for that matter. It’s no secret to the people who really know me that I was very much a late bloomer when it came to academic success, but I found success socially and on the athletic field when I was young, which set me up for the person that I’ve eventually become.

 

The true measure of success in my opinion, is whether or not a student is growing and learning and taking steps to find their passions. Is a student getting better academically, socially, as a leader, as a teammate, as a friend, as a person? Are they being empathetic and embracing what it means to be inclusive? Are they learning from their mistakes and growing as young people, and are they showing grit and perseverance? If so, then ultimately we’re doing our jobs as adult mentors, and a priority for us is to continue to find ways to celebrate these successes with each individual student as often as we can. A big part of me believes that the most powerful learning that happens with our kids happens outside of the classroom…the learning that makes them better people, not just better students.

Look at our students this week everyone, and measure them against themselves…not their peers, or someone else’s packaged idea of success, and celebrate them. Think about this when you’re writing your comments in the upcoming weeks too, thinking about the areas in a child’s life where they are truly being successful. We have work to do around reporting out a more well rounded, all encompassing commentary on our kids I know…a report that celebrates not only academic achievement but an in depth snapshot of a young person as a whole child…that work will be fun and I can’t wait to get going!  What does a successful child really look like to you? Think about it before we get together on the 11th. Anyway, have a wonderful week with our kids everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful 

– Herman Cain

 

The Definition of Success – 

The Accomplishment of an Aim or Purpose

 

TED Talks –

The Beauty of Being a Misfit

One True Calling?

 

Great Articles –

What Does Success Look Like?

How Do We Define Success?

Who is Defining Student Success?

Grades are NOT Paramount to Achievement 

How to Measure Success

An Autumn Re-Set

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2017 by dkerr

So I got home this past Friday evening feeling a little more tired than usual. I wasn’t physically sick or anything, it was just that my mental energy was dragging a bit and I wasn’t sure why. I poured a glass of wine, turned on the barbecue and some music, and as I was reflecting on the week it hit me…it’s the Autumn chill. For me, the Autumn chill refers to (in my opinion) the toughest stretch of time in the school year for educators. It’s a time when energy can sag, morale can dip, fatigue can set in, and we can ultimately start to lose focus. We’ve all worked so hard over the past two and a half months to give our students an amazing start to the school year, and now that the routines and expectations are set, and we’ve become comfortable with our schedules and the approach to our days, it can become very easy to start running on autopilot. This post is a call for an Autumn re-set…a chance to think about how you’re feeling, to intentionally recognize how you are putting yourself out there for your colleagues and for our kids, and a chance to think about the steps that you can take to re-discover that passion and energy that you brought with you on the first day of school back in August.

Think back to the start of the school year for a minute…the excitement around the new facility build, the energy around some new divisional imperatives, the addition of fantastic new students and faculty, and the overall buzz and energy of a year that was bursting with promise and possibility. In those early weeks It wasn’t hard to want to sprint to work everyday and to soak up all the positive vibes. For us this year, we have had a wonderful beginning in so, so many ways, and we seem to have now come up for air after that much needed October holiday. It’s fair to say that we’ve settled into the year that lies ahead, with a clear focus on our collective and individual expectations for ourselves and for our students…and now here comes a long, demanding stretch that is bound to test our resolve. The weather has changed, the daylight is disappearing, the skies are a little grayer, and the next holiday break seems like miles away. Like I said, it can be a tough stretch of the year.

I guess what I really want to say about this time of the year, or this “Autumn Chill”, is that we need to take care of each other, and be a tremendous source of support for one another. Let’s talk openly about how we’re feeling, let’s rally around each other when the weeks seem to drag on, and let’s go out of our way to lift each other up. I’m asking all of you to please take care of yourselves physically and mentally over the next five weeks, and to find a balance in your lives that keeps you healthy and energized. It’s going to be a relatively long stretch, the weather is going to get cold and damp, the days are going to get shorter and the nights are going to get longer, so let’s prepare and ready ourselves, and re-commit to one another to find our joy and energy again for the benefit of our students.

Don’t forget, this upcoming five week stretch is brimming with opportunity for our kids, as the uninterrupted student learning time is as good as it gets. Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year, and I’m honestly looking forward to the weeks ahead. I’m excited about all that is coming our way, and together we can make it an incredible second quarter. We have American Thanksgiving, holiday concerts, fun field trips, the school musical, winter fest, and don’t forget we get to feed off of the smiles of our kids each and every day…let’s feed off of each other’s as well. Be good to yourselves everyone, and please be good to each other…and remember, I’d love to help and support if you ever need an ear to bend. I’ll show up Monday morning energized and ready to roll…feed off of my energy and I’ll feed off of yours. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and supportive of one another throughout the Autumn Chill!

 

Quote of the Week…

Winter is an etching, Spring is a watercolor, Summer an oil painting and Autumn a mosaic of them all.

– Stanley Horowitz

 

Related Articles –

Teacher Inspiration

Re-charging Professional Batteries

The Best Things about Teaching

The Best Job in the World

Autumn Awesomeness 

 

Interesting Videos –

TED Talk – Laughter

TED Talk – A Good Night’s Sleep

The Science of Empathy

The Book Thing

Autumn Season

Your Brain on Childhood

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12th, 2017 by dkerr

So I just finished reading a ridiculously good book titled, Your Brain on Childhood, by Gabrielle Principe, and it has my head spinning with ideas, questions, concerns and wonderings about the kinds of experiences that we regularly give to our kids in school and at home. I find it super interesting to read books like this, which through research address the kinds of things that we do with children, and the kinds of things that we’ve seemingly always done with our students, that simply don’t make a whole lot of sense. We do these things because we’ve always done them, but just because we’ve always done them doesn’t make them right. The small print title on the front cover reads, “The Unexpected Side Effects of Classrooms, Ballparks, Family Rooms, and the Minivan”, and honestly, if you’re an educator, a parent, or at all interested in brain development, this book is a must read in my opinion…order it now for your next birthday present to yourself.

 

It’s tough for me to know how to organize my thoughts around the chapters, as I just put the book down a couple of days ago, and I need more time to digest the information. There seems to be a blog post screaming out to be written on every second page, but there are a few topics that really caught my attention, which speak directly to some changes that we can be making in our traditional school environments that would enhance learning with our students immediately.

 

The first chapter that I want to quickly discuss talks about our need and want as educators and as parents to prepare our young learners for the future…focusing on the adults that our children will eventually become instead of on the children that they are NOW. She calls the chapter the Butterfly Effect, and illustrates her point with an example of a colleague of hers who won’t take his children to Disney World until they are old enough to remember it. He tells her, “why would I spend thousands of dollars on a trip that they won’t even remember?” Her concern is that as parents and educators, we often choose experiences and make choices for our kids that we think will make a positive difference later in their lives, which may or may not be true, and we then ultimately forget about the experiences that will make our kids feel good now, and make them happy now. She also points out the unintended pressure that adults often put on kids through extra “enrichment” activities, over scheduling children (excessive activities and homework) in the belief that this will somehow be the golden ticket to getting into Harvard. She ends the chapter suggesting that there is no basis for belief that speeding up a child’s development, or delaying enriching experiences (like going to Disney World) will do any good…if anything, these adult choices are often counterintuitive.

 

Another interesting chapter is called Organized Crime, and it deals with the difference between self-esteem and self-respect in children, and which one we should be focusing on in classrooms and on the sports fields…it’s self-respect by the way. It reminds me of much of Carol Dweck’s research around Mindset and grit and praise, where effort and failing forward and mistake making are the skill sets that we should be developing in our kids. She also tackles the idea of intrinsic and extrinsic reward systems, and the research around how extrinsic reward systems in classrooms don’t actually work as a way to change behavior in the long term. She states that, ‘it’s better to develop intrinsic self-respect, and to acknowledge that failure can provide harmless but valuable life lessons”. This has me wondering about how we speak to our kids in school, and what we are actually praising them for, and the language that we use to do so…the final part of the chapter deals again with how as adults we love to schedule and manage and supervise every aspect of our kids’ and students’ lives…she begs us to let go of our inner helicopter and stop spending so much time hovering over the lives of our kids. She implores us to give our kids plenty of time to do “nothing – to indulge in pretense, create their own fantasy worlds, and to foster their own happiness”.

 

The final chapter that I want to talk about (believe me I could write about them all, especially the chapter about nature as a classroom) is called Old School, and it touches on the importance of student brain breaks, recess, and how we view homework or home learning…things that I’m personally passionate about. With regards to recess, Principe believes that it (unstructured play time) should be seen as a vital part of the curriculum, just like math or science. Children need this time, just like with regular brain breaks throughout the academic day, to be best able to sustain attention on tasks and to help reduce fidgeting and increase attention. With regards to traditional homework, and the research which shows next to no link to academic achievement in the elementary grades, she asks the question, isn’t there a better use of a child’s time after the school day is over? My answer is yes, and I’m excited to continue this conversation at our school about what that may look like. Anyway, it’s things like this (limited recess, lack of brain breaks and traditional homework) that many, many schools continue to embrace when in actual fact it’s the absolute wrong approach to helping our students grow and learn and achieve…interesting to think about for sure, and I encourage you to do so, and to do your own research around these topics…read this book too.

 

Principe says it best very early on in the book when she says, “The problem is, despite parents’ and teachers’ real desire to help young brains grow into smart and successful adult brains, most know remarkably little about how brains really develop. Anyway, as you can tell I enjoyed this book very much, and it really got me thinking. Although we’re making great strides in moving away from our many traditional approaches to educating children, there is still work to be done. The first step is to understand what really works with kids, and to learn the truth around how they develop. It’s also important to be able to identify, and to step away from the urban myths around what we think is the best approach to helping kids learn…remember, just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The more you and I learn about how the brain develops, the better we can care for and educate our children, and the better we can raise old brains in a new world – Gabrielle Principe

 

Interesting Articles –

Brain Development – New Insights

Early Childhood Development

Why Play is Important

Learning With Nature

Student Brain Breaks

 

Ted Talks and Videos –

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

Read Montague

Forest Kindergarten

Alternative Education

Thank You Monsieur Monet!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22nd, 2017 by dkerr

​So a couple of weeks ago I took a trip with our Grade 4 students to Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny, and it was easily one of the most inspiring experiences that I’ve had in quite some time. Not just because it was ridiculously surreal to be standing on the Japanese Bridge looking at the waterlilies, but because of the way that the students were so engaged in their learning. It really got me thinking about a few powerful approaches to education that should be seriously considered when rolling out curriculum…things like connecting students to the natural world, giving kids real world experiences, teaching across disciplines, and using the local community to enhance and underpin student learning. With this particular field trip, all of these approaches were very much on display, and it was an educational experience that kids will remember for a lifetime.

 

The unit combined all aspects of the curriculum, and it blended magically together in a way that brought the learning to life from every possible angle…Math (linear perspective, natural frames, angles, distance and proximity), Art (of course), French Language Acquisition, Music (we sang French songs all the way there and back), Science (biodiversity, physical and life science), Literacy (journal writing, poetry, biographies, small moment writing activities), Social Studies (regional geography, French history), PE (active touring and game playing in the gardens), and so much more. That’s the power of these types of authentic real world, real life experiences that make learning so deep and rich and meaningful for kids.

 

My 4th grade daughter is still singing the French songs every chance she gets, she’s looking for linear perspectives and natural frames everywhere we go, she has a new-found and deep appreciation for the Artistic beauty of our natural world, and she has started to learn that school doesn’t have to be single subject specific, it can be just days full of learning that’s blended all together and connected…so good. Oh yeah, here’s where I want to celebrate and recognize the educators in our Lower School for bringing these experiences to life for our kids…so, so impressive. Thank you!

 

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the idea of traditional, stand alone subjects, especially since I read about how Finland will be eliminating many of their classroom traditions in the next few years, and getting rid of specific subjects in favor of project based/phenomenon based learning. I’m intrigued by this, and I’m curious how that all plays out. I love how many schools and some countries are looking critically at how to engage students in their learning in this day and age, and honestly, I believe that even a few small changes can start a real paradigm shift in how we “do school”.

 

As a small example, we have an opportunity coming up here at ASP over the next year or so, as we design and develop a new Early Childhood playground. It’s so exciting to be thinking about how we can bring the natural world into our current space, and how we can engage kids through creativity, nature, play, and curiosity. The right design with this project can be a powerful spark that will open up a wider conversation around traditional school, and how we can move forward in all areas of our educational delivery.

 

Anyway, let’s keep talking about this as we move forward, and let’s continue to find ways to blur the traditional lines of curriculum, let’s continue to engage our kids in experiential learning experiences, let’s get out in the world and connect with our community and surroundings, and let’s continue to collaborate together to give our kids similar experiences like the one that inspired me so much just a couple of weeks ago…thank you Monsieur Monet! Have a fantastic short week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher 

– William Wordsworth

 

Related Articles –

Mother Nature – The Greatest Teacher

Explorable Places

Teaching Outside the Classroom

The Atlantic – Students Learn on Field Trips

Edutopia – Absolutely Awesome

Interdisciplinary Study

 

Inspiring/Thought Provoking Videos –

On-Line Bullying

Community Based Learning

Place Based Learning

Gratitude on a Community

Monet’s Garden

200 Down, A Lifetime to Go!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8th, 2017 by dkerr

​So this week I’m celebrating a bit of a milestone of sorts, as this is my 200th Monday Musings post. This blogging journey began over 7 years ago, and has followed me through three schools, in five different countries, across four continents, and it has literally changed my personal and professional life in immeasurable ways. Honestly, the decision to begin sharing my thoughts about all things education with my faculty, and then eventually out to the world (thank you TIE) has been the best decision I have ever made, and now It’s such a part of my routine that I don’t think I could stop even if I wanted to.

Since I began back in August of 2010, I have changed and grown and learned so, so much. I enjoy looking back at my older posts and reflecting on the things that I wanted to dig deeper into at the time, and seeing now how in some cases my thoughts around a certain issue have evolved and even in some cases, changed. If I’m being truthful though, these posts were, and still are, a selfish way of staying current with the ever changing educational landscape, and when I began as new (green and overwhelmed) Assistant Principal in Shanghai, I felt like I had so much to learn, and so much to prove. It was scary at first, and I remember being so nervous when I hit send on my first blog post to faculty, scared that people were going to disagree with me, or push back on how I viewed a particular topic in education…putting yourself out there can be scary for sure, but here’s the thing…you’re not growing if you’re not opening yourself up to critical feedback, or sharing your thoughts about your philosophy, your approach, your expertise, and your practice.

It took me a long time to open myself up in this way, and to become vulnerable and exposed on a weekly basis, but you know what, as a educator, it’s the only way forward in my opinion. We all have so much to share, and so much to say, and it’s not okay to keep it all to ourselves. We can only get better as a profession if we share with one another, and ask questions, and continually learn and try and push the envelope, and celebrate what’s working, and fixing what’s not. We talk so much about providing meaningful and timely feedback to kids, we see the benefits of self and peer assessments, and we think so much about students leading their own learning, but what about us? How much are we taking those risks like we ask of our students? Putting yourself out there is scary…sharing parts of your practice and expertise is scary…asking for feedback and opening yourself up to being uncomfortable and vulnerable is tough…but the reward so, so, so outweighs the risk.

You see, the best part of my week is not the time spent on my topic research, or the writing on Sunday mornings, it’s the responses and comments and feedback that I receive after I hit send. What I send out is nothing compared to what I get back…counter arguments, disagreements, related articles and videos, and saw sharpening feedback that always leaves me learning, and questioning, and seeing a topic from all sorts of perspectives. Sharing my thoughts over the years has made me a better leader, and it’s given me the courage to admit that there is so much in education that I still need to learn…and get better at.

Anyway, 200 posts down and so many more left to go. It still amazes me how much there is to talk about in education…I just can’t seem to find the end, and when I think do it all changes right out from under me! Maybe I’ll eventually put these into a book, or turn them into a doctoral dissertation, or maybe I’ll find a new way of sharing…who knows. What I do know however, is that sharing your thoughts, and opening yourself up to feedback, and embracing a little bit of vulnerability in your practice will only make you a better educator…I know that for a fact! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing – Elbert Hubbard

 

Related Videos –

Collaborative Culture (John Hattie)

 

Inspiring Videos –

No One Eats Alone
Bucket List Adventure

 

Related Articles –

25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently

Teacher Development

How a Good Teacher Becomes Great

Exceptional Things That Great Teachers Do

How to Get the Feedback You Need

Seeking to Understand

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24th, 2017 by dkerr

So it’s been almost a month since we began the new school year, and for all of us I’m sure it’s felt exciting and incredibly busy and challenging and in many ways, super rewarding. We’ve had a great start as a team, and honestly I’m thrilled with how we’ve set ourselves up for success moving forward. For me personally however, coming to a new school in a new country, the learning curve has been steep, and the amount of information that I’ve had to process has been staggering. From trying to get my head around the culture, to figuring out all of the personal and group dynamics, to understanding the expectations of the community, and learning about the many, many strengths of our school (and areas for growth), it’s left me with a lot on my mind.

One of the things that I’ve been trying to do over the last several weeks to help sort through all of this has been to just simply listen…really, truly listen…and to seek to understand without bias or judgment. This strategy has been helpful for sure, but I have to say, it’s much harder than it sounds. True active listening is a skill that needs to be constantly worked on, and my recent transition has helped me to reconnect with the power of this intentional approach to all my interactions. I’ve caught myself on many occasions fighting the urge to interrupt, and desperate to chime in before someone has finished their thought, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been putting together my rebuttal or response without even pausing to process what someone else is trying to communicate. Active listening is tricky, and I think that we’re all guilty of listening with an intent to reply, instead of with an intent to understand (See Quote below).

In my experience, miscommunications and misunderstandings are often related to a simple lack of active and intentional listening, and I’ve certainly been guilty of this over the years…rushing to judgement without really taking the time to unpack the true intention behind someone else’s thoughts or opinions or feedback. It’s easy to take things personally and to jump to conclusions and to rush to judgement without first trying to understand another person’s point of view. I’ve been working hard on my active listening skills over the last few weeks, and I think it’s helped me in part to transition successfully.

I’m going to continue to work on this strategy in the months to come, and I want to challenge the rest of you to do the same. Watch yourself this week in meetings and in conversations and take note of how well you are really listening to another person. Are you interrupting, are you pausing to reflect, are you asking clarifying questions, are you seeking to understand? If not, then try to do better moving forward…I think this is something that all of us can get better at, and if we do, we’ll find that ultimately we’ll be communicating more effectively, and with more positive outcomes…let’s really listen to each other this year, and approach every interaction with an intent to understand. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply

– Stephen R. Covey

 

Related Articles – 

Hear What People are Really Saying

Listening to Understand

Tips for Effective Listening

Become a Better Listener

Listen Well – An Active Exercise

 

Interesting TED Talks –

Julian Treasure

Stanley McChrystal

 

Funny Clips (Listening) –

Everybody Loves Raymond

The Big Bang Theory

The Office

Feeling Grateful

Posted in Uncategorized on September 17th, 2017 by dkerr

So over the summer I read a wonderful book titled, The Gratitude Diaries, by Janice Kaplan, and it was a much needed reminder for me to always look on the bright side, and to positively reframe the experiences, challenges, and opportunities that I have in my day to day life. More than anything though, it has helped me to refocus my approach to each new day, and to see the world through a lens of gratitude, particularly as I enter into a new chapter here at ASP…so much to be grateful for indeed. It also reminded me of a blog post that I shared a couple of years ago, that I have re-worked here for you today, in hopes that you might find your own gratitude lens as we settle into a new school year. Here is a non-exhaustive list of what I am grateful for as I walk through the Lower School doors at the American School of Paris each and every day…I hope some of these resonate with you, and please know that at the top of this list is the gratefulness that I feel to be working with all of you this year…here we go.

The Noise – Have you ever taken a few minutes throughout the day to just stop and listen to the white noise of a school? If you haven’t then do it on Monday morning…it might just be the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. It’s a constant hum of laughing and learning and failure and success, and teaching and determination and love. One of the best parts of my day is to walk down a hallway and to listen from outside the door to the sounds of kids engaged…or to stand off in the corner of the playground during recess time and listen to the shouts and squeals of happiness, as kids play and make new friends and learn how to fit in…it is definitely music to my ears, and without a doubt, the soundtrack to a beautiful day.

A Child’s Beauty – Children are the best teachers that any of us could possibly have, and the most beautiful creatures that exist in our world. It is next to impossible for someone to spend a day with a child and not come away inspired and changed for the better. If you really listen to what children say, and if you take the time to watch them interact with the world, your heart will fill with joy and your smile will stretch across your face. The way they notice the little things in life that we often take for granted, the way that they are constantly curious, the utter joy that spills from their bodies when they learn something new and find a little success, and their imagination, creativity, and willingness to fail and to try, try, try again…wow…there is nothing in our world like the beauty of a child.

Committed Educators – Teaching is the most noble, honorable and important profession that we have in society, and quality teachers are as close to true and living superheroes that we have in our world. Committed educators are change agents…they are sculptors…they are artists…they are mentors…they are role models, and they are oftentimes under appreciated. No professional works harder than a committed educator in my opinion, with the sole focus and responsibility of moulding their students into leaders for our world, and into empathetic, compassionate, critical thinking, and creative members of our communities. Quality teachers are truly amazing and deserve to be lauded for their tremendous efforts and contributions to the future of our planet.

The Opportunity – The opportunity that we have as educators is incredible, and the responsibility is immense. The opportunity to re-imagine education and to break free from traditional schooling is in our collective hands, and there is no more exciting time to be an educator than right now. We have the ability to transform how we teach our kids, and how we design and redesign learning spaces, and how we write and deliver curriculum, and how we prepare our students for a rapidly changing world…awesome! We have the opportunity to be courageous and innovative and transformational…let’s seize it!

The Struggle – Watching kids learn, and grow, and fail, and develop is a beautiful struggle, and one that I will never get tired of being a part of. Growing up is hard, and trying to find your way in this world is difficult at the best of times. I love this struggle, and I love each child’s journey into becoming who they will eventually become for our world. They all burn so bright, and their joy and pain is so open and honest and so on display. The struggle is incredible to watch, and it brings you back to that time in your life that shaped who you are. It’ll make you laugh and cry and get frustrated, and it will make you proud…but most importantly it will make you feel, and become a part of something truly special, which is each child’s journey into finding themselves, and their purpose…this struggle is at the core of what is beautiful about education.

The Constant Learning – Each and every day I learn (and re-learn) something new. Being in classrooms and interacting with students and teachers is a constant learning process that makes me a better person. I learn from my mistakes, I learn from the mistakes of others, and I learn about people and how to best support and challenge them. I learn about current educational trends and research, I learn about what’s being successful in other quality schools, I learn from our outstanding ASP leadership team, and like I said before, I learn from the best teachers that we have…our kids. They teach me everyday about the importance of being my best self for others, and to be humble and honest and a good listener. It’s staggering how much you can learn in the run of a school day if you just open yourself up to it.

The Unexpected – An educator’s day never goes as planned and I love it. The thing about school is that you never know from one second to the next what will come your way, and this uncertainty makes me love my job. There’s always an unexpected mini crisis or a student celebration or an issue with a parent or a teacher or a kid, and it keeps us on our toes in the best possible way. From one hour to the next you can be floored by a student accomplishment, you can be bewildered by a decision that a student or adult has made, you can have a belly laugh from something that a kid says to you, and you can be thrown into a situation that will break your heart…and it’s all good. An individual school day is just like a student…ever-changing, unpredictable, surprising, and always beautiful!

The Joy – If you’re like me then coming to ASP everyday brings you tremendous joy…how could it not? We get to hang out with our kids all day long, we get to spend time with our colleagues who are also our friends, we get to learn and feel and become better human beings because of our daily interactions with our students and each other, and we get to shape the future of our little (and not so little) kids. What other profession can offer such a joyful and purposeful existence? Just when you start to feel stressed or frustrated or overworked, you turn the corner and run into a beautiful little kid, with a huge smile on their face, and so much joy in their heart, and they run up to you and they give you a big hug and you just melt as their energy reminds you why you love school so much. I’m so grateful for what children bring to my life!

So there you have it…I’m sure I could go on and on but that’s a decent start I think. Moving forward, and as we inch closer to our Open House on Thursday, I want to challenge you to embrace everything in your life that you should be grateful for, and to let it spill out of you for all to appreciate…I’ll do the same. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be grateful for our lives and our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it –

William Arthur Ward

 

Related Websites – 

http://gratefulness.org/

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-ted-talks-videos/

https://ggsc.berkeley.edu/what_we_do/major_initiatives/expanding_gratitude

 


Inspiring Videos –

What Actually Feeds a Family

Students Discover the Power of Gratitude

Kid President – 25 Reasons to Feel Thankful

A Reminder to Care

Nature.Beauty.Gratitude

Tell Me a Story

Posted in Uncategorized on September 10th, 2017 by dkerr

So I spent some time last week pushing into a few classrooms to tell stories to our kids, and it was easily the best part of my week. I love telling stories and I love listening to stories (who doesn’t), and I’ve come to believe that engaging students through storytelling can be a powerful strategy that all educators should have in their toolbox. Since I began my teaching career all those years ago, telling stories has always been my favorite thing to do, and in my opinion it’s one of the best ways to get learning to “stick”. Think about your own experience with stories, whether it’s with a great book or movie, or even with a simple anecdote from a friend, storytelling engages not only our minds but our emotions as well, and that’s where learning really takes hold.

 

The great thing about telling stories is that they always find a way to access a personal connection or experience with the listener, which ultimately makes it partly their own. How may times have you read or told a story to someone and the immediate response is, “that reminds me of when”, or “I can relate to that”. I’ve been reading a lot about the science behind storytelling lately, and the research around how our brains become more active when we tell and listen to stories is really interesting. I think that we have an opportunity as educators to tap into the power of storytelling with our students even more than we already do, to better engage them in their learning. I know that teachers are already natural storytellers but I think we can be more purposeful in how we deliver our curriculum, and how we approach our lesson and unit planning with this in mind.

 

Stories I think, can truly help reshape knowledge into something personal and meaningful, and ultimately, stories can make kids really care about what they are learning and motivate them into doing. There’s a great example out there by Hans Rosling, of how information can be brought to life when it’s presented in the context of a story. Take a look. Anyway, I guess my challenge to you this week is to see if you can find more ways to engage our kids through storytelling. I also want to thank you in advance for allowing me to take a few minutes of your time to tell a story or two to our kids…it’s a great way to help them get to know me, and a great way to model this idea for them early on in the year.

 

If we take this idea even further, I want to empower you all to tell your own story with your students, and to find ways to get them to tell theirs. The story of who you are and where you’re going as a person and educator, and the story of your classroom and the journey that you’ll be on together this year. Like us, kids have incredible storytelling tools at their disposal these days, and so many opportunities to tell their learning story through digital tools. What a way to use technology as well to enhance student learning, and what a way to bring their learning and imagination to life.Telling our story as a division and as a school is also something that is very much on our radar, and together we can make our Lower School come alive even more than it already is…let’s start with our kids and watch our collective story unfold from there. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week…

The world is not made of atoms. It is made of stories – Muriel Ruykeser

 

Related Articles –

http://www.teachhub.com/storytelling-classroom-teaching-strategy
https://www.edutopia.org/blog/storytelling-in-the-classroom-matters-matthew-friday

https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/enhancement/starter-tools/learning-through-storytelling

http://www.consider-ed.org.uk/the-importance-of-storytelling/

https://teach.com/great-educational-resources-the-power-of-storytelling/

 

TED Talk – Andrew Stanton (Excuse the language at the beginning) –

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

 

TED Talk – David JP Phillips –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj-hdQMa3uA

 

A Whiteboard History of Storytelling –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6E8jpFasR0

 

Visual Storytelling on the Web –

https://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/inspiration/30-compelling-examples-of-visual-storytelling-on-the-web