People are Beautiful

Posted in Uncategorized on December 5th, 2016 by dkerr
So I have spent the last six weeks or so traveling around the world interviewing at amazing schools, trying hard to find that perfect long term fit for my family and career. It’s been an inspiring, exhausting, and exhilarating experience, and probably the best professional development that I’ve had in a very long time. I have touched down in many countries, I have seen many faces, and I have met so many incredible people along the way, and the one enduring take away that has resonated deeply with me throughout it all is that wherever you go in the world…people are beautiful!
We’re living in an interesting time in our world these days, and it’s very easy to get stuck on all of the negative aspects of life that seem to bombard us at every turn. From terrorist attacks, to natural disasters, to election results, to refugees and war, and to everything in between, it can be hard to focus on all that is amazing and beautiful in our lives and world. It’s also hard to slow down enough, and to look closely enough, to see all that is beautiful in the people that we interact with every day…the little things…like noticing a smile or a random act of kindness or a kind word, and being open and present enough to let something that small inspire our days.
I feel like I have seen the very best of people over the last several weeks, and I have been inspired and touched by all of the people who went out of their way to help me, to get to know me, to listen to me, and to put me at ease. I’m not just talking about the people in the schools that I visited, although they were all beautiful and inspiring in their own right, but the strangers that I met that had no stake in being kind to me…the strangers I met who helped me with my luggage, and with directions, and with some unsolicited advice and recommendations. The taxi drivers and ticket agents and shop workers and everyone else I met who were just going about their daily lives, but who still managed to smile at me, and talk to me, and to ask about my life…The world is bursting with beauty and beautiful people, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to see this so authentically over the past month and a half all over the world…
So, with the holidays coming quickly, and the end of the long semester right around the corner, I want to challenge us all to reconnect with the beauty of our world, and the beautiful people that we come in contact with each and every day. Notice the smiles, and the kind words, and look hard to notice what makes each person so special and unique…and be kind and your best selves for others. People are filled with goodness and light so take the time to see what makes them shine…I promise it will make your day and fill your heart with joy. Oh yeah, in case you are wondering, I won the lottery and landed at the American School of Paris! It’s been a long six weeks but some of the best experiences in my life…thank you to everyone that has been beautiful to me along the way…I’ve noticed it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
A life lived for others, is the only life worth living – Albert Einstein
 

Beautiful People – Aasha Thakkar

 

I’m thankful for
the beautiful people
in the world
like you.

Beautiful faces are
those that wear
a friendly smile
that say, “I care.”

Beautiful eyes are
those that show,
the kindness and warmth
that glows below.

Beautiful lips utter
kindly words
that show the soul
like the songs of birds.

Beautiful people
touch and bless;
they inspire hope
and happiness.

You will always be,
beautiful to me. 

 

Beautiful Videos – Please take the time to watch this week! – 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkSPAHeqd8Y
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aW8BDgLpZkI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME9PmSZedB4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZTm-iYUpm4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jAC3FFXUgY
Inspiring Articles/Websites – 
https://payitforwardday.com/inspire-me/inspiring-articles/
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/the-science-of-paying-it-forward.html?_r=0
http://globalnews.ca/tag/pay-it-forward/
http://www.laudable.com/article/31032224/16-photos-that-capture-the-beauty-of-the-human-spirit
http://www.payitforwardfoundation.org/

Embracing Regret

Posted in Uncategorized on November 14th, 2016 by dkerr
        So I’ve been going through the interview process a lot lately, both as a candidate and as a recruiter, and one of the questions that keeps coming up has to do with the idea of mistake making and regret. It’s a good question honestly, as it gets you to reflect critically on your approach to failure, and whether or not your past has impacted your present in a positive or negative way. Mistakes and regrets can be framed very differently I think depending on your mindset…they can be opportunities for growth and action, or they can be a hinderance and debilitating both personally and professionally…it’s all in how you respond, and how your frame the experience.
        Because of these recent interviews I’ve been thinking deeply about this, and it’s given me the chance to look back on how I’ve reacted to the many mistakes that I’ve made, and how the regrets in my life have impacted who I am as a person and as a leader. I’ve come to realize that the more you embrace your failures, the more you grow and the more you learn. It’s the mistakes in your life that shape who you are, and as long as you open your mind, reflect, and do better the next time around, your mistakes, regrets and failures can ultimately become the most powerful opportunities that you have in your life.
        Luckily, I don’t have many true regrets in my life but I certainly have a few. One of them, which I still think about on a regular basis, has shaped who I am as a leader in a very profound way. You see, almost ten years ago, during my first year as an administrator, I had the opportunity to advocate for a student who needed my support. This student was being bullied by a teacher and needed me to stand up for them. The relationship was negatively impacting this student’s ability to be successful in school, and it warranted a hard conversation and some quick action from me…but as it turned out, I lacked the educational courage to do what I needed to do. I’m not proud of that experience, and it haunts me to this day, but looking back on it, it may just be the most important leadership lesson that I’ve ever learned. From that moment on, every time that I have been faced with a hard conversation, or a difficult decision, I think of that kid…and the conversation becomes easier. Because of that one incident, that regret, I no longer lack the courage that is needed to be a true student advocate, and ultimately, dealing with difficult situations has become a strength of mine…it’s all about learning, growing, and becoming better…and seeing a regret, or a mistake as an opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
        I’ve since reached out to that student, and we talked through the incident from both our perspectives, and I apologized for not being there when they needed me. Our relationship is stronger now than it was and they have forgiven me, which is the next key ingredient to growing and becoming better…forgiveness. People will make mistakes, and it is easy to hold grudges or to judge, and to let it affect you in unhealthy ways. The way to move forward, and to truly own your life is to forgive, and to let it go. I know it’s hard but it’s freeing for both parties. I’ve made a practice of forgiving in my life, and I’ve learned to say what it is that I need to say to people. One of the biggest forms of regret are the things that go unsaid. The times in your life when you didn’t thank someone when they deserved your appreciation, or when you didn’t tell someone you loved them enough, or when you held your tongue when you really should of spoken your truth. Well, it’s not too late…
        I’m asking you all this week to do two things…First, think of a person or persons in your life who deserve to hear from you…either a “thank you”, or an “I love you” or an “I’m sorry”… say what you need to say and get it off your chest…don’t wait for it to become a regret down the road. Secondly, think of someone who has wronged you in some way and forgive them…move on. I guarantee that it will be freeing and it will ease our mind in many ways. Let things go that are bringing negative energy into your life and take control. For my part, I’m off to write a couple of emails to people who need to hear from me and I’m excited about it. I hope that you will take some time this week to do the same. Mistakes, failures and regrets don’t have to be negative experiences…they can be framed as opportunities for growth and powerful learnings…embrace them…hold them close to your chest, and do better. It’s all about your mindset and approach. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind – C.S. Lewis

 

 

Interesting Articles/Websites –

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious/201008/5-key-things-weve-learned-about-regret

http://www.womenunlimitedworldwide.com/how-to-move-on-from-regret/

http://thinksimplenow.com/wisdom/how-to-deal-with-regret/

http://www.pocketmindfulness.com/why-its-perfectly-okay-to-have-regrets/

http://www.spirituallivingforbusypeople.com/embrace-regret

 

Great TED Talk – Embracing Regret (Kathryn Schulz)

https://www.ted.com/talks/kathryn_schulz_don_t_regret_regret

 

Inspiring Videos – 

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t186tlhjvMk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghk-nDJB3Tk

http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning?c=tpstream

AASSA GIN Conference 2016

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23rd, 2016 by dkerr

So we just finished hosting the AASSA regional GIN conference at our school, and it was 3 days of amazing! To see student leaders from all over South America come together to dream, plan, educate, and collaborate was one of the most inspiring things that I have ever been a part of, and I’m super sad that it’s over. An event like this will transform our community in powerful and profound ways, and I couldn’t be more excited to continue the work that began with our students over 6 months ago. I am so proud of our kids, and our faculty and staff, and of our parent community for bringing this weekend of change to life, and because of the passion and hard work of all involved, we will never be the same…changed for the better.

 

It began on Thursday morning with our entire elementary school out in the courtyard welcoming the visiting schools…they held up their beautiful signs, they sang and danced and cheered, and the kids from 7 different countries poured off of the buses smiling and energized and excited to begin the conference. From that moment on the event just kept getting better and better as the students showcased their incredible projects, shared their passions, collaborated together, and built strong and lasting relationships that will last a lifetime.

 

There were several inspiring and thought provoking keynote presentations, many student led workshops, art projects, a coastal earthquake relief project, daily film festivals, and so much more. The incredible thing about all of it was that it was entirely student led, and watching it unfold made my heart want to burst. It never ceases to amaze me what young people can do when they are allowed to lead their own learning, and to find ways to bring their passions to life. It really made me wonder why we don’t do more of this in schools, and it made me think about how we can turn the last 3 days into an approach that lasts throughout the year.

 

I have to admit that when we agreed to take this event on back in May of last year I was feeling pretty nervous. Pulling off an event like this takes so much work from so many people, and it really brings to life what a community is made of. Well, the lesson I learned yet again is that when you empower your students to lead, they step up in remarkable ways and they can accomplish almost anything. With our students leading the way, and with the leadership of one of the best educators on the planet, Andrea Stadler, keeping it all together along the way, the conference was a tremendous success. It did just what we hoped it would do, which is to change our school and community in immeasurable ways, and to move us in a direction that leads to service, sustainability, student agency, innovation and change.

 

I cannot wait to see the kids tomorrow and to reflect on the past several days. Now it’s time to dig even deeper into our projects, and to use this conference as a jumping off point for many exciting initiatives. Thank you to Linda and Ashley Sills (Directors of GIN) for their support and confidence in us, and thank you to everyone involved…what an amazing 3 days at Academia Cotopaxi. If you are keen to see some pictures and videos from the conference, check out #ACGIN or #learnincommunity, or my twitter feed @DanKerr1. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

 

Quote of the Week…

It is pointless to complain about the problems of the world as long as we continue contributing to them – Auliq Ice

 

Interesting Articles/Websites – 

http://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/global-warming-climate-change

http://www.livescience.com/topics/global-warming

https://ssir.org/articles/category/global_issues

https://www.stuvoice.org/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/sammamish-2-including-student-voice-bill-palmer

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/five-strategies-more-voice-choice-students-rebecca-alber

 

 

Inspirational Videos – 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCsrWoC2oDg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koSf4TJ_Dno

https://vimeo.com/25563376
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z2i3EnauOU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXBdL7B3hq0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUBJN3QGh2Q

Inspiration Projects

Posted in Uncategorized on October 2nd, 2016 by dkerr

So last year we got rid of traditional homework in our upper elementary grades, and we replaced it with inspiration projects instead, as a way for kids to bring their passions and learning to life. We still ask kids to read every night with their families, and we still personalize some home learning for students who may need a little extra support in one area or another, but other than that it’s all about passions, sparks, and inspirations…and it’s been awesome! With this structure, we wanted to create an opportunity for students to lead their own learning, and to engage in experiences that truly get them excited about school. It’s been super successful so far, and after a few tweaks and some thoughtful reflection at the end of last year, we are starting to see some incredible results.

 

One of the pleasant surprises that we’ve seen out of this switch has been the involvement of parents in the learning process. In many ways, these inspiration projects have brought families closer together as mothers and fathers spend quality time with their kids as they research, create, design, and dig deep into their passions. It’s also beautiful to see the parents arrive at school with their child when it’s time to present, and to see how proud and impressed they are with the level of rigor that often accompanies the presentations. So far I’ve been blown away with many of the projects that have been showcased, and here are a few examples that quickly come to mind of what’s been on display.

 

Students have…

  • Written their own books
  • Written code to create functioning robots
  • Baked amazing meals and pastries
  • Designed small hydraulic machines
  • Built lego aircraft carriers 
  • Written their own songs
  • Painted beautiful works of art
  • Designed their own clothes
  • Built a working volcano entirely out of chocolate (with hot chocolate lava)
  • Directed a short film with movie maker
  • Built and set off a mini rocket
  • Come up with inspiring gymnastic and hip hop routines
  • Learned how to play a new instrument
  • Built an entire city out of lego
  • Designed a futuristic community using Minecraft

 

I’m really excited as I write this because this week we have our first inspiration project fair for our community on Tuesday morning, where students will bring in their projects and showcase them for their peers, as well as for the parents during our student goal setting conferences this Wednesday. It’s going to be thrilling to walk around and to listen to our kids talk about the passions in their lives, and to see them get excited about learning. It’s also very cool to see their faces light up when they realize that they are also inspiring others!

 

It is a remarkable thing to see young people so engaged in their learning, and they never fail to impress me beyond measure…these projects always seem to exceed my expectations, which is arguably the best part…kids always inspire when they are given a chance to bring a passion of theirs to life. We are now thinking creatively about how we can bring this kind of approach into the Middle School through our iLEARN initiative (Professional Learning Communities for students), and it’s all very exciting. Let students loose and watch them blow you away! Anyway, this week is going to be so much fun, and I’ll be sure to send out some photos for you all to see what the kids have come up with this time around. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

 

Quote of the Week –

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious – Albert Einstein

 

Video About Bringing Passion to Life –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fwtMkFRgp4&list=PLotzEBRQdc0eX6sErNJED9JuHzJ1vcIu_&index=36

 

Student Passion Projects –

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/student-passion-and-tedx-talks-nick-provenzano

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/bringing-student-passions-to-learning

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/passion-based-learning-ainissa-ramirez

http://www.geniushour.com/2013/03/31/genius-hour-ideas/
http://www.howtolearn.com/2015/03/passion-projects-for-middle-schoolers/
 
These are Great – 
http://www.upworthy.com/these-students-painted-their-parking-spots-and-the-results-are-a-win-for-arts-education?c=tpstream
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jHmM1Q5c10
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY8Bp_n-xYg&index=21&list=PLzvRx_johoA908V5XG7r5wj2f3e9cqzZ5
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seHkj0U7jjY&list=PLwBoQZPcMB014nWrqnixzaLycBTASyrf6&index=38

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