Personally, I blog…

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This past weekend I read a few blog posts specifically about education blogs and bloggers.  I noticed a few of the posts shared by Doug Peterson on Twitter.  His own blog was reviewed by a preservice teacher and it started some conversation and a response post by Sue Waters, “Blogging is personal.. or is it?”  I found the discussion about voice and the personal aspects of blogging interesting.  Sue offers some good advice to new bloggers.  I also got thinking about how bloggers can be personal as well as personable and professional.  It may all be about style of writing and personality as well.  I think just having a blog involves some personal risk too.  With each post there is a certain amount of personal risk-taking — whether resources or ideas or reflections are shared.

I think that it is okay if people want and look for different things from blogs.  A blog that didn’t appeal at one time may end up having an appeal at another time.  This could be due to the blogger’s or the reader’s change in situation or growth over the time.  I read quite a few blogs regularly and I don’t have any problem if the posts take on a personal approach or offer a personal reflection or story.  I enjoy “seeing” more of the person behind the postings.  When I started tweeting and blogging, I never expected the connections and friendships that would come out of it.  I also didn’t expect to continue as I did.  I think having a chance to do personal stories or reflections on a blog helps me, so I won’t fault anyone else for doing the same.  It isn’t always easy.

Nathan Hall’s recent post celebrating his own blogging connected some dots for me too.  I thought he offered a great argument for reflective blogging and some great advice to help sustain blogging, be real, and take risks.  Here is his list (but do read his full post please):

  1. Don’t focus on the numbers; they will only take attention away from what is really important. Does it really matter how many people liked your post? It may be that the one post that only gets a few visits might be just what one person needed to read that day. It’s all about the bigger picture
  2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You are a person. People do stupid stuff from time to time. People are generally understanding, and if they aren’t, don’t dwell. Make this a time to learn from your less than glamorous moment and others will as well.
  3. Be real. This goes together with number two. You can try as you might to look better than you are or to pander to the masses, but most people will see through the thin veil of vanity and you will tend to lose strength in your message. Stay true to you.
  4. Don’t try to compete with others. It isn’t a game with others as your opponents. One thing I have learned more than anything during this time is that I am not the smartest, best, or any other superlative and I am more than content with that. I actually do think I have some things to share with others, but I gladly concede any titles to others.
  5. Push yourself, but don’t feel you have to always find something to blog. There have been more than a few times that I have put the writing to the side for a season. When I felt the urge to share something, I’ve picked it back up again. It has its ebbs and flows.
  6. When sharing your posts, put it out there a few times, especially on Twitter where it can be buried fairly quickly, but don’t overdo it. It is just a personal thing, but I don’t like to share a post for more than 24 hours on social media. After that, I feel like I look desperate for visitors and I don’t feel good about it. Again, this is just my own decision and others feel differently. Feel free to make your own choices on that.

I appreciate the personal and personable approach of bloggers like Nathan and Doug and many others. I think it is possible to “blog the personal” and still benefit others.  Many bloggers do so from the good of their heart.  It can be the great thing about blogs — choice in how and why you use a blog, as well as in which blogs you read, as Sue Waters discussed in her post as well.

But I am sure there are still some drawbacks to blogs for many.  Can there be too much pressure to post what you think your readers expect?  Too much choice?  Is it different for education blogs?  What sustains you in blogging and/or reading blogs?

A parent’s vision leads to research

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Not long after starting this blog, I invited some parents to guest post and share their visions and thoughts about parent engagement.  It has been over 3 years since a few of those posts, but those same parents have continued to contribute to education and schools in on-going ways and in new roles.  I plan to catch up with all of them again soon, but for now I wanted to give an update about my good friend, Tracy Bachellier (@bachtrac on Twitter).

Tracy shared this as the second parent here and then to her blog in early 2012.  One of the hopes she stated,

There must be continued support, resources and respect for all parents, students and educators as engaged partners in education.”

Since that time she certainly has put more action behind her words and vision! Tracy has now completed her Masters in Education and a Master’s level research thesis on — you guessed it — Parent Engagement!  More specifically, and also the title of her research thesis, Parent Engagement Pedagogy and Practice in New Preservice Teacher Education Programs in Ontario.  You can access Tracy’s full research document here.  She has done some great work, reviews and analyses, as well as shared some good practices and recommendations for preservice teacher education programs to benefit new teachers, and ultimately students and their families.  I hope readers will take some time to review her research efforts further.  The table of contents reveals the areas she examined, compared, and related to the Ontario context.  A great read in its entirety, with an excellent summary in the Discussion section (page 74).

Congratulations, Tracy! Hat’s off to you! Cheers!

Supporting Family Engagement: An interview @WithEqualStep

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Since connecting on Twitter with Nancy who is behind the @WithEqualStep Twitter account, we have chatted a lot about parent engagement in education.  She has mentioned the workshops that she does in her district to support school council functioning and parent engagement, but I didn’t really know the details of her work and outreach.  Nancy agreed to answer and clarify through three direct questions of mine and I am happy to share her responses on my blog.  I appreciate the wisdom she articulates behind what she supports and facilitates for school councils — for all its membership and the schools they serve.  I am also excited to hear that she is close to launching her website with more resources and information about her work.  In the meantime, an interview…

1.  Tell me about the kinds of workshops you do?  Why do you do them?  Who are they for?

Nancy: “We work to support family engagement in education. Our workshops are designed for parents, educators and community.

For councils, possible workshops include the legislation that governs school councils, writing practical bylaws, and suggesting best practices for effectively supporting their parents. We do the same for the province’s PICs. For educators, we assist them in creating sustainable engagement that is integrated into the curriculum and life of the school, for example building beneficial two-way communication. We also work with principals to understand the legislation so they may establish effective partnerships with councils. Finally, working with community organizations, we have developed and delivered workshops for newcomer parents on the Ontario education system and their place within it.

At the end of the day, every parent and teacher wants only the best for their children. We help councils, PICs and staff build the capacity of our parents to do just that.”

2.  What will school council members learn about in your workshops?

Nancy: “Few councils have a clear understanding of what their role and responsibilities are or could be, so they may learn more about the legislation governing school councils. This begins with the writing of meaningful bylaws that govern how the council will work in their community. Once established and working, we can help councils learn how to operate efficiently, developing methods for strategic planning. We also feel there is a need for councils to learn how to assess and evaluate their work. Too often, good ideas are abandoned because they didn’t work well; or bad ideas continue because they’ve “always done it.” Effective councils have a vital role to play in building parent capacity to support their children.”

3.  What do you say to a parent, an educator or council member when they say that the School Council regulations and/or bylaws are too overwhelming or that they scare parents away?

Nancy: “Many councils think bylaws are scary. Perhaps they’ve seen long, complicated ones. But really, bylaws are there to give structure to the council. Without structure you risk a collapse at some point.

Here is how I like to think of it. Regulation 612 is the framework of a house – it tells you what the structure will look like in style and size. The bylaws are similar to the walls – what will the interior of THIS house look like? How many rooms? Where are they? I don’t want to know what colour the walls are or what furniture you’ll have or who gets what room. That will change each year. But I do need to know what type of house it will be.

Regulation 612 tells Councils how elections must be run; what the makeup, minimum number of parents and roles of their membership must be; how conflict of interest and dispute resolution must be handled (the framework). Bylaws describe the membership size for each school; how their finances will be handled; what permanent committees they will have; their voting procedures, etc (the walls). Bylaws do not have to say what days the meetings will occur; who will sit on committees; what projects the council will undertake; how decisions will be made. (the wall colours)

When writing their bylaws, Councils should think about their community now but consider that it will change every year and make allowance for that. Build the structure but let each council decorate!”

Thank you, Nancy!  I wish you all the best in continuing your work and sharing your expertise and insights with others.  I can’t wait to see your new “home” online!

If you would like to contact Nancy directly, you can email her at withequalstep@gmail.com or tweet her via @withequalstep

 

 

For the record…

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I find that I seldom bother adding photos to my blog posts lately, but I have learned a lot that I didn’t know about proper credit and attribution of photos and images since the time I began blogging.  I am likely guilty of posting a photo without proper credit.  This is the most recent post I read on the topic (via Doug Peterson).  Also this post via Chris Wejr, which links another related post written by Chris.

I used to have a photo of me linked to this blog (via Gravatar).  The way that the picture was showing up with posts to social media was more than I was comfortable with, so I changed it to a flower.  I haven’t made proper credit to that photo.  One of my daughters took it and she gave me verbal permission to use it without concern for public credit.  I guess this post is somewhat of a credit and a “for the record”, in case anyone was wondering.  My daughter and I are both fine with this for now, but will we regret it? It’s just a flower picture maybe… but I was in awe of how pretty it was regardless of what effect I applied to it.  However, I stayed with the original colour for my “profile”.

IMG_3733 (3)IMG_3733 (5)IMG_3733 (4)IMG_3733 (2)

 

 

 

Report Cards: Cycles of Change?

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As a parent, I didn’t get into much of a fuss about report cards, but who doesn’t forget their own and/or having to write them?  The debate and questions about student report cards are on-going in education.

I recently saw this post, “Debating Report Cards”.

The grade 3 report card in the blog post is an example from the U.S. in 1971-2 and it is compared to an example of a portion of a current Ontario elementary one.

Here is an example of a grade 3 Ontario report card from 1971:

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It’s not the best image, but the brevity is clear and obvious — one page, no letter grades, general comments.  I am not sure if it was a “provincial” template at the time.  I still have copies of all my report cards.  After digging out the dusty bin, I was able to confirm that I did not have letter or numerical grades on my reports cards until grade 7.  I found this really interesting for my grade 4 report in June:

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The current Ontario report card templates can be found on the Ontario Ministry’s website here or in the appendix of Ontario’s evaluation and assessment policy document, Growing Success. (note: at the time I posted, I could not open the elementary templates for public boards, only Catholic boards)

A parent sent me an example of a comment on her child’s current grade 4 report card. In addition to letter grades listed for each “strand” in math, this was the comment for the math section on the report,

“(student name) independently reads, represents, compares and orders whole numbers to 10,ooo in standard, expanded and written forms with accuracy.  He should continue to practice solving more complex problems involving the addition and subtraction of multi-digit whole numbers. (student name) is able to clearly measure angles using a protractor.  He identifies quadrilaterals and three-dimensional figures and classifies them by their geometrical properties. (student name) should continue to practice using mathematical language to describe right, obtuse and acute angles and geometric figures. (student name) can precisely describe, extend and create a variety of patterns with accuracy and complexity.  He should continue to practice creating, describing and extending a variety of repeating, growing and shrinking number patterns. (student name) is able to thoroughly collect, organize and read primary data represented in a bar graph, pictograph, circle graph and table.  He should continue to practice collecting and organizing data by conducting surveys on a variety of topics of interest to him.”

Wow… and that is just for one subject on this 4-page report.  I don’t recall my parents having any issues with the brevity of my report cards!

The “Debating Report Cards” post ends with the suggestion that reports cards haven’t changed much, but I think they may have.  The author/blogger, Amy, also asks,

With all of the changes in our world and with technology, shouldn’t our report cards have evolved as well?”

The parent I chatted with suggested these questions:

  • When did it change?
  • Why did it change?
  • How long did it take to change? Was it progressive? Did it change every year.?

I also welcome any insights on the 40+ years in between :)

 

 

Careful Sharing

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I often quietly observe and ponder what and how others post on social media.  I also reflect on what I post and share.  I often have conversations with others about this.  I am sure most people do all of the above as well.  We can judge or justify just about anything in regards to sharing on social media it can seem at times.

I have used the expression, “sharing is caring” in the past, but I also think that being careful what you share is also caring.  Yet I know that there will be differences in opinion about what “careful sharing” looks like.  The conversation often leads to a debate about sharing as a “brand” and what is appropriate for different age groups, especially youth.  Andrew Campbell covered that topic well in a recent post.  I like to share/post things that I find interesting and inspiring, but I also try to be less quick to share and take that space

One way I have tried to withhold judgement about what other people post/share is by thinking about how our communities, neighbourhoods, and social opportunities have changed.  Our families, friends and acquaintances are not in close proximity as much as in the past.  Sharing our lives, experiences, and reactions to news and events in bits and pieces often and over time with close ties may not be possible as it once was.  Our social needs remain, but the contexts have changed.  Our mobile devices make it so easy to share in the moment what we are excited about.  Upsides and downsides, I recognize.

I hope social media hasn’t replaced or reduced in-person interactions, but it has filled a gap.  But I often sense that it can get “overboard”.  When is sharing really bragging?  When is “bragging” really just a need to be validated because more socially acceptable interaction or validation is not there?  It is called a “status” update.  It’s tricky, I know.  There are times when I get bored with social media… reading about social media… but here I am writing about it again… :)

Two articles I found on Twitter recently (shared by @redfearn and @courosa, respectively) that connected and pushed some of my thoughts on this:

Sharenting

The Weird Way Facebook and Instagram Are Making Us Happier

Both are thought-provoking about the sharing of experiences on social media and what that could mean — now and in the future.

 

Gold Linings

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I noticed lately that I have been listening to a number of songs that have gold as a theme or a metaphor.  While it can seem that most songs are about love and/or loss, it occurred to me that many have gold references.  Not that interesting really, but it got me wondering.  It is usually a positive reference — whether a colour, a relationship, an opportunity, an object or state of being.  This is usually the case in speech and literature as well.

I featured a “gold” song/music video, “Good as Gold”, in a previous post, and here are a few more video/links, if you would like my recent playlist:

Gold by Wake Owl

Stay Gold by First Aid Kit

Golden by Scars on 45

Gold by Imagine Dragons

…Hard not to mention Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.

These are all really good songs and music videos.  I understand that the reference probably helps to sell a song, movie, product or idea, etc.  As a colour, gold is striking and appealing.  Who doesn’t appreciate a golden sunset?  I think that gold has an appropriate place in competitions and sport, for the most part, I guess.  But when does the focus become too much of a preoccupation? When is it no longer a part of an appropriate context?  How does the “glory of gold” impact other areas of our lives?  Is there more or less of an impact in today’s world?  What about classrooms?

I have a handful of memories from kindergarten, so I know this “quest” for gold existed back then and must start young.  I am sure my family is tired of this story, but here goes…  It was nice that our teacher let us choose our stickers on occasion.  I still recall lining up for “fingernail inspection”.  Yes, clean nails meant a sticker of our choosing.  I can still recall some of my classmates digging deep into the bag for the gold stars or other gold shapes of the day.  That would often hold up the passing of the sticker bag to others with clean nails that morning.  I must have got bored or tired with it, or something… I would just dig for a green star and pass the bag along.  The green circles were cool too, I recall.

Maybe “kids today” are fine, so to speak, but I still worry and wonder about the pressures and messaging in many things.  What if there isn’t a gold lining..?

“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold… happiness dwells in the soul.”  ~ Democritus

I welcome your thoughts on gold :)  It is fine if you share a favourite “gold” tune as well!

 

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