Getting Ready – September is Coming

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The first day of school is only 46 days away and with all things COVID-19 that reality is becoming increasingly daunting as each day passes. Personally, I find myself going to sleep at night thinking about what September will hold for my elementary school age children, my wife who is a high school classroom teacher and myself as a Vice Principal. Whether it’s a full return or hybrid model where modified in person teaching is coupled with online learning, the COVID-19 educational space is littered with unknowns. This is not a criticism but a stark reality that there is no perfect solution to this pressing enigma. There is no right answer.

Coupled with the anxiety of the unknown is how all educators will cope within an educational milieu where tech integration is no longer a niche novelty but rather an urgent necessity. There is no longer room to debate the validity of tech based instruction. It’s here, it’s been here for some quite time and COVID-19 has reminded us that a limited responsiveness to tech integration can create great inequities in regards to the learning experience and shape deeply reflective conversations amongst stakeholders.

Yes, inequities have always existed. For example, how one classroom teacher is in their classroom is not how another teacher is in theirs. This is a known reality.  However, with COVID-19 and the use of virtual learning environments and looking to stakeholders as active partners, the evidence of such inequity has become even more clear with pedagogy and purpose at the epicentre of conversations. This by no means takes away  away from a respective teacher’s great intentions. Rather, the ability to leverage digital modalities requires new learning that embraces technology as an enabler of reimagined pedagogy. Thus, pedagogy and purpose must come before the technology. The technology must be an enabler of a teacher’s why. Technology is the how. 

This has been a big part of the conversation in the Integration of Information and Computer Technology courses I am teaching at Niagara University this summer. Teachers in the respective courses recognize that using technology is a transferable skill set that speaks to their ability to foster enriched learning regardless of subject or grade level. Whether you are teaching Gr. 1 or Gr. 12 English, all things COVID-19 has presented all educators with this pressing provocation: How can technology be used to promote deep teaching and learning?

This is to say that the ongoing challenges outside of what model is adapted by respective school boards will be that of instruction. It will not be business as usual come September and regardless of model, every teacher should be preparing and adapting their courses for either D2L, Google Classroom or whichever digital platform their board promotes. I recommend Blend, Blend, Blend.

In the world of COVID that can turn so easily, all teachers must be prepared for a full distance teaching and learning model. This doesn’t mean correspondence through PDFs but direct instruction where students engage with their educator in a meaningful way and experience.

Yes, I suggest that this means synchronized learning and a mindset shift that recognizes it’s value to cultivate responsive learning spaces. I know that this term carries a lot of unease. However, it is critical in shaping opportunities for learners to engage meaningfully with their teacher. I’ve witnessed the power of such practice as my son’s Gr. 1 teacher during COVID distance learning would host individual guided reading sessions with students through Google Meet. That 20-25 minutes with my son, once a week, was transformational. It provided him with an intimate opportunity to engage with his teacher and receive the responsive education he deserves; immediate feedback that spoke to his strengths and next steps.  As a parent I can deeply appreciate the value of synchronized opportunities as much as I do an educator.

As an administrator, I know this won’t be easy and it hasn’t been.  Nonetheless, the ongoing challenge is deeply significant. As educators and professionals we are called to be life-long self directed learners. More now than ever, we have to continue on this journey with all of its successes, challenges and next steps.

So, as you breathe deeply thinking about September, please start preparing if you haven’t done so already. Be prepared for any reality and remember that when it comes to tech-ed, the technology will never make an educator obsolete.

The educator will always matter.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in 21st Century Learning, blended elearning, Education, Educational Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Webinar Registration

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Join me for a Conversation with Dr. Marlyn Morris on Thursday May 7 from 7:30pm – 8:30pm

As over 70 million children around the world continue to be out of school, it’s important to recognize that this time of COVID-19 remote learning is not business as usual for all educational stakeholders. It’s not business as usual for our politicians, policy makers, system leaders, school administrators, classroom teachers and of course students and their families.

As our global community comes together, it’s urgent to recognize that not we are not all the same. This is to say that although “we’re all in this together,” every individual encounters this shared new reality through an individualized and personalized experience.  Importantly, in regards to our students, each learner comes to COVID-19 remote learning with their own unique personal and family narrative that will shape their potential success during this critical and unprecedented time. 

As educators navigate this unique time, what it means to be a culturally responsive teacher and learner is a worthwhile conversation to engage in. As such, with the support of Dr. Marlyn Morris, this webinar will provide teachers with an opportunity to reflect on key thinking to ensure that this COVID-19 reality is one that moves beyond “content,” and speaks to the mindfulness needed to ensure that distance learning is a human experience with the child in focus. 

For a window into Dr. Morris’ thinking, please watch the video below:

Sign up for the FREE Webinar here: In Conversation with Dr. Marlyn Morris

Special Note: The video of Dr. Morris shared above was produced by and for OECTA. This webinar conversation is not being held in association with OECTA. 

For further thinking:

It’s Time to Check Our Privilege: A Distance Learning Reflection

Distance Learning: An Open Letter

Cultural Responsive Pedagogy: Reflecting on Purpose

 

 

 

Posted in 21st Century Learning, Education, Educational Leadership

It’s Time to Check Our Privilege: A Distance Learning Reflection

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Believe it or not, we’re only in week three of distance learning. I can’t even believe that all of what we are experiencing is still so new. Personally for me, the days are a blur. Between working from home, mourning the loss of a dear family friend from COVID-19 and doing my best to be an active dad and partner in the homeschooling of my two elementary school-aged children, the past three weeks have seemed like a three month marathon.  Regardless, as my high school English teacher wife and I work to balance our days, we know that our situation is one of great privilege. This is a privilege that we are very aware of and one we have engaged our own children in.

My wife and I know that our home schooling experience is charmed. Our children wake up each morning with all of the basic necessities they need. There’s food in the fridge and pantry. They need or want for nothing of the “basics.” Even a backyard, something easily taken for granted, holds a new perspective that they now understand. Our greatest stress is “surviving the day” with two kids at home. A far cry from folks fighting for their lives during this crisis, who may be laid off or worry about what tomorrow may look like and what bills can be paid. 

In regards to schooling, my children have one-to-one technology and unlimited wifi. In We are working from home but not sharing our technology. The kids sit with their bluetooth headphones on and engage in online video conferences with their teachers while my wife who is the “Headmaster” of homeschooling sits beside them doing her school work or guides them through learning tasks while also extending upon the wonderful work their teachers are doing.  This is a privilege. 

In fact, just yesterday we spoke to our children about that very specific privilege. They sit at a desk in an office doing their school work with mom and dad’s university and college diplomas decorating the wall. That was not my reality growing up in a blue collar family to immigrant parents who cared for school deeply but were limited in the tangible support they could provide. Now, our family’s direct relationship with schooling and education is so very positive that even pandemic homeschooling is shaped to be meaningful and constructive. This is a privilege in and of itself. 

Here my children are working each morning while I’m in Admin meetings, with their University of Toronto and OSIE graduate mother who happened to go to law school before she embraced her calling to be a teacher. What a benefit to have such a homeschool Headmaster. Their experience although weighed down with their own fears and anxieties of COVID-19 (especially with the passing of a family friend they loved) is softened greatly in that homeschooling is not an unattainable challenge; this a defused stress. Obviously, as parents we would prefer that our children are back in school but we have the privilege to mitigate this new reality through our own experience as educated adults and importantly educators who can decipher curriculum and shape at home pedagogy that meets the needs of our children. It’s not easy but is nothing compared to the stresses other parents may be experiencing.  This doesn’t mean that our children are to feel guilty for their norm, but rather they must be responsive in their understanding of it. They must be young people that pray at dinner and bedtime for all people and not merely for themselves while thanking God for the opportunities that they have. 

This brings me to my greatest concern as a Vice Principal during this time and thus a distance leader. I am deeply concerned for:

  • All children but especially those not like my own;
  • I’m concerned for the students whose parents are in precarious employment situations; 
  • I’m concerned for students and their families feeling the weight and pressure of a homeschooling reality they did not sign up for;
  • I’m concerned about students who come to school as their safe place;
  • I’m concerned for students who miss their social setting of the classrooms and cafeteria; 
  • I’m equally concerned for students in need for caring adults and with special education realities;
  • I’m concerned for my colleagues’ wellbeing and that of their families;

This is all to say that over the past three weeks it’s been made very clear that this entire experience cannot be about “curriculum” but rather the one thing that truly makes education transformational: relationships

In order to have positive and deep relationships that shape learning and make the transformation possible, us educators must be reflective and aware of our own privilege. This privilege doesn’t mean the amount of money we make but the very relationship we have with schooling itself. Not all students are like my children who have all they need to be successful through this ever-evolving puzzle of pandemic era learning including a positive family relationship with schooling.

For many students there are barriers that we may not even perceive. As such as educators we must be pressingly aware and ensure that distance learning is culturally responsive learning that is grounded in cultivating an experience that moves beyond a hyper concern with summative tasks/marks but is focused on a love of learning guided by trust, empathy, compassion,  genuine care and an intentional focus on Assessment For and As Learning. Thus, focus on “learning” which doesn’t meaning testing or increased workload. Sometimes less is more. Quality over Quantity. Purpose over Process. 

For this massive puzzle of distance learning to form with purpose and meaning, the frame that holds it all together must be our ability to understand our students and their families. We must be aware of our privilege. I am and thus have great empathy for the reality of students and parents that I have the honour to serve. These are realities that transcend and weigh more than an curriculum expectation. 

In the end, many years from now, our students won’t remember the overall expectations they completed during COVID-19 remote learning but they will remember the human reality of it all. They will remember if we gave a damn. 

Let’s be measured. Let’s make sure we show our care. 

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Distance Learning: An Open Letter

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Dear Education Community,

Tomorrow,  marks the official beginning of what truly is an unprecedented time in education across Ontario and the entire country. As provinces act responsibly in announcing the closure of school districts, resilient teachers, administrators, system leaders and support staff have joined together at this critical time. 

This is evident on social media platforms such as Twitter where school stakeholders are engaging in virtual/shared PD. From parents and trustees connecting about next steps, to teachers sharing promising practices, to administrators exploring their new role as distance leaders, the buzz about next steps and new shared realities is abundant. 

Personally, as a Vice Principal was a diverse tech-ed and professional development background, I’ve been entrenched in supporting my system and school community over the past two weeks, while also balancing the realities of home. With two school-aged children yearning for some school connectedness and a spouse who is also a teacher preparing for her new norm, the schooling landscape both in terms of the personal and professional is being written day-by-day. With all of the good, bad and unknown of this new world of education, it is clear that this new norm is multifaceted and comes with great potential and challenges.

This is to say that across Ontario and the country, it is not business as usual. It’s not business as usual for our day-to-day lives and it’s not business as usual when it comes to educating our students and serving our school communities from afar. 

This is not a scenario where students have been intentionally prepared for eLearning or have signed up for programming with an understanding of the realities that they would face. Rather, this is very much Emergency Response Learning where all educators are treading in unknown and uncharted waters. Whether you are a Ministry of Education, Director of Education or classroom teacher, this new landscape for schooling is being shaped as the collective is being mobilized. This isn’t a bad thing as it means we can mould, adapt and shape based on our needs and new norms. It won’t be pretty or perfect but I am confident we can make it work. We must and will find a way. 

Although the realities of eLearning will come into play for many as teachers and students harness platforms such as D2L and Google Classroom across the province and country, it’s important to recognize that many administrators, teachers, students and families will not be prepared for what is next as we are working to balance the realities we know exist. 

Importantly:

  • We’re all overwhelmed by the reality of our local, national and global situation and thus wellness matters;
  • The respective narrative of families are not one and the same. Not everyone is like me who can work from home, support the learning of my children and provide them with access to hardware and unlimited internet access;
  • Teachers are seeking professional learning on the fly. This can cause stress and imbalance as growing professional practices takes time, patience, trial and error;
  • Administrators will become strained as they work to stay connected with staff, families, address equity issues of distance learning and prepare for September;
  • Senior leadership has been treading water for sometime now; navigating their own district realities while working with their respective ministry and federation partners;
  • Every stakeholder is under pressure and this includes students and parents/caregivers. 

With all of this, whether you’re a VP like me, a classroom teacher like my wife, a student like my own children or any education stakeholder, now is the time to go slow and attempt to be steady. 

Now is the time:

  • For teachers to stay connected with students and families. Spend time sending an email or calling home rather than on Pow Toon or exploring new digital tools;
  • For teachers to be balanced in their approach when assigning learning tasks for their own wellness / balance and that of students and their families;
  • For teachers to avoid the need to be “transformational.” Sometimes less is more when it comes to tech integration and all things digital;
  • For teachers to know there is nothing wrong with keeping things simple. For many digital teaching (fully distant) will be new and scary;
  • For administrators to set a tone of calm and togetherness;
  • For administrator to be accessible to staff  and the school community more now than ever  while remembering it’s okay not to have the answers and to be vulnerable;
  • For administrators to be measured and cultivate a culture of  patience, balance, wellness and shared understanding;
  • For parents (I am one) to be please be patient and know that their respective school and teacher has their child’s best interest at heart;
  • For parents to know that distance learning doesn’t mean that  children will be doing school work all day.  Balance is needed;
  • For parents to please know that the unknowns are not being sidelined but worked out (i.e. lack of access to technology at home);
  • For everyone to know that this is a challenging time for all. Everyone owns their unique and personal narrative.

So, as I embark on this journey as a VP and parent, I can assert that my greatest concern is with patience, balance, wellness and shared understanding.  This is a time to be measured and to let everyone know it’s okay to be uncertain and nervous. It’s okay to tread slowly so that you don’t drown in these choppy waters. 

Through all of this, it’s okay to be human. We all are. 

Be safe and well!

Anthony

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Stay at Home Watch List: Week 2

Week 2

Well, it’s Wednesday but I suppose it’s never too late to share a great catalogue of weekly movies. With the reality of COVID-19 becoming more pressing each day, it almost seems that staying at home will never end. Regardless, being at home is the way we can all serve the common good and these films can help pass the time.

Last week’s collection of films were for hours spent after the kids were in bed. This week’s title are more family friendly (although my sensibilities are a bit liberal) and I have already enjoyed and look forward to viewing.

Monday March 23: The Invisible Man ($19.99 for Rent on Google Play)

Yes, I watched the this R-rated Blumhouse picture with my 9 and 6 year old kiddos. Thus, please do feel free to judge. However, since horror is my guilty pleasure, they’ve been raised on an assortment of horror classics. From Night of the Living Dead (1968) to Scream (1996), my wife has not been too pleased with my liberal screening sensibilities. With all of this, The Invisible Man (fresh from theatres) is not to be missed. The official launch to Blumhouse’s re-telling of Universal Classics is how horror should be done. So, forget the disaster of The Mummy from a couple of years ago and enjoy this frightful tale.

Tuesday March 24: Crawl (Amazon Prime)

A sleeper thriller from producer Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man), Crawl, was released in theatres to critical praise last Spring. Masterfully produced, this “Anaconda at home” thriller provides for a great time with a bowl of popcorn.

Wednesday March 25: Deep Impact (Amazon Prime)

Released in the summer of the asteroid (along with Armageddon), Deep Impact is arguably the stronger of the two pictures. Perhaps a bit unsettling to watch during a pandemic, this tale of the world coming to an end due to an catastrophic asteroid makes for great conversation about the importance of family and what is truly important in life. In 90s fashion, it’s cheesy as hell but makes for a fun night at home with the family.

Thursday March 26: Onward ($24.99 for rent on Google Play)

Fresh from theatres in response to the Covid-19 crisis, this Pixar film has been yearning for an audience. With solid critical response, anything Pixar provides for a great night at the movies for children and adults alike. For those who subscribe to Disney +, Onward will be on the platform on April 3.

Friday March 27: A Jumanji Marathon (Jumanji and Welcome to the Jungle, Netflix & The Next Level for rent on Google Play)

The Jumanji franchise most certainly provides for a wonderful binge. Combining the Robin Williams 90s gem with the new rendition of the franchise with Dwayne Johnson, all three Jumanji films are for adults and children alike. Must watch pandemic titles.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Movies and Television | Tagged , , ,

Reading Night of the Living Dead

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As we all bunker down for a long stay at home during this new era of social distancing, it’s the perfect time to indulge in simple pleasures. Perhaps it’s reading a great book, drawing, mastering a new recipe or diving into a pool of board games. For folks like me, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Shudder, Disney + and my own DVD/BluRay collection are being put to good use.

Speaking to the world of cinema, the teacher in me couldn’t remain silent during this time of isolation. Thinking about folks who may be looking for a bit of mental stimuli, the goal is to present  two movies a week that speak to film genre is compelling and transformative ways. This week is: Night of the Living Dead and Us.

So, as much as watching movies during the the day is to pass the time, there is a great opportunity to think critically and to “read” popular film as cultural text.

Here is an critical reflection I attempted to livestream on Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, it seemed as if  the YouTube streaming live studio function was zombified itself. So, after experiencing technical difficulties with little resolve, I’ll be recording short video provocations for interested viewers.

Here’s my brief cultural exploration of George A. Romero’s 1968 classic – Night of the Living Dead.

 

 

 

Posted in Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Movies and Television | Tagged , , , , , ,

Stay at Home Watch List: Week One

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If you’re like me, then most likely your brain is hurting from world reality being consumed on social media. From your typical Twitter hysterics to the pressing realities being shared by actual experts in the medical field, the time of today is to listen and truly be cognizant of our shared responsibility for one another. This means, staying in and sacrificing a bit of one’s liberty and freedom to ensure that our communities are safe.

I know I say this from a place of privilege as I’m fortunate to be an Ontario educator as is my wife. As such, being home with our two elementary school aged children comes with little sacrifice. We’re getting paid, we don’t need child care and we’re able to navigate the next weeks without extra anxieties.

Yes, we’re terribly worried about our kids, our elderly parents, nieces, nephews, siblings, friends and colleagues. We’re worried about those we see each weekend working in our local grocery store and neighbours who are ill. It’s with this worry, that we’re committed to scarfing our wants to be “out and about” with social distancing. Going to the local mall or movie theatre at this time isn’t responsible. It’s potentially putting those who work in those places of business at risk and so many others.

So, as we all await next steps from our government leaders, thankfully, streaming can help us stay at home with a bit more calm and distraction from the twenty-four hour news cycles and trending social media feeds about the apocalypse.

So, with an overt awareness that bigger issues are shaping our urgent collective reality, the following “the kids are in bed” watch list is an attempt to find solace in the time indoors. The malls will still be there as will the movie theatres when the crisis over.

Let’s do our part to keep our communities safe. Take care of yourself, families and others.

Monday March 16: Booksmart (Amazon Prime)

Tuesday March 17: Jo Jo Rabbit (Google Play Movies)

Wednesday March 18: Rocketman (Amazon Prime)

Thursday March 19: The Farewell (Amazon Prime)

Friday March 20: Joker (Google Play Movies) and Child’s Play (Amazon Prime)

Posted in Media Literacy and Pop Culture, Movies and Television | Tagged , , ,

Two Suns: A Call to Serve

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Over the course of the past four weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to settle into my new role as Vice Principal. As a very active classroom teacher, the journey from the classroom to the main office was one with intentional and meaningful discernment that has proven to be critical in my work thus far.

With a focus on culture building and serving all community stakeholders, the last four weeks have provided me with an opportunity to reflect on the complexity of leadership and build reimagined relationships with staff and students who I’ve known for a number of years. These relationships are so very important in my goal to help my school continue to thrive as a safe place that empowers all learners to become what God intends them to be. This is to say that as I continue to learn about my new role, I thrive to be a Servant Leader who is responsive to community and one who enables others to see and harness their potential.

Speaking to Servant Leadership, I was recently visited by a student who looked perplexed to see a poster for the original Star Wars on my office wall.  As the student stood in the doorway, he asked “Sir, what’s with the Star Wars poster?” I suppose he was expecting the decor to be a bit more formal. Nonetheless, I asked the student to sit down, invited him to take a chocolate from my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles candy jar and promptly began to give him an unsolicited disposition on Luke Skywalker and leadership. The poor soul was most certainly looking for a quick exit but I suppose he took pity on me.

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As I shared with him, the original Star Wars provides a master class in leadership education. As Luke travels upon Joseph Conrad’s hero’s journey, he is faced with the leadership provocation: Who are you called to be? He is challenged to look into this soul and embrace his sense of self, while looking to his past and the potential of his future. This is very much echoed in the scene of Luke looking at the two suns of Tatooine.

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So much more than a feat of special effects wizardry, the suns represent Luke’s discernment and his reflection on who is and who he wants to become. As such, the moon’s rest as a symbol of dual fates as Luke reflects on where he is and where he yearns to be. As he looks onto the sunset his stands in discernment about who he is called to be.

Now even more perplexed and truly looking for his quick exit, the student continued to humour me as I shared that the poster really resonates with me and who I am working to be as his Vice Principal.  Like Luke, I was looking for a new beginning and an opportunity to answer a call of action. Like Luke who wanted to serve the Rebellion in the epic battle against the Empire, I too was looking to serve – called to serve.

In this new journey of leadership, my hope is to learn immensely, serve and like Luke, help others to be empowered, autonomous leaders themselves. Like Luke who helped Hans Solo see himself as a hero, I look to the two moons of leadership with continued contemplation and positive outlook.

 

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

From Strike Captain to VP: We’re all in this Together.

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Dear OECTA and Education Colleagues,

Over the course of the past week, I’ve had much to reflect on. From standing with my colleagues as their Strike Captain just days ago to my work with the OECTA PD network over the course of the past six years, it has been an overwhelming past few days of looking back and looking forward.   

It’s in looking forward that I share these reflective notes and thanks:

Earlier this week, I was honoured to be appointed as the new Vice Principal of Chaminade College School at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.  I’ve had the distinct honour to call Chaminade my home for the past six years and in this time, have learnt so much from my colleagues and have been inspired by the staff’s collective commitment to excellence in Catholic all-boys education. Prior to teaching at Chaminade, I had never taught in a single gender school and thus arrived wondering what the experience would be like. Nonetheless, I quickly found it to be a truly transformational one and an experience I yearn for my own school-aged children when looking ahead to their high school years. 

My journey to Chaminade in 2014, began after three years as a Resource teacher with 21C and Academic Information Communication Technology at the system level.  From the expansion of tech-integration across the board, to all aspects of eLearning and the focus of competency-based education, being a resource teacher gave me so many new tools that I was yearning to use myself as a classroom teacher. The role provided me with incredible professional learning and is one that truly transformed how I see teaching and learning.  As such, I ventured to Chaminade, declining a resource position renewal, with the goal o see if I could put into action the learning I shared with teachers as a trainer. 

I wanted to see if I could actually implement what I was preaching to colleagues. I wanted to ensure I wasn’t a “pseudo expert” who was able to “sell” but not “build.” As I was already discerning about formal leadership, I truly felt that I needed to spend more time in the classroom not only to hone my craft but to learn from others.  Nonetheless, humbly, I think that “experiment” was a success and I leave my teaching role as the Department Head of Business and Technology with pride and appreciation in all of the great work accomplished with fellow teachers and students alike. This is important to note that the success experienced is not in isolation. It’s a result of my dynamic administrators, teacher colleagues and students who journeyed with me and many others who supported new ideas. From senior staff to community partners, the support was real. Needless to say, education is a shared reality and success for our students comes as a collective. 

In regards to OECTA, as I began my journey at Chaminade, I also grew more invested in the association’s mission to provide members with enriched professional learning opportunities. As an active member of OECTA’s PD network and AQ program, all of the learning and wonderful relationships I formed will most definitely serve me well in my new role as a VP. For this, I will remember my roots. Although this new chapter will come with unique realities,  different perspectives, successes and challenges, my deep admiration for the classroom teacher and belief in the potential of students will guide me in my administrative practice. 

With all of this, I feel truly blessed and privileged to start this new chapter at Chaminade. It’s a testament to the school community and the positive relationships that all stakeholders have. I extend my thanks to the school’s past and current administrators, all staff, students, parents and board senior staff for their confidence and trust. 

Importantly, as we all look ahead to an Ontario educational future that is still unknown and defined by critical issues that matter to all stakeholders, I deeply value the great work OECTA teachers do to enrich the lives of their students and advocate for a better tomorrow. It was a true privilege to be an OECTA teacher for 15 years. Life changing.

To all OECTA teachers, know that you are valued and that you matter. I am so proud to be a parent of two elementary children who are flourishing because of the publicly funded Catholic education they receive. Their love of learning is a testament to their  teachers and an entire school community that works together for the students. I trust my kids’ teachers with the two things I love most in the world. As such, I stand with them in every capacity and deeply appreciate all of their hard work and sacrifice. 

In closing,  I look forward to an incredible new learning journey and doing my part to ensure that Ontario publicly funded Catholic education continues to flourish, that teachers feel actively supported, stakeholders have confidence and that all students feel empowered to become what God intends them to be. 

We’re all in this together. You are not alone.  

God Bless. 

Anthony

Posted in Educational Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

Whatcha Gonna Do? Reading “Bad Boys”

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As a Communications Technology teacher there are a number of great pleasures found in my day-to-day. From observing the student joy of production or the laughter of collaboration gone right, it’s truly a unique classroom where all learners readily show what they know within the context of media and the power of voice.

As students progress in their critical and creative prowess, all learning is grounded in the deep study of genre. It’s through genre that the study of media becomes transformative. Genre provides students with a rich cultural window and enriched opportunities to share their own sensibilities about who they are and their perspectives on the world.

This is not a new stance I take but one that I have readily addressed on this very site. With this, the more students watch critically, the more engaged they will become. This doesn’t mean that the study has to be “high brow” but can be one that entertains and provokes. So, as a new semester soon begins in many high schools across Ontario, ignite genre studies with some good old 90s infused theatrical antics.

With Will Smith and Martin Lawrence now in theatres with Bad Boys for Life, there’s a great opportunity to explore the politics of the action genre. At a time where capes and superpowers have shaped the consciousness of action cinema in the mind of young audiences, the idea of what I call the “exuberance of everyday” has been lost. This is the idea that the 80s and 90s action hero, achieved heroics, without superpowers but rather an “exuberant” extroverted signification of self.

Whether it be John McClean in Die Hard (1988) or Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible (1996), the movies and their heroes provide for hyper escape from self. It’s within this framework that 80s and 90s action movies (the most popular of the two decades), can provide ample opportunity to explore culture and individual selves.

Looking to Bad Boys (1995) specifically, the buddy-cop movie is more important that it’s often given credit for.

Let’s explore through the following lesson plan:

Rflect

As a whole group, shape an opportunity for students to reflect on genre and what they know.

Guiding questions can include:

  • What type of movie or television show is your favourite to watch and why?
  • What type of movies are the most popular today? Why do you think this is?

Within the context of these questions, the goal is to shape an in-class conversation about film genre within the framework of time and space. It’s important for students to know that genre is more than a category of film, television or music. Importantly, genre is a window into history and culture. As such, to study genre is to understand culture at a particular time. This is to say that genres do evolve or change over time as culture changes and evolves. Also, although genre is shaped by culture, genre can also shape culture. As such the study of genre is layered.

Once you have a conversation about genre with your students, screen the following film in class:  Big Guns – Bigger Heroes

After watching the film, have students in small groups share their ideas.

Distribute chart paper and markers to the students. Have them discuss and document three critical takeaways from the film screened above.

The goal is to cultivate knowledge construction within the context of 80s action films.

Action

Now that students have had an opportunity to meaningfully engage with the concept that genre is shaped by and shapes culture, watch the film Bad Boys in class or take your class to a theatrical screening of Bad Boys for Life.

Before watching the film, share the following excerpt with students:

Bad Boys

With this excerpt from the text A Companion to the Action Film by James Kendrick, the buddy-cop sub-genre is defined. In the writing, respective films’ race pairing is noted. In regards to Bad Boys, the coupling of two African American leads is pressing. Evolving from the 80s templates such as Lethal Weapon (1987) where blackness is white-washed, Bad Boys featuring of two black police officers is very much a rejection of traditional genre norms. Marcus, a family man and Mike a wealthy bachelor, are both officers that yearn to serve and protect. In doing so, they both exist outside of the institutional norms as “Bad Boys.” They’re aware of their racial identity and find humour in their narrative existence.

Consol

With the goal to have students show what they know, encourage learners to dive deep into their understanding of genre and provide a critique of either Bad Boys or Bad Boys for Life in the form of a pod-cast.

Co-construct of the specifications of the pod-cast with your class. Think about length, key outcomes etc. Like a three part essay, the pod-cast should have a: beginning, middle and end.

Suggestions:

Beginning: In the beginning, students should define genre and why it is important to study. From genre, students introduce the either film.

Middle: Students provide a summary of the film and key critical points as a genre piece. What did they find compelling? How is race represented in either film? How is either film “meta” in it’s approach?

End: Bring forward a conclusion that reinforces the relevance of either film within a genre context.

In regards to technology, students can record their audio using their smartphones. This can be very low tech. A free program, Audacity can be used to import MP3 files and edit the recording.

Encourage students to brand the pod-cast; make it sound like an “authentic” audio show. Perhaps, including audio excerpts from either film and an formal branded introduction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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