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

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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 , , ,