Are we teaching the “love of” the the, or just the “the”?

In my office, on a small desk covered with Star Wars minifigures, a rubics cube and some Hot Wheels cars you will also find my 4th grade class photo. I’m the smallish blonde boy in the middle row, fourth from the left. At the other end of the row is Mrs Paterson. She is the reason the photo sits on my desk thirty-six years later.

I don’t really remember much about what I learned in fourth grade. As an elementary teacher of many years myself I can guess what was covered, and while it might be interesting, it’s not important. What I can remember is the way Mrs Paterson made me feel about being in her class.

She had high standards. She challenged me. She believed that I could do it.

At a recent conference I sat and listened to Sir John Jones talk about the way schools should be. Amongst his humour were some truisms that all educators need to be thinking deeply about. One was, “Google can teach you history. Only teachers can teach you the LOVE of history!”

Like most other schools around the world, I urge my teachers to “address the standards” when they teach. “Follow UbD when you plan,” I say. “Start with the standards. Design the assessment. Build the plan.”


But in my fifteen years of co-planning with teachers, I have never come across a standard addressing teaching the “love” of something. I’ve never asked a teacher to add a row in a rubric to read,”demonstrates a love of calculus”, or writing, or painting or long division. And as I ponder this, I am wondering how to address this absence.

If the role of a teacher is to teach a “love of” something, be it physics or reading or history or simply (but not so simply) learning, where do we start? Where do we put all the effort in and how to we know if we’ve accomplished it? Can we use the final grade as a measure? Or is it less quantitative and more qualitative? Is it the number of students who choose to follow that subject as a career path? Is it the number of smiles on faces I see in classrooms as I walk through the building? Or is it the waiting list of students eager to get into a particular class with a particular teacher?

Mrs Paterson was my fourth-grade teacher and she is the one who taught me a “love of” something. She did it by challenging me, expecting I was able and caring for me as I made my attempts and failed.

Maybe it is that simple. Maybe it is that and a bit more. Maybe what was right for Mrs Paterson is different for you and I. Who knows?

As a school administrator, I don’t have the answer. I know when a teacher has it and I can see when a teacher doesn’t. I can give examples of it. I can attest to the importance of it. I can urge those without it to develop it.

If you are a teacher, how are you developing in students the “Love Of” your subject?



Change the practice by changing the words!

George Couros is a thought provoking educator whose blog is a daily read for me. His post of today titled, “5 Terms We Need To Rethink In Education” has inspired me to write (which is one of the main reasons I read blogs!).

In his post, George asks us to rethink the terms we use in education, to unpack the perception of their meaning and the possibility of what they SHOULD mean. I agree completely, and write to extend the thinking.

My proposition is that our educational reality is strongly shaped by the words we choose to use. Let me illustrate.

A few years ago I was tasked with leading a K-12 school, which had not previously considered itself a “K-12” school. It had always had a Kindergarten program, elementary grade levels, middle school classes and a high school. It was lead by a Director, an Elementary Principal and a Secondary Principal. But they had been “Divisional” principals. The culture had never been K-12.

So upon my arrival, with the leadership structure changing to include a K-12 Principal, I changed the words.


We began to use the word “sub-school” instead of “division”. There was no longer an elementary division, or a middle school division or a high school division. We deliberately chose words to reinforce the thinking required to build a K-12 culture. We referred to the elementary sub-school, the middle school subschool, and the high school sub-school. A little bit wordy, but important. Now in year three of making that seemingly simple change, we are almost at the point where the word “division” is no longer used. Almost!

We also discussed the idea of banning the word “homework”! Not banning the activity of homework, but banning the word “homework” to describe the activity of doing school work at home. Instead, I was suggesting the terms “preview” and “review” be used. The ensuing discussion was one of the most animated, charged, emotional, informative, full-participation discussions I have ever experienced in a faculty meeting! Just to change a word!!!

A school-wide blanket ban of the word “homework” was a bridge too far for the present faculty, but a number of faculty members DID rename their school-work-at-home and reflected that it did result in some changes in their practice.

As George prompts us to reimagine or rethink what the words we use in education mean, I am prompting you to be very critical when choosing which ones you will use. Words are very powerful influencers of practice.

What practices in your school or classroom can you change by changing the words you use to describe them?



How are you asking for student voice?

When we are asked about “student voice”, and if it is able to be heard in our classrooms, it is easy to answer yes. “Students in my class talk.” “Students in my class respond to questions.”
But this is not what the question is really asking about!
Student voice is less about students making a noise and more about WHAT they are saying.
  • Do you know if your students find your classes challenging and engaging?
  • Do your students have a say in determining what they are learning?
  • Do your students have a choice in HOW they demonstrate their understandings to you and others?
  • Do you make all the decisions for your students?
These are the questions you should be asking in relation to student voice. 
Best practice tells us learning is improved when students have a “voice” determining the what, understanding the why, negotiating the when and deciding the how.
How are you asking for student voice? To read more and for some fantastic ideas, click on the image below!


The Lecture and The Rest

I was reading through David Warlick’s most recent 2c Worth blog post here and he was talking about a Twitter stream feed that he glanced at. It was quote from Will Richardson (who blogs here). While the quote isn’t where I want to dive off from, it is the idea of “value-added” that David brought up in his discussion, specifically in relation to the role of the teacher in a classroom.As I read through the connected web of blogs and twitter feeds and facebook pages and so on and so on it becomes clear that our students who are growing up in this informationally (I think I just made that word up!) verdant environment have an incomprehensible volume of information, facts, ideas, opinions, etc available to them. So, presuming (and this is a rather big presumption, I know) that your students can find the information and facts themselves that you are presenting in class, how would you describe the value that you, as the teacher, add to the learning experience. And is that added value truly valuable – to your students?

Coming back to the quote that piqued David Warlick’s interest, “Assign the lecture for homework, do the rest in class.” (Will Richardson) it would seem that Mr Richardson is suggesting the value-added aspect of a (seemingly) university lecture is “the rest” and not “the lecture”. So this leads to the question, “In your classroom, what is the lecture and what is the rest?”

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Are you a teacher or a learning facilitator?

Gee, I’m doing some reading and thinking at the moment and things just keep cropping up! I’ve been subscribing to the EdTech List email list for a number of years now and thoroughly enjoy the different issues that users post to the list, ranging from requests for curriculum ideas, to tips on tech purchases to discussions of matters of great import in the world of educational technology.Lately I have been following quite closely a discussion around the issue of internet filtering in schools. This discussion has been continuing for the best part of a year (or even longer) and has had many contributors from all over the world and while it is fertile ground for comment, I will hold my tongue at present and rather take a side road prompted by one contributor’s comment.

And now, when I can no longer find the email I was looking at I will have to go ahead and cite without due reference (will work on it) the question, “Are you a teacher or a learning facilitator?”

From my point of view this carries with it a big distinction. I’d love to hear what you think.



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"I dropped out of school because my schooling was interfering with my education."

I watched this video yesterday and it was the statement, “I dropped out of school because my schooling was interfering with my education” that stayed in my head and rattled around all night. I woke up with it this morning. As I cycled my regular Monday morning 20km it followed me and as I stood up to leave the office for a much needed blast of coffee it halted my step and dragged me back to the computer.”Is it valid?” is the question that it begs me to ask. I am thinking about how I learn. How I gather the knowledge that I need to competently perform my job. And I am thinking about how the students in my school learn. How they gather the knowledge they need to competently perform their jobs. And I am wondering if there should be a difference, because a difference there is.

Nobody is serving up the resources I need to do my job. I need to investigate, research, test, evaluate and reason with the information that I uncover in order to do my job. I am set a task and that is it. Bruce, we need to implement this. Make it happen. So I begin the process of researching, testing, learning, evaluating and so on in order to accomplish the task. How often does this happen in our classrooms?

Are our students the Titanic and ‘schooling’ and ‘education’ two passengers who have leapt from the ship in their life jackets, frantically blowing their whistles to attract attention but inevitably drifting apart as the boat sinks? Personally I’m not sure the situation is that bleak, but I tend to think that without a consciousness of the need for schooling to match the needs of education then the drifting will begin.

I would love to know what you think.


Posted via email from bruce’s posterous


You can't be my teacher sent you a link to the following content:Video – You can’t be my teacher

The sender also included this note:

If you are a teacher then this should get you thinking!

Posted via email from brucetutes’s posterous


Excuse me, may I come in?

I’ve just spent two hours chatting with my secondary principal about her tech goals and her vision for the school next year (when she will become the superintendent) and we started talking about visions and aims and how we can move staff forward towards these visions and aims. And now, as I sat down to think (with my fingers) I happened to glance at my Netvibes page and noticed Will Richardson’s post of March 14 on Weblogg-Ed titled, “The PD Problem” and the last sentence of the post immediately started to bubble and gurgle in the pot of think that has started to brew after my 120minutes of chat with the principal. He writes (of models for PD delivery to teachers),

“Not that there still wouldn’t be a need for structured professional learning, but that we’d be a lot further down the road, I think, if the culture of teaching moved toward a more open, collaborative, shared enterprise than it is today.”

The first ‘gurgle’ was, “Isn’t that what we want our students to be doing? Isn’t that what we should be modeling and championing in our 21st century classrooms? Aren’t the 21st century skills people (who should be us) using words like ‘open’, ‘shared’, ‘collaborative’ as they talk about learning today?”

The second gurgle was, “Is this the first suggestion of these words I have heard used in relation to teaching?” Having a think about it nothing immediately springs to mind (please correct me if you can) and I ponder that for a second.

I do a lot of talking about learning. Students learning this. Students learning that. Students taking charge of their own learning. Students being stakeholders (oops, buzzword alert!) in their own learning. But what about teaching? Am I focusing on learning so much that the discussion surreptitiously edges ‘teaching’ towards the front door, quietly hands him his coat and ushers him out? I would hate to think this is the case but am beginning to think that there might be someone standing on the porch waiting to be invited back in.

My 19 years experience in schools agrees with Mr Richardson in that professional development models are usually the crossword puzzle type. All the black squares are filled in and three down has seven letters and it starts with K. Put your professional development in there and make sure the last letter is a T because it has to fit with TIMETABLE! Let me be clear, I’m not going to put my hand up and say I have the answer, the blog post I referred to earlier does a much better job of discussing that, but I will say that however we manage to fit students and classes and co-curricular activities and staff meetings and appraisal visits in around our professional development timetable, we should be considering what we want our students to walk away with in what we want our colleagues to walk away with.

But then again, I really enjoyed the Singapore iCTLT Conference where I sat in the audience of 1000+ and was talked to for three days.

Open? Collaborative? Shared?


Your students' future?

As I have been reading and learning and pondering over the past few days I thought I would start a blog about technology, learning and education. Already renowned for forgetfulness I will be challenging myself to become a regular participant in this space.

To start the ball rolling I am posting this Prezi (click on the post title to access the Prezi) that I have developed in preparation for a discussion with the elementary staff of the school in which I work. Comments are most welcome.

Thanks for stopping by to check out the blog! If you would like to receive an update each time there is a new post, just add your email in below. Thanks, Bruce.