Portfolios – A very tricky, simple idea.

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It seems that organizing a process in schools where students gather evidence of their learning and compile a #portfolio is very simple. That is, it would be very simple if you didn’t need to bother about it being a meaningful process. This is where the difficulty lies. I have experimented with different types of portfolios, both student and teacher, for a number of years and have always found that they tend to get done, yet the purpose of the portfolio is more than getting it done. Looking back, one thing I would change if I was to go through this process again is to better define their purpose, and ensure a higher degree of choice offered throughout the process, choices based on this flexible purpose. It just so happens that I am in the middle of this process and will share my thoughts along the way. 

 

 

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Long Live the Peace Poets

 

Soba - my old friend, now watching us dance.

Soba – my old friend, now watching us dance.

Yesterday, I sat quietly for two hours and listed to 70 Peace Poets (K-12) recite their creations at the 15th Annual Oahu Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Poetry Awards. I enjoyed them all, leaving the auditorium with a host of images of peace in my mind. There was only one of the 70, however, that has stuck in my head. It was 10 words, written by a Grade 2 student. I’m sorry that I can’t recall her name, or even the title of the beautiful poem, just the image of peace that she left me with, one I don’t think I will be forgetting soon. Thank you little poet. Bring change.

My family, dancing together,

My dogs, watching from heaven,

Peace.

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True Misconceptions: Multi-tasking and concentration

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I have just published my second novel, a much shorter process than the first, and in a recent conversation with Amy Burvall, digital trail blazer and the ultimate multi-tasker, we talked about the writing process, particularly as I balance my time between life as a middle school principal and the world of fiction, a dystopian world in this case – my novel, not my middle school. The entire thing was written in my living room, the most active place in my house. I have a quiet desk tucked away in a spare room and have tried, but it doesn’t work for me. Also, I have a whole parallel universe of other tasks happening – music, movies, TV, email, Twitter, Facebook, family conversations, work tasks, coffee & snacks etc.  Does it help me write? Recently my students at school tried to argue that multitasking helped them to concentrate better, so they wanted to be able to multi-task in various ways, so they could be more productive at school. Imagine that.

They are completely right of course, although the argument is based on a misconception. In my case, my concentration when writing the novel was horribly disrupted, but I was more productive as I could work longer. I become (bored is not the right word) restless without the distractions. So the positive correlation between multitasking  & concentration wasn’t supported, but true if ‘concentration’ is used interchangeably with ‘productivity’. Perhaps concentration is over-rated & productivity should be our chief concern in schools? It would take us a little closer to the real world, at least to the world in my living room. I wonder if people used to be this restless, back in the bad old days.

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Why get your feet wet?

 

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One of the greatest things about working in a school is the array of activities you become involved in, the different situations you effortlessly stumble into. The interesting part is that it is always new. In this photo we are cutting ‘cat tails’ in some reclaimed marshland in Kawainui Marsh, Oahu, Hawaii. I never really understood why the plants bothered the local and migrating birds’ feeding and nesting patterns until I got my feet wet and tried to wade through the cat tails myself. This may be a good metaphor for education – you need to get your feet wet, to fully understand. The Hawaiian stilts are coming back to nest, which is well worth the wet shoes.

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Intersecting Lives

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Passing through life, we try on a variety of roles that all connect in the most surprising ways. We don’t usually realize how they all fit together until the moments pass. Specific events help us to see how the different strands have connected, supported, hindered and shaped our ideas, and therefore our identities. I lead many lives; #principal, #father, #writer, #surfer, #learner, #dreamer – to name just a few. We all do.  However, what is my principal interest? If I knew that, I would know who I am. However, life isn’t about knowing who you are. It’s about staying interested enough to keep asking the question. Our identities are complex because of our interests, and the intersecting lives they entangle. I am going to attempt to unravel mine, starting from my life as a principal, exploring the ideas that centre around this aspect of my identity, and spin outwards from there.

 

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