Pasta & Portfolios: Assign tasks, not tools

The purpose of making pasta.

The purpose of making pasta. Photo by @amyburvall

A recent sojourn into the wonderful world of portfolio process design has convinced me that we need to increasingly, in our schools, assign tasks – not tools. Underneath the structures of portfolios (the ‘document’) and student led conferences (the ‘conversation’), we want deep reflection on both learning and self-as-learner, the real purpose.

Any extraneous restriction/imposition, not serving the purpose that supports that reflection forms a superfluous distraction, generating an artificial focus, potentially (but not necessarily) diminishing focus on what really matters the most.

When I make pasta for friends or family, the purpose is to create  an experience – not a dinner set or a specifically shaped piece of flour & egg. If I spent too much time worrying about what bowls someone told me to use or how thick someone told me to make each strand, it could potentially (but not necessarily) detract from the ‘dining experience’ – the real purpose.

It seems that when students are creating that ‘reflective experience’, allowing them to choose their own paths, as much as possible, would allow them to retain a focus on this real purpose.  Choose the bowl yourself – one that suits your purpose. There are lots of bowls out there.


Intersecting Lives

Maile 1


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.