Thursday, January 16, 2020

20 Conversations in 2020 from Be a Better Ally: Conversation #1

Conversation #1: When do we let our own personal biases or our own experiences with heterosexism hold us back from engaging in conversations about LGBTQ+ issues?

I have worked in private, international schools for the vast majority of my career. It is a system, where at the end of the day, there is a customer. I've never been told outright -- "Don't talk about that because it makes the parents who pay us uncomfortable," but there have been plenty of times where it was clear to me that was the subtle message. So when does heterosexism get in the way of me engaging in deeper conversations about LGBTQ+ issues? I have to sadly admit that -- it is always.

I wish it wasn't true, but it is true and to deny it would be a lie. I often worry in the back of my mind, will I get fired for this? Private schools don't have unions and our contracts usually have clauses that make it pretty easy to dismiss us for any reason the school sees fit. And even if you aren't dismissed in the middle of the year, the school doesn't have to offer another contract. They don't need to supply a reason why. That power isn't often abused, but "often" isn't never. I feel like I've been very lucky and worked in schools where the Board and/or administrations were trying to make things better for everyone.

I've worked with teachers who were openly gay and they were supported (sometimes due to pressure from other teachers and community members). I've had students who were openly gay and they were supported (although to say they were completely accepted by everyone or that it was an easy life for them would be untrue). I don't always stay silent; I have had moments where I defended someone or discussed why being LGBTQ+ shouldn't be judged... But have I done it often enough? Have I really pushed back whenever I saw injustice? I feel sad to admit that I have avoided discussions because I knew it would be a safer option for my career, but I have done it. I'm a product of social pressure, but that doesn't justify my silence.

So what now? Where do I go from here? How can I be a better ally? Resolutions are often so hollow and shallow and dry up and blow away like fall leaves in the coming winter. Committing to support my friends who are LGBTQ+ is easy, but how do I support people who are LGBTQ+ in general? How do I step outside the comfort zone of heterosexual security and push not only when it is easy or convenient, but every time, everywhere? I need to step up and take the advice I gave a colleague long ago, "If that is the reason you get fired, do you really want to work with those people?" The answer is within me, I just need to stop being scared of "what if" and do the right thing.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Coaching Resolutions Challenge #1

My friends at Eduro Learning are doing a 10 Coaching Resolution Challenge to kick off the new year. I'm a little on the crazy, busy side right now, but everyone always is, so I refuse to use that as an excuse. I also want to help them spread the word and model best practice to their educators studying for the Coaching Micro-credential. The first challenge was about defining your role as a coach. I decided a more fitting choice for me would be to focus on redefining a certain aspect of my role. I have often supported fellow educators with thinking up creative ways to collect data, but rarely get involved in supporting them with analyzing the data. As we all know, gathering data is all well and good; but, if nothing is actually done with the data -- what was the point? I want to work more with educators to ask the questions that come after data is collected.
Things like:

  • What could this data possibly mean?
  • Now that we have this data, do we need more? If so, what type?
  • What actions does this data suggest we should take?
  • If we take action on this data, when should we gather more to evaluated impacts?

Monday, January 13, 2020

Cell Phones in the Classroom

The year started off with a great personal success for me -- I was quoted in the January issue of Empowered Learner. Of course, I support the use of devices in the classroom when it is appropriate. My feeling is that we should be teaching our students how and when to use technology. If we only ban the device, we only make it more alluring and fail to teach appropriate use and self-regulation. The devices aren't going away; they will have them in college and in the work place. If the student was doodling on a notebook with a pen, would you ban the notebook and the pen? No! Why not help them learn to use it effectively and efficiently? Isn't it our job to help them learn?

Happy New Year! Let's make 2020 a great success for all learners.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Schooling by Design Chapter 9: What Are the Desired Results of School Reform?

The Cheongna Dalton School Leadership team has committed to reading Schooling by Design and we are currently reading Chapter 9. This chapter, in particular, has got me thinking about our upcoming WASC accreditation visit in the spring of 2021. Next year I will take on the role of Director of Professional Learning at CDS and one part of my job will be to facilitate the re-accreditation process. Reading this chapter really made me aware that we have not really included the faculty in learning about our mission statement and making it something visible in our school's curriculum. One conversation we need to start having with teachers is how they are putting the mission into action in their teaching.

Our school's mission statement:

Cheongna Dalton School pioneers to develop global citizens who will engage in a diverse and changing world with creativity and compassion. Building on the foundation of the Dalton Plan, our mission is to empower students with the habits of mind necessary to lead fulfilling and ethically responsible lives.

Have we been helping our teachers think through the implications the mission has on their classroom instruction and planning? We will need to begin that dialogue so that we will all have a shared understanding of what the mission means in action and in terms of what assessments are going to provide evidence of the learning in the mission. I have an idea for where to start.

We will need to have a discussion framed around departments answering the following questions with evidence.

Please provide specific examples to answer each question.

To what extent does your department help develop global citizens who engage in a diverse and changing world?

To what extent does your department department help develop creativity and compassion?

To what extent does your department help develop students with habits of mind to empower fulling and ethically responsible lives?

I believe this is the launching pad to supporting teachers in understanding what types of assessment changes need to be made to put our mission statement into action.