Summer Reading

This summer was one of the best our family has had.  We cycled along the Danube, and were amazed at what Croatia offered when we visited there, right amidst the soccer world cup final stages.  Mostly, we had a fantastic family time with our two teenagers.  We certainly do not take quality time with a 16 year old and a 14 year old for granted.

I also got some great reading in.  Fabulous works of fiction, of which The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah must be the highlight.  Amazing story of the brave women of the French resistance in WWII.  I do have to add A Gentleman in Moscow here too.  So beautifully, poetically written.  A story about the value of diverse human relationships and their cultivation.  In this case, relationships were lifesaving multiple times over.  Of course I am biased:  Moscow was my first international teaching post, and I met my husband there.  Another lifesaving relationship.

My professional reading included a Tech Leader’s manual which was quite handy, but paled in the shadow of Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek and Design Thinking for School Leaders by Alyssa Gallagher and Kami Thordarson.

Design Thinking for School Leaders reminds us of the value of piloting,118022b of seeking opportunities, taking risks, and being a producer.  As I went through the book, I found myself self-assessing on each of the qualities addressed, and carefully considering which attributes I need to develop in order to be a better school designer and leader.51gwn94nftl-_sx355_bo1204203200_

I think Leaders Eat Last might define me as a leader.  As leaders, how do we serve others, and put our workers’ needs first?  This might seem unselfish, but the employer, leader or company will indeed reap long term gains, as people who are well looked after and know they are cared for respond positively and remain loyal to that environment.

The main thing about summer reading for me:  it is such a fantastic luxury to have the time on my hands to indulge extensively in a huge range of wonderful books.


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Cognitive Coaching Journal Day 5

The review we have done today:

I feel quite good that I knew a lot of the factual information from the first four days of cognitive coaching.  It was also very helpful talking to others about their learning from and after the first four days.  We were able to connect a lot of different learning experiences to a connected understanding, that felt great.  The example of this that sticks out is how by sticking to the belief that everybody has the answers inside themselves, we are actually practicing a growth mindset philosophy:  we are telling the coachee or student that they can do this, that they have the answer, and that we believe in them.  They just need time and prompting (coaching) for those answers and ideas to come out.

My use of maps, tools and evidence of success:

We had several opportunities to practice the planning conversation, and I do feel quite confident with the map in this case.  For the times that I practiced with colleagues, I felt like it went really well.  I felt confident as I made our way through the conversation, and I could tell by the coachee’s body language that I was eliciting thoughts that they had not previously considered.  Afterwards, I received compliments from these coachees on how well they felt the conversation had gone.

For the reflective conversation, I feel much less confident.  I have not had the opportunity to practice this as much, and cannot remember the steps without consulting the book.  I think this is a powerful conversation map so I do really want to get better with this one.  Perhaps that is my goal for today.

My awareness of my own States of Mind

This is an area of growth for me.  I know and understand the states of mind but am not able to apply them in conversations or in my own personal thinking.  Perhaps that means I am low in consciousness!

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Conditions for Innovation

I am currently reading The Innovator’s Mindset, by George Couros, in preparation for an upcoming PTC course.  In the meantime, in case you didn’t hear about it, Team New Zealand won the America’s Cup in sailing this week!  The NZ news website, Stuff, published an interesting article about the conditions that facilitated the innovation needed for the NZ boat to be so competitive.

One university lecturer stated that the shortage of funding produced constraints that could have given TNZ a competitive advantage for innovation, while another attempted to refute his comments citing the poorest countries and their lack of innovation.

Surely there is an optimal level of limitations though, that can be a condition for innovation to flourish.  The critical difference between TNZ’s situation and the world’s poorest countries is education.  Innovation and creativity are based on sound foundational knowledge, together with the freedom to try, fail, iterate.  Some of our students’ best demonstrations of learning come from creation of new ideas based on the newly acquired knowledge, often under constraints.  One such example is our school’s recent IB DP Group 4 project this year, where all students needed to create a product from upcycled, not newly purchased, materials.

What do you think, does a lack of funds help or hinder innovation?

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Righting Reflection Writing

How do we get reflection right?  So that reflection is:

  • not seen as a chore
  • meaningful
  • celebratory, when appropriate
  • energizing for those reflecting
  • shared appropriately in the community.

We talked about blogs and reflection a lot at #beyondblogging this year up at #yis, and the big takeaway for me was actually a short comment made by a participant during one of the discussions: the class itself is most often that “authentic audience” we need for blogging.

So, in order for a reflective session to be successful, students need:

  • choice – what to reflect on, and how to share that reflection
  • an authentic audience, which is their peers, mostly.

A colleague and I used this presentation to help elicit student reflections.


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In my view, there were two key elements that facilitated this session’s success:

  • the verbal discussion with a partner, before each student documented their reflection, giving students the chance to clarify and prioritize their thoughts
  • the element of choice in how they reflected, although all reflections ended up on their blogs – a testament to the versatility of the blog as a medium.



Here are some of the results of student reflections that day.  This post is probably the highlight.  Interestingly linked in her blog, but not embedded.  Mental note for to do list.

What are some of your key ways to ensure reflection is meaningful, enjoyable and shared?

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Appreciation & Giving Thanks

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CA Projects developed at Beyond Laptops

Blogging at CA as part of a vibrant learning community:

Tapping into the expertise of our vibrant learning community:

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CA Blogging: Alive and Kicking

I really feel like I have been able to consolidate my thoughts around blogging over the course of the last day or two at Beyond Laptops at Yokohama International School.  I would like to shout out to those who I have sat with and collaborated with, but also the great workshop leaders from YIS.

My initial thoughts centered around the concern that student blogs don’t have an authentic audience, blogs can feel like an online worksheet and feel like “work” rather than “learning” for students.

So how do we:

  • help kids see the value of blogging;
  • find that authentic audience for students;
  • make sure that the blog is not just an online worksheet?

Probably my strongest current mantra around learning and student tasks is “give students choice”.  This could be in terms of the platform (are blogs the only way?) but can definitely be in terms of prompt. Can students choose their unit reflection prompt from a menu, such as:

  • In what ways was this unit like Star Wars?
  • What I really liked about this unit was …
  • This unit really bugged me because …
  • I was most surprised by …
  • I realised there is a strong connection between …
  • Choose a colour, symbol and an image that represents this unit…
  • Other visible thinking routines

Students in the class can then read a random selection of other students’ blogs, and can be taught how to comment.  The desired outcome would be that the readers would gain something different from the blog writer’s insights.  A key component of blogging is to build up the community, and the sense of students sharing their thinking.

My conclusion is that blogging is definitely worthwhile.  We are giving students exposure to a platform that they may or may not use in the future, but they have it in their tool belt.  Blog writing is a genre, and as language teachers we all have the responsibility to teach a range of writing genres.

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