Coaching the school district coaches | District Administration Magazine

Coaching the coaches in education.

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Be Now-ist, Not Futurist

A great TED video about how to function effectively in the internet age. Joi Ito also has some interesting things to say in this video about learning, education and what schools should be doing:

Dads Still Matter

This week we’ve seen some interesting things going on in our Kindergarten classes. Our children in the lower classes have their learning in school based around themes. Most of the time, a theme goes on for about a month. We wanted that children get to ‘wind up’ a theme, to draw it to a conclusion and to reflect on the learning journey they have taken. This also offers a wonderful opportunity to open up the learning process for parents – for the children themselves to share what they’ve been learning and what it means to them.

We wanted this to start last month, but with no road outside the school things were too messy. However, now we have a beautiful smooth road surface outside the school, so the opportunity had arrived. The class teachers engaged the children in discussions about how they wanted to show their learning from the latest theme (the seasons). Out of all the discussions one interesting theme that emerged was their keenness to share their learning with their dads.

So, it was just the dads who were invited to join the children in their classrooms this week. The children showed them their learning at various work stations and put on small performances associated with specific seasons in their classrooms (such occasions will now be a regular part of wrapping up the themes, so Mums won’t get left out!).

Whilst happy, some of the dads were surprised that it was them who had been invited. This reminded me of an article i wrote over 5 years ago. That article was entitled “Dads Matter Too!”. So, I couldn’t resist sharing that article again here. In the ‘driven’ economic environment of UAE I think that the issue assumes even greater significance and the reminder even more important.

Here it is – and feedback, please from both Mums and Dads!

In a recent survey of school children, when they were asked what they wanted from their fathers the answers didn’t include; a new bicycle, a Play Station 3 or even the keys to the Mercedes! Instead, overwhelmingly and with equal vigour both the boys and the girls responded that they wanted their dads to spend time with them, to really communicate with them and to be available for them.

Wearing both my hats, as Director of the school and as a dad I know this is a really tough one. There’s something about the pace and drive of 21st century urban life that encourages the hunter- gatherer in us – we go out, interact with the world outside, do battle and bring home the goods. However, there’s growing evidence that our youngsters are growing up with increasing problems and that some of what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. As the adage goes; if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.

I was recently really struck by an excellent short documentary I saw from UK about an inner city school with some discipline problems and other challenges. One of the ways they addressed the issues was to form a Dads group that met regularly (in a pub!). It was understandable to see how hesitantly some of the fathers approached the whole idea of joining such a group. However, as time went on they found more and more value in discussing parenting issues from a Dad’s perspective, exchanging ideas, building confidence in their abilities to take an active share of the parenting load.

One of the most interesting tests I ever came across for this was – can you name 10 of your child’s close personal friends, playmates or class mates? If you can without making mistakes then you’re doing pretty well.

Sadly, like it or not, our schools in India are populated almost entirely by women. Especially in Primary School, where there are men they are usually not involved with the ‘serious’ curricular subjects, but with sports or the arts. Whilst this has an effect on the boys, the girls do not go unaffected. Children grow up with an impression that this learning business is best done by/ with women and this gets reinforced if Mum is the go-to person for all homework queries, the person who checks the school bag and writes all the notes to the teacher.
It’s all too easy to fall in to the trap of Dad getting delegated the ‘troubleshooter’ role in the family. It starts out with those repetitive little acts of discipline which eventually prompt a “Wait till your dad gets home.” So, when you do get home you have to jump straight in to disciplinarian mode with the aim being to deal with the issue as swiftly as possible so that you can unwind after a hard day slaying wild beasts in the urban jungle. Another day goes by when any real opportunity to interact with your child, to really get to know their emerging qualities as a person goes by unfulfilled.

So, what are the chances of more Dads active in school, attending parent workshops? Getting actively engaged with school and actively engaged with your child could be the first step on an exciting and rewarding new journey. Come on Dads – we matter too!

Respecting Musicians’ Art

Musicians who care about the quality of their work made available to the public need to get behind the great Neil Young in his efforts to inspire a better technological solution.

I was shocked to discover from his presentation that an MP3 file contains only around 5% of the data originally recorded in the studio and even a DVD has only around 15%.

See the debate here:

Convenience in the modern age should not mean the loss of quality or disrespecting the integrity of the work produced by musicians.

Will We All Be Nomophobics?

Here’s some strong evidence of what is happening to us all as we get more and more hooked to our wireless devices:

Nomophobia Article – Fast Company

This article doesn’t really get in to the aspects that relate to the extent to which we lost efficiency with the ‘always on’ aspect of such devices. I’m now firmly of the belief that the ‘multi-tasking’ mythologists are on the retreat as they have to acknowledge that it may be perfectly possible to do two things that don’t matter very much (watch TV and post to twitter, facebook etc.), but as soon as a task has any importance it requires singular, uninterrupted focused attention.

So, for all these reasons, I’m planning to reduce the number of times in a day that I read emails (and respond to them), am thinking seriously about switching off my wi-fi for blocks of time and even blocks of time away from the workplace where all devices get switched off.

Already that’s making me feel anxious – that just exactly why I have to do it!! I’ve seen people lately advocating reading emails just once a day!! I think there are those who wouldn’t let me get away with that. However, some reduction is certainly in order.

And here’s some more evidence of the perils – the multi-tasking across devices is rewiring our brains (with consequences we don’t yet fully understand!):

Rewiring the Brain with Multitasking

Rex Conclive 2013-14

My thanks and appreciation to Jerry and all my friends at iCongo who have been loading online all the videos of the presentations and speeches from this year’s Rex Conclive which was held in Delhi in February.

We can all talk endlessly about the terrible state of public education in India. I shared my idea for how an idea from the Philippines might hold the answer for a mass involvement of the public that could turn the tide for these places. If the premises get sorted out and the environments improved one of the biggest excuses for the shoddy state of the teaching and education is removed

I’d love to hear what people think. I’m not naive. Even the Q and A session at the end of my presentation showed that people have a tendency to think skeptically on this issue. However, I still believe it’s worth us engaging in new ideas.

No Such Thing as Can’t

I was just so impressed with this video that I couldn’t resist sharing it here. With even half this girl’s spirit and drive, what could any of us achieve?


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