Oudoor Networks

I spent the better part of last week in the woods.

With my teaching partner and our 27 students – one left behind to combat continued health issues – and my youngest sister in tow, we left school just after 6:30 Thursday morning and made our way with the help of assorted parent-drivers and a U-Haul to the local ferry terminal. We were on our way to the island.

Once across the Straight of Juan de Fuca, we set out south on 29 bicycles down the Galloping Goose Trail, a gravelly path that connects Sydney to Victoria through bright groves of maple and alder forests lined with California poppies and views of the Cascades to the south. Our aim was Goldstream Provincial Park, some sixty kilometers from the dock; we were under our … Continue reading

Comprehensive Assessment and the Meaning of Grades

Survival of the Fittest

On the same day that I lost an lengthy post on my experience with comprehensive assessment as a means of focusing classroom learning around the engagement of each student’s role in the group, Dave Truss used as inspiration for his post, Chasing the A, a link to an extensive student blog post: Why our education system is failing. Written in the fiery throat of youth, it is a lengthy tirade against competitive education with an emphasis placed upon the lifelong implications of bad grades:

Education is about unleashing one’s confidence. Education is learning from failure. Education is growing from experience. Education is discovering your passions then pursuing them. Education is not rote memorization. Education is not analyzing books that have no meaning to you. Education is not wasting your time on subjects you hate. Education … Continue reading

Happy Birthday Walt Whitman


Near the end of a sunny weekend I have spent immersed in Shakespeare, Orwell and words written physically on a page (somehow becoming a strange thought for this literature-teacher), I am called back to the stillness, soul and freedom spoken by the great poets.

In Arkansas I had a friend who taught me about flyfishing and with whom I enjoyed many summer mornings at a summer camp in the Ozark foothills who told me that his grandfather had written into his will that B. must read every word that Walt Whitman ever wrote. Struck by the power of such an urging, I immediately invested in a hardbound copy of Leaves of Grass and was transfixed by the American Bard’s greatness and also simplicity: as Shakespeare must be thought of as a … Continue reading

Networked Teaching: A First Installment

I teach a two-year gifted program which covers the curriculums of English 9, 10 and 11* (if there are capabable learners), Social Studies 9 and 10 1, Math 9, 10 & 11* (again, with the proper students), Science 9 and 10, as well as ministry-mandated Career and Personal Planning, and extra-elective Leadership 11 2.

I have taught in this highly flexible and interdisciplinary environment for two years now, and have found great traction in the use of various technologies to further the aims of our program’s bedrock Betts Autonomous Learner Model, which espouses the following:

 The purpose of the model is to teach gifted learners strategies for and attitudes toward independant learning.

Autonomous Learner Model

In bits and pieces I have seen the power of collaborative work in the classroom, from … Continue reading

This We Believe: A Google Docs Collaborative Writing Experiment

A few months ago I caught wind of Google Docs and was struck with the flexibility offered beyond the clunky Wiki capabilities of my class SharePoint site. My gifted class (undertaking grade nine, ten & eleven English) had been working through draft phases of This I Believe essays, using the class’ Wiki to create blogs for daily writes and an online discussion board for peer editing, and I thought we might employ Google Docs to approach the original intention of Edward R. Murrow‘s CBS Radio essays of the same name: To point to the common meeting grounds of belief, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization.

We began with this prompt, arranged in groups of four:

Purpose & Procedure

Everyday Pro-D vs. Pro-D Every Day

“Certainly there are many models of spaces where kids can learn. From museums to home schooling situations, there are many models that are possible. But when it comes to the formal learning space, I’m starting to think that we are spending huge amounts of energy and dollars in the wrong place. We pump millions of dollars into schools and hope for the trickle down model of success. We support buildings and programs, hoping that teachers will “buy – in.” Of course there are great models of individual PD where teachers are supported on an ongoing basis to change and be successful. But I still think that most of our time, energy and dollars are being spent at the divisional and the school level.”

Remote Access – Replicating Classrooms

Last Thursday I saw a post … Continue reading

Building a Personal Learning Network

The great challenge of the new age of information, where the “total amount of digital information will double every eleven hours,” will be that of sifting through waves of minutia to locate and be in touch with what is relevant to each individual. This affects not only our classrooms — in that web-literacy will enable students to see through the fact that even though a search for MartinLutherKing.org yields a hate site as Google’s first source (not only that, apparently the Pacific Northwest’s Tree Octopus is endangered!), it may not be the most reliable source of information for next year’s Black History Month Independent Study — but our own professional development, as we struggle to work net-exploration into the business of our daily teaching … Continue reading

What is School's Job?

Nabokov“So here we have three different worlds—three men, ordinary men who have different realities— a world completely different from the rest since the most objective words tree, road, flower, sky, barn, thumb, rain have, in each, totally different subjective connotations.  Indeed, this subjective life is so strong that it makes an empty and broken shell of the so-called objective existence.  The only way back to objective reality is the following one: we can take these several individual worlds, mix them thoroughly together, scoop up a drop of that mixture, and call it objective reality.  We may taste in it a particle of madness if a lunatic passed through that locality, or a particle of complete and beautiful nonsense if a man has been looking at a lovely field and imagining upon it a lovely factory producing buttons or bombs; but … Continue reading