Roundtable: Meet the Human Restoration Project

In this edition of the Teachers on Fire Roundtable, I chat with three of the four members of the Human Restoration Project team: Nick Covington, Chris McNutt, and Thomas White.

Questions That Guided Our Discussion

  • 1:12 – Who are you and what is your current context in education?
  • 3:10 – What is the history of Human Restoration Project? Where did it begin, and what is your mission and vision?
  • 4:54 – What are some of the systems and mindsets that need to change in education today?
  • 5:33 – How does your work express itself?
  • 8:03 – Where else does Human Restoration Project show up online?
  • 10:37 – What is your vision for assessment, and what does it have to do with restoring humanity to education?
  • 16:28 – How have traditional assessment models suppressed humanity?
  • 18:28 – If we remove grades from assessment, won’t students lose their motivation to learn?
  • 21:26 – In what kind of education system would students not want to cheat, where they are actually interested in their own learning and growth?
  • 24:58 – From viewer Sybil Priebe: What do you say to those teachers who martyr themselves with all the grading they take on?
  • 35:29 – How can we restore humanity to education in the distance/hybrid learning spaces?
  • 44:01 – How are you finding self-care during these times of stress and uncertainty?
  • 50:10 – What are the best ways to connect with you and your learning?

Guests Featured in This Roundtable

Looking to learn more? Visit the Human Restoration Project.

Thanks to These Audience Members for Adding to Our Discussion

Catch the Next Teachers on Fire Roundtable LIVE

As of this post, I’m still appearing weekly on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time/11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. I’d love to see you join us and would be happy to feature your questions and comments on the show!

Roundtable: Gradeless Assessment

In this edition of the Roundtable, I spoke with five active K-12 educators who are on different assessment journeys. Although we all agree on the fundamental principles of going gradeless, you will a richness of different perspectives and areas of focus throughout our discussion.

Use the timestamps below to jump directly to topics of interest.

  • 0:50 – Guests introduce themselves and describe assessment in their educational contexts.
  • 9:03 – How would you make the case for going gradeless?
  • 24:23 – What are some of your best ideas, strategies, and tips for educators and education leaders seeking to move into a gradeless assessment model?
  • 44:45 – The proficiency scale currently used in most K-7 schools in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
  • 45:59 – What are some books and authors you recommend on the subject of going gradeless and formative assessment?

Guests Featured in the Roundtable:

Episode 126 – Andrew Canle

Meet Andrew Canle

ANDREW CANLE is an Assistant Principal at Shaw Avenue School, a K-6 elementary campus in Valley Stream, New York, a suburban town just outside of Queens. He’s a three-time champion coach at NBA Math Hoops, a program that engages students in math and social-emotional learning through the game of basketball. He’s also the creator of the #EDUCanle podcast.

Education or Law?

Andrew recalls a time during his second year of teaching when he seriously considered leaving the field of education entirely. “I just wasn’t happy overall,” he admits, which led him to consider moving from the classroom to a career in law.

What kept him in education, he says, was his decision to revisit his core passion: helping kids and doing the work of transforming lives. So many people made that sacrifice for him, he says, and so he redoubled his commitment to teaching. Looking back, he values this crisis of calling as a time that allowed him to find himself and redefine his true values.

The EDUCanle Podcast

Andrew credits colleagues and co-workers for the inspiration to start the EDUCanle Podcast. Part of his role at Shaw Avenue is to facilitate professional development opportunities for his staff, and at some point it occurred to him that recording these events and then repurposing the content on a podcast would be a great way to allow staff members to review content or catch up on missed learning.

Publishing in podcast form also allows him to support the learning of professionals outside of his own building and expand his professional network, something that can only benefit him and his teachers. Moving forward, Andrew plans to expand his asynchronous professional development offerings by screencasting presentations and sharing these on YouTube.

On 🔥 for Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is an area that is lighting Andrew’s fire in education right now. “It’s the crux of everything,” he points out.

Checking for understanding, strategic questioning, and determination of student progress are such critical components of what teachers do in the classroom, and so much of student learning depends on these activities done well. Lately, he’s been taking a close look at the mindsets needed to ask the most effective questions of students – questions that generate the data that informs our next instructional decisions.

A Professional Goal: Improving His Writing

At the forefront of his professional goals, Andrew is looking to become a better writer. He’s now had several articles published, including one with Edutopia, but he laughs about the silent suffering of perfectionism that remains a constant challenge. He talks about making his writing process more fluid and simply going with the flow of his ideas, steps that will make his writing more powerful and accelerate his productivity at the same time.

Personal Passions: Psychology, Sociology, and Sports

Passions that bring Andrew alive as a human being outside of his professional context include the studies of psychology and sociology. “They absolutely fascinate me,” Andrew says, and some of the learning he does in these spaces also equips him to be a more effective administrator. “You can never have enough tools in the toolbelt.”

Andrew is also a big sports fan and points to the legacies of dynasty teams like the New York Yankees and the New England Patriots as examples that our educational institutions can learn from. 

Andrew’s Productivity Hack: A Little Blue Notebook

The engine that keeps Andrew on track and productive is a small blue notebook that he keeps in his inside pocket. That notebook is where he tracks to-do lists, items of concern, future tweets, and random notes. While others turn to cloud note-taking services, he likes to keep things analog.

Voices That Spark His Thinking and Ignite His Practice

Over on Twitter, Andrew recommends following @MrDataGuy, an important voice on the subject of assessment: traditional, PLC, and student ownership. His graphics are incredible and Andrew says they have supported many of his professional learning events.

One of Andrew’s favorite edtech tools is Review360, an application from Pearson that helps education leaders track student behavior patterns and support student learning based on situational trends.

When asked for a book pick, Andrew turns to Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov. Follow Doug on Twitter @Doug_Lemov

Andrew’s YouTube pick is a channel called Vsauce, which answers all kinds of interesting scientific and philosophical questions about the world around us. Follow the creator on Twitter @TweetSauce

And when he’s got the time to relax or just needs a good laugh, Andrew is turning to comedian James Acaster on Netflix

We sign off on this fun conversation, and Andrew gives us the best ways to contact and follow him online. See below for details!

Follow Andrew

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Song Track Credits

  • Bluntedsesh4 (by Tha Silent Partner, courtesy of FreeMusicArchive.org)
  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*

*courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen to Teachers on Fire on YouTube

*This page contains Amazon affiliate links.

Episode 120 – Dr. Christine Younghusband

120 - Dr. Christine Younghusband

Meet Dr. Christine Younghusband

CHRISTINE YOUNGHUSBAND is passionate about teaching and learning and the role of leadership in enhancing the student learning experience in K-12 and higher education. She earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2017 from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in the B.Ed. Teacher Education Program and M.Ed. Leadership Program.

Her 25-year career in education includes teaching secondary mathematics and science in BC public schools and contributing to the provincial Math curriculum redesign. Christine is a learner first, and her teaching practice is guided by her inquiry and curiosity. She “learns by doing” with a willingness to try, take risks, and try again. She values learning experientially as a reflective practitioner.

Leaving the Classroom

Christine recalls a period about ten years ago when she actually left the classroom and teaching. It was a heartwrenching decision because she loved her teaching areas, her students, and the work she had done to build positive cultures in her learning community. But personal circumstances outside of the school forced her to reconsider her core values and commitments, and so her professional journey took a new direction.

After a nice period of time that allowed her to give her young daughter lots of special attention, she made a return to education in the forms of doctoral work and a school trusteeship. She credits the trusteeship with giving her another unique perspective in education which helped her complete her dissertation, providing insights that continue to contribute to her current roles. She has since been involved in numerous curricular design committees and has contributed to countless projects, including some related to Math and indigenous education in British Columbia.

Changing Assessment Paradigms

Changes in assessment practices and policies are incremental, Christine says pragmatically. Transitions do take time, particularly shifts toward portfolio-based admission strategies and feedback models of assessment at the post-secondary level. At their core, formative feedback paradigms attempt to put the focus squarely on learning.

In some cases, it’s helpful to think of useful assessment models being used outside of academia, such as the pass-fail structure we see in swimming report cards. Can this swimmer swim for 50 meters? The “score” doesn’t matter in that context – it really only matters whether the swimmer can make it to 50 meters or not. One refreshing result of removing weights and percentages from her own course reporting at the post-secondary level is that students no longer make strategic calculations about which learning activities to focus on, which activities to really invest effort in, or which activities are worth skipping.

Formative assessment makes learning more meaningful, says Christine. There’s no risk to the learner – only the opportunity for growth, learning, and improvement. It’s just a constant cycle of pushing forward, receiving feedback, and pushing forward some more. In pass-fail environments, students learn — not to receive status or earn commendation, but because they are wholeheartedly intent on the learning itself.

Professional Learning Networks

Many of the students and teacher candidates that enter Christine’s education courses at the post-secondary level are not quite as engaged with social media as popular perceptions dictate, she says. One of the challenges of showing these students the learning opportunities available to them via professional learning networks is the idea that we tend not to teach or practice things that we haven’t experienced ourselves.

With that in mind, Christine asks her students to proactively create their own digital footprint in the form of e-portfolios, starting with who a thoughtful look at who they are as a person, because who we are is how we teach. Her students then begin a process of documenting their learning and growth as teacher candidates, and they also project forward to who they will be when they leave the program as practitioners.

She also asks her students to create a Twitter account and to begin participating in that space, even if it means more lurking than contributing at the beginning. As students begin to realize the tangible wins of support and resources available in eduTwitter, they encourage others to get involved. It’s been fun to watch the #UNBCed and #BCedchat communities grow and gain momentum.

Weaving the Disciplines Together

Something that has really been igniting Christine’s interest and curiosity of late is the activity of weaving. She comes into this space very consciously a learner, and she sees all kinds of literal and metaphorical integrations with culture, indigenous learning, coding, numeracy, kinesthetic learning, and the environment. It’s an activity rich with application and extension, and it’s also good for the spirit. Speaking of numeracy, Christine says that “Everyone can do math – we just have different entry points.” For some learners, weaving might be one of those entry points. 

Professional Goals for 2020

Christine’s #OneWord2019 was WRITE, and although she looks forward to doing more published academic work, she looks back with satisfaction on all the writing that she was able to complete last year. This year, her OneWord is TENURE — not that she’s currently on a tenure track as a professor, but she seeks to move into the mindset of research, publishing, academic connections and collaboration.

Part of the challenge, Christine laughs, is to simply get over herself: as Brene Brown writes, to get past the senses of shame and inadequacy that we all wrestle with and simply get on with the work that is important to her. This will look like more academic contributions this year, and it may also include some personal work with sentimental significance, including a memoir about her mother.

Personal Learning: Weaving, Music, and Curling

When asked about personal passions and learning that ignites her passions when she leaves the UNBC campus, Christine can’t help but point back to weaving. She’s been enjoying weaving on Thursday nights at a community makerspace event, and she thinks part of the attraction is an interest in things she can’t do well. When she looks at weaving, she sees challenges with fine motor skills and coordination, but she knows that with time and persistence will come mastery.

Looking elsewhere, it’s also been a pleasure to discover the musical talents and passions of several of her peers in the UNBC faculty. Christine is also committed to rekindling a former passion: getting back to the curling rink. (For those from warmer climes, curling is essentially shuffleboard on ice.)

Professional Productivity

“I’m one of those people that works best under pressure,” Christine laughs. She’s not one for apps, routines, or hacks — she simply does the work that needs to get done by the time it needs to be done. Learning happens in community, so when we don’t complete contributions of learning by agreed-upon times, it affects the learning of others. Social responsibility compels us to honor deadlines more than penalties or money ever can.

Voices & Resources That Inspire Her Practice

Over on Twitter, Christine recommends following Nolle Pepin @Beaded_Tweets. Noelle is an indigenous educator whose work in weaving has been a big source of inspiration for Christine.

Dr. Christine’s pick for edtech tools is a classic: Google Docs. She asks her students to use Google Docs to annotate texts collaboratively, posting comments, asking questions, and responding to classmates on the same Doc.

Christine’s all-time favorite book in education is The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer. It reinforces her core values and mission and makes an easy recommendation to students.

When asked for a podcast pick, Christine admits she’s still relatively new to podcast consumption. Teachers on Fire is where it’s at! 

We close out this conversation with some really fun video picks. On YouTube, Christine is watching Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper). Dr. Lee’s content isn’t for everyone, but Christine finds her videos amusing and satisfying. And on Netflix, she’s watching two other funny shows: Schitts Creek and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.

Make sure you connect with Christine using the contact information posted below!

You can connect with Dr. Christine …

Connect with the Teachers on Fire podcast on social media:

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Song Track Credits

  • Bluntedsesh4 (by Tha Silent Partner, courtesy of FreeMusicArchive.org)
  • Sunrise Drive by South London Hifi*
  • Anthem by The Grand Affair*

*courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library

Listen on YouTube and subscribe to the Teachers on Fire channel!

*This page contains Amazon affiliate links.

Professional Paradox: The Agony and Ecstasy of Reporting Period

Report cards form a sacred ritual that speaks to our core mission.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

We’re approaching another reporting period in my middle school. Our year runs in three terms, and we’re currently in the process of wrapping up term two before spring break.

The deadline for the submission of report card comments looms large.

The Agony

For as long as I’ve been a teacher, reporting periods have been something of a painful rite of passage.

Even on normal weeks throughout the school year, I feel the weight of lesson and unit planning, assessment, emails, parent communication, team meetings, staff meetings, supervision, and all the other duties that come with the job.

If you’re in the classroom full-time, I’m sure you can relate.

Reporting periods just pile on top of those regular demands. There are more summative assessments to complete, marks to record, work habits to consider, progress comments to write.

It all takes time, and because we are proud of our professional work and committed to the mission of learning and growth, we want to do it well. It can lead to some long days and late nights, leaving us with less emotional margin for the people we serve.

As deadlines loom, thoughts of 9 to 5 days in other career fields suddenly become interesting, and our escapist fantasies take us to lazy beach vacations.

It can be an exhausting time.

The Ecstasy

Even in the midst of this pain, there is joy to be found. Year after year, I’m somehow surprised when the arduous process of reporting actually increases my care and empathy for students.

I evaluate each strand of their work habits, and I see their faces. I replay our interactions: their expressions, laughter, passions, curiosities, and the highs and lows of their character.

I write about their progress, and I’m called to reflect deeply. To consider their academic strengths and weaknesses. To remember their moments of despair and frustration. To relish their times of triumph and success. To point to areas of continuing growth and progress.

I’m reminded that some of my students fight silent battles: health problems, stressful moves, parents in the middle of divorce. Others project a brave exterior that masks deep anxiety: about academics, about their future, or about fitting in at school.

As I intensify my focus on each learner in my care, my commitment increases.

photo of three men jumping on ground near bare trees during daytime
Photo Credit: Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

A Sacred Ritual and Privilege

Reporting is a sacred ritual — one integral to our mission. It comes back to our great purpose, our rai·son d’ê·tre.

Our why.

Because this project of K-12 education is about something far, far bigger than the transmission of information. It’s about far more than 13 years of filling brains.

It’s about equipping students with skills.

It’s about habits of thinking and attitudes of heart.

It’s about the formation of mind, spirit, and character.

It’s about developing young adults who are filled with passion and compassion, who lead with service, who are prepared to contribute to the lives of others and make this world a better place.

And so it is that the rite of reporting is an honor, a privilege. Because as educators, as guides, as lead learners, we’re given a special place in this journey.

Our place is to speak into this process of growth, this journey of development, knowing that our words carry great weight.

Our comments become a formalized, enshrined review of the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, the growth and the challenges ahead.

Our words can simultaneously affirm, correct, encourage, and create hope.

And that’s an awesome responsibility. It’s what we’re all about.