It’s just after 6am on my last day of work before summer, and I’m in a Starbucks having a coffee. I had to drop my daughter to her synchronized swimming practice and decided to just wake up a little early and head to school. Only after getting my coffee did I realize that the school I’m going to won’t be open yet and I don’t have a key for that school. So, here I am, iPad on my lap, sipping coffee and taking a look back at the year that was.

I said in a comment recently that I’m ending the toughest, and most exciting, and most tragic, and most rewarding school year that I’ve ever had.

A part of me wants to end the post right there… It was a dichotomous year! Done. Over-and-out. Here comes summer! So why am I still writing? I think that I’m hoping to make some sense out of things, and thinking hasn’t done that yet, maybe writing will. Not sure where this is heading yet, but glad that you could join me.

Yesterday, I went to a funeral. This mother of three, pillar in the community, and dear family friend died a senseless death. Tears are welling up in my eyes right now as I type. Maybe Starbucks isn’t the right place to be writing this? Maybe it is, because again the dichotomy strikes… Upbeat tempo reggae swirling in the background while I think of something so sad it almost physically hurts. I wrote back in January about a new tragedy of the commons and I’ve really felt this new social-emotional ‘crisis’ that has hit our world, our community, and me personally. This is a part of my year that I hope to leave behind. Let the sun set on this theme and let summer bring a new dawn.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with the Inquiry Hub. I’ve had the privilege of working with an amazing group of students, parents, educators, leaders, mentors and friends. After 7 years of blogging about transforming education, I now have the opportunity to do something completely outside the box. It has been an amazing year, and it has also been exhausting and hard! It has also come with responsibilities beyond the school that require an incredible amount of time and energy. This has left me questioning my capacity, and wondering on more than one occaison if I shouldn’t go back to being a classroom teacher… While also feeling like I wouldn’t want any other position in the world. When I was asked to share my input and intentions for next year I said, “Leave me here for at least three more years, at the very least I’d like to see the Grade 9’s at the Inquiry Hub graduate”.

I’m also excited about other aspects of my job. I believe that the future of education will be open and distributed, and that blended learning is where we are most likely to see amazing innovation. Working with Coquitlam Open Learning allows me to explore blended learning beyond the Inquiry Hub. But as Tony Bates says,

The main challenge is how to decide what is best done in class, and what online. There is a clear set of best practices and design models for fully online learning, but, other than the NCAT studies, we don’t have good models or at least well-tested models for hybrid learning.

How do we create meaningful blended experiences? How do we use our synchronous learning opportunities, in classes, seminars, virtual classrooms, and any other gatherings? One of my teachers had poetry/creative writing cafe’s for his face-to-face sessions in an online creative writing class, and he worked with the art department in his school to produce a shared journal of writing and artwork (and yes, we printed some paper copies of this too!) There are some interesting, exciting and challenging learning opportunities ahead for students and educators alike.

And yet, we live in an era where people talk about education being broken… Like ‘it’ is a thing we can dispose of. If something bad happens in one class, or one school, well then the whole system is failing. I’m as tired of that sentiment as I am of the emotional roller coaster I’ve had this year. There are some AMAZING educators doing creative things with students that we could not dream of just five years ago. It’s time to move on.

So goodbye 2012/2013 school year. The sun has set, and I’m moving on to a new day. I’m not going to wallow in what could have/should have been. I am going to look back at this year fondly, whether thinking about highlights like our Green Inquiry Successful Garden Building Day, or about someone dear to me that we have lost. Next year promises to be exciting and is filled with potential. That’s what I’m heading into summer thinking about!

11 comments on “Looking Back

  1. Thanks for sharing these reflections, David. Sounds like you are having time (finally!) to process the year and look forward.

    Very interested in your thoughts on the “blending” of online and face-to-face learning, especially when it comes to the question of how we serve students who are heavily school-dependent and not terribly motivated or well-resourced on their own.

    To me, public education stands or falls on how well we succeed with the students who wouldn’t be doing much in a purely self-directed online environment. It sounds like Inquiry Hub is doing some innovative stuff in that space that would be worth sharing.

    1. Justin,
      First of all, thank you very much for inviting me to your High Performance Workflow session. My challenge now is to adopt some of your ideas and move them from a new novelty to a new habit… No easy task for this old dog:)

      Your comment about not terribly motivated or well-resourced students hit a cord with me. That was a challenge for us at the Hub as well! Our program is geared to self-directed learners and we’ve both had to make, and will continue to make adjustments to scaffold and support students that need help… While not limiting and constricting students that don’t need the extra support, whom may end up doing less to meet our criteria rather than soaring with their own self-directed learning. I think we’ll still be tweaking this four years from now. (My ‘perpetual beta’ post is coming soon!)

      Thanks also, for taking the time to comment and add value to my last couple posts!

  2. Indeed. It was a melancholy moment last week when I turned in my resignation from my public schooling position. There were so many wonderful memories, and I loved the classroom so much. But as life goes on, the things around us change. We lose, we gain, and we must move with our shifting reality. Like you David, I mourn the losses, but each new day represents a renewal of the epiphany that there is no going back. Each sunrise heralds the death of the last beautiful sunset.

    Like you, returning to the way things were is not an option. So I’m now committed to bringing my vision to an independent school that is looking beyond “Blackboards” and “Smartboards” and models of direct instruction. Despite the incredible challenges and angst that come with exploring new ways of “educating” the results and the promise reminds me that there seems to be a corollary to the expression “When a door closes, a window opens.” It is that when a new window opens, a door closes as well. I’ve always liked to keep my options open, but in this “ever-changing world in which we live in” going back is not one of them.

    David, again I must salute your courage and sensitivity. You, and other teachers like you, are my heroes and sources of encouragement and hope. As we each float down this river of change, let’s continue to bind that to which we each cling together. By doing so we will build a raft to make the journey both safe and secure for us and those who would join us on this adventure called education.


    Gord Holden

    1. Gord,
      It is with mixed emotions that I say ‘congratulations’ to you! On the one hand, I’m excited (to use your metaphor) that you are in a position to help build a raft that others can bind to and ride along with… I foresee great learning opportunities for yourself, and others like me that have been tagging along for the ride. I am also saddened that you need to leave public education to create better opportunities.
      While the BCEd Plan holds great promise, an innovative plan, surrounded by financial cuts, does not create an ideal environment for meaningful change.
      That said, I’m very excited to learn more and I’m inspired by your leadership in Immersive Technology!

      1. Aye, I lost some hope for the BCEd Plan when a leader suggested learning needs to be couched in “real” experiences. Hopefully, at a time when new budgets and regulations have virtually precluded field trips, common sense will prevail. I’ve not yet heard that the use of “non-real” textbooks, movies and videos, plays, poetry and iOS/Android apps are unwelcome. This gives me some hope that policy makers may eventually awaken to the promise held by the enthusiastic registration of over one billion children and over one billion adults in such environments since 2000. We will build it, and they will come. Whether in public schooling, or otherwise. Thanks for your ever gracious and encouraging words David. Back at you. : )

  3. Hi Dave,

    I read your post yesterday morning and have been contemplating my response.

    It was such a challenging year, for sure. You are such an amazing person and educator though, to realize that the year is what it was and now, it is time to move forward. I love how, in the midst of all the challenges, you are still able to think of the many great things as well. THAT is what makes you the positive person you are. That is what makes your impact on others important. You can always see the bright side of things (but not in an annoying, rose-coloured-glasses kind of way).

    I believe also that we have incredible possibilities for education in the future. Heck, as you mentioned, there are amazing things happening every single day in classrooms around the province – things that wouldn’t have been possible even 3 years ago! It is incredible how quickly things are changing and evolving. Pretty soon, hopefully, there will be no other option for educators (teachers and leaders alike) to get on board and join the ride!

    Thanks for your inspiration and positive thoughts.

    I hope you can now enjoy a well-earned, relaxing summer holiday with family and friends!


    1. Tia,
      You have been a pillar of support for me, thank you! I think through timing and serendipity, you’ve ended up hearing the worst of what I’ve had to deal with, and with so many emotional events happening, it was great to be able to share with someone on the ‘outside’ if that makes any sense? Again, thank you…

      And so now, like you, I sit here with a great summer break ahead, excited about what the future holds!

  4. This is the line that sticks to me, Pal:

    And yet, we live in an era where people talk about education being broken… Like ‘it’ is a thing we can dispose of.

    – – – – –

    Whether people think education is broken or not, it isn’t something that we’ll be disposing of anytime soon — which means we need to find ways to polish our practices so that they give MORE kids MORE opportunities to succeed.

    That’s going to drive me for the next good while.

    Thanks for the challenge…

    1. Bill, it has been a mission of mine to shift the view from ‘broken’ to ‘transforming’:

      I look to educators like you, still in the classroom and truly making a difference as my example(s). As well as for students, we also have to create an environment for teachers to have MORE and MORE opportunities to succeed!

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