Thursday, 2 October 2014

A Walk Among The Umbrellas Two - Night of the Living Umbrellas

**Again, I will not be expressing political views on this blog entry. I am simply expressing what I saw last night. Nothing more, nothing less.**

A few nights ago Shane Titus, my good friend, and new dad to a beautiful baby girl, asked me to join him on a walk to Occupy Central on was said to be the busiest night of the whole protest. October 1st.

The physical approach to the demonstrations this time would be different. We would start in Causeway Bay and work our way towards the protest through Wan Chai, into Admiralty, and finally out the other side of it in the Central District.

We began in Causeway Bay on Hennessey Road where there were about 2,000 or so protestors sitting in with many signs and one person doing most of the talking.

A message on the street made with water-bottles encouraged people to boycott work on Friday.

We continued our walk down Hennessey, mostly on the road itself, as it had, and still is, closed off to traffic. It's a surreal experience walking in the middle of a road that is normally for vehicles. It's a very satisfying and freeing experience in many ways.

After a short time, Admiralty neared. Approaching Admiralty wasn't hard, besides having to walk through Lockhart Rd and being solicited by the occasional lady-of-the-night. Awkward, but hilarious.

The walk through Admiralty itself took a lot longer than the previous day as there was more to see and experience. There were a lot more people but not in a unbearable way by any means. Between navigating through the thickest of the crowds, and out the other side of the gated area near Central took about 45 minutes to an hour.

Shane and I finished the night with a reflection/conversation at Holly Brown's coffee shop. A joyful way to finish the night to say the least.

Tonight was a bit different from my exposure to it on the afternoon walk I had a few days prior. But not significantly so. The safety, the cleanliness, the joy and spirit of the protestors were still high. Very high. I could have pushed a shelf full of expensive China through the place and it would have come out without a scratch. Courtesy, politeness, passion, and positive energy abounded.

All of the protestors were well fed, well hydrated and kept cool. The place was insanely clean. Along the various supports holding the pedways and overpasses were piles of properly sorted recycling and garbage. All throughout the protest were garbage bags. All in good condition. none misused or spilled over.

I, admittedly, did wonder where they all went to the bathroom, as I could not see any port-a-potties, or anything of the like around. Good bladders on those protestors, I must admit.

There were a few differences though....and none of them bad. For one, the people. Shane and I estimated that between all the occupied areas, that we went through, and the others we didn't, there were between 300,000 and 500,000 people involved in some capacity in the protest that night. That's
somewhere between 4% - 7% of the whole population of Hong Kong involved in the movement. The population of Hong Kong is 7.5 million people, thereabouts.

Another key difference was the activity. When I was down in the movement a few days ago, there was the occasional speech here and there, but nothing major. Tonight, on the other hand, in the heart of Admiralty, there was one man talking to most of the crowd, and there were many other smaller speeches happening throughout the protest areas. A lot of people were sitting, many were standing or walking, some sleeping. A lot were listening and clapping.

A third key difference was the presence of the yellow ribbons. People were handing them out everywhere and almost everyone was supporting it. I have rarely seen a protest that ran into such overwhelming support than this one. I didn't hear a single naysayer, or person trying to contradict it. The only vague thing I encountered was a local man talking rather passionately to a few other westerners about how he had been inconvenienced going to work for a few days. 

A fourth difference were the various banners. During the day walk I did on Monday, there were a few visuals scattered here and there. This time they were everywhere. Hanging from the pedways, people carrying them, written on umbrellas, hanging from tents. Some with writing, others depicting politicians or even Pokemon characters. All with the same message: the people of Hong Kong want a fully democratic election. And they want the current Chief Executive removed from his current position.

A final key difference was the lack of security/police presence. They could not be seen anywhere along the road from Causeway to Central. The only presence we saw was on a hill, where there were about 15 - 20 large police vans and policeman waiting on a side road. Unarmed. But in uniform. Apparently most of the riot police were stationed in various car parks above and around Admiralty area in case they needed to be called in. I did not see them, so cannot comment on the validity of this. All I do know is that their lack of presence seemed to make it easier to walk through. 

A slightly amusing observation was the many lights in the office windows of the People's Republic office building in Admiralty, and the obviously large binoculars they were using to observe the demonstrations. 

It a nutshell...a non-violent protest as best demonstrated as it could be. It was an interesting walk. A slightly better understanding of their situation, and a very positive experience overall.

Monday, 29 September 2014

A Walk Among the Umbrellas - the Occupy Central Hong Kong Protest

I'm sitting at my desk, on my vacation week off, and needed to blog. This isn't about 21C Learning this time. It's about something even more astonishing I experienced today. Something that attests to the greatness of Hong Kong....thus far.

Today, I decided to go to the gym and then take a walk down to the Admiralty/Central area. Into the thick of the Occupy Central student protests that were taking place in the area. After getting out of the subway, I left the Admiralty train station and expected a loud, perhaps slightly anger-filled energy around the area. What I experienced was far different.

Please note, I am not expressing my political opinions about the situation here. I am simply expressing what I saw.  Nothing more, nothing less.

I walked onto the street that lead to the main protests (literally in this situation, as the road was closed to cars) and began my casual stroll on Connaught Road. Typically this road is filled with daytime traffic, business people going about their day with latte and suitcase in hand. A Rolls Royce, or Ferrari may grunt on by. People on cellphones, not watching where they're going, would be a normal occurance.  The road was wide and relatively empty on my downhill approach. A few young people in black shirts carrying boxes of water and food. An interesting start to what I was about to experience.

The closer I got to the protest the more I Amidst the large office buildings, Audi dealership, and other businesses along the main route, there were throngs of sweaty people. But that's pretty normal for Hong Kong. There was no violence. There was no major "disobedience." It was simply thousands of university students sitting, standing (a few shouting), sleeping, and being otherwise very safe and helpful. 
There are large concrete roadblocks which, at first glance, look like they are there to contain the protestors, when in reality, they are simply part of the highway. And in sheer helpfulness, many people have set up ladders, or climbable barriers to help people get onto the main street. when someone is on one, others are on both sides to help them get up.

The center of the protest was simply a lot more people, in black shirts sitting, standing, a few shouting, eating, drinking water, and being otherwise safe and helpful.  On one side there is an abandoned city double decker bus with the face of a man on it whom people appear to be slapping while others commend them for it.  
I don't know what the media is portraying about this protest, but it is not violent and is not chaotic. It's organized. And the students are well fed, hydrated and taken care for. Everyone is walking around with cool patches on their foreheads or necks. 

The Hong Kong Red Cross building is actually within a block of the core protest area.  There is no broken glass, no one seemed to want violence. The protestors are actively cleaning up the litter.

As I finish my stroll through the main area, which is about 1/2KM long, I felt never worried. Never felt like it could get violent. The police were standing in the background, no riot gear. Taking it easy. Watching from stairwells and behind barriers. Not being active. There was nothing for them to stop....besides thousands of students blocking off a main thoroughfare. 

In short, I am highly impressed at the goings on that I experienced today. I hope it stays this way. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Lounging before the cool

I'm sitting here in the Qatar Airways lounge waiting for the flight to board to London. It's December 2nd, Monday. Not a normal day to be heading to London when you're a school teacher.

But here I am...heading there for the third time in less than a year. And up to January I had never been there before.

So...I'm off. On a Monday night. I've prepared my sub plans, did my rehearsals for our Middle School show, went on my field trip, attended my meetings and now I wait.

There was a lot to prepare for this run. And a lot to leave behind. I love teaching. I love my kids. I miss them when I'm it makes it hard to leave them each time I go somewhere.

But I know I'm going for something special. Something unique. Something different.

This thing, the Google Teacher's Academy, is nothing short of an honor. I've got no idea of what to expect. I've been told things during a google hangout. Been encouraged, and excited. The past few nights I've had a bit of a restless sleep out of excitement waiting for this thing.

And now that I'm in the airport, leaving for it, the excitement is building. Not just for the Google Certified Teacher designation (something only bestowed on about 100 or 150 people per year), but also to learn straight from google. To ask questions. To meet gifted and talented 21st Century Educators. To help grow my teaching practice so that I can bring it to the kids in my teaching career. Wherever that may be.

So, I sit here next to my dear friend Mandy Hollingshead. Hoping, waiting, getting excited. Wanting to share. Wanting to be a vessel to learn. Desiring new knowledge, new ways to care for, educate, scaffold, and get my kids excited about learning.

I'm going because I think this will be one of the best experiences, let alone Professional Development experiences, of my life. Because when I come back full of Googley excitedness. When I come back ready to show the whole staff, students and parents the cool stuff I learned. when I know that there will be more excited learners around me. It makes every ounce of it worth it.

I'm aware that my kids will miss me. I'm also aware that I'll miss them. And I'll miss being in the classroom. I'll miss introducing my kids to Aurasma and introducing the staff to the stuff we learned from Bob Garmston's Adaptive School's training.

What I'll get to absorb from teachers from all continents (except South America in this situation I think), will be infinitely more valuable.

So I sit, a little sleepy, waiting for the call. To board my flight. To get to the cold, wet, beautiful city of London. So, ultimately, the students at Qatar Academy can get a better teaching experience.


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Relaxing vs Workaholic

I'm sitting in my apartment today on a school day. I've got a stomach bug. I don't want to get my kids sick

But having to stay home is probably one of the worst things for me. It means I'm forced to lie down and "relax." The way society says I have to relax. The reality is, I love what I do. I don't find it a chore, or a problem to come to work every day. I love it.

This is my third sick day in 7 years. I think?

I work hard. But it's because I love what I do. Why else would I do what I do? As a teacher, I don't get paid the most, get the most outward credit for things, or see data-based tangible results.

What I do see is smiles on kids faces, life in the classroom, and laughing. A lot of laughing. Both from myself, co-workers and my students. And eureka moments. I love those. When a child "gets it", or when they've learned something new and they get the ball rolling on stuff.

So, where does that lead me? Well, as I type this, it leads me to realizing how much I wish I was at work, knowing that there's a lot to be done today from the comfort of my own apartment. Stuff that I wouldn't have time to do otherwise.

I'm going embrace this forced day off. And do. Do a nap. Do some google. Do some work. But do.

And embrace that my workaholic passionate self is simply doing things from a different location today.

Also, just watched "The Internship" and am now wondering if that's what Google, as a company, is really like. I hope to find out in December.

Friday, 13 September 2013


Well's been a few weeks since I've posted on my site. I sincerely apologize. Now that I'm back in the mancave and "relaxing"'s time for a few new post.

I'm sitting at my chair in thought. Thinking about 1,000 things at I normally do.

I arrived back in Qatar and sprinted off into my new Academic Coordinator position. It's stretching me...causing me to be organized...helping me improve. I love it.

I'm not one for stagnation. I think if we're comfortable, we're not learning. And that's a problem. It's also an obsession of mine. Not being lazy. I've maintained that I want to always be challenged. It's exhausting most days, and makes me wrestleless on more than one occasion...but the good outweighs the bad...and there's not much bad.

I digress...a new school year is like the proper New Year's for us teachers. We get a chance to improve our craft at a new level, with new kids. We get to try new things. Try to achieve a new level of balance and harmony that we didn't have before. That we can strive for. And try to help our kids achieve this same balance of harmony. It also gives us a chance to get rid of the stuff that didn't work before. The stuff that we tried that made us go... "hmmmm...nope"....and try that stuff that worked with a brand new set of hopes we get the internal reaction of..."WOOT!"

The big difference for me this year is that I've really tried to avoid stagnation. I not only accepted an Academic Coordinator's position but also switched down to Grade 3. Two grades lower. My first switch of grades ever. A grade I've never taught before.

Sunday this week was scary. Unfamiliar territory. Adjusting my own head's capabilities. It was like trying yoga for the first time, or crossfit. Not getting the positions quite right sometimes. Hitting the mark on many occasions, and finding a few lumps all the while. Expecting more than could actually be achieved and finding myself sore when it was all done....but good sore. A sore than you know is helping you build.

But the second day I had new expectations...better ones. Ones that were more achievable for myself...and my kids. So the second day was better. Less scary. For them...and me. We took new strides. Together. They learned some. I learned a lot.

The third day was another step in the right direction. Getting a feel for the Grade 3 boy mind and the Grade 3 girl mind. Finding the differences, expectations and capabilities better. Again, for me and them. Testing the waters of their minds continued. Testing the waters of mine as well. Both fascinating things. They amazed me more and more each day. I found myself humbled more. Loving it more.

The fourth day of the week I found myself wondering when they would finish things. Found their excitement for Maths games more obvious. They are very different little creatures than my Grade 5s of years gone by. I like them. They're a fun bunch. Even the ones who don't quite seem to know where they are half the time. I'm getting more excited as well.

The fifth day, though I was fairly tired from the early mornings, was also good. I've had 20 of my 21 kids. I found out I'd be getting a 22nd kid for my class too. Loving their energy. They wake me up. In a good way. Their learning excited me in ways I couldn't imagine.

I have never lost my passion for teaching. I've always loved it. Loved my Grade 5 kids. Loved how they moved, did things, got organized and disorganized. Now, my Grade 3s. I also love them. Already. I'm loving being in my room with them. I'm loving that they take 3X longer to do things than the Grade 5s. I'm loving their honesty. Their minds. Their creativity. I'm loving their silly jokes that I often don't see as funny but laugh because I know they think it is and can really appreciate that.

It's not that my passion for teaching came back. It's that it simply increased. I'm loving that I get to find out where they get challenged. I'm loving the new skills I'll be teaching them this year. I'm loving that a lot of them already learned how to share something on googledocs this week and how to type into a text box. I'm loving that I'll have to revisit this. That I think of it as basic, but they are amazed by it. One of my boys got wide-eyed when
I told him that he was typing into the same document at the same time as his friends. Such a satisfying feeling.

Now that I can see more of where they need to go I am keen to see more Eureka moments. I can see the potential to teach them stuff that my Grade 5s already knew. I get to be the one to show them first. To see them get excited about it. Because it's new to them.

I'm more than a little excited about this year.

They had a few Eureka moments this past week.

I had 100s.

As an Academic Coordinator I'm going to be an amazing way...professionally, as my reluctant leader self. I'm still not convinced the leader role is a good hat to wear. I could be wrong. It could be a hat that everyone can see me wearing, and it's my own perception that's letting me down. But I am humble enough to know I've got a lot to learn.

As a Grade 3 teacher I'm going to be stretched passionately in my profession. Again...I'm humble enough to know...things won't always be perfect. But this one feels like a great hat to wear.




Wednesday, 21 August 2013

From the heart

So, tonight I said good bye to most of my friends here in St. John's...again. For the 14th time I figure. I don't know exactly what number it is, but it's high. And each time I doesn't get easier. It gets a bit harder actually.

You in Newfoundland I've got friends whom I've known for 10-15 years. They've seen me through my best and worst times. There have been quabbles, smiles, awkward weird moments, but there's always been love. The friends who are around you for that long truly know you. There's nothing new to find out, unless it happened yesterday or today. It's an amazing thing.

And when you say good bye to them for a few months (for 2-3 of them, probably a year), it's a little heartbreaking.

Always is.

But I don't leave until tomorrow night. Tomorrow is a family day...mostly. I'll also see one of my most dear friends on the planet, the awesome Dr. Dax Rumsey. I've never written that out before. It looks good on him....but then at 8:30p.m.ish I'll head to the airport to catch my flight:

St. John's to 

London to


Back to the sandbox.

And it's not that I don't like the sandpit. I do. It's a great place to live/work/be. I've got an amazing school with great friends, administrators, co-workers and kids. But it's still hard to leave the people who you're most comfortable around. That you're most "yourself" with. 

The people whom you could play board games with every night. Have any sort of conversation...and it's all a good laugh.

And so...tonight is more of a heartfelt entry.

And I will still find a way to tie this into my teaching here it is:

Each year, when we begin anew, our kids are very often in new classes, with different dynamics, different friends. They're taken out of their comfort zones. Much like we, as teachers, are taken out of ours with each class. We have to reestablish new relationships, friendships, classroom security, routines, and learn about each other.

So we have to look for the things we find most comfortable. The things that "know us the best" and keep us grounded. 

Because there's good uncomfortable and bad uncomfortable. And some days we will encounter the bad uncomfortable, so we need to look for our comforts to keep us stable. And sometimes that's a call to the friends and family at home. 

And for our kids, sometimes, it's a conversation with a child in another class they're most comfortable with. Or a call home to mom to get some grounding. Something to provide stability in an otherwise changing place. A place that needs to be feel grounded.

So, I think we need to account for this in our teaching practice. To recognize when a child is beyond their regular comfort zone, and try to make it as comfortable as possible. To try and see misbehaviour as fighting against the uncomfortable. And rather than fighting back, open our arms and making it a warm place.

To make our classroom secure. So we reach a place of good uncomfortable. Stable, solid, but challenging their learning. A place to make mistakes, but be good to make those.

So, I'll fly back tomorrow night. Hoping that my discomfort doesn't interfere with my making my classroom. I've done it for 7 years and have been successful at it (I think). 

And finish....Here's Shakespeare's Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Monday, 19 August 2013

On set not Upset

Today I did background work for the local Canadian hit TV show The Republic of Doyle. I do this every summer for fun, as it is fantastic to see production work being done first hand. It's really cool to see how action sequences, car chases, character dialogue, special guests and "realism" is put into a fictional TV show. It's a truly joyous experience and I encourage you all to do it if you can.

Today was a rather long day. 10 hours to be exact. And the background was used for a lot of that time. By the time you're done, your lower back, legs and feet are aching akin to walking around a museum for 10 hours. A lot of 20 - 30 second movements followed by a stop and wait. And not much sit.

Now, bear in mind I'm not complaining at all.

I was on set, and not upset.

It's such a great thing to experience.

And it got me thinking about our teaching practices in 3 ways:

1) As teachers we go through a lot of stop-start walking for 20 seconds:

We sit with the kids sometimes, but we're moving around the classroom a lot. We're doing a lot of stop start. A lot of short walking and being on our feet. And it makes sense that teachers should be able to wear sneakers/comfortable shoes when teaching as this is best for the lower back, legs, feet and neck.

2) Seeing things from different angles:

Today on the set a few shots were filmed from different angles. This is no different from most other TV shows where each major/minor sequence has to be filmed from different angles. And it got me wondering how much our kids have the ability to see things from different angles. And if we train them to do so.

In the PYP learner profile, this is best known as "Perspective"

And it's something that we really need to try and get our kids to do. We also have to face the reality that our kids are only capable of so much of this, as their brains (especially the elementary child) have not matured enough to see things from others' points of view. So, we really need to be patient when we ask a child to see things from another's point of view, from a character's point of view in a story, or to see another's opinion on something they have an opinion of already. It doesn't happen overnight, we shouldn't expect it to, and we should be positive in encouraging the different angles. Then, over time perspective will develop. We help to scaffold and support this maturing without forcing it.

3) When we look at 21C Learning tools.

A lot of times when we're presented with a 21C learning tool we form an opinion on it right away. Sometimes it's very negative. Other times it's VERY positive, and we blindly accept it.

I think we need to look at every 21C learning tool that we're presented with from the different angles. For example, when shown one we should ask a few of these questions (I'll hopefully expand the list later):

  1. Does this help my class achieve more?
  2. Does this help my class inquire? Is it supposed to help them inquire?
  3. Can it be done more simply with a tool that I or my kids already know?
  4. Does it's new cool benefits outweigh the learning curve in getting to know it?
  5. Do I need a special device to use it?

These were just some of the thoughts that popped into my mind when on set today.