Reflections from EdCamp Leadership 2014

wordleedlpThis past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Philadelphia PA to attend Edcamp Leadership.  It was a gathering of educators from 10 different states as well as a handful of Ontario educators.  Last year, I attended a similar conference in New Jersey and was excited to interact, once again, with many of the educators whom I follow on Twitter.  This was my fifth EdCamp experience and it proved, once again, to be an opportunity to “listen, learn and share” with like-minded leaders.  As I review my notes, there are several key themes that resonated with me and a few more which caused great, deep and sometimes heated conversation on our 11 hour drive home.

One common thread within each session was the question as to how to connect others to social media.  Tom Whitby succinctly shared that “the worst advocate for being a connected educator is a connected educator”.   If that is true then how will we get our colleagues to see the benefit of using social media to engage their staff, their students and their parent communities?  images (2)

We’ve experienced the same challenges when it comes to sound pedagogy in the area of inquiry based learning, problem solving or comprehensive literacy instruction.  Those who are doing it, can’t imagine a world without it and can’t imagine why others aren’t submerging themselves in this vast array of professional learning and resources.

Another phrase which was shared by Jay Eitner (New Jersery superintendent) was “that being connected flattens hierarchy”.  I have come to find that to be one of the most meaningful advantages of social media.  Within 140 characters, one can easily read the thoughts, views and opinions of others from all walks of education as well as reach out and seek information, resources or clarification.  I’m continually amazed when authors like Todd Whittaker and Dave Burgess reply to a Tweet as if they were the teacher next door. I love that!  Within many organizations, you see the interaction between directors, superintendents and first year teachers ~ all very seamless.  The common goal of professional learning transcends any hierarchy of position, paycheck or personal agenda.

For me Edcamp is a fine blend of new resources (can’t wait to try out Smore, Teachercast and and thought provoking discussions.   At Edcamp Leadership there was a distinct camaraderie between many of the Edcamp Leadership organizing team and some of their inside jokes were lost on us “out of towners”,  but at the end of the day, using social media and various technology tools to have an impact on the learning of others (leaders, teachers, students and parents) was at the heart of each conversation.

It was a privilege to spend a day in Philly with connected, concerned and caring educators.

Have you ever attended an EdCcamp?  If so, what resonated with you?

images (4)Come write with me….

Heart Month


 February is often seen as the Heart Month! We celebrate Valentine’s Day and Staff Appreciation Week. Our grade 7/8 students offered the school community the opportunity to demonstrate their caring for others by purchasing and sending Candy Gram! It truly is the month of Love.



February also has Family Day and what a joy it was recently to just have a full day away from work to be with our own families. It is a perfect holiday to have in the month of Love. But tonight while preparing for school tomorrow, I happened to flip the channels and came across the Oscars. I’m not one for much Hollywood glitz and glamour, but I have seen a few of the movies and was interested in knowing how they might fare tonight. The show was indeed a wonderful escape to the glamorous lifestyle of the rich and famous, but it was the ending of the show that I enjoyed the most. A chorus of children from New York had been flown by United Airlines all the way to Hollywood to sing at the Oscars. In the tradition of Glee, the P_22 Chorus from Staten Island, with their music teacher, Gregg Breinberg sang their way into the hearts of America with their rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

The background story of this school’s rise from a very normal and ordinary school on Staten Island is most insightful.


Their teacher, Breinberg had been singing the songs of many famous artists for years now and posting them on YouTube. One of their Lady Gaga songs has had almost 5 million hits. Many of these famous singers who’s songs were taped and posted were so impressed with what they heard, the path to the Oscars was paved by their suggestions.


And now they were on the set at the Staples Center at the Academy and the Oscars.


As I listened and watched the kids I couldn’t help but see all our own Jury students there. But I was so taken with what the music teacher from New York said about his students when asked if he could have ever believed this could have ever happened to his choir. Breinberg told the interviewer “I could have never dreamt this was possible..But it shows that hard work can make anything possible.”


That struck a strong cord with me. “Hard work can make anything possible!” And although it’s exciting for this young group of students from New York to be at the Oscars, I couldn’t help but think how hard work helped a young student in grade one read an entire short story for the first time. Hard work brought a group of grade 3 students excitingly into my office sharing a math story they had written. Hard work brought a group of Early Years students to my office with their story webs. Later I thanked those teacher who had worked so hard to help get their students to that point. And so it goes on each and every day here at Jury – the hard work and the exciting pay-off.


Thank you parents of all our children. YOU have worked so hard to produce the wonderful attitudes in the children you send us each morning. Thank you to all our staff here at Jury for your dedication to working with all of our students and ensuring that they learn something new every day.


But most of all I want to thank each student who comes through our doors each morning. When you feel like quitting and giving up, remember “hard work can make anything possible”. What is your “anything?” What are your dreams? All of us are here to help you see your dreams come true – each and every day.




 “to attack where a person is vulnerable”


Last night at the Bruyns household, a relatively unusual thing happened. Three of us sat down to watch the same movie, in the same room.  Unfortunately with four televisions and three computers, most of our viewing is done in separate rooms with separate interests.  But, in honour of Earth Day (following our hour long walk during the prescribed time slot), we wanted to further our contribution. So we decided one TV could go on and the lights would have to stay off.   Now came the tricky part ~ deciding on something that we would all enjoy.   After 20 minutes of cruising through numerous channels, we decided to rent “The Blind Side”.   I must admit that I was less than excited about watching a football movie.  But all of that changed as the true story of Michael Oher came to life.  Yes, the football parts kept the guys entertained, but it was story of Michael’s educational journey that I found inspiring.


This young man was granted admission to a private school, based on his athletic ability in the hope that he would made a difference to their football program.  But before he could play football, he needed to prove himself as a student.  The faculty was less than pleased that this boy had been granted admission as his written performance was poor at best.  It was the compassion of his science teacher, who took the time to realize that he knew the material orally, that made a difference.  She shared that strategy with other faculty members and soon Michael saw himself as a learner. In that scene, it reminded me what all good teachers do.  We do whatever it takes to give our students opportunities to share their knowledge.


As the story progressed and college football became a possibility, more intense instruction was needed. The family hired a tutor who worked relentlessly with him.  At one point in the story, Michael becomes frustrated and shares that “I can’t do it!”  The tutor, Miss Sue, quickly jumps in with, “You can’t do it, yet!  But some day you will be able to do it!”   What a powerful statement to share with a student.  It gives them hope and we all need that!


As time drew closer to the final assessment for the year, Michael needed to write an English paper, the one subject where he was still generating Ds. His “father” retold the story of how he enjoyed the poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson.  His father’s passion for the poem and his ability to connect with the details inspired Michael to write a paper that garnered him the necessary mark to graduate.


This is an example of how we need to engage our students in their learning. Telling them how something affects us or inspires us is so important.


In the end, I guess I was the one who was “blind-sided” by the movie.  I was hit (in an emotional way) where I am most vulnerable ~ my passion for education and how we in education can truly make a difference.