First round of Formal Goals

I am proud to be a life long learner.  I have learned in formal and informal ways– by participating in workshops or graduate courses and through interacting with people on twitter, wordpress, or other Web 2.o tools or through conversations around the copy machine.

Through my informal learning and experiences as an educator, I’ve decided it is time to do some more formal, well-structured, learning again.

I have been accepted into an Educational Administration Masters of Science program at Emporia State University.  Upon matriculation into Educational Administration program at Emporia State University, I was required to state some goals that I would like to accomplish as an Administrator.  In an exercise in transparency, I am posting those goals here.

I would love feedback from previous and current administrators (what is reasonable, how might I accomplish my goals, what are some pitfalls to be aware of?).  I would also love feedback from teachers, students, and families (what am I missing? what is more important?).  If you read this, and I am now your Leader/Administrator, give me a reality check…how am I doing?

Statement of Goals (things to accomplish as Educational Leader/Administrator)

September 2011

∙ establish and maintain a safe teaching and learning environment, both physically and emotionally.

∙ establish and extend effective channels of communication for parents/families to communicate with building leadership and teaching staff (and vice-versa).

∙ listen to all stakeholders before making big decisions; remain open-minded as long as possible (reserve judgment), then act quickly; finally, transparently explain final decisions to all stakeholders (related to goal above). Quote: “Be quick—but don’t hurry.” John Wooden

∙ model empathetic leadership; think…what would it feel like to be the other person/people in this situation?…what are the possible responses to this conversation because of those feelings?…how can I frame my bottom line so it can be heard?…is this the right time to address my bottom line?

∙ when making big decisions, always keep student well-being and learning as the number one priority.

Are these reasonable?  What am I missing?  What are strategies that work for you if your goals are similar to mine?  Thank you for reading.

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EARCOS Leadership Conference 2013

As a professional educator, I’ve learned that if we are not getting better we are getting worse.

It is refreshing to take time for my own personal and professional learning this weekend at the ERCOS Leadership Conference 2013 in Bangkok.

I’ve begin using twitter again, please find me @ibdanmagie.  This blog post is part of my learning being visible.

Here are some of the sessions I’ve joined over the three day conference and at least one take away I got from each:

1.  Curriculum Renewal Part 1: Developing a Dynamic Curriculum Review Process (Jill Watson/Liz Gale)

Take away:  American International School of Guangzhou has a detailed review process that I will share with my curriculum leadership team during our next meeting.  

2.  What Administrators Need to Know about Service Learning (Cathryn Berger Kaye)

Take away: MYP Next Chapter changes and upcoming IBDP CAS revisions have been influenced by Kaye’s work.  Time to buy her book (or borrow it from @jforsythe08): The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, and Social Action

3.  Create.Innovate.Voice. (George Couros @gcouros)

Take away: I’m here blogging again and using twitter again (@ibdanmagie)

4.  Twitter for Leaders (George Couros @gcouros)

Take away: I’m tweeting, again, for my personal/professional growth and beginning to add to my current schools digital footprint

5.  Professional Learning: Adults Are Learners Too! (Cheryl Doig)

Take away: I need to develop differentiated teacher professional growth strategies; focusing on Just In Time Professional Growth (JITPG)

6.  Building a Culture of Inclusion (Simon Gillespie)

Take away:  Developing a way for educational assistants, for students who need them, being employed under the umbrella of the school and not outsourced as the parents responsibility.

7.  Google Apps in the Classroom (Jeff Utecht @jutecht)

Take away: Priority inbox for gmail (why didn’t I use it before!). Plus, for PD with teachers (helps me reach my take-away from session 5 above)

8.  Your Digital Footprint (George Couros @gcouros)

Take away: I started this blog posting in this session.

9.  In Youth We Trust (Catheryn Berger Kaye)

Take away: I was reminded of this poem: Listen Please and found some resources for an upcoming MYP action for service workshop (see my twitter feeds @ibdanmagie for more take aways).

This blog posting is for me, but I hope those who read it my find something useful as well.  If so, please SHARE 🙂

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Crowd Sourcing as part of my Research Project

I have a question for you as a reader.  I need your ideas and your experiences to help me gain new perspectives.  Please take a few minutes to post a comment or send me an email at with your thoughts.

I’m currently taking courses towards a Masters in Educational Administration.  One of my current courses is EA 888: School Systems Management.  As part of that course, I am conducting research about:


How can we (school leaders) effectively inform students, staff, parents, and community about the on-goings of the school?

I have interviewed the Marketing and Development Director of my school to get some ideas about Parents/Families and Community (the greater community).  I plan to interview a couple teachers.  And, I will also interview my Head of School about all four “stake-holder” groups.

I want to balance my research with some perspectives outside of my current school.  That is where you, the reader, come into my research.

What are your thoughts about one or more of the following groups:

How can we effectively inform students?

How can we effectively inform staff?

How can we effectively inform parents/families?

How can we effectively inform community?

I look forward to seeing what others have to say and will hopefully have a follow-up posting to come by late this week.  Post your ideas now, please!

handshake and communication

Fotosearch Stock ImagesRF Royalty Free

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Guest Post: Student-Led Inquiry driving Summative Assessment

This is a guest posting from a colleague who is exploring the idea of student-driven inquiry in the Middle Years Programme.  This is her first “footprint” in the digital edu-blog world, please welcome @LanaMLautamus

I’ve been teaching PYP for the past few years, and this is my first year in the MYP.  I’m in the first draft stage of planning a Student-Led Inquiry which will be driven by the Summative Assessment Options for our final Humanities unit of the year.

This idea started in our Humanities department and I’m giving it a shot.  First, I had the students write suggestions on our class Moodle Forum for what they would like to do as a summative assessment for our Renaissance Unit.  I then collected the data and made the following draft of a task sheet based on their ideas: Summative Assessment.from Lana.

As it states, I will then conference with each kid (or a group who are choosing the same task) and we will discuss expectations for achieving the various bands on the criterion.  In this way, each criterion used for the summative assessment option will have task-specific clarifications.  I gave them an option of a final due date, but they are welcome to submit work any time before or up to/including that date mentioned.  I’ve also made a note of the maximum number of children that could submit/present each day for the last few classes leading up to the final option for a due date, as my prediction is that they will choose the last possible moment.

The only thing I am wondering is:  if someone chooses a very early due date, then what do they do during class time after they’ve submitted their work?  I am envisioning a mix of presentations and work time as they due dates arrive so those who are finished will, obviously, observe others presentations.  But, then how do they use the “work time” portion of the lesson?  Does it then become like a study hall where they manage their own time?  Or, do they just get the advantage of having more time to work on the unit reflection activity/opportunity, digital portfolios and in-class study time for the final assessment of the year?

Thanks for your advice/suggestion about these questions.  Please do feel free to use and alter the template linked above as you see fit for your needs.



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Supervision that supports professional growth

Wordle: Reflections from Observation Experience

Supervision that supports professional growth

As part of my masters course work for my Educational Administration degree, I have been learning about ways to support teachers through effective supervision strategies. The word cloud above is made from all my reflections regarding walk-throughs, mini-observations, and full observations with teachers to support their professional growth.

I have really enjoyed working with teachers through this process as well as through our school’s Professional Growth initiative (which is based on self-reflection and collaboration).

From both of these experiences, I have come up with a few “insights” that I want to remember as I continue to support teachers’ professional growth in the future.

Insights Gained

*As professional educators, we are either getting better or getting worse. There is no staying the same.

*As Mahatma Gandhi said, be the change you want to see (in the world). Model, model, model!

*Most teachers want to do the best job they can, and many appreciate supportive structures that help them become self-reflective and take action towards continued professional growth.

*Creating a culture of sharing and reflection for an entire staff will take time and perseverance, and the time commitment will pay off exponentially.

How have you been supported as a professional?  What works for you?  What doesn’t?  Please share some of your thoughts in our comments below.

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The first step is starting…

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Lao Tzu quotes

I’ve written this blog posting in mind several times…but I haven’t posted since November!  I could list all the reasons why I haven’t posted, but that doesn’t help me.  Over the past couple months I’ve thought about writing a posting about:

*G7 personal lines of Inquiry in their Emotions in Media unit

*Being thankful about working in an IB World School as it has helped me develop my international mindedness (i.e. the time I had Iranian Educators visiting and a bomb was detonated in my city, supposedly by an Iranian).

*My favorite tweet of the past month: “Ruth Adams@rutha @henriettaMi Any marking done WITHOUT the child there is fruitless, ineffectual and therefore pointless. You’re better off gardening.”

And the list could go on…but I haven’t posted anything…

That is when I was reminded that my blog is about me, it is for me, and it is a place that I can be reflective.  I just have to take the first step again, I have to post something about me and my practice.  Here it is, the first step in getting something done is starting!

Some of my favourite quotes to support this thought:

There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting. Buddha quotes

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Seneca quotes

The beginning is the most important part of the work. Plato quotes

The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” ~Unknown

I hope to be back sooner than last time :-).

Thanks for reading.  Do you have a story about “first steps”?

PS:  Now, I better go finish writing my mid-term reports 🙂



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A personal inquiry…leading to meaningful action

As the title suggests, this post is about a personal inquiry.  I ask you, the reader, to be critical of what I’m saying and challenge my thoughts in the comments below.  It will help me learn.

I’ve been reading, talking and listening, and thinking a lot about the idea of building new curriculum from scratch; I am beginning to clearly see how knowledge fits into the picture. There is no learning with out content. If we take knowledge as a given in a curriculum, meaning we know that students will acquire knowledge (however not articulating exactly what that knowledge will be), then we can attend to other factors of a new curriculum.  Where should the focus be instead of knowledge?

Focus on conceptual understand. Such as learning about “time and place”, “change”, “cycles”, “life”, “theme”, “systems”, “form”, and “family”, for example. Focus on providing opportunities and prompts for meaningful action as a result of learning about the concepts. The action is the application (a.k.a. transfer) that allows the learner an authentic audience (a.k.a. real-world context). Focus on skills; skills used to acquire the ‘given’ in order to access the concepts which will lead to meaningful action.

How do you measure this new curriculum? Primarily through anecdotal evidence of the various action opportunities; this would be a primary job of the teacher. The teacher would facilitate action attempts with students and document the process. These notes would form the bases of conferences with the learners and the families; as well as with reporting procedures (my thoughts about reporting and conferencing processes require a whole new blog post).

How do you do this when many actions will, if the curriculum is successful, happen outside the school environment and beyond the teachers’ eyes and ears? Use the concept of mutual respect, treat people as you want them to be; apply the concept of trust. Assess through developmentally appropriate self-reporting in addition to the anecdotal evidence from the teachers. For example, younger learners may tell their families and families report through journal format (analog or digital). Older learners may maintain a blog or web-site and meet with an action adviser regularly.

For those who are still skeptical, the learners from the new curriculum could set ANY external assessment process during their schooling to provide objective evidence to their ‘given’ acquisition. It (the ‘given’) will be acquired through the engaging curriculum package of concepts, skills, and action. A caveat on this point, I think there should be some limitations to the amount of time those external assessments are allotted. For example, in any one academic year, a student should not set more than two series of external assessments from G1-G9. There should be no standardized external assessments for students not in G1 or above (if even that young).

The things we attend to become the realities of our worlds, it is time to stop attending to knowledge standards and expectations. Although many people have known this for a long time, it is not common practice in curriculum and instruction documentation and, most importantly, not common practice in classroom learning experiences.

There is no learning with out content. The ‘given’ is given, and not worth attending to any more. A new curriculum will focus on Concepts, Skills, and Actions.

Readers, I ask you to please be critical/challenging of my thoughts in the comments below.

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Schools should be places where students can fail!

Did I get your attention :-)?  What do I really mean by this? I believe schools should be places that model what happens in the real world.  In the real world, we try things and don’t always achieve the original goal/outcome, but benefit greatly ourselves or contribute to others because of the experience.  If students are going to be equipped with the skills to over come the obstacles and challenges in their future, they need a chance to learn how to fail and then reflect to take the next action.

I first articulated this idea in my mind after viewing and discussing the film Race to Nowhere at NIST International School last school year.  The main point of that film and that movement is about how students’ time is being robbed from them by excessive homework and academic pressures that lead to no known proven academic (nor social emotional) improvement.  The tragedy of the film is that a young girl takes her own life because of a test score.  Why would someone consider taking their own life because of a poor performance on a school assessment?  I think the answer is two-fold, one of them is the point made by the film and the movement (pressure to excel academically at all costs).  The second is a failure of many school systems to help students develop a pathway forward for the times they do fail to meet the goals they had planned.

I think the Inquiry and Contructivist approach to the IB Programmes is a step in the right direction.  In a recent interview, I was asked what I meant by the phrase that “schools should be places where students can fail.”  And I referred to the cycle of inquiry as an example.  Due to the time restraints (and adrenaline going through my veins), I didn’t zoom in on the ACTION component of inquiry…but that is what I’m getting at.  Schools need to continually encourage attempts at action (both personal and group action).

If you read my last  posting, you may remember that it was about students planning and taking meaningful/mindful action.  What percentage of students, aged 11-13, do you think went 10 days with drinking only water? ZERO.  What does that mean?  They didn’t care, they didn’t try, etc…is one way to interpret that result.  The other would be to find out “why” and to find out “do you want to try again” and if so “why and how” and if not “why”? in an open and honest forum.

We want students to set high standards for themselves, and if we only consider them successful when they reach those high standards, and students don’t find happiness in setting high standards and doing their best, we are tricking ourselves.  Students will simply set the bar low enough for them to become “successful” in that type of culture.

If students can learn to set goals, plan pathways of action to reach those goals, reflect on the successfulness of the action, and repeat…they will begin to develop a mental model for dealing with “failures” in their future.

Now, do you think the same thing should be true for teachers and administrators…should school’s be places where “people” can fail?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or reach me on twitter @danmagie.

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Mindful Action

My last posting was about using mindful breathing and body mediation and reflecting on the process to help focus my students minds when deciding on meaningful action to take as a result of their learning (which was an interdisciplinary unit with Language A English, Humanities, and Science).

After another mindful breathing and body mediation session, as described by Alan Wallace, the question they were focusing on was “How can we help communities ensure access to the resources they need?”.

Various students had already taken individual action as part of this unit, but this posting is about some of the action they decided to take as a group.

Some students took time to think about this question by themselves and others discussed in small groups.  After some brainstorming time, we discussed ideas as a whole group.

One of the students had learned about a “water challenge” as a result of reading A Long Walk To Water  by Linda Sue Park.  He had shared the idea in class earlier, but during this session the idea seemed to take hold of the majority of the group.

The water challenge has specific rules, but the students used that as a base to form their own challenge…here it is:

  • For 10 days, drink only water for beverages
  • Any money that normally would have been spent on those beverages is saved to support a water project
  • Donate the money to the project or use the money to create your own project

I really like the fact that this “fund-raising” activity requires sacrifice and mindfulness of the students…not just asking their parents for money.

Then, students decided what we would do with the funds we raised.  From the students ideas, there seemed to be three ideas forming.

  • Donate the money to the Water for Sudan project which drills water wells in villages in Sudan
  • Donate the money to purchase some Life Straws and donate them to communities that do not always have fresh water, but have water
  • Donate the money to local flood victims in our community (these students were mindful about “thinking globally and acting locally”)

I took the challenge as well and am proud to say I have only drank water for the past 10 days, as a result I have saved at least 1500 baht (a little over 40 USD) from my own spending.  Students had varied success, but that is okay, the idea is planted and school is about having chances to try things that don’t always work out, then reflect on why.  We’ll keep coming back to mindful action as the year goes on…

I feel good about the money I’ve donated, but the real experience for me was the new perspective I have gained about how “un-mindful” I am with what I drink…a good lesson to myself about what I need and what I want!


For more information about the water challenge, visit this Water for Sudan website and/or view this video below.  Additionally, I have included a video interview with Linda Sue Park about her experience writing the book and working with Salva Dut (the main character of the book).

Water for South Sudan from Salva Dut on Vimeo.

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My profession

I love my profession!  I think most professions in the 21st century provide opportunities for life long learning, but I guess not many offer as many opportunities as the field of Education.  I love learning along with, and from, my students.  Here is an example of some of my most recent learning with students.

At the end of our last unit, we were getting ready to plan and take meaningful action as a result of our learning.  I had also just completed judging one of the summative assessment tasks from the unit, a research-based essay.  One of the re-teaching points I got from judging those essays was related to one paragraph having one main idea.  I had also be reading about Social Emotional Learning, as that is one of my ongoing PD goals for this year…one evening, I got an idea about how I could incorporate all three things into a couple of my upcoming classes.

In class, we read an article by Alan Wallace that focused on breathing and body awareness mediation.  When reading the article, we identified the ONE main idea of each paragraph.  For homework that week, students were asked to attempt the mediation practice explained in the essay we had read.  I began practicing this type of mediation again as well. WOW!  It was hard, and rewarding.  The rewarding part was the feeling of calmness and focus that I had after completing a 30 minute mediation session.

Here are some excerpts from students, which came from reflecting on their homework:

I felt like it was a vacation from homework…I mean, I was doing homework but it didn’t feel like it.

It was hard to sit still.

After I mediated for 30 minutes, it was much easier than normal to focus on the rest of my homework.

It was hard at the beginning because my little sister kept coming in to my room, after I asked Mom to keep her out of my room it was easier to concentrate.

I felt so peaceful and calm.

I kept having other thoughts coming into my mind and it was hard not to look at the clock.  I think it would be easier if I tried again next time.

As part of the reflection we talked about challenges people had, then brainstormed solutions.  For example, many people talked about distractions (family, noises, etc).  One of the solutions was to be sure and let other people in your house know what you are doing; by making others aware of our intentions, it helps them be more mindful about causing distractions (a prime example of something I “re-learned” with my students).

To go further with this experience, as well as our unit learning, we then created a calm and quiet environment in our classroom and mediated before planning meaningful action.

My next post will be about the action we are taking…

What do you love about the profession of Education?

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Viewing strategies for animation and film

My last posting was about viewing strategies for still images.  In this posting I’m going to share some strategies for viewing moving images in media such as short films or animations.

Viewing moving images strategy:

Watch the video/film twice. The first time, I ask the students to focus on the follow details…

1.  What do you see?
2.  What do you hear?
3.  What do you feel (emotions/thoughts)?
4.  What questions are you having?

After time for note-taking, we have a whole group discussion.  Often I would have students first have “elbow partner” discussions, then have a whole group “highlight” discussion.

The second time we watch,  I ask students to focus on these details…

  1. Character details (main or minor; traits…speech, thoughts, feelings, actions)
  1. Setting details (time, place, atmosphere)
  1. Plot details (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action…problem/solution)
  1. Theme (message, moral, lesson, or BIG idea)

From this learning experience, I am hoping to be able to help student find the “best possible theme” based on evidence from their viewing.

Below is a short animated story, “Replay“, that I use in my Short Stories unit.  Give the viewing strategies above a try and let me know what you think the best possible theme for this short story might be by leaving a comment.

What viewing strategies do you use?

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