Wayfinder Learning Lab

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.


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Aspiring to the Life we Live (or, Why we only post the good stuff)

I quite like social media. I like sharing photos on Flickr and moments on Instagram. I like sharing learning on my blogs and Twitter and family stuff on Facebook. I like the little connections (and reconnections) that come out of a comment or a “hey we’ve been there too” coincidence. My media are journals for different audiences, though mostly for myself.

But I tend to only share the good stuff.

Because when days are long, work piles up, patience frays and bodies fail, it’s reassuring to see what we’re working towards and who we’re doing it for. To me, it’s like a protective mental health strategy; being prone to worrying and anxiety, my timeline is a reflection on the positive, a force to push the stresses or concerns from valuable mindspace.

Of course, it didn’t (or did?) help when I read that we only have 940 weekends with our kids. Time and childhoods pass so quickly. Finding the balance between building a good life for our kids and enjoying it with them is tough. When I look back on these years, I don’t want to see voids of time where “Daddy was too busy to…“. So I’ll take the snaps and share the smiles.

The images of the good times will survive the fog of the slog.

 


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Live Fully Now

[Edit 2018]: I still lean on this clip in discussions about “preparing students for the future”. I feel the phrase “get them ready for … ” is problematic for many reasons, not least the creation of a “future spectre”, which risks pulling discussions away from continuum-coherence. Let’s think about backward mapping but not backwashing demands, and making the most of the buoyant force of continuum learning.

I included this short clip, built on a short piece of a talk by philosopher Alan Watts, in my #GAFESummit session, Ready, Steady, Flow. There was some quiet contemplation (expected) and some tears (unexpected).

It had been doing the rounds on Twitter, and I felt it captured some of my feelings about education and the anxiety we can face as we “get them ready for XYZ.” It becomes all too easy to suck the joy out of learning, to focus on the grades, to get caught on the treadmill.

We risk losing our creativity and spark in the process.

At the same time, we hear so much about ‘shift happens‘ and educating students for the future, for ‘jobs that don’t exist yet’ and trying to play crystal-balls about what knowledge and skills the big innovators want in their workforce. We can’t do that. But we can educate the kids we have now, with the knowledge we have now, the tools and research that we have now so that they’ll become “better” people nowand for the future.

What if, by making all of us love learning now, we can make our students balanced, motivated inquirers ready for what the future throws at them?

There’s a name for that job.

Teachers. 

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As a parent I watch it and worry – am I making the most of my own kids’ childhoods? Am I helping make memories that they will love? Am I living in the ‘now’ with them? Do I have the right career-life balance?

I’ve seen this video many times. Each time it gets me.


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The Dropped Knee

When I realised that I was dropping my knee on the pop-up, I was mortified.

Anya charging

Anya charging

Becoming an occasional surfer, a weekend warrior (at best), I had lost fitness and skill. We were on a family surf break; Anya was getting lessons from a pro, I was trying to get some waves. I was trying out long-boarding for the first time, expecting it to be easy, but finding that some bad habits had formed. They were hard to undo. I was taking advantage of the forgiving nature of the bigger board with a sloppier technique, when what I really needed was to drop weight, build fitness and be more disciplined in practice. It was like being a beginner again, getting some rides, moving forwards, but nowhere close to my potential.

It would have been easy to carry on as it was. So many of us do.

Getting my stoke back.

Getting my stoke back.

I took Anya’s shorter board in tiny surf, knowing that I’d get no decent rides. There was no forgiveness in the rockier stick, no way to cover up for poor technique. I had to pop-up properly and stay up – then get immediately get off again and paddle back out. For an hour or more I looked like a kook, playing on a board that was too small for the conditions and falling over again and again. When I did make it, a local instructor gave me the thumbs-up, thinking I was a true beginner. Embarrassing.

The next day, I took the longboard back out the main reef. By going back to basics, being critical of my own technique and swallowing my pride I had made some important improvements. By the time tide dropped, my arms were tired, my neck was stiff, but I had my stoke back. Then it was time to go home.

I think now I’m a longboard convert, my shortboard days behind. Roll on the spring.

Daddy & Daughter

Daddy & Daughter

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A different type of drop-knee, this one beautiful. 

These two clips, from the McTavish “Dedicated to the Craft” series are really lovely. The first, a profile of Byron Bay legend Ray Gleave, showing off real grace and a lovely drop-knee cutback, is a personal motivation. If life is like that in 21 years, I’ll be happy. The second showcases a young boy and his older sister: their relationship with each other and the ocean something I hope for in my own kids.

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Finally, here’s our surf break video. Anya’s still rocking, and Happy Surfing Okinawa was brilliant.


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New Challenges: Director of Curriculum & PD [for 2015-2017]

Taylor Family at Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Ceremony in Kobe.

Taylor Family at Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3) Ceremony in Kobe. Anya had a big say in our decision to stay this year – she knows a great lifestyle and education when she sees it!

In the exciting time of year where international school friends and colleagues are making decisions about their futures – stay or go, which fair, which country, which school – we feel some relief at having made the decision to stay. We’re happy here, the school is great, Japan is brilliant and we have a good life. There’s a lot to be thankful for. But there will be some change…

Just before the Autumn break (it was lovely), I signed on as Director of Curriculum and Professional Development* for the next two years. I’ll keep one teaching block and the MYPCo role, but will be looking at things from a more whole-school perspective, following in the footsteps of the super-capable Tony. They’re big shoes to fill, but I’m proud of the work we’ve done together over the last few years, and I think the school is in a strong place for moving forward (and for the first PYP and MYP programme evaluations). There is an excellent leadership team in PYP, an experienced DPCo coming in and a strong set of Principals. We’ve established a good direction as a school, so I hope that the new Head (to be hired) is a great fit.

So over the remainder of this year we want to make sure everyone is on the same page with MYP: Now Chapter, developing curriculum and classroom practices, establishing protocols for strong IDU’s, gathering evidence for the review and preparing for next year’s PD. It’s going to be a busy few years, but this is the right place to take the next step.

Rock on.

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*Does Director of Curriculum & Professional Learning sound more ‘now’? Or even just Director of Learning?


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Making Meaning

In amongst a million other things I am taking part in an IB Educators’ Network up-skilling course (as part of my role as an MYP Site Visitor). One of the discussion questions asked us to reflect on a memorable learning experience from our own school days. Here is my edited response. 

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The local rag.

As an educator thinking back on my own secondary education, I am always amazed at how little I remember of the academics. I remember the heartbreaks, rejections, difficulties, funny moments with friends, teenage craziness. Inevitable injuries and rites of passage. But I remember very little of the actual experiences in my classes. It must have worked, though – I know and can do a lot, and can retrieve things I thought I’d forgotten after many years. There is some conceptual and factual foundation there, but little meaning to hang it on.

I do recognise a Year 9 food-tech project as perhaps the most memorable: we had to design a healthy-eating three-course restaurant menu, and connect it somehow to a local charity to support. I chose an otter charity (I think) and put a lot of effort into thinking about the nutritional balance of the meal and the design of the menu. I was proud of it when I submitted it. A few weeks later, the school was contacted and I was asked to cook it in a competition with other students, judged by professional restaurateurs – this was not mentioned at the start of the project. I went along, had fun, learned a lot from the feedback and the whole process felt authentic. My classmate Chris won – I came third and melted a spatula, but it still lingers as an experience I enjoyed. Had I not started working as a kitchen porter in a hotel soon after (experiencing the sweaty reality of catering), my life might have taken a different direction.

I had a good education, but no other experiences felt as immediately worthwhile or as authentic as that. It makes me wonder how much of our day-to-day lessons will be forgotten by our students and if, by really using the Global Contexts, we can create more meaningful and memorable learning experiences. That if by connecting our learning to the wider world, global issues and stimulating problems we can inspire more than academic engagement.

I hope so.


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Where do you come from? Where to next?

Being an international school teacher is an extreme privilege; a series of opportunities that present a unique kind of dilemma, seemingly earlier each year. It becomes more complex with school-age children of our own, and is further complicated by having cross-culture kids, with parents from two countries, growing up in a third.

What do we do next?

Where do we go?

What’s right for our careers? Our kids?

What about the grandparents?

What are the pushes and pulls?

What are the opportunities?

What are the opportunity costs?

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This year is particularly interesting, as we think to the years ahead with an insightful TCK seven year-old and a three year-old who came to Japan as a baby. They each have very different senses of their identity: one rooted in Indonesia but loving Japan (and summers in the UK), the other identifying Japan as home, but loving the grandparents in the UK and Indonesia. I wonder how the decisions we make, increasingly with their input, will shape how they answer “where do you come from?”

This TED Talk, by Pico Ayer, spins a nice story of cross-culture, third-culture life. How many places will my grandkids call “home”?


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Quick Review: Tony Butt’s Guide to Sustainable Surfing

Dr. Tony Butt

This quick read (74 pages,£0.87 on Kindle) is worth an hour or two of your time, especially if you’re into surfing or outdoor pursuits and are concerned about the environment. Tony Butt is a big-wave surfer and has a PhD in Physical Oceanography; his educational columns on Surf Science in Surfer’s Path magazine (and his book on the same) are excellent primers on waves, surfing and the environment.

In this text, Dr. Butt sets out to describe how we impact the environment as surfers and how we can make choices that can mitigate these impacts. He makes connections between the issues of Energy, Travel and Stuff related to surfing, highlighting the unsustainable nature of the jet-setting, product-hungry, WCT-inspired modern surfer. Of particular interest are issues of embodied energy and product life cycle assessment, which you may recognise from Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff series on YouTube, or Daniel Goleman’s Ecological Intelligence. As a marine biologist and science teacher there was little that was new to me, but some of the information on surfboard construction and wetsuits was enlightening. At times the text reads as though it was minimally-edited (there are repeated uses of similar phrases and references to Mentawais trips), but the message gets through loud and clear: make careful choices, cut down on unnecessary travel and buy-to-last, not buy-the-latest.

Anya in Baleal, Portugal.

This short text should act as an inspiration to surfers to learn more about our impacts: follow the links, recognise that we are not separate from nature and aim to be mindful in our choices. I would love to see more of his articles presented in cheap Kindle-format like this (Surfers’ Path, if you’re reading this…) and would definitely recommend a copy to surfing friends or students. I think this book could effectively be adapted into a series of webisodes on sustainable surfing to spread the message further.

As an international teacher getting back into the water, it was a good reminder of where the negative impacts of our lifestyle lie and how we might take action to reduce them. International travel may be an essential part of our lifestyle, but wastefulness need not be. It certainly helps that gear here in Japan is so expensive, too – just last week we hunted out a large second-hand store with a big selection of used boards. As my daughter develops as a surfer I hope that we can give her a sense of environmental responsibility and ocean stewardship.

Here’s Tony Butt discussing the Energy issue in terms of renewable energy sources over oil, following an oil spill in the Canaries that rendered the environment dangerous and the waves unrideable.

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Footnote: This Story of Stuff video from 2007, which we used in environmental science class, gives a quick and general overview of some of the issues discussed in Dr. Butt’s book.

Post-script: I wonder how sustainable these new Patagonia wetsuits really are? Although Dr. Butt’s book pre-dates this innovation, he recognises that wetsuit technology is inherently polluting (and oil-based) and suggests that we should aim to buy the most durable suits we can, rather than regularly replace large pieces of non-biodegradable neoprene. Thanks to scientist Karen James (@kejames) for mentoning it on Twitter.