Monday, February 23, 2015

Pink Day

Wednesday, February 25 is the Red Cross Pink Day. This is a day where everyone dresses up in pink to create awareness to stop bullying. While I enjoy dressing up for school (some examples are below), I think anti-bully days and the word bully itself are and is a tad overdone.

Dress up days like this are fun, kids and staff both laugh and it's a good way for any student or teacher to get involved with the school in a positive way. Fun like this builds a positive school culture. I've been known to promote dress up days - most of my wardrobe is dedicated to fun days throughout the school year.


Pink Day is all about anti-bully. The Manitoba Government describes bullying here. This definition is not something I completely agree with and it can set schools up and kids up for failure (section 1.2(2) (a) characteristically takes place in a context of a real or perceived power imbalance between the people involved and is typically, but need not be, repeated behaviour;). Another definition is here (Repetition: Bullying behaviours happen more than once).

Although I agree with trying to get bullying out of schools. I would be a fool not to want that and to get it out of schools, the workplace, the community and... and... and... I do feel there is a problem with the whole notion of Pink Day because of how it began. The students involved in standing up for a classmate who wore a pink shirt to school got a group of other students to wear pink the next day. This is a story on how Pink Day began.

I'm not sure the act that prompted the students to wear pink is in itself bullying. It was incredibly mean. By definition, getting a group of kids to wear pink and excluding other students could be considered bullying itself.

When students are excluded (even the so-called bullies) no one wins. This creates a divisive culture and people are left out. A culture that promotes kindness that is inclusive for everyone is the best way to support every child at school. Do schools have bullies? Yes. I do find the word is placed on every mean act and is somewhat overused. More so, there is a general lack of kindness that is pervasive. Watch the news or read the newspaper. It's clear that people can be mean to each other. But, by calling everything 'bullying' I think creates a knee jerk reaction of punishment and exclusion where little or no teaching and learning takes place. It just upsets a lot of people.

Teaching kids to be accepting (not tolerant - I find that to be an arrogant word) and to have a strong character and sense of self is key to positive responses to acts of meanness or 'bullying'. Poor or negative responses to meanness usually just amplifies the problem. Teaching kids skills to respond in a positive manner often stops or changes the situation immediately.

Continuing to focus on the bully won't necessarily stop bullying in a school. Anti-bully days are nice and have good intentions I just feel there is a better way. We need schools that have cultures that include everyone (the 'bullies' are often victims of something from their past - these kids are generally trying to get some control in their life - everyone wants and needs that). Schools need to focus on kindness and promote a happy culture where every child feels a part of the school. Every child needs to have at least one adult who is their 'person'. A child without a strong connection at school is a kid who will find attention. Often the kind of attention no one likes to see.

To read more about how teaching kindness is key to promote a safe school environment please take a moment to read this by Lisa Currie.

My school will continue to support Pink Day because it is a feel good thing for lots of kids and teachers. We will however, push the conversation away from anti-bullying to a message of kindness, empathy and acceptance.

Comments are nice and appreciated.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What will be the most significant classroom innovation in the next 10 years?

This blog post was featured on the Huffington Post Education Blog 'The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs'. To find this blog with other educator's ideas from around the world please visit:

Andrew Mead – Andy is the Principal at George Waters Middle School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They are within the St. James-Assiniboia School Division.  Andy was recommended to answer February’s question by Top 12 Teacher Blogger Lisa Currie.

What will be the most significant classroom innovation in the next 10 years?  By Andy Mead

In the history of schools there have been many ‘innovations’ that have claimed to improve teaching and learning. Even within my own career over the past eighteen years I have been presented with many different initiatives that were said to make me a better teacher or administrator. What I have found is that these innovations are not sustainable because they are always displaced by the next new shiny device or idea.

The devices that are soon to be in the hands of students (or on their clothing or around their wrists) will likely be amazing tools to help young people and teachers create, share, and communicate. These tools will continue to evolve and become more accessible and less expensive. These technologies, however, don’t necessarily improve teaching and learning in the classroom. Good teaching doesn’t depend on these tools; these tools just enhance good teaching.

Therefore, the most significant classroom innovation will not be a gadget but rather, the teaching of higher level thinking skills and a concerted effort to focus on students as individuals. Schools and teachers will find new ways to foster strong relationships with students that will create a culture of learning. This will include ensuring that schools take into consideration how we approach mental wellness and happiness of students. Lessons will be individualized and have a hands on, project based, experiential approach. The teaching of lower level thinking (knowledge and comprehension) will be a thing of the past.

Furthermore, this innovation will come in the way we engage young people in higher level thinking skills (application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation). Schools will ensure we teach young people to think, solve problems, ask questions, and create – not just regurgitate information. Young people will be in charge of their own learning by creating and learning through their own experience.

Innovative practices in assessment will also be more common. Skills like creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, citizenship and character are inherently difficult to fairly assess or put a number or grade on. The focus of assessment will be on the learning process, not the final product.  Assessment of these skills will be done by answering questions like:
  • What does the child know?
  • How does the child communicate and share what he or she knows?
  • What must improve?
  • What steps will be taken to ensure the child meets the expectation or standard?

Although these things are currently happening in many places, in ten years these will be the widespread norm. The device of the moment will forever be changing - what won't is that schools are about people. The biggest innovation in classrooms within the next ten years (I hope) will be a change in how we teach young people how to think, take care of each other, and take care of the world. To do this, schools must find ways to build strong relationships with people to create a culture that focuses on learning in a fun, caring, and collaborative environment. Schools will focus on learning, the process of higher level thinking and questioning  more than just the next big thing.

Check out other big ideas on the educational innovation in the next 10 years here.