Oct 12, 2010
Comments Off on Being Thankful.

Being Thankful.

It is that time of year, for us Canadians at least, to reflect and recognize the extent of our gratitude. My list is neither simple nor short. I am incredibly thankful and grateful of the following, in no particular order, and specific to my professional life.

  • My Job: This is the easy one. Every day I get another crack at making a recordable, identifiable mark in the lives of others. I am provided with opportunity to explore and learn with groups of students. I get to laugh every day at work. I am challenged every day to be better. I am challenged to be organized and to push my expectations of myself and others. What other job allows that?
  • Learning: I am incredibly thankful that my job allows me to continuously play in the world of learning. This year especially I have tapped into the online world of professional learning and have been completely empowered to push and think, produce and synthesize more and more information and great ideas. Now is the enlightenment, as the only thing stopping everyone from learning, is themselves.
  • Colleagues: This year especially I have come to know many colleagues who are on board, are focused primarily (and sometimes always) on helping kids. THis is the first year where I feel fully supported by the small group of educators. I feel that we haven’t reached the tipping point yet, but we are well on our way.
  • Writing: Only as of September have I been blogging consistently, but it has allowed me to focus my thoughts, synthesize my reading, openly reflect on my experiences and truly produce.
  • Support: Like every year, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how grateful and thankful I am to have a partner in life so supportive of my professional aspirations and goals. In fact, she often pushes me much further and challenges those moments when I slink into judgement. It continues to be with my great luck that I have her.


Oct 7, 2010
Comments Off on Malcolm Gladwell on Social Media

Malcolm Gladwell on Social Media

On October 4th, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great article on the role of social media in civic action, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted. I am most definitely not the only one to take note. It caused quite a stir in the blogosphere.

Since, I’ve posted two responses onto the OSSTF conference, the second with a few of my thoughts.

Response #1:

An interesting response to Gladwell’s article:


Response #2:

Another great, albeit feisty, response to Gladwell’s article.


Isn’t it interesting that social media now perpetuates political and social dialogue. Anyone can join the dialogue, this is the participatory nature of the web. I’d say this is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t just brush off social media as “frivolous”. I’d said that it is something every student of the 21st century should be aware.

On the same note, if anyone is paying attention to the It Gets Better web video movement (http://www.youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject) as a social response to multiple suicides by gay youths, it is tough to deny the meaningful, critical response that is happening. Again, shouldn’t we be part of helping our students understand their role as a thoughtful, active participant in this social dialogue?

My two cents.

Oct 7, 2010
Comments Off on Tough choices.

Tough choices.

A student approached me with tears in her eyes that she was “stressed to the core”. She had signed up for a course I am sponsoring, but she wasn’t able to make the meeting we had at lunch. “No worries,” I replied. It was my normal reply as I know, that’s just the way it goes. But this young girl wasn’t done. “I can’t make next meeting either.” She had gotten herself involved in everything and now was drowning in a self-inflicted pool of aspiration. She wanted to be part of everything and still keep on top of her academics. I had a choice.

1.) Tell her that she made a commitment and she should see it through. Thus teaching her a lesson on spreading yourself too thin and dealing with the stress.

2.) I could tell her to choose. One thing or the other, teach her the lesson that something would have to give.

3.) Tell her to half-ass each of her commitments and release the stress, teach her the lesson that nothing is ever perfect, accept it.

I didn’t know what to say.

I am someone who likes to get involved. I’ve been told I have to “learn to pick your battles, you can’t fight them all.” I am someone who likes to be busy. But where is the line?

Teaching is a tough gig. I am passionate about the job, but it is so easy to mail it in. I can get away with being lazy. It is almost expected of me as a teacher. No one can deliver an awesome lesson every day, can they?

Not to mention, I’m also involved in coaching (although not yet this season), a Grade 9 mentoring program, social action club, not to mention my life outside of school, my personal professional development.

What is stopping a teacher from choosing option 3? This is what concerns me. We do not have the professional ethic of high expectations for ourselves. This isn’t just for the 8:30 – 2:30 teachers who are leaving the parking lot before the buses. This goes for us, “involved” teachers too.

How can we ensure no teacher is mailing it in? How do we build a professional accountability system?

Oct 5, 2010
Comments Off on “You have no idea.”

“You have no idea.”

Today in class, everything I do was reinforced.

A kid in my afternoon class approached me after class. This kid started the class extremely quiet, yet more and more I see him smiling, interacting and joining into class discussions.

Student: “Mr. Kemp, I was wondering if I could ask a favour?”
Mr. Kemp: “Sure, what is it?”
Student: “Well, I’m a member of the multicultural club and I have been chosen to be an ambassador for the Soweto Marimba Youth League.”
Mr. Kemp: “So you mean, someone is going to be following you around all afternoon. Cool.”
Student: “Yeah, well, is it alright if he comes to class with me?”
Mr. Kemp: “Are you kidding? That’s awesome! Of course! How long have you been a member of the multicultural club?”
Student: “Well, I just joined this year. Actually, it is because of what you said on the first or second day of class.”
Mr. Kemp: “Really? What did I say?”
Student: “You said something like there are three kinds of people, those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that ask what happened? And I realized I didn’t want to ask what happened anymore. So, I’ve joined the multicultural club, ballroom dancing, SICA, and I was going to join DECA but I missed the deadline.”
Mr. Kemp: “That’s awesome. Have you been enjoying them?”
Student: “Mr. Kemp, honestly, I have never enjoyed school so much. It is all because you pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Thanks.”
Mr. Kemp: “Hey man, I’m glad you found things that make you happy.”
Student: “You have no idea.”

Oct 5, 2010
Comments Off on An interesting / disgusting article about “real” food.

An interesting / disgusting article about “real” food.

Chicken Nuggets Are Made Of This Pink Goop

Oct 4, 2010
Comments Off on Time for Gratitude…

Time for Gratitude…

Last April, I heard an interview with Seth Godin on CBC radio. While being interviewed about his then-new book, “Linchpin”, he was asked, “If someone could do one thing to begin the process of becoming a linchpin and making your work into art, what would that one thing be?” Great question by the interviewer, but what came next surprised and resonated with me. “Write at least one thank you note a day. Recognize the people in your work environment and all the little things that they do to make your job easier, but more importantly, the place you want to work.” He went on to talk about how one simple act will change a culture.

I tried it.

Last year, through the final couple months, I wrote a simple note of gratitude and thanks to various people who helped me. Some days it was easy and obvious, others it was more challenging. I plugged on through the first two weeks, leaving little notes in mailboxes, on desks and sometimes giving it right to them. It got easier, I started to recognize the little things people do. People started to thank me for the notes. They would tell me how I was the first person to actually thank them for what they did. It made my job more enjoyable, heck, it made me recognize the positive way more than the negative.

Granted, I had to make the time. Somedays, it was a concerted effort to take 5-10 minutes of my lunch to think, write and then deliver the note. So far this year, my note total is 0. I haven’t made the time to write, recognize and appreciate my work environment. This ends today. I start making the time to thank the people in my day that make my life easier, more cheerful, more positive, or even those that make students’ lives easier, more cheerful and more positive. I don’t thank people enough otherwise. The culture shift that started last year and that has been on extended vacation begins work again today.


Oct 4, 2010
Comments Off on Professional Teacher?

Professional Teacher?

What is the true responsibility of a teacher? What does it mean to be a professional?

These questions have been rolling through my head over the last few weeks. I have been trying to come to terms with our constantly eluded goal of focusing our learning, energy, time and passion to the improvement of student learning. I am of two minds. I could whine about how teachers have lost the way and create YouTube videos like this one (When I become a teacher…). However, I’m not sure it is all that helpful. So instead, I’m going to try to take a different approach.

What does it mean to be a professional?

1.) Current Practice: Much like other professional organizations, it is time for teachers to be held accountable to keep up-to-date with current practice and research. No lawyer could approach a court room without knowing current cases, precedents and current laws. The ministry and school boards should stop having to drive the educational agenda. Instead, the union, by way of its members, should be pushing current practice. We should be the ones that are demanding an overhaul of data-driven standardized testing. We should be reviewing our assessment and evaluation practices and pushing the government to review their policies. Too often we look and see the government and school boards as the top of the educational pyramid. Teachers, by way of their practice, should be leading the change to a student-centred model of education.

2.) Accountability: Teachers should be responsible for the professionalism of each other. This is connected to my last point, but instead, this is to mean, we should not accept mediocrity and laziness within our profession. It is time that we improve the standing of the profession by demanding the bad teachers shape up or ship out. No more tolerance for teachers who refuse to change, grow and learn. The excuse, “that’s just not my style” is unacceptable. We have listened to the rocks for too long. It is time we start raising the expectations of our profession, let alone our students.

3.) Affiliation: To belong to the bar is a noble act that requires many hours of study and practice. Lawyers understand that you cannot be a great lawyer right out of school, so they have established a process of development. So to, have doctors. Doctors have many years, outside and inside of their specialty to hone the necessary skills. Teachers, one year of school, and then thrown into the fire. To belong to the teaching profession, we should require a more rigorous development program. A Dala song professes, “if we don’t make it as singers / they always need more teachers.” It is too easy to become a teacher. We should put in place our own residency system. NTIP in Ontario is not enough.

4.) Designation: After five years of experience working under a designated professional engineer, one can apply to write a test (an ethics/procedure test) and official become a professional engineer. This process allows engineers to use the designation P.Eng. after their name. This also comes with it the rubber stamp. This is a legal binding approval that puts the engineers professional reputation on the line for the work she does. Having a formal designation does two things: 1.) Establishes a specific time frame and standard of operation. 2.) Increases the level of responsibility one takes on. The P.Edu. designation may again increase accountability and raise expectation.

This list is by no means an exhaustive list of what it means to be a professional. It is however, a few short thoughts on the needs of the teaching profession. Only when we treat and act like a professional body will we be taken seriously and treated like the professionals we should be.

Sep 30, 2010
Comments Off on We Day – The Education Spin…

We Day – The Education Spin…

I wanted to separate my thoughts on We Day into two parts, one where I left the message unfettered and pure and the second where I give you a few thoughts I had from my teacher brain.

1.) Engagement: The power of the Free the Children movement and especially We Day is in its ability to engage all students, for the entire day. They were constantly reminded the purpose of the day and their being there. They were provided with lots of opportunity to use unbridled optimism and passion and were encouraged to bring autonomy to their action. Finally, they day ran like a perfect classroom, a bit of a lesson, some entertainment where they could connect, relax and an organized opportunity to get up and being active, move, not just sit. Imagine if every class was constantly listening a little, being social a little and the chance to be kinaesthetic.

2.) Technology: Throughout the day, cell phones, digital cameras and all other technology was on display and encouraged. They posted recent text messages on the big screen. Yeah, some were frivolous but as a teacher, you definitely could tell when they were engaged, connected and interested and when they were distracted. The text messaging was also facilitated by using guided questions. Things like “How do you want to change the world?”, “What do you do to make a difference?”, etc. They were connected. Using this idea in your class through back channel Twitter feeds, or text message feeds allows you to see some of the real thoughts that are circulating the brains of our students. Yeah, there were a few, “Greyson Chance is soooooo cute

3.) Community: Despite the fact that we had only 12 students from our school, the entire building was made to feel like one group. You could see this at lunch when kids from all over were laughing, sharing in the optimism and connecting. The teenage networking luncheon. Now, this was very explicit on the part of FtC. The first message was one of connection. “Craig Kielburger asked who wants to help me? and 11 hands went up.” The idea of partnership and community was weaved through many of the speakers, especially Betty Williams asking everyone to stand and give each other a hug. We were shown the power of community again and again. To ignore this fact in the classroom is an incredible loss.

Sep 30, 2010
Comments Off on We Day 2010

We Day 2010

Through the power of connection, experience and affirmation, 18,000 students and “change agents” were treated to We Day 2010 in Toronto today. I was fortunate enough to lead a group of students from my school to hear speakers like Deepak Chopra, Spencer West, Betty Williams, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish and Michael Chikwanine. We were also treated to performances by K’naan, Down with Webster, Rocky Dawuni and Greyson Chance. The entire thing was, of course, facilitated by Marc and Craig Kielburger.
The message was simple and clear. As a generation, it is time to make a change by being the change. Each speaker was able to offer their story and modification to that message. A few of the high points:

Deepak Chopra reminded the youth of the world that the world is a series of questions and answers. We must be asking the BIG questions of life and living the answers. But sometimes, we will not find the answer and it will not be revealed to us simply, so we have to remember to “live the questions.” We have to have faith that “there are no missing pieces”. One of his greatest messages was that “action without love is irrelevant.” Everything that we do must precipitate from a place of peace and love. He implored the crowd to “awaken yourself to your deeper identity”, to explore not just your physical, social, mental and spiritual side but go deeper into the core of your being where you will find that helping others is what we are here for and to recognize the “power of intention.” One of my favourite quotes he used was, “A dream we dream alone remains a dream. A dream we dream together, with action, becomes your reality.” The notion of connectedness ran through his entire exploration of the self through service. What a powerful dialogue!

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish told of his story, how he lost his three daughters to violence and decided that he would not let hate into his life. He showed a deep and unbridled passion for peace and understanding. He implored that “our real enemy is our ignorance.” That it is our duty and responsibility to connect with others because we don’t know each other enough.

Betty Williams had a profound message of power. Reading to us a declaration of independence for children around the world, she finished by saying that all abusers and violators of children worldwide, take note, we will hold you completely responsible for your actions. I could have listened to her talk of her experiences for another 15 – 30 minutes easily. Not to mention that sweet Northern Irish accent!

Finally, Spencer West, without a lower half of his body spoke of the importance for humility and gratitude for everything life provides saying, “be gracious and humble enough to know when you need help and to ask for help.” He reminded everyone that we need to be part of the community, “to give help and to ask for help.

Overall, the message and the day were reminders to all to connect, affect, respect and to protect each other and to listen to the call for “Freedom”, to answer the call and to take real action. I think I leave with a reminder that it is our responsibility to work in the service of others always.

Sep 27, 2010
Comments Off on Seth Godin

Seth Godin

The problem with putting it all on the line is that it might not work out. The problem with not putting it all on the line is that it will never (ever) change things for the better. Not much of a choice, I think. No risk, no art. No art, no reward.

6 color styles available:

Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.