To teachers everywhere…

Inspired by this post to children, by Colleen Wilson.

In case you think it goes unnoticed…

To the teacher who changed one small thing in your classroom thereby making a difference to the learning, I see you.

To the teacher who struggled to communicate difficult news to parents and managed to make them feel supported, I see you.

To the teacher who found technology challenging but overcame fear and got the children blogging, I see you.

To the teacher who wrestled with the option of an interesting job offer and made the decision to stay and make a difference, I see you.

To the teacher who had to deal with complaints, yet has risen to the challenge and decided to become the best educator possible, I see you.

To the teacher who thought she was ordinary and had to be pushed to realise her incredible potential, I see you.

To the teacher who was afraid to let go, but is gradually beginning to hand over control to the learners, I see you.

To the unassuming teacher, reluctant to put herself out there and share the amazing learning taking place in her classroom, I see you.

To the teacher who finds difficult situations intimidating and often blames herself, but works tirelessly to make things better for other human beings, I see you.

To the teacher who worried about managing what everyone else was doing and instead had the courage to try something different, I see you.

To the teacher who shifted from ‘doing school’ to observing carefully in order to be ready when the special moment happened, I see you.

To the teacher who measured herself against others and didn’t see herself as a leader but is ready to step up now, I see you.

To the teacher fearful of change, who clung to old ways of doing things and finally leaped out of her comfort zone, I see you.

To the teacher who is filled with self doubt, always thinking he could have done better, not realising that’s how all good teachers feel, I see you.

Thank you.

(Back in 2016.)

10 principles of effective professional learning…


Apparently this random comment (my response to a tweet in last week’s #edchat) was well received!

This got me thinking (again) about the principles of effective professional learning for educators. In no particular order, the following points are based on my own experience.

Effective professional learning needs to be…

1. Conceptual

Effective learning for teachers is not always about things you can try tomorrow, but rather big ideas that shift your understanding of teaching and learning.

2. Self directed

Teachers need opportunities to set their own goals, choose their own learning and follow their own interests. (Sometimes the most effective medium to achieve that is social media.)

3. Inquiry driven

The most effective learning isn’t usually ‘delivered and received’. Teachers need to question, experiment, apply, find and solve problems, engage in action reasearch.

4. Collaborative

Learn with and from others. build a personal learning network. Create communities of practice in your own school, your neighbourhood, the world…

5. Creative

Think beyond one-size-fits-all PD delivered by ‘experts’ on special days set aside for the purpose. Create your own learning opportunities. Visit other classes. Start voluntary groups. Participate in Teachmeets. Engage via Twitter and blogs. Find your own people!

6. Personalised

How often are teachers compelled to attend one-size-fits-no-one sessions, not relevant to their current programs, practice, interests or experience? Even on school wide ‘PD days‘, teachers can have a choice.

7. Reflective

Too often, teachers are expected to shift rapidly from one ‘topic’ to the next (@lisaburman called it ‘Hit and run’). Effective learning includes sufficient time for reflection, application… and further reflection.

8. Active

Learning is often less effective when the expectation is for learners to listen passively. There need to be active participation and engagement, opportunities to interact, reflect and construct meaning.

9. Enjoyable
(I crowd sourced this one). Teachers like their professional learning to include humour and a sense of fun. It doesn’t need to be a boring chore!

10. Challenging

Professional learning (like any learning) can be messy. There should be tensions to work through and big ideas to connect. It goes beyond solutions and formulae and things to try out tomorrow… which takes us back to where we started!

Of course, all of this applies to any learners, not just teachers. Try replacing the word ‘teachers’ throughout the above post with ‘students’, or simply ‘learners’… which takes me back to a post I wrote a while ago about adult vs child learners. What are your thoughts on that?

What’s been your best professional learning experience? Did it fit the above criteria? What have a I missed?

What’s it all about?

If I paste the URL of my blog into Wordle, I get the cloud below. Predictably the key words are learning, thinking, inquiry, creativity and community – I write about what matters to me.

What Ed Said

I’m curious what the key words might be in some of my favourite (and less favourite) blogs and spend a bit of time investigating some well-known ones. The results are interesting and I confess to being a little surprised that learning doesn’t feature more in educators’ blogs.

Here’s a sample… (Guess which one is a class blog!)

Blog1 Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 6.12.35 PM

Class Blog Screen Shot 2012-12-10 at 6.14.28 PMBlog2

10 people whom you might know…

It’s the start of the school year and we are organizing planning times. Collaborative planning is one of the things I like best about the PYP. A team of teachers gathers to plan the big ideas and key learning experiences for a coming unit of inquiry. There are usually at least six participants; the grade level teachers, ICT facilitator and librarian. Where possible, there might be other specialist teachers present too and if not, they will be consulted.

Facilitating these sessions is both rewarding and challenging, sometimes exhausting, sometimes exhilarating. It depends on how much the big ideas excite us, how much pre-thinking has been done and the level of collaboration and creativity on the day.

And it depends on the members of the team….

Disclaimer: The characters in this post are fictitious and bear no resemblance to real teachers. Unless maybe they work at your school?

1. Innovator
Suggests new and exciting ways to do things.

Carefully considers all angles to find the best approach.

3. Risk Taker
Willing to give anything a go. Not intimidated by the possibility of failure.

4. Waiter
Comes unprepared. Waits passively for others to do the thinking.

5. Blocker
Actively blocks others’ ideas. Talks about why they wouldn’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t work.

6. Provoker
Asks valuable, thought provoking questions that ensure a productive outcome.

7. Distractor
Interrupts. Talks about irrelevant matters. Might even sing in the background.

8. Historian
Likes the way it was taught in the past. Talks about old ideas and old ways.

9. Resourcer
Shares great resources to support the learning. Knows where to find treasure.

10. Know-it-all
Talks knowledgeably in a loud voice and rolls eyes disapprovingly when others express different opinions.

Do you know any of them?

Effective professional learning…

I listened carefully. PD

I thought about the subject matter.

I looked at my watch.

I focused for a while.

I checked my email.

I tried to listen.

I thought about other things.

I asked a question.

I wondered why the question wasn’t answered adequately.

I disengaged.

I thought about effective professional development…

Have you ever been to a PD session like that? (Rhetorical question! I know you have.)
Staff at my school spent some time last year developing shared beliefs about learning. Why shouldn’t these principles apply to teachers’ learning too?

  • We learn in different ways, depending on abilities, learning styles, preferences and interests.
  • Learning takes place through inquiry: questioning, exploring, experimenting and problem solving.
  • Learning includes acquisition of skills and knowledge, constructing meaning and transfer to different contexts.
  • Learning is active and social and is enhanced by collaboration and interaction.
  • Learners need to feel secure, valued and able to take risks.
  •  Learning needs to be challenging, meaningful, purposeful and engaging.
  • Learning includes meta-cognition and reflection, which support learners taking ownership of their learning.
Help me write my latest post in the ’10 ways…’ series. I’ll start and you can add points via comments…

10 ways to ensure effective professional learning…

1. Teachers need to be responsible for their own learning. 

To inspire others to learn, you need to be a learner yourself. Actively seek out professional learning opportunities.  Engage with educators via social media. Read blogs. Sign up to Twitter.

2. Differentiate.

Don’t plan whole staff sessions for teachers with different levels of experience and varied needs. Include choice.


Are you in Africa?


I was born in South Africa, although I haven’t been back for more than 30 years. Blogging about teaching and learning, I find myself recalling my school days, enjoying the view of Table Mountain through the window, instead of paying attention in class. My first job as an enthusiastic, young teacher was in Cape Town, a lifetime ago. I sometimes wonder how my old school is progressing. I wonder what teaching and learning are like in South Africa today. And I wonder a great deal about access to education in all of Africa…

My global PLN (personal learning network) has expanded in the past year and I have established meaningful connections with educators in so many countries, on every continent, except for Africa. Yet, looking at the clustrmap which records visitors to my blog, I am aware that people not just in South Africa, but in Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Algeria, Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia and Egypt have visited!

I would love to hear from you and about you. It would be great to connect with you. Leave me a comment, if you will…


Does your school…?

Does every school have…

moments that are exhilarating, when the excitement of learning is palpable, everyone has an opportunity to learn and express themselves in their own way and teachers and learners are collaborators in the learning process?


moments of despair, where nothing goes to plan, technology fails or unexpected interruptions hinder learning?

Does every school have…

teachers who understand learning, who love to learn themselves, who provoke student inquiry and aren’t afraid to try new things to move learning forward?


teachers who go through the motions, with their eyes on the clock and who think teaching is just a job?

Does every school have…

units that inspire teachers and learners, provide opportunities for creativity and collaboration, engage the learners and excite them to want to inquire, explore and learn?


units that fall off the rails because of poor planning or misunderstanding or shortage of time or lack of motivation?

Does every school have…

leaders (at all levels) who are passionate about learning, who motivate, empower and innovate, who instigate change and shape culture?


leaders who dictate and enforce, focus on what’s expedient instead of on the learning and possibly don’t even care?

Does your school?


A chat between two educators….

What do two educators chat about online in their spare time, from opposite sides of the globe? Here’s a transcript of a conversation I had on a lazy Sunday morning with Stephen Davis, a thoughtful middle school teacher in Orange County, California. We have previously collaborated via our blogs in Bridging the Primary/Middle School Gap. Our conversation is cross-posted at Steve’s blog Rush The Iceberg.

Stephen: Hello!
Edna: I seem to have abandoned ‘Teacher’s Desk
I keep forgetting… my new job is so hectic.
How are you and your family?
Stephen: No worries I have been neglecting it, too. I have about three or four desks I need to update!
Are you enjoying your new job? To what extent is it fulfilling vs. your previous job? Or, are they both fruit and you like both an apple and an orange?!?!
Family is great! Wifey is a little tired due to baby #2 (Casen Patrick) growing inside her, but she is handling it beautifully!
Edna: Oh that’s lovely to hear.
Job… hmm…
The first few months I wasn’t enjoying as much as teaching.
Now I am more into it and like working with the teachers too.
And I’m going back to teaching a little so that’s better!
Stephen: Yeah…those first few months did you regret your decision?
Edna: Not really, I know it takes time… but I need to teach kids
Stephen: How much teaching (kids) are you able to do now? Daily?
Edna: I’m going to teach 4 lessons formally a week, but I do some team teaching and work with other teachers
Stephen: What’s the biggest challenge now?
Edna: Shifting teachers’ thinking!
Is this an interview?!!
Just kidding… thanks for your interest
Stephen: LOL! 🙂 Just questions that have been on my mind!
Take a look at
The Writing Process and Science
Edna: In the PYP we say that all teachers are language teachers… your post fits with that idea. I like this: ‘I firmly believe there is much to learn about the art and craft of teaching by watching/reading teachers from across content areas and grade levels’.
It makes for excellent teaching and learning…
The idea that learning is subdivided into separate content boxes is ridiculous in reality.
Stephen: I agree…I want to learn more from teachers about their content and what influences them…
I’m tired, really tired, of educational philosophy dressed up as dogma…
Stephen: The last two weeks I have participated in the #mathchat on Twitter…it has been educational, enlightening, and enriching! Challenging, too!
Edna: Trans-disciplinary learning. Same expectations for students?
Stephen:Yes, same expectations for students…I want them to see their world as blurred, not compartmentalized…more like a frozen dinner than a Bento box…
Edna: Excellent!
Stephen:I’m also growing tired of teachers only tweeting/RTing the same few teachers…
Edna: So do you think on twitter that people often RT by name, rather than by value of what’s being said?
Stephen: Absolutely! I think many of them are trying to benefit off of doing that somehow…
Edna: Maybe you should follow some different sorts of people!
You can follow my PYP list… some different people there…
I guess everyone has their own motivations for twitter. I tend to ignore the parts that irritate me.
I read what I like. I tweet what I like.
Stephen: Yeah! I get that irony…I think the edutweeps have reached a ceiling…meaning, I think we have reached a point where everyone is echoing, echoing each other instead of progressing past…plus, progress is not always addition…
Going to your PYP list now! Who, not just on your list, is really interesting/challenging you on twitter lately?
Edna: I disagree with your use of the word ‘we’!
@sherrattsam is an awesome educator
He really understands learning and he writes great stuff, even his class blog.
@librareanne is an excellent librarian who tweets great links
Stephen: I’m ok w/ disagreeing on ‘we’, probably should have used ‘many’ because, I agree, there are ‘many’ that are doing great things!
Edna: These PYP teachers often share great links
@ jessievaz12 and @surreallyno
It’s better not to be part of a ‘specific group’ I think, just open to learning from everyone
Am I being teacherish? 🙂
Stephen: You are a teacher! Teacherish is fine! Any non-education recs? Books…
Edna: I only do teacher people on twitter I think
Oh books, yes
I love the visible thinking stuff…
Have you read Ron Ritchhart’s Intellectual Character? and he has a new book out Making Thinking Visible.
Oh, non-education you said!! non-edu I read mainly fiction!
What kind of fiction do you like?
Stephen: Re: fiction – Robin Sloan is great… I try to read the books my 13 year old students are reading…I tend to read much, much more non-fiction than anything!
Edna: This is one of Sam Sherratt’s blogs and this one
I just read Richard Zimler’s latest book
Stephen:  has curated many great articles from a variety of print sources that I read through my Instapaper account…
Edna: Have you read any of Zimler’s books?
I loved this one..
Stephen: Nope! But I just looked up the Art of Language on the Kindle shop! I love the thinking/mind maps project out of Harvard you turned me on to!
Btw, this is exactly what I envision my ‘interviews/conversations’ to be!
Edna: I know. I love one on one conversations about books and learning, but not so keen on interviews.
I don’t want to be a ‘celebrity.
Stephen: Well…being on my blog in an interview will not make you a celebrity! You have significantly more readers than I do! 🙂
Edna: I recall you were one of the first people to encourage me in early blogging days
Thank you.
Stephen: I also just put the two sites you rec into my RSS feed…
Edna: Is in your reader? always interesting clips and things to make you think..
Stephen: I like (kind of tech focused, but other stuff, too…) talks about culture, design, books, news, cities, movies, the future and the present…
Edna: Thanks!
Stephen: A good friend’s site who does much curation and finds many wonderful nuggets! He teaches at an independent progressive school…
Edna: You can use the transcript of this conversation to write the interview, then I won’t have to do a video interview 🙂
Actually that was a joke but now has me thinking…
Stephen: I would love to use it…with your permission…of course!
Edna: It could be a series…
What do 2 educators, from different places, different backgrounds, different teaching areas, different ages… chat about online in their spare time?
Stephen: That would be awesome!