While reflecting on the third Cohort21 Face to Face Meeting, these lines from our school musical were running through my mind.

Shrek: Ogres are like onions… Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers – you get it? We both have layers!

Donkey: Ohhh, you both have layers. You know… not everybody likes onions. (lightbulb moment) Parfaits! Everyone likes parfait, and they have layers! Have you ever met a person and you say “Hey, let’s get some parfaits,” and they say “I don’t like no parfaits”? Parfaits are delicious.

While we were meeting at MARS, I realized that my school has multiple philosophy/ policy/ vision statements that all teachers had a hand in crafting and believe in. However, in many cases these aims are just that and (in my opinion) not necessarily where we are yet. In order to move from where we are now (which is a pretty good place) to a great place, we need to evaluate how well we are achieving our vision, plan any necessary steps to move closer, and determine if we are hindering our own progress in any way.

“What IS happening, @lesmcbeth! Blown away by your creativity in this energizer. #Cohort21” – @MrCaplan Tweet

“So glad to be back!!! #cohort21 even provided me w my own playing cards! Oh how I missed this experience.” – @MrsGanley Tweet

During one of the sessions early in the day, the facilitators and coaches shared some of what they have done and learned. Danielle Ganley spoke about discovering the difference between congenial vs. collegial conversations. This made me realize that most conversations I am a part of at school, even in a professional capacity, are congenial. In order to talk about how we might move closer to our visions and away from old habits, some difficult conversations about professional practice might be necessary.

Adam Caplan spoke about how actually having those uncomfortable conversations can make things go faster. I completely agree with this but wondered:

What is really the most important part about what I am trying to achieve with my Action Plan?

Wondering and Wandering

Although I feel strongly about technology and it’s role in teaching and learning, I am also passionate about inquiry-based learning and global-mindedness. Those are a lot of fronts to move forward on! Is it fair for me to work so hard on moving forward on these things that I feel so passionate about while others don’t have the same “airtime” for their priorities which may or may not align with mine?

It occurred to me that we have all these lofty goals, policy documents and vision statements but I don’t know how much agreement there is around whether or not we are achieving them. And if not, we haven’t explored why not. Do we know how much of what we are currently doing is making an impact on student learning? Are there only certain aspects that we need to work on? Do we know what they are?

We have a lot of conversations about what we do but not many about how we do it. As a school, there should always be a focus on pedagogy.

Simon Sinek: Start with Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Action  The full-length version of this can be found at


By the end of the day, I felt like what I really need to do to create a culture of innovation is to make explicit a process for reflecting, planning and experimenting in all that we do as teachers. I am already working on Bringing our ICT Philosophy to Life, introducing ePortfolios, and helping lead a Math Review so I can use any or all of these as test-cases to help us move from pockets of excellence to more systemic implementation.
parfait text

Next Steps

  • Challenges are time and differentiated training/ support. I need to figure out how to creatively find the time and appropriate methods/ content for this. This may require support from admin to create conditions for teachers to learn from one another. As I do this, I need to more closely consider wider school initiatives and make connections to our Mission, Vision, Self-study, Discovery Team pillars. But I should also find ways to just do it that don’t require support.
  • I need to keep focused on pedagogy that meets student needs as we prepare them for a world we do not yet know. By exploring student learning and reflecting on if what we are doing is really linked to our goals we can keep everything linked back to what we say we are trying to do.
  • I need to plan out my weekly wins according to my previous post so that I can Quiet the Monkey in my head. These wins should make the reflection – planning – experimenting process clear and apply it to various initiatives I am already working on.

Feeling good and like I have more direction – thanks to everyone who shared ideas throughout the day!


Ideas I will be borrowing for running workshops:

  • trading cards – I’m stealing this trading card idea!
  • working break with a treat included!
4 comments to “Layering”
  1. I’m so interested in this from a whole-school perspective. Can you look at what you’re wrestling with to that level? Look to answer your core questions in this post with your colleagues and even admin. Now that would be powerful 🙂

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