June 21, 2013

I’m 40 hours from attending the International Society for Technology in Education’s annual conference in San Antonio.  I’m attending courtesy of the school district’s professional development grant and the loving support of my family as I couldn’t attend with kids in tow. 

As much as I love technology, I am going to be completely outclassed.  I will be challenged and my brain is going to hurt.  I know this because I’ve attended the Alaska version of this conference and it was amazing. This is a video I made reflecting on that conference:


ISTE is going to be ASTE on steroids, I’m sure.


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June 6, 2013
Doldrums of summer until the right
Then spin slowly,
a dancing dandelion puff in the breeze.
Then twist tightly,
a leaf leaping from the branch at the wane of fall.
Then whirl wildly,
an eddy over rocks refusing the tide.
Then surge, flurry, gyrate, envelope, encompass.
Circle violently,
like the ride at a two-bit fair, casting children in exhilarating motion.
Creep down,
an elephant trunk hanging in the putrid sky
which heaves aside tons of rubble, a tantrum fit unmatched.
Then panic.
then abandon homes,
abandon hospitals,
abandon schools, cars, trucks.
Abandon fear.
Ebb again, silent
retreat into cerulean peace.

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Alongside: A Biographical Sketch

June 6, 2013

The following is a piece written for the Alaska State Writing Consortium class in Homer.  The process was an open-ended prompt of “Write a Biographical Sketch of a classmate.”  Partners were assigned in a random manner, given an hour of time together for an initial interview, and then the partners met again the following day to review the first draft.  Two days and several revisions later, a “final” copy is now on the internet for classmates’ comments as well as the perusal of any other readers.



“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence; … to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects.” ― Paulo Freire


What does it really mean for a person to have religious faith?  Is it the faith of an institution or organization that defines this for an individual?  Does faith come in the mysteries of legends and folklore, the shades between fact and fiction in a culture built on oral tradition?  Or is it prescribed based on centuries of study, thought, reason, and emotion which culminates as the beliefs of a person’s soul?

Questions such as these weave through Ward Walker’s experiences in life and resonate now with him as the Principal/Teacher in False Pass, a small village on the eastern end of Alaska’s Aleutian chain.  The village has long been a site of Aleut settlement, predating Russian fur traders who brought the first wave of the Western World to their shores.  Since then the desire of remaining an autonomous indigenous culture within the larger world challenges both those on the inside and outside of that culture.

Ward’s role as principal allows him to engage in this discussion as a contributing member of the village, and he is even more open to the puzzle of tradition’s balance with progress in his home village of Stebbins.  It was there as a Catholic Priest that he acutely felt the tension between the needs of the people and the rules of the Church, a tension which ultimately led him away from formal ministry and into education.

His is a varied past. Growing up in Canada, Ward struggled through elementary school with Dyslexia.  A move to a different school changed that for him in sixth grade.  He’d worked in school, but now found motivation to work even harder; as reading came together for him that year, so also did a faith in himself as a learner.  In the speak-ese of schools, he was transformed from a D/F student to a regular on the Dean’s Honor Role.  This new found confidence likely changed the outcome of his life.

He would find other lives to change.  After a brief foray in Engineering studies, Ward moved to California to study theology at the University of Santa Clara.  While in Southern California he worked with the Missionary Brothers of Charity, a Catholic order founded by Mother Theresa to minister to the “poorest of the poor” throughout the world.  This became the primary step in a journey alongside people malnourished both in body and spirit:  the poor of Guatemala, the orphans of Haiti, the mentally ill and disabled in the care of Franciscans, all people who the Western World casts aside in its relentless charge forward.

Ward’s work in the world draws on the writings of Paulo Freire, an educational philosopher from South America.  Freire advocated “accompaniment” of indigenous peoples, that educators and others should come along side cultures as the culture itself works its way through the issues brought forth by an impassioned mainstream declaring all must be like the rest of the world.  Summer work in Alaska provided a connection to the Alaska Native culture and he recognized this as the call of his mission, to practice the philosophies of Freire within his own country with those who would become family, friends and community.

Education is Ward’s current vehicle in this endeavor.  He taught in the Western Alaskan villages of Selawick, Stebbins, and Gambell before his current position in False Pass.  Recognizing the educational needs of his students, he completed a Special Education Endorsement as well as an Alaska administrative certificate from the University of Alaska Anchorage.  He ultimately recognizes that for himself, education is a means for the significant work of accompaniment.  It is in education that Ward looks to aid students and their communities to understand that the gifts and talents they bring are enough to improve life on their own, to become authors of their own future.

Ward is able to discuss the role of religious faith in the Native culture at length with the Russian Orthodox priest who travels to the village, as well as a Baptist missionary who seeks to save souls in this far flung village.  Listening becomes discussing in these visits, and then encouragement for those men in their mission of shepherding their flocks in the village, albeit with very different traditions.

What then is the role of the Christian faith in a non-Western culture?  Ward believes that the people are not interested in returning to the naturalistic shamanism of the past, but are seeking to express their beliefs in a manner that honors who they have been and who they are while communicating the central truths of their adopted religion.  Most in False Pass attend the Russian Orthodox Church, but that institution has only been part of the region for a few hundred years.  How does a culture far older than organized religion express its beliefs in a manner that touches the core of who they are as a people?

As he works together with his Native friends and family, Ward believes that the culture will come closer to an answer for that question.  Perhaps the result will be an autonomous Christian church of blended traditions, or another reflective approach to the questions of faith in the world.  Regardless, Ward’s commitment to come alongside his community on this journey of understanding will continue until the Word becomes flesh for them in ways that resonate with their past experiences and future dreams.

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Alaska State Writing Consortium

June 3, 2013

I’m taking a class this week, one about teaching writing to students.  It is sponsored in part by the National Writing Project.    One thing I hope to bring back to my classroom is strategies for engaging young, reluctant writers.  I suspect more will come with that..  I’ll be posting a few writing samples to this blog:   stay tuned!

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Happy New Year!

January 9, 2013

Happily having survived the end of the Mayan world, I welcome you to another year and another semester!  I need to post my progress on my personal paperwork goal…I need to look at the standards…I need to plan for the semester…I need to organize my teacher table.

I also need to be blogging more.  Maybe not for you, dear reader, but certainly for me.  Being a connected educator is one of my values and I need to express that more often.  This blog post expresses very good reasons why I should work at continuing to build and use online connections.  Check it out…and Happy New Year!

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My Goal Progress

August 20, 2012

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My “Daily 5” Baseline

August 17, 2012

One thing I want to explore this year is The Daily 5.  My baseline of understanding of it was that a lot of teachers on Twitter and Pinterest do something called The Daily 5, and there was something to do with a cafe and of course it has a hashtag #d5chat.

That was last semester.  I’m a little further along in my understanding, though not by much.  I bought the book but haven’t looked at it yet.  I know there are five components (ok, that is a ‘duh’ observation) and it supports literacy instruction.    But I’m intrigued and in an instructional place where I can incorporate the ideas into the elementary reading/language group I will work with this year.  I am looking forward to learning more about The Daily 5 through social media and classroom implementation.

The Daily 5

  • Read to self
  • Work on writing
  • Word Work
  • Listen to reading
  • Read to Someone


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Back to School, Back to Blogging

August 15, 2012

Anyone else excited to be back at school?  Anyone else overwhelmed yet?

I switched classrooms this summer and am finishing up the environment part of the work; there is still much to do in planning and all the paperwork that comes with my job…already!  I will keep SMART goals for paperwork this school year, and I will post my progress.  A cool ticker would be nice, like how much money to raise for a building but something to do with percentages of goals met.

You know, people say teaching is all about the kids.  It is largely about the kids, yes.  It is also about the families and the federal requirements of teaching.  How to balance, then, the smiles of the kids each day with the papers that come along with them.

That might be the first thing:  daily paperwork.  I might also imagine all of those little pieces of papers smiling at me, too, and the closer to completion for whatever it is, the bigger the smile gets.  It will have to be something because no matter how dynamic the kids are, poor paperwork is poor teaching.

This year isn’t about how it has always been done, it is about how do we (I) do this teaching thing better.  Stick around to see how that goes…also stick around to see how the classroom goes, too.  I want my students to be learners this year, and I will be blogging about that journey, too.

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Shout Out to Selo!

May 1, 2012

Yesterday I spent my day at a different site–one that you first drive literally to the end of the road, hike down switchbacks,  walk a mile on the beach and finally get to the school.  My less-than-physically-fit self feels it today.  I can only imagine what shape I would be in if I had had to hike back UP the switchbacks….it is about a 1000 foot change in elevation.  (Thank you, Mr. White, for the ride!)

What awaits at the end of that journey is a school full of beautiful students (no, really…you should see the dresses they wear) who seem happy to be in school and engaged in their learning activities.  What you also find is a staff who loves the students and literally goes the extra mile to be there for their students.

Thank you, Selo Staff, for hosting me…and thank you too for being there for the students.  I’ve seen your numbers;  you are doing good things!  Way to go!

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Twitter is a Wild Ride

December 19, 2011

Today's GoFigure infographic looks at Twitter's global success.

I can see some of my students really latching onto these infographics as ways to report learning. I need to look into how to make them with the time and resources we have available.

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