Last spring, I spent weeks thinking about the power of language, and the many applications it has for shaping the way we perceive our roles in education.  At Learning2 in Milan, I put forth a call to revise the metaphors we use when thinking and speaking about teaching and learning (the full talk is available here).

If a school year is a campfire, these are the days of building our tinder nest.

Blondinrikard Fröberg Follow Trunk with hoof fungus or Tinder fungus

Blondinrikard Fröberg Follow
Trunk with hoof fungus or Tinder fungus


It’s almost 2pm on a Friday.

This has been the first week of orientation with a brand new school.  Said school set today as an ‘open day,’ a day to focus on whatever needs your attention as a teacher. Strike that–not as a teacher, as a human (yes, I could be in the pool right now).  And yes, I do have a to-do list (and a nice pool), but at the moment, I can’t resist the urge to reflect on the start of this campfire in the making.

Last night I finished reading:


I mention this not only because I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but the timing of reading this book speaks volumes about my current state of mind.  It isn’t uncommon for teachers to find a new school, or simply the start of the school year to be well…draining.  That’s not how I’ve felt starting here.  I left every day of my orientation feeling inspired, encouraged to gather tinder and kindling once again.  I couldn’t wait to get back to a little professional development reading, to dig back into my favourite tags on Twitter, and to meet more of my brand new colleagues.


photo credit: me :)

photo credit: me 🙂


Sure, I love doing what I do.

I consider myself lucky to be in a line of ‘work’ that knows that ideas and habits can change the world for the better.  I’d love to say I’m this excited about another campfire igniting because I’m insanely motivated, but that’s not the full truth.  The whole story is that I’ve just joined a school with leadership that is blazing with passion about values that resonate with those who see education as a tool for change. For an example of this, click here.

At other schools I’ve seen orientation time given to rules, protocols, disciplinary procedures, reviews of IB scores, and well, that isn’t really much to light a spark, is it?

Here, everything was about the learning.  

The tone was positive, start to finish every day.  Sessions were structured to be respectful of time and energy.  We looked at growth mindset and its application to school systems. We chatted about the reasons ‘detention’ should be dead already. We toured the boarding house on campus–to marvel at diversity, and marvel we did.  We were reminded that the service learning program is here for student passions to come to fruition, for students to be leaders in seeing the principles of the school shape today, not just tomorrow. Grade 11 students organise, plan, coordinate and execute their very own service trips–without teacher chaperones.  What does that say about trust, understanding, and believing in what the learning is doing? A lot.

If time is the strongest indicator of what an institution values, look closely at your orientation schedule.  What does it say about the learning you hope to foster?  What does it say about the level of trust you have in your staff?  Is your orientation about celebrating the potential of excellence in teaching and learning, or…not?

If we want students to believe that the sky is not the limit, teachers need to get on board with Aki Hoshide’s message too.  A massive thank you to the many people who clearly collaborated on leaving the new teachers with that sensation this week.  I feel like I’ve truly been schooled on the art of the start this week. Every single returning teacher I’ve met has said something along the lines of: “You will love it,” “I’ve never learned as much at any other school,” “This place actually  does what the mission* says it does.”  To have that be a part of your orientation takes so much passion–you can’t script that for your orientation weeks before, you have to tend those fires for years, which is clearly what’s happening here.  Perhaps that is why the sky is not considered the limit at UWCSEA?

What do you hope to put in your tinder nest this August? 

 *UWC mission

  • The UWC movement makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.







Thanks for the Following photo via Flickr’s bank of Creative Commons Images

Trunk with hoof fungus or Tinder fungus