What if? Teachers Beyond the Classroom

What if? This is the first of hopefully a series of posts that act as reflections and provocations to design challenges that Exhibit Change has encountered. The What if? questions are not intended to be solutions or definitive statements, but rather questions that begin a series of exploration and understanding. 

A few weeks ago, I participated in a community forum.

The event’s goal is “to develop a strategy to help underemployed and unemployed teachers explore career opportunities outside of schools”.


“In 2006, 30 percent of teachers in their first year after graduation were either unemployed or underemployed. By 2010, that proportion had more than doubled, to 68 percent. Nearly one in four new teachers got no work at all, up from just three percent in 2006.” – Way Too Many Teachers: University Affairs

Leaving the day, this challenge started gnawing at me and I thought What if?

What If, we took a studio approach to this design challenge? Who would be the right people to interview? How could we get decision-makers to put strategies in place to mitigate this? Who are the teachers that are still enrolling for these positions when the circumstances seem so grim? What happens if all teacher colleges stopped operating for 5 years?

This is something I am looking into investigating more.


On November 22 2014, CivicAction’s DiverseCity Fellows Neil Price, Jamil Javani and Michael Bosompra hosted Teachers Beyond the Classroom community forum at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.

My concern heading into the day was that our panel was going to be surface level to the deeper employment challenges and immediate need for solutions. The room was a mix of pre-service teachers, teachers working in schools now, and teachers who have left schools and are working in different areas of education now – including a school trustee and business.

To kick off the day, I participate in a panel alongside Camesha Cox, a teacher who has started her own organization called The Reading Partnership and David Montemurro, a teacher educator from OISE who works to place teacher candidates in field placements. I was representing the perspective of someone that has collaborated with educators.


I am thankful to Neil, Jamil and Michael for taking on this wicked problem. There will be report and the community forum was structured around these research questions:

  • What skills do teachers bring to the table for non-school employers, and what careers need those skills?
  • Are teachers’ college students being adequately prepared for job opportunities outside of schools?
  • What impact can teachers’ college graduates have on various industries and organizations in Ontario?
  • How can employers, governments, and universities better support teachers’ college students and alumni in finding work outside of schools?
  • How might recent changes to teacher education in Ontario impact teacher employment outside of schools?


Why we love Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation

We arrived home from a few days in Atlanta last week working with the amazing team at Mount Vernon Presbyterian school, in particular the team behind the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation. The Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation (MVIFI) is headed up by the spectacular Bo Adams and is built on a culture of 3 pillars, design thinking, global competitiveness and citizen leadership. Obviously, we are especially drawn to a school that has design thinking as one of its core values and we love learning with MVIFI as they are growing in this area.

Here are the top 3 reasons we love MVIFI:


1. The People

I have had the pleasure of working with and getting to know several of the MVP folks and can without a doubt say they are some of my favourite people to collaborate with. They have truly taken on design thinking as a way of life at Mount Vernon. It is hard not to be drawn into the southern hospitality and accents of the MVP crew, they have welcomed us into their homes, hearts and minds throughout the 2 years that we have been working together. Ultimately my favourite part about working with MVP is the fact that they are always creating ideas to take into action and learn from. It is part of their “Ship It” philosophy to put ideas out into the world early rather than letting them percolate behind closed doors. This nature and culture creates a team of people who know how to value the generation of ideas and have a getting it done attitude that can’t be beat. I have especially enjoyed jamming with Mary Cantwell, Trey Boden, Chris Andres, TJ Edwards, James Campbell, Emily Breite, Chip Houston and of course Bo Adams. It is the dedication that these folks have to ongoing learning about design thinking and a never-ending perseverance to keep striving the change education.


2. The MVP Norms

Start with Questions, Share the Well, Assume the Best, Fail Up & Have Fun

These norms are posted up around the school, celebrated and embedded. Certainly aligned with design thinking mindsets and with the uncertainty of learning in the 21st century. Rooted in assuming the best and starting with questions, these norms honour the fact that when we just to preconceived assumptions without discovering facts and uncovering the unknown we are setting ourselves and others up for upset. Share the well and have fun celebrate success from big to small and demonstrate a playful nature to facing the challenges ahead. My personal favourite is Fail Up, one that we have taken on as part of our repertoire and most certainly resonate with the most. MVP has a tradition of celebrating Fail Up moments and even have an official ceremony each year for a teacher or student who has demonstrated getting up from a failure and showing their grit and resilience from learning from their mistakes. This is something that we need to see more.


 3. The Collaborations

Well obviously, our collaboration with MVP has been most valuable for our learning and theirs, but the collaborations don’t stop there. While we were at Fuse we learned of so many more collaborations that are underway and in development. MVIFI actively seeks non-traditional collaboration opportunities to deliver real-world opportunities for their students and teachers to learn from. This year MVP partnered with The Museum of Design in Atlanta (MODA) for students to design and building an exhibit on design thinking featuring a giant David Kelley inspired moustache and glasses, in development a partnership with Thrive LLC a local design firm in Atlanta for students to see where the design thinking skills they are learning could take them in a corporate setting and of course the many collaborations that brought Fuse to life. We had so much fun working alongside MVP, Greg Bamford from Leadership & Design and the many coaches from the #dtk12chat community. The best part about collaborations is that they are not one-sided. Everyone learns from what they put in.

Building Ownership and Capacity: Give the Gift of Holding

What is the role of holding?

It is a powerful gift to give someone something that they didn’t ask for and that they didn’t even know they wanted.

Or is it? This is a question that has been running in the back of my head for the past few weeks. 


Primarily this swirling around after we came back from EdCamp Manitoulin and I was thinking about EdCamp Design Thinking that we helped pot on in the fall. Being at EdCamp Manitoulin reminded me how important it is for people to organize the event, to put out the invitation and to help convene the conversation. And the even better part is when they get to participate in the conversations. It is undoubtedly the hardest part of being a facilitator is being the one to hold the conversations and not fully get to participate. It was our pleasure to be able to give that gift to EdCamp Manitoulin. We were happy to step in and carry that weight for the EdCamp Manitoulin team so that they could do what they needed to do, which was be with their guests and host the party. It was a stress that we are used to carrying and gave us a chance to practice our documentation and harvesting techniques.


Last year, I called a group together to host EdCamp Design Thinking and we were able to put on a fabulous event with over 70 people and a beautiful salad club lunch. I think it was what people needed. A place to connect, to be with peers and to have conversations about education.

Just tonight, I was at a powerful lecture about an innovative program that talks about the “professional in the background” and it struck me that there is an intense need for the “expert” to hold the space for practice and process to occur, but to let others take the reigns. The structures supporting the container can stand up on their own and can be filled in with gentle coaching and check-ins. It isn’t as simple as just passing the torch and walking away. But rather a process of building trust, showing how, growing confidence and lending support to make mistakes.


Now, I am wondering how to we build ownership and capacity to have others hold EdCamp Design Thinking? What if no one wants to? If someone does, how do we support them? Does anyone what to take over? We are here to help you hold it!

Linking, Creating & Integrating

Over the past few weeks I have been dipping in and out of learning, education, academic, research, community spaces. These events each brought about a different perspective for me while simultaneously reminding me that nothing is really that different. At the core of each of these conversations, I was critically reminded how important it is for someone to host conversations that matter. These conversations each lead to a new connection, a new resource, a reminder of something you already knew and hopefully fuelling action.


Each of these conversations were convened by different people or organizations and what is interesting is that they happened for me one after another felt like a building of a previous conversation.

Just yesterday, I was listening to a podcast by RadioLab about “What Does Technology Want?” and a story stood out for me about ow inventions all come at the same time, more or less. An invention needs to have a foundation of other ideas and technology before it to lay the ground work and then almost overnight the idea is born in many places at the same time. For example, the lightbulb was invented by Thomas Edison alongside 22 other patents filed around the same time.


This seemed to be a resonating theme with these 3  conversations. Put on by different organizations, probably all catalyzed by something slightly different and yet the conversations all started to feel the same to me. I was drawn to these particular conversations for the knowledge that was going to be shared, the people I would meet and the sparks that would be created.

  • Linking People and Knowledge Symposium (University of Toronto OISE and HEQCO)- connect researchers and practitioners in knowledge mobilization
  • Creating the Future (Sheridan College and University of Toronto OISE) – establish a foundation and value of undergraduate applied research in partnership with industry, academic institution and students
  • Cafe Hub (by Woodgreen Community Services in partnership with SPACE Coalition, City of Toronto, Toronto District School Board, Ontario Public School Board Association and others) – create integrated service delivery that is fluid and effective for communities

IMG_20140502_091104 (1)

These events left me with 3 big “I wonders”:

  1. I wonder how these conversations would be different as they open up to the community and stakeholders who would be most greatly impacted by the conversation
  2. I wonder how these conversations stem from liabilities and risk aversion.
  3. I wonder how these conversations will turn into action


Each of these conversations left me wanting to see what the next would be like when more people were brought into the fold. There was a few too many, “well, I assume…” “what works for us will work for them…” “I don’t think that will matter…” statements being made that made me question the validity of the conversation. Each felt a little one-sided and a bit like it was meant to paint a certain picture.


More than once, I heard people say “if only [insert rule here] didn’t exist, then…” or “we can’t do that for liability reasons”. It left me feeling like while rules give us order, at one point is it needed to revise what has come before and when do those rules, laws and procedures stop serving the people they were intended to protect.


Where are these conversations headed? Is this the first of many? Is there a plan that these conversations are a part of? Are we at the beginning, middle or end? What comes next? What keeps the momentum going? IMG_20140501_140514

Ultimately, I am seeing threads being pulled through each of these conversations and I will continue to try and weave these conversations together and participate as much as I can.








How might we bring design thinking to Glen Shields public school?

Andrew GS

We are doing design thinking at Glen Shields Public School. We started this process with a conversation about the school and what the culture was like and how might we be able to work together on professional development, student engagement and learning design thinking.

Glen Shields is a school that hosts a community of diversity, equity, inquiry and empathy. Their principal and teachers are committed to bringing opportunities to their students and engaging their school community.

GS teachers workshop Brandond

We are starting our work with Glen Shields through teacher training on design thinking, workshops with students on design thinking and working towards building a language and foundation for work to come next year.
We have requests for more workshops and teachers saying that they are already bring the ideas back to their classrooms. It is exciting to see where this is going. The students are just embarking on their journey and we meet with them again this week. Can’t wait to see where they go!This year we are focusing on the design thinking process with 44 students and 11 educators to prototype the process.

Each of us can Exhibit Change

I returned from a three-week adventure in Tanzania splitting time teaching at Good Hope Orphanage and Primary School, reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and speeding through the vast plains of the Serengeti. From my flight to Dar es Salaam to being seen off at the airport coming home to Toronto, I had the privilege to meet so many change makers in such short time; Allen, a Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist from United States working with World Medical Mission to train locals in prosthetics and orthotics in Kenya and Jill, Nicole, Apryl and Tanya from Canada, working for Sustainable Cities in Dar es Salaam on urban development projects with the municipal government were some of the fine folks working on incredible initiatives in Africa. In the next several blog posts I would like to share the stories of a few change makers I met along the way.

Continue reading Each of us can Exhibit Change

EdCampTO purpose

What’s the purpose?

The EdCampTO organizing committee met to talk about purpose. How do 15ish people come up with one catch phrase, a hook, or even one notion of what is going to happen? I always look forward to the variety of perspectives and comments that arise in these meetings. There was certainly a range of expectations of what EdCamp was supposed to be talked about, supposed to be given and what you should get when you walk out the door.

I leaned toward the idea of going with a curiosity for meeting folks interested in testing and even disrupting the current education system and pushing for new technologies and techniques. I am happy to go into EdCamp with no real goals and to walk away with nothing tangible other than meeting new people and having my mindset shaken up and for me to do the same for others. I like the way Stephen said that he left Vancouver’s EdCamp “empty handed” but with his mind full of inspiration and new contacts. And how Sean said that it was like flipboard where he has curated who he follows but as he flips through the pages day by day, he doesn’t know what new information he will find.

I know that this is going to happen, as our organizing meeting already offers the opportunity to share different views towards purpose, passion and expectations and subsequently the spectrum is already being established. I think as much as we cannot all agree on one learning style, we cannot agree on one purpose either and will instead have to be content in knowing that we are coming together from a similar questioning mind. I want to encourage curiosity of learning.

Inspire Yourself!




EdCamp Toronto

I saw a curious tweet about a month ago about an EdCamp happening in Toronto and I immediately sent Stephen Hurley and email and got an overwhelmingly excited email back and shortly after we connected on the phone and I was hooked into the idea. EdCamp is an unconference model, meaning as organizers you create the space and put out a call to interested participants, but you don’t put the content in and instead let the participants decide what is important and what should be discussed.

I attended the first planning meeting and was not surprised to find that I was one of a few who are not teachers, but was warmly welcomed into the group. We had a dynamic discussion and I learned of some amazing projects happening in and outside of the school. I am fully committed to continue my goal of growing school communities as a holistic learning place for students inside and outside school walls and beyond 3:30pm. I know there are many many many great programs out there and I am very excited to learn more about them.

Schools have built up walls. It is time to take a new look at the walls and ask: might there be another way? what do we want our schools to do? how can we help our students be who they want to be? who is responsible for how we learn? No matter how much we circled in conversation at the end of the day, we are all there for the same reasons. Kids and Learning!

Inspire Yourself!