About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Preparing for Haiti service-learning trip: Laurier Faculty of Education

We have an amazing team going to Haiti next week. It's hard to believe that six months of preparation is finally culminating in departure. We leave one week from today (Wednesday, May 7) and are looking forward to the first four days in a more rural location (Pignon) followed by a week in Cap-Haitien.

The team has been working on preparing conversational English classes and leadership workshops. We have also been incredibly fortunate to also receive box after box of school supplies. This week, we packed 12 suitcases of school materials, laptops, soccer supplies, and BlackBerry phones/tablets. We each also took one extra box of supplies that will get packed with our 2nd suitcase. Amazing!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Supporting a new higher education institute in Haiti - ISTEAH

I am part of a new institute that is providing Masters and Ph.D. programs in Haiti. The Institut des sciences, des technologies et des études avancées d’Haïti (ISTEAH) is primarily made up of professors from universities in Quebec but others, such as myself, are supporting the program either by teaching courses or supervising graduate students. Courses are either being offered on-line or face-to-face in three locations in Haiti. We have completed the first year of programs with positive results.

Here is an article in Canada's national university magazine, University Affairs, about the initiative:
ISTEAH: Building knowledge to rebuild Haiti

ISTEAH is building the social and human capital within Haiti by providing support for graduate students in Haiti instead of expecting them to travel to Canada, France, or the United States. Haiti has a number of public and private universities that are well positioned to help build the academic and research-base of the country but lack some of the basic infrastructure supports to enable this to happen. For example, university professors often have to work multiple jobs to make a living, thus not allowing them the time to engage in research and writing.

Laurier did a short news piece about my work with ISTEAH with a focus on one of the students in the program who is affiliated with me:

Laurier prof helps train...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Balancing community-based school leadership with an outsider's expertise

One of the things I have encouraged in my work in Haiti is authentic, community-based models of leadership. Externally-driven solutions to local problems may have short-term benefits but are limited in their long-term effectiveness. It's better to work with people at the local level who have insights into the immediate context than to provide "made-in-Canada" solutions.

However, this type of leadership, that is grounded and honed in the local context, often can benefit from an outside perspective. This is where I can assist. Rather than identifying problems and providing solutions, I take on the role of a facilitator who tries to provide a different perspective or who can support further networking.

Most of us have a tendency to become myopic in our day-to-day leadership roles. Yes, we may be experts in the local context but we may also succumb to an inward-looking mindset that fails to recognize opportunities beyond our immediate experiences. We may also have limited exposure to resources that might be helpful in our local context.

Dale and Newman (2008) provide an interesting case study of a community initiative in Vancouver that benefited from external (in this case, governmental) support. They argue that "Collaboration for sustainable community development means that increasingly local community organizations, leaders, and governments must form partnerships with other levels of government, with the private sector, and with civil society organizations" (p. 18). My experience with multiple schools and leaders in Haiti reflects this balance: For successful capacity-building to occur, there must be a positive interplay of community-based leadership and external support.

Dale, A. & Newman, L. (2008). Social capital: A necessary and sufficient condition for sustainable community development? Commuity Development Journal, 45(1), 5-21.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How do young Canadian students develop a global perspective? Piti not pity

I have done dozens of school presentations about Haiti over the past five years. Many of these have been completed with students in gr. 5-8. Today, I am speaking at an assembly with students in kindergarten to grade 5 in a school in Waterloo Region District School Board. Although I have done presentations with young students before, this one will be challenging because of the breadth of ages of students.

So what is my main learning outcome? My success criteria? The big idea?

It is not to develop a sense of pity for students in Haiti.

But, piti piti (little by little - Creole) to develop a broader sense of the world in which they live.

This includes getting to know a little bit of Haitian geography, a little bit of history, a little bit of language, and probably most importantly for a gr. 1 or 3 student ...

... a sense that children in Haiti have many things in common with children in Ontario.

They like to skip rope. To eat chocolate. To drink soft drinks. To listen to music. To dance. To play soccer. To be with their friends.
Developing a global perspective can never start too young. Piti piti.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

School Leadership for Social Change in Haiti: Presentation at AERA 2014

Over the next five days, the largest gathering of educational researchers in the world will take place in Philadelphia for the American Educational Research Association annual conference. I am privileged to present a chapter I have written for a book on international perspectives on school leadership.

The chapter I have written is entitled "school leadership for social change in Haiti" and is based on research I have done over the past three years in Haiti. The key aspects of the research are shown in the framework below:

The opportunity to present with people like Gaetane Jean-Marie, Jeff Brooks, and Anthony Normore, key figures in the field of school leadership, is an amazing opportunity. As we consider school leadership from different contexts, I hope to contribute to our understanding of how exemplary school leaders are nurtured in fragile states such as Haiti.