Gifts that keep on giving

It has just been Christmas for many people. Even if you don’t subscribe to particular religious groups, you can’t help avoiding it. Supermarkets and shopping centres have been advertising its arrival pretty much since Easter.

Regardless of what the end of the calendar year means to you, the vast majority of us would probably take some time to look back on what we have done, what we have experienced and, I’d like to argue, we should also look at what we have given.

The giving of gifts is something common to almost every cultural, social and ethnic group in the world. Whether you expect something back or not, the act of giving something is critically important in education. We forget how much of what we do is based on good will: the conversation in the hallway on the way to a lesson, the support for the school musical, the shoulder to cry on… things that certainly aren’t in a job description and cannot and should not seek to be measured against standards or tests.

So what gifts have you given that benefit teaching and learning at your school this year? Have they been merely “solutions” that help cross the Ts and dot the Is or get someone off your back? Or have you managed – from time to time – to give people a gift that keeps on giving.

For example, have you trained someone in a new process or technology or practice and asked them to pass that learning on to others? Has an innovation or a change you have shepherded in been of benefit to more than a few champions who would follow you anywhere? Have you managed to build in a more open mindset that has led to interesting and different opportunities?

If not, why do you think our gifts sometimes have a limited life? Is something stopping it? Is something preventing the spread of new ideas and processes? Is it a matter of showing evidence or persuading people? Is it the case that one person’s gift is another’s curse?

In my case, despite shepherding in several big changes at my school (new administration system, Learning Management System [LMS], BYOD, iPads, digital textbooks to name the major ones) it has often come down to support. Teachers need it. Students need it. They do undersell their own ability to learn but in the heat of a busy week, term, or year, it is clear that most people do need constant and ongoing support and affirmation from their peers and from eLearning people such as us that they are, in fact, using their own gifts as well as any that might land in their lap(top) from us.

So now is the time to celebrate: what gifts have you given this year? What gifts have you received? What have colleagues, students, parents, management and others done with those gifts and of which are you the most proud? Affirm others, and don’t forget to affirm yourself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.


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One thought on “Gifts that keep on giving

  1. What a great post. I have really been grappling with this question for a while now. What is my impact? I am reminded of a post from George Couros ( where he suggests that there are three levels of influence: classroom, school and global. A good teacher is a part of all three.

    I feel that I have made many ‘gifts’ in the classroom this year. I have taken to liberating learning and providing students more choice about what they do and how they do it. In addition to this, I have demonstrated more powerfully the potential of ICT to develop thought and celebrate new knowledge, especially in intervention (

    On a school basis, I have taken a step back from pushing a clear agenda, as this was becoming a curse, instead I have learnt to work with and through others. For as Tim Kastelle writes, “You need the great new ideas, but you also need the execution skills to pull off the ideas.” ( This has culminated in getting a few people engaging beyond the school through Twitter, some exploring blogging ( and, while others took up new ideas here and there. I feel that many of these ‘seeds of change’ will often grow and develop overtime. The reality is that instead of cultivating a single hedge, I feel I have propagated a forest. Some will not come into fruition as when the saplings pop their heads, they are yanked out as ‘weeds’, while others see something good.

    The last ‘gift’ that I have made is global. This is both obvious in some respect, but confusing in others. In regards to external PD, I have gifted ideas and attendance to a few Teachmeets this year (see for example, presented at a range of conferences/sessions including DLTV14 with Steve Brophy (, TL21C ( and GAFE Summit ( In addition to this, I feel I have gifted something back to the global community, whether this be engaging in discussion on Twitter, sharing resources on Diigo, commenting on blogs, supported others in getting connected, created images to capture cool ideas and just generally thinking out loud online. I think though that there is a danger to get caught up globally with what you do as if it were so simple, for without a community, a connection, a relationship, there would be no sense in doing any of it.

    In the end, I may have given many gifts (or curses), but received just as many in return. I think with this though, we have the choice how we see such things. The New Year offers an opportunity for new beginnings ( I therefore feel that the greatest gift we can give is an opportunity to give people a fresh opportunity to change (ourselves included).

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