Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Think Tank

For the past year or so, an idea has been percolating in my mind and I've been sharing bits and pieces of it with friends as it forms in my head.

I want to start an education Think Tank here in Ottawa. There are a lot of incredible educators in the area and I never get enough time to really sit down and talk with them, share ideas and collaborate. I think that the Think Tank can solve that. Imagine, once a month (because I am hopelessly in love with alliteration, on the third Thursday of each month), passionate educators sitting down outside of an educational setting (somewhere like a restaurant) and making their own professional development by sharing about the things that are most important to them.

Since becoming connected to other educators online (through Twitter, Skype in the Classroom and blogs), I've noticed an empowering trend - educators picking their own personalized professional development. We seek out the people, thoughts and ideas that inspire us and can easily communicate with them.

Online learning has been extremely powerful for me the past five or six years, and even more so in the past two years as I have begun to connect with more amazing people. I feel way to safe behind my computer, though. I want more face to face time with people who challenge and excite me. I need more.

I have tremendously enjoyed my time at conferences and non-traditional PD (EdCamp and Playdate), but want something that is more a part of my routine throughout the year. So, when I saw my friend Amy Bowker tweeting about wanting to start Coffee Cues in Ottawa, I got excited and told her that I'd been thinking of starting something similar. Today, we had a bit of a Coffee Cue, meeting at Starbucks in Chapters, and talking for hours about what is making us excited this summer in our own PD. Coffee Cues are all about sharing successes and I want that to be a part of this, but I want to go a few giant leaps further...

I shared with her my ideas and we ironed out some plans.

Here's the plan for Think Tank: #thta

  • No one is as smart as all of us: Educators of all shape, form and role (staff in public, Catholic or private schools; consultants; university and college profs; pre-service teachers...) get together at a pre-determined location in Ottawa on the third Thursday of each month for dinner, drinks, support, inspiration and/or planning. 
  • The Best of What Is, Imagine What Could Be: We will use an Appreciative Inquiry model (more about that later!) to informally discuss the things that participants are passionate about and want to change. 
  • ECO: Evolving, Collaborative and Organic Process: Think Tank will be a really organic process, giving participants freedom to direct conversations in the way that is helpful to them, sharing and talking with other participants, connecting them to amazing ideas and people along the way.
  • Blue Sky Thinking: Ultimately and eventually, I'd love to find people who are interested in helping me follow some of my BIG blue sky dreams - which include: exploring the BEd model; applying for grants to increase technology (and tech training for teachers) in classrooms and schools; starting an experimental school within the public board; starting a tutoring centre a la 826 Valencia; rewrite curriculum documents with a focus on competencies rather than content (plus lots of emotional intelligence and responsible citizenship); lobby for system-wide change (small class sizes, elimination of standardized testing, to name a few goals!) - and have people share their own and find support for them!

Is this right for you?

  • Are you a passionate educator of some shape, form or role?
  • Do you live in the Ottawa area? Are you visiting the Ottawa area on a Think Tank Third Thursday?
  • Are you willing to use some of your personal evening time to meet with other passionate educators?
  • Do you have questions, dreams, ideas and plans you'd like to share?

Upcoming dates:
  • Thursday, September 18th, 2014 6 p.m.-whenever, 1000 Sushi Islands, 1696 Carling Ave., Ottawa
  • Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - location TBA
  • Thursday, November 20th, 2014 - location TBA

I am ridiculously excited to spend some time in the Think Tank and see where our imaginations take us.

If this sounds like it could be for you, leave a comment, tweet at me (@misspollock), email me (shauna.pollock@ocdsb.ca), tweet with the hashtag #thta, or just show up!

Sign up here for more info:


  1. I also just want to say that 'Arthur' - the Canadian children's TV series has been watched by numerous children in England and is one of my favourites. Does it really reflect what school is like as an experience in Canada?

  2. Hi Sally,

    I'll have to rewatch Arthur, as I haven't seen it in years! What did you notice in particular as different from school in the UK?