Brand Loyalty & Bilingualism

Brand loyalty seems to affect motorcyclists more than most.  Even when they don’t work, motorcycle riders are partial to their rides in a way that owners of other modes of transport aren’t.  With that in mind I just completely ignored my Kawasaki only motorcycle history to this point and just picked up a bike for my son: a Yamaha PW80.  I guess we’re now officially bilingual.

It needs a cleanup and some TLC, but the bike is straight and solid.  Once I’ve got it sorted we’ll be practising circles on the dead end road out front of our place.

They were asking $800, but rather than start there I asked what they were asking.  Since the Mom had put it up for sale and she wasn’t talking to me, it was suddenly $700.  I suggested $600, they went with $675.  For a seldom used, nicely stored 2004 Yamaha PW80, I think I came out ahead.  I could sell it tomorrow for a couple of hundred more than I got it.

I’m still looking for something off-road for me to head out on with Max.  If I had a mint to throw at it I’d go pick up a late model DRZ-400 or a KLX-250, but I don’t.  I’m hoping for a an older enduro bike, but sub 500cc; they don’t come up often.  This is going to be a primarily off-road machine, so lugging a 600+cc ‘adventure’ bike on the trails isn’t a thrilling prospect.  A big enough for me but light off-road machine is the goal.

I’m going to take Max out to the Junior Red Riders course early this summer, then I’m going to make as many trips to Bobcageon as I can manage to get us some time on two wheels together.

Getting into the PW80 was an easy prospect.  The seat pops off with a couple of nuts under the fender and the tank with a couple of bolts.  I’m not sure if two stroke oil can go off so I left it as is, but I emptied the gas tank and put in new gas (the former owner guessed the gas was at least a couple of years old).

I got it started and running smoothly and took it for a run around the circle we live on.  It took off like a scalded rabbit!  I could barely hang on.  The only issue is a broken exhaust.  I’m hoping our metal shop genius at school can sort it out tomorrow.  With a tight exhaust we’ll be off to the trails!

Brand loyalty did play a part in this.  Another bike we went to go see was a Baja 90cc dirt bike.  It looked pretty cobbled together and the fact that it was a Chinese bike gave me the willies.  I might not be a Kawasaki or nothing guy, but I know better than to buy a dodgy, Chinese knockoff.

Neurology: Is it the car, or the car and driver?

We had board PD today (a 3 hour lecture).  It was a presentation on neurology in learning and layered curriculum by Kathie Nunley.  I’m generally a fan of a nuanced scientific approach to human activity (as opposed to a simplistic approach to things that usually support buying something).  Dr. Nunley’s neurological approach to education offered a number of insights to what we’re doing wrong.  If we don’t consider biological imperatives in learning we will never be as efficient as we might be.


There was a moment where I came to the end of neurological approach and the ‘ol philosophy degree kicked in.  Nunley had a slide stressing the importance of the appearance of choice in learning.  She stressed how engaging it is for students when they feel like they can choose their learning.

My knee jerk response was that this was manipulation, which led me down a metaphysical rabbit hole.

Neuroscience, because it’s looking at the brain, comes dangerously close to itemizing our sentience.  It also tends to reduce multi-dimensional complexity into simplistic linearity.  This idea that the appearance of choice would prompt more efficient learning would encourage any right minded teacher to manipulate their students into thinking they have learning choice in order to harness better retention.  No right minded teacher should be manipulating anyone into anything.

An analogy immediately came to mind.  Is neuroscience the car or the car and driver?  On a neuroscientific level our minds are very complex mechanical devices.  Our actions are driven by a brain developed from millennia of evolution.  There is no free-will, only complex autonomous reaction.  If that is what we are, you should have no trouble manipulating these processes to get a desired result, especially if it’s a good end.  School systems should treat the people in them like cogs in a machine, because that’s all they are.

If neurology is the study of the car then we can make immediate and scientifically informed choices that will improve its maintenance and operation.  As Nunley suggested in her presentation, dietary and developmental principles can be applied to maximize the functionality of our brains.  If neurology is the study of the car and driver then there is nothing else to consider.  In addition to the spiritual considerations that a number of people would find difficult to swallow, concepts like ethics or metaphysical ideals beyond the immediately knowable world of science (like honesty) may be ignored.  Neurology is the rational tool that justifies treating people like machines because that is all they are.

One of the reasons I like teaching technology is because students don’t get to work in imaginary value structures.  Those would be places where the science of neurology reigns supreme, where the teacher should manipulate students to lead them to success.  It’s where a 60% means you’ve done enough.  In the world of hands-on experience 60% is as useful as a zero.  If you don’t believe me have 60% of your next brake job done and see how that goes.

Teaching technology means I get to take students inured to reality after years of ‘learning’ in a school system and put them in close proximity to what is rather than what we wish.  Their discomfort is obvious.  They respond with comments like, “it didn’t work, but I tried real hard.  Do I get an A?”  No, you don’t, and reality is unimpressed with your intellectual resilience and general work ethic.  Thank goodness human value structures don’t decide everything. 

Fortunately, and despite our best efforts, we don’t live in a reality based on human value structures.  The large, unknowable universe that surrounds us makes itself felt constantly.   The tiny portion of reality we feel like we have a grip on because of science is only a gross approximation; mathematics and human ideas that roughly simulate reality enough to make crude use of it.  Science thinks in terms or breakthroughs and mastery, but neither actually happens.  Neuroscience offers us some useful insight into how brains function, but it is still far from understanding our minds; the driver is still safely out of their hands.

I tend toward moral absolutism.  One of the reasons I find science so agreeable is because it attempts to tell no lies, but in the case of neuroscience it seems to make some assumptions on how much it thinks it knows about being human.  Brains aren’t all we are, even though we use them as a lens to make sense of the world.

I’m going to take many of the suggestions around how to best maintain and maximize brain efficiency from this PD, but I’m not surrendering morality in the process.  If I’m going to give a student a choice it’s going to be a genuine choice because I believe those are superior to the appearance of choice.  In ways not immediately measurable I know that treating students and the subject I teach honestly creates the kind of fecundity that science is still having trouble quantifying.

Ancaster And Back Again

Elora to Ancaster and back again… about 160kms

Another weekend another good ride, this time to Ancaster and back for an edcamp.  One again the Concours impressed with its ability to cover miles with ease.

It was about 6°C when I left at 7:30 in the morning, and up in the high teens when I came back mid-afternoon.  Both ways was comfortable though behind the fairings, and the new jacket is light-years beyond the old one in terms of both warming and cooling.

I had a moment riding when I was flying through the air on the back of the bike realizing that there is nothing about doing this that I don’t enjoy.  It was a windy day, the roads post Canadian winter look like a war zone and it was cold, but even with all that I was still stringing perfect moments together as I flew down the road.  I had a moment before the big trip last week when I was wondering if I’m not taking too many risks riding with my son.  What finally put me right was realizing that driving a car can end you as well, but we do that much more often and usually while paying less attention.  I looked back one time as we were winding our way through Beaver Valley and saw Max with his arms out and eyes closed flying through the air behind me.  I would have hated myself if I’d have never given him that experience.  Riding might be dangerous, but competence and attention can go a long way in mitigating those risks, and the rewards are impossible to find in any other mode of transport.

The more I ride the Concours the better the engine seems to get. On the way home I stuck the phone behind the windshield and got the video below where you can hear the Concour’s happy noise.  

Sulphur Springs Road – a better way in is on Mineral Springs Road, the top of Sulphur Springs is rough!
Mineral Springs Road on the way back, it’s still Ontario bumpy, but it ain’t dirt and it is twisty!
Back up in Centre Wellington, the Concours takes a break where I took the first road pic of my former bike

I always thought that the Ninja was a delight to rev, but the throaty howl of the Concours in full song is hard not to fall in love with:

Flight of the Concours

… with musical accompaniment by Takeshi Terauchi & The Bunnies!

What is Professionalism?

A long, contemplative ride
on the road less travelled to
self directed PD.

I attended Edcamp Hamilton this past weekend.  On a Saturday morning what did almost one hundred teachers and administrators do on the eve of a strike?  They spent their own time and money to travel to Ancaster to direct their own professional development.

Discussions ranged from technology integration to how to most effectively assess student learning (along with dozens of other topics).  What is magical about the edcamp experience is that teachers direct their own research and reflection.  There is no top down directive or education consultant being paid to sell an idea.  No one is paid to be there, no one is expected to be there, yet the room was full at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.


I’ve long thought that self-direction is the key element in professional development.  I’d actually argue that PD isn’t PD unless it is self directed.  When you’re sat in a room being indoctrinated by a talking head it isn’t professional or development, it would be better described as mediocre training.  Lecturing a group of people implies that they lack knowledge and need to be informed.  It implies that they aren’t professionals but unskilled employees who need direction.


I’ve got PD coming up this week.  PD often involves a paid consultant earnestly exhorting you to differentiate your teaching practice, but they do it in a completely undifferentiated, university style lecture.  If student centred differentiation is what you’re selling, selling it in a lecture is either incredibly lazy or ignorant.  In any case it suggests a lack of integrity.


I’m trying to work out what professionalism
is in a Prezi mindmap

The professional is, at their core, self directed.  You don’t become an expert in something without being able to self assess and improve your own practice.  Integrity should drive this self directed improvement by demanding competence.  That competence naturally creates a sense of responsibility that a professional is more than happy to be accountable for.  Self direction and the integrity that drives it creates a professionally responsible environment that accepts stringent accountability.

In order to develop professional standards, professionals need only be left to their own devices, and perhaps given the time and space by management to focus on excellence.  Edcamps encourage this kind of professional development, in fact they can’t happen without it.  PLCs also facilitate professional development by leaving the professional to develop their own means of improvement.  I’ve been involved in learning fairs, unconferences and other teacher centred/teacher presented learning opportunities that have been invaluable as well as empowering.

The difference between a talented amateur and a professional is that the professional is committed to improvement and is thus willing to be accountable to their profession.  The professional abides by the practices and standards of their profession and actively works to raise them.  In this way a professional has a social responsibility to their profession that a dilettante doesn’t, no matter how talented they might be.  The professional isn’t a one trick pony who acts solely on talent, but a talented individual who begins with natural inclination and then works to develop it into a much wider skill-set that acknowledges the full complexity of their discipline.  Some secondary teachers fall into thinking that they are a subject expert before they are a teacher.  Being a subject expert isn’t what they are being paid (professionally) to do, it’s teaching.  Teaching is the professional practice we (especially at the secondary level) sometimes forget.


Accountability is where professional development with teachers seems to fall apart.  Management fears that if left to their own devices some teachers will not actively work to improve their professional standards.  In some cases this may in fact be true.  It would be a fairly simple task to itemize the professional development opportunities teachers pursue and account for who is attempting to improve their professional practice and who isn’t, but we don’t do that in teaching.

The teachers who go out of their way to attend (or speak!) at conferences, who expand their professional qualifications, who attend edcamps, or work in their subject councils, or participate in online communities, these teachers have made quantifiable efforts to improve their profession.  The teacher who rolls his eyes at another board run PD which he is only attending because he is being paid to be there is simply not professional in the same sense.  They are the ones who ‘professional development’ is aimed at.

Instead of only looking at years in the classroom it would be nice if we accepted that some teachers take on a more professional approach to teaching.  It would be easy enough to quantify that approach.  How many subject areas have they become qualified in?  Do they demonstrate continuous improvement?  How many self directed PD opportunities do they take?  Do they take on positions of extra responsibility? What do they do to support their subject area?  The profession of teaching in general?  Until we accept that not all teachers are created equal, we ignore both integrity and responsibility and are unable to accurately apply accountability to our profession.


Is teaching a job that requires management to take attendance and force simplistic PD down people’s throats?  Evidently, in which case it isn’t really a professional activity.  Is teaching a profession that demands self directed development through stringent accountability?  If it was it would be driven by teachers’ professionalism rather than by attendance rolls and tell-me-don’t-show-me lectures.


At the core of professional practice is the self directed development of your expertise.  I’ve got a PD day (the only one this semester) next Friday.  It will be interesting to see how this board run day will compare to the dynamic and responsive urgency of the edcamp I just attended.  I imagine I’ll see differences in the first few moments when teachers I never see doing self-directed PD are whining about why they have to be there (because they’re being paid to do it).  Then they will take attendance and the differences will only get more obvious.


Professionalism Resources:


www.mindtools.com/pages/article/professionalism.htm


www.med.uottawa.ca/students/md/professionalism/eng/about.html

 

#edcampham discussion suggestion

www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/Professionalism,_Teacher_Efficacy,_and_Standards-Based_Education.aspx

education.und.edu/field-placement/files/docs/professionalism.pdf

www.slideshare.net/jazzmichelepasaribu/professionalism-in-education


www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042810025498





A Stolen Weekend

About 340 kms over two days…

You know you’re cutting it close when you’re on your first two wheel road trip of the year and you ride into flurries.  Sunday was supposed to be fantastic, high teens Celsius and sunny, but we headed out on Saturday morning and found ourselves riding into a whiteout.

A bandit hat and some chemical hand warmers from
Shelburne Home Hardware saved the day!

We’d pulled into Shelburne after forty minutes on the bike frozen stiff.  Staggering in to Tim Hortons we both sat down and waited for our fingers to work so we could take off our helmets.  Half an hour later, after warming ourselves up on tea and grilled cheese, we crossed the road to the Home Hardware and got the last balaclava and some chemical hand warmers.  We hit the road and rode right into that whiteout, but at least we had warm hands.

As the snow swirled Max tucked in behind me and I tucked in behind the windshield.  The wind had been strong all morning but now with snow it was out to get us.  If accumulation began I was going to pull over, but as quickly as it appeared it blew off again, leaving us with frozen steel skies.  Ah, the joys of riding in Canada.

The plan was to head from the flat and boring grid of roads around us to where the pavement gets interesting.  The Niagara Escarpment is about forty five minutes away, so the plan was to get onto it in Horning’s Mills and then wind our way up to Collingwood on Georgian Bay where we had a room booked at the Georgian Manor.

There are twisty roads in Southern Ontario!  River Road out of Horning’s Mills is such a one.

Riding through the valley meant being out of the biting wind, but cutting back across the escarpment put us up on a ridge where the wind blasted us sideways.  It was with relief that we wound down next to Noisy River and into Creemore where we had poutine for lunch at The Old Mill House Pub right across the street from the Creemore Brewery.

Connie making Bavarian friends in Creemore.  KMW!

By the time we came out after lunch the sun had appeared and the temperature was up to a much more bearable eight degrees (we’re Canadian, 8°C is bearable).  We dropped in to the brewery (they do tours!) and wandered up the main street before getting back on the bike and heading north again.

This was our first trip on my new machine.  I’d sold the dependable, newer/first bike Ninja and purchased a 1994 Kawasaki Concours I’d found in a field.  Over the winter I’d taken it apart and put it back together again.  It had just passed safety the week before our trip.  Riding to Collingwood was my first chance to really get to know this much bigger but surprisingly athletic bike.  That it could manage the two of us with panniers and topbox full with no problems only underlined the fact that this bike is the best eight hundred bucks I’ve ever spent.

We continued to weave across the escarpment finally cresting Blue Mountain and rolling down into Collingwood at about 4pm.  The Georgian Manor Resort is one of those places that looked like it was really popular in the 1980s.  It has a past its prime kind of ex-Hollywood starlet feel to it.  What I do know is that Max and I had the pool and hot tub to ourselves, and boy did we need it.

We’d bagged the room for a hundred bucks for the night and used the heck out of it.  After a swim and a lay down we went for take out and then came back and had a picnic on the big bed.  We went for a late swim and then passed out early.  Our Sunday ride was beckoning and now that we’d warmed ourselves up and eaten some hot food we were ready for a good sleep.


The next morning we bailed on the free continental breakfast at the Manor after a friend facebooked saying they might hard sell us on a time-share.  That never happened (they were fantastic at the desk getting us in early and getting us out quickly on Sunday) but then we were on the road by 8am on Sunday morning.  We headed over to the Sunset Grill on Blue Mountain and had a fantastic and surprisingly affordable hot breakfast.


Astonishingly the runs were still open and skiers were squeezing a last day out of a long, cold winter.  Max and I stood there with our helmets and biking jackets watching people ski on the very wet snow.

After the resort we headed up and over the (Ontario sized) Blue Mountain…


The roads were empty and bone dry.  It was already warmer at 10am than it had been the day before.  The Concours was running like a Swiss watch and we were warm and loose in the saddle.  The back side of Blue Mountain is covered in apple orchards which led us to Thornbury, the home of one of the best cideries in Ontario.  We passed the cidery and stopped to check out the fish ladder and mill before having a long, slow coffee at Ashanti.

Ever noticed how everyone wants to stop and have a chat when you’re on a motorbike?  I’d already had an unrealistic amount of support from the clerk at Shelburne Home Hardware, the waitress in Creemore and the hotel concierge in Collingwood.  People seem to respond to your vulnerability by wanting to connect with you.  While sitting at the coffee shop a local photographer who was leading a group on a photographic tour of the town stopped to talk bikes (he didn’t have his out yet).  Another fellow told me about his 86 year old uncle who still rides his BMW everywhere.  A number of people assumed my big Kawi was a BMW on this trip.  I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or not.

After our coffee break we rode down to the still frozen harbour in Thornbury and spent a few minutes watching the fisherman fish and the boat owners doing maintenance, all while ice broke off from the shore and floated out into the bay.

We then saddled up and took a winding, scenic ride down through Beaver Valley to Flesherton.  After another stop to stretch we jumped on the Connie and thundered south across the never ending farm fields toward home.

The Concours was flawless.  It fired up immediately and ran perfectly.  I’m astonished at how well it handles when I’m out on it alone, but even more astonishing is how well it handles with full panniers and top box and my son on the back.  The suspension is light years beyond the hard ride of the Ninja, and the big motor swallows miles with ease.  Sometimes, if you get off the gas suddenly you can get a bit of a belch out of the motor.  Not a backfire, but a nice pop out of the exhaust.  The bike toodles along around 3500rpm at 100km/hr and leaps down the road if you twist the throttle.

Heading out this early in the season meant we got home and there wasn’t a single bug splat anywhere.  That won’t be the case on future trips.  Canada goes from snow season to bug season pretty quickly, but in between we stole a weekend and got to know and love the new bike.

Creating Paint Decals For a Motorcycle

With weather like this,
who needs enemies?

I’ve been floored with a wicked stomach flu the past couple of days, but I had enough in me today to get the last of the painting done and finish assembling the Concours.  It’s safetied, insured and ready to launch.


As expected, Canada isn’t cooperating.  I’m hoping I can go for a short jaunt on Monday, but otherwise the week is looking pretty dismal for riding.

The finishing touch was my first go at a stencil on a bike.  I tried paper, then plastic film with no luck (it lifted off the compound curves of the fairing), but eventually created a sticky template using printable stickers.  Some research suggested that frisket film would have been ideal, but it’s expensive and hard to find.  Another alternative is transfer tape.  Having said all that, printing your design on sticker worked well and what it did leave behind was easy to clean off.

After printing a design, I exacto-knifed the text out and then put the stickers on the bike.  A few light coats of spray and the sticker came off with no problems.  Now that I’ve got the hang of it, creating layered decals should be a pretty straight forward process.  Finishing them with my preferred clear coat seals the whole thing up and gives it an even surface.

The Concours came to me with all sorts of cracks on the right side fairing (it had obviously been tipped over at some point).  The previous owner had done a pretty good job of reattaching everything with plastic weld, but it would never be perfect.

Rather than trying to hide those imperfections, I remembered a kind of Japanese pottery I once saw in Tokyo.  Kintsugi (金継ぎ) literally translates as ‘golden joinery‘.  It’s a form of pottery that, rather than hiding the blemishes caused by age, emphasizes them by using gold to seal the cracks.

What I’ve done with my old Kawasaki is highlight those cracks in gold and put the kanji for kintsugi on there.  She should be proud of those cracks.  Twenty years of living in Canada will give you wrinkles, they should be celebrated.