Pressed from Darcy Mullin
So, I’ve seen a lot of posts on Twitter and on blogs lately about Student Engagement. As I was perusing through Twitter today, I misread one of those posts by substituting principal for student, and the idea immediately clicked with me. What would Principal Engagment look like?
Right away, some thoughts that come to mind are:
- A willingness to learn.
- Open to change
- Passionate about school culture
Being willing to invest in other people. That includes students, parents and staff
I think that there could be a great discussion about this. Do you have any thoughts about this that you would like to contribute. I would love to hear them.
I had the opportunity to attend REDCAMP in Red Deer, yesterday. The opportunity came to my attention because of Twitter. I have never attended an edcamp before. Sean Grainger (@graingered) posted a link to information and registration for the event. I had an idea as to what the event would be about, and registered right away.
There were a few really neat things that came out #redcamp13
- Reaffirmation of the fact that you can never trust navigation on your iPhone!
- I got to meet people I had connected with on Twitter. @hewsonk27 @joe_bower @graingered @Weilinga1
- Whenever you get educators together and let them talk about ways to move forward, best practice, tools to improve instruction, etc. you are guaranteed to have rich and powerful discussions.
- I was able to make new connections. Sitting in sessions and listening to people talk about their learning, really gives you a good idea about where they are coming from. I added a number of new people to my PLN. Some people added me as well.
- One of the most enjoyable sessions of the day was the JAM session. @mrtetz, @socgall, @BowmanTwits, myself and one other music teacher participated in writing a Redcamp song The quality isn’t the best, but this type of collaboration is just as powerful as the discussions around education. We also discussed that Jam Sessions are the original Edcamp!
- Not everyone participating in the sessions agreed on everything. Being open to the ideas of others and discussing opinions, is very powerful. It’s the discussion that is the important part. We are always learning and it’s so great to learning from each other.
After the opening session, which itself provided some great ideas, I attended a session on what we are going to do now that PATs are over. The discussion was great, but there was a focus at first on specualation around what was going to be done to us as educators now. The discussion did turn more towards the opportunities that were presented if we choose to exercise our voice and put forward what our feelings as to where education can go from this point.
My second session was presented by @EbertsR and discussed establishing a culture of collaboration in your school. The collaborative culture we establish in our PLNs can add to the scholarship that exists in our schools.
After lunch I attended a discussion on Twitter with @jbechthold and @KirbyFecho. This was a smaller session, but really demonstrated the power of using Twitter in our schools and for our personal learning. One neat thing about this session was that there were three pre-service teachers. Two of which facilitated the session. There are many reflective, forward thinking young teachers out there. It is exciting to see the passion and commitment that our up and coming members of the profession have.
The last session I attended, as I mentioned in my list above, was the JAM session. That was very fun, and a great way to end a great day.
I hope to be able to attend many more edcamps in the future!! YOU SHOULD TOO!!
Being one of the only males in a small school means I have the good fortune of going to supervise swimming lessons (well, more accurately I supervise groups of 30-40 naked boys running around the change room). Every Friday for five weeks I have this great opportunity!
Of course, as teachers, we make judgments on the swimming education the students receive. But those judgments are more about the manner in which the lessons are delivered. Here are my observations.
- Groups are between 3 and 12 students in size.
- Students are streamed ahead of time according to previous experience and ability.
- In the first lesson students are moved to a new group if they have been placed incorrectly.
- Students are given opportunity to constantly demonstrate their progress.
- In a group, those who are moving faster are allowed to move faster and those progressing slower are given the time they need from their instructor.
- At the end of the lesson cycle, students are moved on to the next level or given a report on skills to work on before the next round of lessons.
With the exception of number 1. (and not even sure about that), it would be great to be talking about a classroom or school when I read through the list I just made. There are parts of this Real Life approach happening in our schools, but we aren’t set up for many of these things to happen. We are also not trained to operate our classrooms in this way. We get a group of heterogeneous students and are expected to move them all along at relatively the same pace. We assess them at certain predetermined points. They are usually moved along regardless of the achievement of goals or standards.
That being said, there are great things going on in all schools. Teachers do take the group they are given, and work wonders with them. Everyday I see students progressing in remarkable ways and accomplishing goals they or their teachers have set out for them. I see students using tools and technology in innovative ways. I see teachers learning new skills to help differentiate instruction for the students and developing critical thinking strategies to help their students become more engaged problem solvers.
Education is moving forward. There are things we need to learn and changes we need to make; but we’re doing a bang up job with what we have. We can be proud of what our students are doing in classrooms every day.
Seven members of our school staff and one parent are attending a two day Leader in Me Symposium at the University of Alberta today and tomorrow. I am looking forward to hearing lots about what they learned and excited about the energy they are sure to bring back. We are on our second year of being a Leader in Me School.
Since starting the program we have really been working on empowering our students with opportunities for finding their own leadership abilities and providing opportunities for them to continue to develop those skills. Depending on the classroom and the teacher, students are provided with varying amounts of time to express their abilities in areas of strength and areas in which they need growth. One of the Principal Quality Standards in Alberta is, “Developing and Facilitating Leadership“. For me, it did not initially occur to me that that could also apply to our students.
Throughout the process we have learned a number of things. Even if a school isn’t a Leader in Me school, the following would apply.
- Everyone is a leader – and basically in every situation. How we behave and react to others should be an example to follow. With this mindset we need to be on our best behavior!
- Everyone needs a push once in a while. Staff, students and parents are all capable of stepping up when the need is there. Some need a bit of a nudge, but many just need opportunity. Schools need to be set up so people have opportunity to proved leadership. That might look like students clubs, student greeters, students doing announcements, parent opportunity to volunteer, student volunteers, etc. The list could go on and on and on!
- Everyone responds better to a common goal. If a Mission or Vision or motto or whatever you use to guide your organization is only a plaque on the wall, it is useless. We have made our motto into something that EVERYONE in the school knows. (Everyone a Learner; Everyone a Leader). Our Vision, (Lifelong Leaders, Lifelong Learners, Strengthening our Community) is also known by almost everyone. Make the goal of the organization known and then use it to guide you along.
- Everyone is important!! The word “community” in our Vision is very important to us. We work to make our community a better place. That can’t happen without the community involved in the school, and the school involved in the community. As a K-4 school, there’s not opportunity for work experience, but we can do our part to help clean the community, visit and learn about the community and host community events. Our school has really been working on living up to it’s name (Bon Accord Community School)
We are on a journey and we are fortunate the the middle school in our small town is also a Leader in Me School. Students are encouraged all along the way to be Leaders and develop their skills. Staff are working on developing their own leadership skills and growing with the students.
EVERYONE A LEARNER; EVERYONE A LEADER
Not many people like change. They fear it and are comfortable with things the way they are. I am fortunate to work in a school division where many people are positive toward change and will take time to look at what might be best for the students. Not everyone is always on board, but I do think we are getting way better at listening to the voice of all stakeholders and moving carefully in a direction that we feel will benefit our students.
One of my personal observations is that people who take on a change, don’t always eagerly embrace letting go of the change if they realize it’s not working. Especially if the realization occurs soon into the change process. However, the ability to continually assess the value of the projects or initiatives they are part of is essential.
At our latest admin council we had opportunity to discuss some of our recent initiatives. First of all, it’s great that we have open and honest discussions around how things are going. We have opportunity to express what we think is working, and what isn’t going as well. Not everyone gets their way, of course, but if people know they are heard, they usually can live with the decisions that are made. We made some decisions to continue some things and decisions to end some things. No one can say though, that these decisions were made without consultation.
We can’t over-poll people about their feelings about everything and we can’t bring every little decision that needs to be made to a committee, but there is wisdom in the group. People need to be heard and we need to be people that are always working toward what is best for our schools and our organizations.
One of the follow ups to Provincial Achievement Tests is the inevitable analysis of the data. Whether the results are good or bad, there are things that can be interpreted from the data. While I am not a fan of the Achievement Tests at all, I find they lead to some very important discussions. One of the likely quotes in those discussions is, “well, it was just that group of students!”. It is VERY easy to point to a group of kids and blame the results on them.
It is inevitable that each group has their own personality, and strengths. Anyone who has taught more than a year will not be able to disagree with that. Because each group is unique, they will no doubt have variances in their abilities in each outcome covered. And while it is true that we can point to the group and “blame’ them, I don’t agree that that should be our first line of thinking. Whenever we come across a student who has lagging skills or abilities in an area, we need to approach it as an opportunity to address the lagging skill.
When we see that our current class does not understand equality in Math, we need to change the approach we use to address that. What we are trying to do at our school, is take a team approach to those lagging skills in a group of students. That doesn’t mean we don’t still have people who blame the group, but we can answer them with, “What are we going to do about it?”
So, how can you address lagging skills? We like to rely on the resident experts. We have one teacher who is very well trained in math and was responsible for providing Division Professional Development a few years ago when the new curriculum in math came out. She does a stellar job in her own class in all areas, but is a math resource person for everyone. We also have some teachers who have specialized literacy or Special Ed training.
Not everyone is fully on board for a team approach, but to quote George Couros, “The smartest person in the room, is the room!” I firmly belive that and have been trying to lead using that philosophy ever since I heard it.