Back to the Good stuff

This year, as a school we’ve decided to make Balanced Literacy our focus. An outsider might think, “What!! Balanced Literacy has been around forever and you’re just focusing on it now??!! Where have you been?”

Well, we’ve been doing a LOT of great things, including Guided Reading, and many components of balanced literacy. What we realize though, is that we may not be doing it the best that we can. We could look for something new and flashy to focus on, but why not take the things that we know to be good practice, and make sure we are doing them well.

One of the great things is, this is a grass roots endeavour. The teachers recognized that they had been focusing on other things over the last few years and have realized that they need to spend time thinking and talking about what they’re doing in their language arts (and all) classes. Are we using our alloted time the best we can?

As admin we have decided to make the process of gathering data around how this affects student acheivement to be our focus. My Vice-Principal is an ‘expert’ in Balanced Literacy, and is a great resource. I am not an expert, by any means. This means I have to start learning. I attended my first professional development on guided reading yesterday with a number of teachers from across the school division. I was there for a different reason, but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about this one component of literacy.

I’m beginning to see this idea cropping up in other places. People are realizing we don’t need something new to revolutionize our world. We need to focus on the things that work, and do them well.

D Propp16240602198

Another Year!

It’s already the third day with students here in Sturgeon School Division. Things are under way, and it’s been a great beginning. We’ve managed to figure out those problems around scheduling that almost always arise. I’ve got a new VP and she’s a hard worker, and knows her way around. The teachers are GREAT, and they’ve got the classrooms under control.

There’s always a buzz at the beginning of the year, and hopfully over the next few days, I’ll have some time to reflect on my own Professional Growth and what I want to accomplish this year.

Here’s to another great year!!

D Propp

The Final Push

Whenever we return from Spring Break, we are always in for a wild ride! Things are happening almost every day – Field Trips, special events, guests, awards, celebrations, etc. This year is no different. I opened up this program to write my blog, and it’s been almost TWO MONTHS since my last post! To me that is the most solid proof that time has been flying.

Every year brings changes and transitions. I will be working with a new vice principal next year. I am extremely sad to see my current vp move on, but I know she is ready for a new and exciting challenge. Having this change occcur is also a growth opportunity for me. I know that I work best with people who I can bounce ideas off of and who will challenge my ‘half-baked’ ideas and help me think things through. I’ll be training a new person to be be open to disagree with me when necessary – not everyone wants to do that.

It will take a bit to tranisition a new admin team, but we are in the business of change here! Let’s make this happen people!9372482333_f56b46581f_z

D Propp

Just Outside of the Comfort Zone

My professional growth this year has been focused in the area of instructional leadership. I  set myself a goal of being more involved directly in the task. There are a lot of great things going on at my school, and I am proud to work at a place where the staff are professional and take the work they do very seriously. It would be easy to sit back and just let things happen. I have learned over the last 8 years in this job though, that that is a fast track to mediocrity.

We have to be mindful about moving things forward. One of the most important things we have to do as leaders is encourage that movement in the right direction. That doesn’t mean we have to micromanage everything that goes on. What we do though, is ensure that we are mindful of the direction we are going, and setting up the space to keep things moving.We remove barriers and tweak when necessary. We listen and reflect. We never allow ourselves to think we have all the right answers.

I’ve made myself do a number of PD presentations this year. I don’t mind speaking in front of people, but believing that I have something to offer those who are amazing at what they already do, doesn’t come easy. Presenting professional development is that area that is just out of my comfort zone; it’s the best area to  be in to make things happen.

The great thing is, that uncomfortable zone becomes the new comfort zone, and we can keep pushing ourselves forward. It works with our students, and it works with ourselves.


D Propp

Finding Passion

I was asked to participate in a Discovery Education Ignite event last week. The way it works is you prepare 20 slides and plan to speak on each one for 15 seconds. I decided to present on the idea of helping every student find their passion by bringing back an environment that allows for play/discovery built into the day. My slides didn’t necessarily line up with the talk, but I used a number of slides of students working in our makerspace area and completing projects, completing guided math and reading, etc. that showcased a lot of things we do.  The last half of the slides were some of the pictures I’ve taken personally that compare the development of my own passion for photography with the developement of students’ passion.


Helping students pursue their passion

Hi everyone, I’m going to be talking about helping students find and hopefully develop their passion, and how my own late-in-life discovery of my passion has helped my thinking on this topic. I stumbled into photography about 9 years ago and it was actually crappy photos like these first two that got me thinking about wanting to improve something that had only been a passing interest. The second half of the slides I’m sharing with you will hopefully show you an improvement in the pursuit of my passion.
We probably don’t need expensive tools or gadgets and neither do our students. We have no way of knowing what that spark that ignites their passion will be. Our schools haven’t traditionally been places where we seek to inspire our students. We’ve provided them with information and hoped they would figure out what appealed to them in the mounds of information we shared with them, and often not caring if they were even interested in what we had to say.

We need to start by setting up environments that encourage students to discover and to play and to feel like they can make mistakes. It’s not likely that one would pursue a passion if they feel they aren’t allowed the freedom to make mistakes. The environments we provide have to allow for out of focus photos that seem to have some tiny bit of potential.

Kids love to play and we know they learn by playing. However, a heavy curriculum has helped take away this important focus, and only recently have we seen a resurgence in the promotion of play and creativity in the programs we offer.

So what happens when we let students play and discover? They might just display some talent in areas you, or their peers, or even THEY didn’t know they had. They may find out that they can improve skills with their own efforts. Sometimes early on, you can tell that there’s a spark of something that will improve with encouragement and nurturing and the occasional nudge in the right direction.

Sometimes you have to seek out that spark of talent hidden there. One of the innovative thing that’s catching on is the idea of Genius Hour in the classroom. In my school, there are a few classrooms doing this. Teachers provide opportunities for students to be creative, sometimes the students bring in things of their own, and often the teacher sets out many opportunities for students to dabble in creative activities that help them to discover.

As we embrace our passions we find that we’ve moved past the tools we start with. We buy an improved camera that helps us to increase our skill and do things we couldn’t do before.

In schools we have to rethink the tools we use and the tools we provide to the students. We allow students to learn from other students and to teach other students.  We set up makerspaces that focus on discovery, collaboration and problem solving

We allow students to share their creations and ask each other questions.

Teachers are also changing the way they set up their classrooms, the way they deliver curriculum and the way they interact. Programs like guided reading and guided math, increase the one on one time we have with students and allow for increased group work and cooperation. Celebrating student interests through events like Identity Days help students to connect and share with each other.

So, after a while you start seeing improvement. An interest becomes a talent and a talent becomes a passion. Where would this start if we don’t provide opportunity for it? Some students will discover their passions in sport, some in art, some in dance, some in engineering, you just don’t know what it will be. Undeniably, demographics can dictate the exposure students have to opportunities. But those of us who teach in schools where we have many students who aren’t garnered a lot of opportunities know that if we don’t provide the spaces and places, they may not happen.

So here we are. A school administrator with more than a few grey hairs, and a love for seeing students learn and grow. I’m on my fifth camera since picking up my little point and shoot and discovered I like to try to capture the world around me. Those first photos were not great. Partly due to the tools I had at my disposal, but mostly due to my lack of understanding of things like exposure, shutter speed, focal length, the all important factors involved in lighting and not knowing what even a simple camera was capable of doing.

I got a bit of encouragement, positive feedback, and started to pursue this area with no mind to do much more than post some not bad photos on FaceBook. I’ve now had photos appear in calendars, won a few contests, and now I get paid to take photos of people and places and share my passion with more than just those people who’ve stuck with me on FaceBook and Instagram.

I was at a photo shoot for Heroes Magazine a few weeks ago at the Edmonton Clinic, and interestingly I was photographing the use of robotics in the rehabilitation of children. The idea of using play, discovery, and problem solving aren’t unique to education and can do way more than help them to find their passion. But I think we are all remiss if we aren’t trying to answer the question posed here. What are we doing to help every student find their passion?

Thank you.




Moving Forward with Agile Leadership

Sitting in a session on Agile Leadership today in Edmonton. Our division principals and many of our system leadership is present. We are discussing the practices of leadership to influence the improvement of student learning.

One of the topics we are discussing is how do we influence teacher behaviour as a key piece in making sure student learning is happening. One of our key roles is leading teacher learning and development. At LT we have spent a year and a half so far in making sure that the teachers are empowered to take responsibility for this learning, and are given the tools to move forward in the areas that they have embraced in their own professional growth plans.

Today the opportunity for me is to consider my own practice in making this happen. WhatIMG_4129 am I doing that is promoting this practice, and what can I do to ensure that this continues to move forward in the best way possible. Am I in any way doing things that actually hinder this movement? I’ve got some ideas on how to work through this, and I look forward to intentionally keeping this movement going.
D Propp

January – Gotta Love It!

There’s not too many educators who don’t have some apprehension about returning to work after the Christmas Break. We usually look forward to the return to routine, but aren’t used to getting up as early, not having a nap, not doing ‘whatever we want’. It’s good to get back into routine, but not always as easy as we would like.

That being said, we do like the amount of concentration and work we can get out of our students (at least at the elementary level). The students seem to get back into the routine quickly, there are few distractions and they haven’t lost a lot of their learning like they do after returning from the extended summer break. It’s the month of getting lots done. 

Another thing I like about January is that we can really start to think seriously about the next year (well, thinking about next year is something I love to do as an administrator). We can plan for how we want staffing to look – is there a shift we need to make? A skill we need to focus on in hiring? What kind of PD do we need to look at? Thinking about next year gives us a chance to focus on our timelines and goals for this year.

Bow TiesHere’s to January – it might be ridiculously cold outside, but it’s a month of opportunity and looking at what’s in store for the future.

D Propp