Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a fan of Twitter. A blog post I made last year, How Twitter Changed Everything, was one of my most popular posts ever. I am not a big Tweeter myself, but have been able to use twitter to engage in a lot of great reading, and conversations. Near the end of the last school year, I came across a post that led to a unique opportunity. The Alberta Teachers’ Association had tweeted about the need to find an elementary principal to be involved in a short term exchange to Australia. Out of curiosity I clicked on the link included in the tweet and was excited to discover that the opportunity was a two week, job shadowing exchange to Adelaide during school breaks. (One of their term breaks, and our summer holidays.)
I just finished up the visit with my Australian Exchange partner. She is now relaxing in Banff and Lake Louise while I am back at work. The experience was full of great learning opportunities. The main learning happened in two main ways. First, I learned a lot about how and why we do things in our school and school division.
I am, by nature, a reflective person. I like receiving feedback from others and use it to grow as a person and as a leader. Having opportunity to sit with another leader and ask questions about their view on things in your school, or to ask them questions about how they would handle a situation, proved to be great opportunities. I took the time after the first week to get some feedback on how I was doing with the Principal Quality Standards. While it’s difficult to see all of them in action in only one week, there was feedback given and opportunity for me to think about what I am doing as a leader to work on all the standards. During the course of every discussion we had there was opportunity to compare practice and the reasons behind the practice.
We also had opportunity to discuss how things were done differently in Australia, and specifically at Para Vista Preschool -Seven school in Adelaide. What we discovered through our conversations is that the administrative expectations and roles are in a lot of ways very different, but our goals for students are the same. What was seen in classrooms was, in effect, the same kinds of things that you would see in just about any classroom. Whatever happens behind the scenes, we are ensuring that students get a quality education and have opportunity to move forward in their learning.
It was through discussion that we found the most learning happened. My partner would see something happen, or be involved in a conversation with a teacher or a student, and later ask questions about what she had observed. It was these discussions that were the most productive. We had opportunity to tour some other schools and sit in on some programs being offered, and had great discussions during and afterward about what we saw happening. The learning was organic, the conversations were genuine, and the entire process was valuable.
The exchange is a two week job shadowing opportunity and I will be visiting her school during our next summer holidays. I look forward to seeing Australia very much, but I am eager to see how things are done there and to have the opportunity to bring back some great learning.