Some of my best thoughts come from Twitter. I usually have it open on my desktop at work, and occasionally check it while at home. I came across a tweet the other day that really got me thinking. (See image below)
What is the value in what we do? If our job doesn’t directly make a difference in the learning and the lives of the teachers and students, are we doing what we are ultimately meant to do? We certainly do things that indirectly affect the students and the teachers. We are often managers who oversee the operations of the school. But even these ultimately affect the teachers and students as the most optimal learning environment is to a large degree based on the comfort of the building and the schedule. We do our best to keep the school safe, because we know that you need to feel safe to work and learn to the best of your ability.
Clearing the way for teachers to become their best self in a school that has a vision and values results is the job we are ultimately tasked to do.
I think the question we need to be asking ourselves daily is, “Are the things I am spending my time on helping teachers do their jobs better?”
I find myself caught up in the busy-ness of the job on a regular basis. I regularly make lists of tasks I need to accomplish. I’m sure most of us do the same. I’m going to try reframing my priorities with this tweet in mind. I need to mindfully put the majority of my energy into those things that help my teachers do the best job they are capable of.
Thanks to Danny Steele for inspiring this post!
I have been helping a young friend work on some of his college assignments. He is ESL, so doesn’t always understand what is asked of him. One of the assignments was to do an online personal inventory on Emotional Intelligence. My young friend was a bit shocked to see his score was low in that area. I assured him that knowing that about yourself is opportunity to learn and grow. We all have areas to work on and improve.
It was a good reminder to me that we all need to take a personal inventory once in a while and examine how we are doing in all areas of our life. It doesn’t mean that we have to go online and find scientifically based tests. We might just need to sit and do a bit of reflection from time to time. I really find blogging works well for me. Others can journal. Others can talk with friends and colleagues about how they are doing.
Emotional intelligence is important. We need to not only think about how we react emotionally and how we express and respond to others emotions, but about how we can improve when we see areas that aren’t as refined as they could be.
Let’s not forget to include that in how we teach, and how we learn. We are all learners here. Let’s keep growing in all areas.
In education, we are really good at setting goals. We want our students to acheive a certain standard; we have professional goals; we have division goals; we have provincial goals; we have learning outcomes that we want to accomplish. We are all about planning ahead and making sure things get covered. It is very easy to keep an eye on these short and long term goals, as we are reminded of them all the time.
This weekend I came across a quote that really got me thinking. Eckhart Tolle is quoted as saying:
“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously the believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.”
This quote isn’t talking about education but it made me think about much of what we do and don’t do in our classrooms. It certainly wouldn’t hurt us to include a goal about celebrating the moment we are living and learning in right now. Maybe one of our goals for ourself and our students needs to be to enjoy and appreciate exactly what we are doing right now. I know all our teachers strive to make learning enjoyable and fun; but are our students appreciating the moment we are in? Are our teachers?
Education has changed a lot over the last few decades. I appreciate the approach we use so much. We are child centred for the most part. We concentrate on individualizing learning. We recognize the importance of trauma and mental health and how the brain works. But do we take time to slow down and teach the importance of contentment and enjoyment in the now?
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.
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.
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. What 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.
The Sturgeon School Division Admin group is meeting in PLC groups we have formed. Most schools are working in small groups with other admin teams on topics they have chosen. In my case my VP and I are working together in our own PLC to address the learning that is currently going on in our school; which has many of our staff are working in PLCs that focus on increasing student understanding by using a guided math focus.
PLCs at Landing Trail have been challenged to look for evidence of improved student learning as they progress through their own PLCs, and to reflect on what is working and what isn’t. PLCs at the schools meet at least once a month at days set aside for staff meetings and Professional Development at the schools. We consider one of the most important PD activities we do to be the work we complete in our PLCs.
We have had many conversations with staff already about the role of gathering data in our practice to help inform us about what we are doing and what changes we may need to make. Staff are now walking into my office to show me data that would speak to the fact that student learning is being impacted. It is becoming part of the conversations that we have.
This morning at Admin PD time, I was able to consider how we as admin collect the data we decided we need to obtain. There are many things we have put in place already because we have turned to being a data informed school in all areas. There is a lot of data that has been gathered and there are protocols set in place to continue gathering data as we move along. There are a few areas that we have to consider if we want to ensure we are getting data from all sources. Are we sure we have student voice in our data sources? What’s the best way to make sure we are cognizant of the parent feedback in the gathering of data?
We will have opportunity to present our story and journey at an April admin council meeting, and I am excited about that. We have done a lot of impactful things already, and I look forward to the great things that we will continue to encounter as we continue on this journey forward.