Category: Leading a Learning Community

A New Passion

I’ve revamped my Professional Growth Plan this year. I will working on instructional leadership in the area of math. Specifically around looking at the data to find the gaps in students’ understanding of mathematical concepts.

Our school has already started on a few processes to help move us forward in this area. We administered the MIPI at the beginning of the year to help us with our understanding of where each student is at in their journey to mathematical competence. We spent time analyizing group and individual results in our grade level PLCs, as well as looking across grade levels and what areas might be better supported as students move up in grades.

We have purchased Nelson’s Leaps and Bounds and are looking forward to the diagnostic and remediation support that it offers. The program is being used in other Alberta schools, and from what I can tell, is a great resource in supporting students who are experiencing gaps in their understanding. We are also trying out Mathletics in our grade 4 classes to allow for ongoing diagnostic assessment of all of those students.

On Monday, I attended a Professional Development session offered through the ERLC entitled “Math Strategies for Struggling Students”. The session offered, not only ideas for math activities, but looked into the gaps in students’ understanding around specific concepts and the kinds of activities that might be necessary to support them in their learning.

And lastly (at this point), I’ve acquired two books by Jon SanGiovanni, entitled Mine the Gap For Mathematical Understanding, which offer strategies for finding and addressing the gaps in understanding for students.

I am really looking forward to working with my staff on this journey to better meet the needs of all students as they move along on their journey of mathematical understanding.

D Propp

Planning Coherence

Since reading Michael Fullan’s book called, Coherence we’ve started having discussions as a leadership team at my school. I really work in a great place, and many of the things we do here align with what is discussed in the book.

We are a team; we have a high level of trust; we collaborate; we use capacity and develop it. Many of the pieces are in place. I think we are in an ideal place to take the next steps.

We are meeting tomorrow to discuss this. Narrowing down our focus to one or two main things is going to be the first step. There have been conversations happening around this already, and I am excited to see where we go. It’s a great team, and I know the potential for excellence is within us.

I’m looking forward to reporting on our progress as we move forward.
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It’s a TRAP!

One of the biggest lies we can tell ourselves is, “I can’t do this.” Even though I consider myself to be a very positive, optomistic person, I still fall into this trap sometimes. The work we do in schools is so important, and often very challenging. Everyday we are faced with a myriad of decisions and difficulties. The self talk that we engage in at these times is usually key to the outcome we experience.

It’s very easy to fall into a trap of focusing on the difficulty of each task, and the overwhelming scale of the entire job. The error in doing this is that when we are focusing on the problem we take the focus of our ability to deal with the problem. I know it’s very unlikely that I will encounter a situation that I haven’t handled in one way or another in the past. If I’ve dealt with it before, there’s no reason I can’t deal with it now.

The inner voice needs to say, “I CAN do this!” And, I know I can do it now, because I’ve done it before.  The negative self-talk is just a trap.

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D Propp

No Inherent Value?

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.
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Thanks to Danny Steele for inspiring this post!

 

D Propp

Unwelcome Learning?

Our teachers’ convention is happening this Thursday and Friday. I love this event every year. I consider it an opportunity to break from routine. It’s an opportunity to learn and connect. It’s a time to think about new ideas and hopefully become refreshed.

I get a little dismayed every year by the small group that just complains about the lack of sessions available to them. There are hundreds of sessions being offered, and if you can’t find something for you, I think it’s a different problem. It’s a problem of not wanting to explore new ways of thinking. logo

Convention is a great learning opportunity. Lifelong learners need to be willing to step out there and take risks. They need to be open to hearing ideas that they don’t have to necessarily embrace, but can at least consider.

I’m ready to get my Convention on!

D Propp

Why Am I not a Genius?

We learn from our mistakes.

I know it’s true, but sometimes I wonder why I’m not a genius by now with the amount of blunders I regularly make. Thankfully most of them aren’t that big, but nevertheless, I can say they’re quite constant. I guess the good thing, in my own defense, is that I usually admit to making them, and I try to learn from them and make them right. Usually I can look back and laugh at them – sometimes it takes a while before that happens!

It’s a journey. I think when you can’t admit you’re fallible, you can no longer learn.

Let’s keep learning, and growing and even making mistakes. It’s what makes us lifelong learners.

I follow Pam Boyd’s Two Minute Tune Up blog and her post today got me thinking about my recent mistakes. Too many to list! Her blog post today can be found here. Thanks, Pam!

D Propp

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.

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