Category: Managing School Operations and Resources

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.
twitter quote

Thanks to Danny Steele for inspiring this post!

 

D Propp

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

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

Reflecting On A Change

I knew I was ready for a change. I asked for a change.

Sometimes you get what you ask for!

Much of what I am doing at my new school is exactly what I was doing as principal at my previous school. Most of what I did, I’m just doing more of. That’s ok. What I didn’t anticipate was having to redo a lot of cultural things I did there. I didn’t reallyyoga-422196_640 think about having to get to know every student again. I didn’t think about the difficulties of dealing with parents who didn’t know me.

So, I’ve been at this for just over four months here. I work with a great staff. I’ve met a lot of great parents, and the majority of the kids are awesome. But, I am missing the comfort of my previous assignment. I miss knowing everyone; and knowing, pretty much, what to expect everyday. I have to remind myself – I asked for a change.

I knew I had learned what I could learn at my previous school. I knew everyone and everyone knew me. We knew what to expect of each other. We often knew what each other was thinking and how each person would react to a situation. But, that was becoming stagnant.

So, here I am. Every once in a while I have a day where I ask myself if I made the right choice. There are times when those days pile up on each other. Yesterday was one of those days. Today started out that way, but fortunately isn’t ending that way.
I just had a chat with a teacher who is feeling some frustration with one student in her class. We talked about all the great things that are happening. We talked about the growth the class has made and the improvement in the behaviours of a couple of very complex kids. As I was talking to her, I had to remind myself, that what I was saying applied to me too.

There are tough days and tough situations. They only become the focus when we allow them to.

Change is good. But we also need to make sure allow we ourselves time to adjust and time to begin the relearning process.
It will come. I can’t forget why I asked for a change.

I needed it.
Darryl Propp

Some Advice for New Principals

I was asked, as a principal with some experience, to share some wisdom with the new principals in Sturgeon School Division. This year we have a lot of schools with new principals and a few with new principals and vice principals. Those of use who have a few years of experience have been asked to provide a video of what we have learned and would like to pass on to those just starting out. This video is the first of three I will be posting over the next while.

I am in a new school this year, so I refer to that in the video (just to provide some context) – and forgive me for the ridiculous expression in the photo grab before the video is played!

D Propp

It’s NOT What You Do That Makes You Effective.

Photo by Steven Geyer. From Flickr Creative Commons  (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode)

Photo by Steven Geyer. From Flickr Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode)

This has been a very interesting week. I found out on Monday, that after six years, I am being transferred to a principalship in another school.

I am ready.

.

.

.

But, DARN IT, I am going to miss my current school – great staff, great parents and amazing kids.  Almost everything I am as a leader I owe to that place. I did feel ready to take on a leadership role when I first started as Vice Principal at Bon Accord Community School in 2008. Even though I thought I was ready, I have learned a LOT. One of the most important things that became clear to me was that one of the most important roles of a leader is not what you do for people, but how you make them feel. That learning, to me has made all the difference.

A leader has to get things done, the school has to move forward. Learning has to happen. Resources have to be acquired and allocated. There are tasks that range from the mundane to the very vital. There are the myriad of meetings. There are even occasions where we get to be responsible for cleaning up someone’s mess. Our job is full of “THINGS”.

Since Tuesday, when the move was announced, I’ve received numerous phone calls, emails, posts on our school FaceBook page and have talked personally with a number of parents. Most have offered congratulations  and have expressed disappointment in my move to another school. I even received one very angry email from a parent. (not sure yet how to respond to that one).  I know I am not even close to a having ‘arrived’ as a leader. I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. But I know that keeping this in mind, has made my time at Bon Accord, to some degree, successful.

We can’t always make everyone happy. Very few decisions can satisfy everyone. However, we can work to establish a culture of caring, trust and respect, that makes everyone feel valued. In a welcoming environment and an aim of touching the spirits of the people we work with and for, we will be able to move things forward much easier. People respond to that kind of approach. They buy in. They remember.

D Propp

Getting a Smaller Belt

Running a school in Alberta can be an interesting job. (As I’m sure it is everywhere!)

We just recently finished finalizing our budget at the school – with the instruction, which makes sense – to make sure that everything balances. The budget was quite a bit smaller than in years’ past due to government cutbacks, so it required a lot of trimming in more than one area. My Accounts Clerk, my VP and I sat down a few times to hammer out where we could trim. Some budgets had to be set at zero. The comparison of ‘belt tightening’ certainly fits with what we have had to do.

We have a helpful and active parent group in our school who do a lot of fundraising, and we are thankful for that. Unfortunately we have to ask them to help prop up some areas of the budget that have had to be cut. We still need art supplies and library books. We need to conduct science experiments and run a phys ed program. Things still need to happen, and the kids shouldn’t notice a change in the program.

from Flickr Creative Commons

from Flickr Creative Commons

As frustrating as it is, our focus needs to stay on what’s the best program we can do for the kids. Our school is filled with great, caring staff who want the best for each student. I know that our school division is trying to lessen the impact on the students as much as possible.

Money is tight, but we are doing our best to maintain the strongest possible program that will carry each child along and help them realize their potential. It’s what we have always done and will continue to do.

D Propp