Category: Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context

When Passion has an Impact

It’s taken me a few weeks to get this post written. I’ve been rolling it around in my head for a while.

People who know me know that I love photography. I have my own photography business (that doesn’t make a lot of money), but I love capturing moments in time. In the fall, I did a family photo session for my former vice principal, Kerri.
I photographed the family in their beautiful backyard with different family configurations, and fortunately, the photos turned out quite well.

About a month ago, one of Kerri’s stepdaughters passed away.  I had to attend the funeral to support Kerri and her family during this difficult time. When I arrived at the location of the funeral, Kerri greeted me and immediately took me to a large photo of her three stepdaughters. It was a photo I had taken in the fall, and I was immediately struck by the impact that photo was having on the ceremony and the power it had in communicating the beauty of the family and specifically Nicole. It was an emotional experience for me.

I have spoken before about our obligation as educators to help others find their passion. Each student has to have opportunity to discover that one thing that they love to do, and be allowed to pursue it. That fact was really hit home to me during this time, and I was so humbled to know that something I did made even a small difference in the lives of others.

IMG_2038

Schools need to be responsive to the needs of their students and community. That involves getting to know each student and giving every one of them opportunities to grow and play and discover. Schools need to be rich environments of learning and questioning and finding answers that lead to more questions. Only in places like that can we be certain that we are doing everything we can to ensure that students will be best placed to make those discoveries for themselves.

And as a side point, let’s not forget the importance of being cognizant of the importance of mental health in our day-to-day lives; both in school and in our daily endeavours. We need to do our best to make real connections and do our best to support those who are dealing with mental health issues. Mental health is being discussed now. Let’s keep the conversation going and do everything we can to keep the awareness front and centre.

D Propp

The Forgotten Goal

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?

5693460701

DP

Accountability

In Alberta parents, teachers and students are surveyed annually to determining their thoughts on various aspects of the school, division and overall educational system. These survey results are made available in the spring for the schools to analyze and determine action that needs to be taken.

In our school, only grade 4 parents are surveyed and the number who respond can vary, but generally not many respond. It would be easy to say that because of the low numbers of respondents, that the information is not valid. All it takes, in a small group is for a couple of people with an axe to grind, to skew the results in a negative direction.

This year, we had generally good results. There was one area that came out quite a bit lower than last year. On the report is shows up as ‘declined significantly’. There were other areas that the numbers went down somewhat as well. So, do we blame this on a few disgruntled people?

It would be very easy to do so. However, the data is still data – skewed or not. We haven’t been doing a good job of communicating 14391226325 (1)some things to parents, or in responding to the concerns they have. Even if it is a few people, it needs to be on our radar. We are accountable to all the parents; so that means we have things to think about.

We value communication and involving parents, so we need to think about new and/or better ways to do that.

D Propp

What’s the Worst that can Happen?

One of the Alberta Principal Quality Standards is, “Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context”. It would seem to me that the onus is on every principal in Alberta whether in a Public or Catholic school, to spend time considering the impact of GSAs in our schools. I have been following the debate since the beginning have been baffled by some of the dialogue (but usually monologue) that has been happening.

What do people think would be the outcome of a HS or middle school establishing a GSA? The only negative impact from that could be some constituents complaining? What else is there to fear? Really?

Are we afraid of students having a voice? Of them feeling supported? What?

I would really like someone to respond to this and inform me, so I can Understand the Larger Societal Context and respond appropriately.

Thanks

DP

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

New Year, New School, New Socks

I’m not sure which of the items in the title that I am most excited about. I found Spiderman, Wolverine and Captain America Socks at a comic book store in Edmonton last week. Being 87% nerd, that got me a bit excited. I think I will be looking for more theme socks in the future. (I did give the Wolverine pair to my oldest son)

Today is the third day I’m in my new office at my new school, getting ready for a new school year. The office is not officially open until Monday, but like many principals, I’m in trying to get my head wrapped around a new way of doing things. Our school division is going through a huge transition with the majority of schools seeing one or both of the administrators as new to the position. It is going to be an exciting and interesting year as we learn and grow together.

My new school is about twice the size of my previous assignment, but still the same configuration (PreK – 4). I’ve found it interesting how two schools, that do the exact same job, can approach certain things in very different ways. I’ve been through the staff handbook and made a few changes, but I think I will have to do quite a bit of observation over the next few weeks/months before making any big changes.photo (2)

I usually get a bit excited about change, and this is no different. I don’t get as excited about meeting new people, so I am a bit nervous about that. So far though, everyone has been great.  Hopefully they are patient as I work at applying those Principal Quality Standards to a new situation!

Here’s to a great school year for everyone; and I’d appreciate any kind of feedback throughout the year as I continue to post my reflections.

 

Darryl Propp