Teachers and school leaders are not unfamiliar with the idea of PLCs. We all have worked on them to varying degrees. Usually they are just a grade level/subject team working together to do planning. Occasionally they work to dissect the learning process and powerfully impact the learning in a classroom. If PLCs have taught us anything, it’s that when we work together, we accomplish more.
Today I am at a CASS (Council of Alberta School Superintendents) session hosted by Wolf Creek Public School Division where we are talking about being Effective 21st Century leaders. Whenever I have the opportunity to participate in sessions with people outside my division I always have the same ‘epiphanies‘:
- We are ALL working toward the same goal
- We all have something to learn from each other
- We have the answers to most questions if we can get together and talk about it
- We need to find ways to connect… or should I say, we need to take advantage of the ways there are to connect
Education continues to move forward. Students are coming to us with different skills and needs, and we are obligated to respond in the best ways we can. There is no need to all learn in isolation when we can connect. Even if we are only connecting to learn what others have to say; we have so much knowledge and, dare I say, wisdom out there to draw on.
(photo from Flickr Creative Commons)
This Thursday, we have our first ever Identity Day. I have my board ready, and I know many of the students do as well. There are a few students that we have some concerns about getting one done, but we do have a plan to help them have something ready.
This is our third year of being a Leader in Me School. The opportunity to highlight the uniqueness of the individual is important in this process. We all have interests/talents/situations that we would like to share. I am very interested to see what the students show up with. We like to think we know our students and this is another way we can get to know them a bit better, and allow them to get to know us as well.
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.
There are only two weeks left in school. Not a great time to be sick, but I’ve missed a couple of days this week and am definitely not at full energy. There are some things that I should have completed this week, that won’t be done until next week. Just keep piling it on!!
If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that it has served as my professional growth plan for the year. I have found it to allow for a very reflective, evidence based approach to the growth from this year. One unintended impact has been that although my growth plan stated two of the Principal Quality Standards as focused goals, I have been able to link to every aspect of the PQS and show the evidence of thinking and learning in all of them. I know that this has been going undocumented since I began in administration, but the evidence is clear in those areas, now.
I would have to say that the Standard of Providing Instructional Leadership has set me up to really think about how to continue on this goal for next year. I have begun to think about how I can continue to grow in this area. I know that by making this an area of focus, it has kept it in the forefront of my thinking, and has propelled me to realize I need to continue my focused growth in this area.
Another great outcome of using a blog to document the goals and evidence has been the occasions where a post I have made has garnered a LOT of response. Three posts received hundreds of views.
- How Twitter Changed Everything
- Making Your School a Place Where People Want to Work
- What Does Principal Engagement Look Like?
All three were responses to things I had been thinking about or experiencing in my day to day jobs. I don’t write posts to get people to follow me, I write them to promote my own learning and growth. It is reassuring to know, however that things I have written do resonate with other educators (and some non educators as well).
I enjoy being part of the discussion. That connection with educators around the world has been a huge factor in the shift in thinking I have been able to undertake of the last few years. There are many voices out there. Mine is just one, but blogging (and TWITTER) have opened up a new opportunity to learn and to connect.
I have the great fortune to be participating in a Principal Exchange with the ATA over the next year. My exchange partner will be coming for two weeks this fall and I will be going to Adelaide, South Australia next summer. This opportunity came about solely because of Twitter. This is another opportunity to expand my thinking and experience new opportunities as a educational leader.
I may not post another blog this school year, but will definitely be back in the fall using this blog for my Professional Growth Plan again.
I will have the honour of a new Vice Principal in the fall. He has been a VP for 5 years now and has a lot of experience in inclusion and behaviour. I look forward to learning from him and his assistance in moving the school forward. He previously taught at this school so a number of staff know him quite well.
We have gained a lot of ground in the last few years. Our school is far from perfect, but I do know it’s a place where most people like to be. We make it welcoming and are getting better at being student centred. Almost everyone comments on the good feeling they get when the come into the building.
The opportunity now is to share the vision I have for the school. That vision is about continuing our journey to:
- make all our decisions based on our mission and vision.
- remember that our job is to train students for the realities of the present and the future.
- connect with the community
- develop the leadership potential in our students, ourselves and our community.
We are well on our way to realizing this. Adding a new person into the mix has to be viewed as a new and exciting opportunity I firmly believe that if we keep our vision, and communicate that to all stakeholders, we will move on to an exciting place in the future.
How fantastic is that?
(photo via Flickr Creative Commons)
Pressed from Darcy Mullin
I had the opportunity to attend REDCAMP in Red Deer, yesterday. The opportunity came to my attention because of Twitter. I have never attended an edcamp before. Sean Grainger (@graingered) posted a link to information and registration for the event. I had an idea as to what the event would be about, and registered right away.
There were a few really neat things that came out #redcamp13
- Reaffirmation of the fact that you can never trust navigation on your iPhone!
- I got to meet people I had connected with on Twitter. @hewsonk27 @joe_bower @graingered @Weilinga1
- Whenever you get educators together and let them talk about ways to move forward, best practice, tools to improve instruction, etc. you are guaranteed to have rich and powerful discussions.
- I was able to make new connections. Sitting in sessions and listening to people talk about their learning, really gives you a good idea about where they are coming from. I added a number of new people to my PLN. Some people added me as well.
- One of the most enjoyable sessions of the day was the JAM session. @mrtetz, @socgall, @BowmanTwits, myself and one other music teacher participated in writing a Redcamp song The quality isn’t the best, but this type of collaboration is just as powerful as the discussions around education. We also discussed that Jam Sessions are the original Edcamp!
- Not everyone participating in the sessions agreed on everything. Being open to the ideas of others and discussing opinions, is very powerful. It’s the discussion that is the important part. We are always learning and it’s so great to learning from each other.
After the opening session, which itself provided some great ideas, I attended a session on what we are going to do now that PATs are over. The discussion was great, but there was a focus at first on specualation around what was going to be done to us as educators now. The discussion did turn more towards the opportunities that were presented if we choose to exercise our voice and put forward what our feelings as to where education can go from this point.
My second session was presented by @EbertsR and discussed establishing a culture of collaboration in your school. The collaborative culture we establish in our PLNs can add to the scholarship that exists in our schools.
After lunch I attended a discussion on Twitter with @jbechthold and @KirbyFecho. This was a smaller session, but really demonstrated the power of using Twitter in our schools and for our personal learning. One neat thing about this session was that there were three pre-service teachers. Two of which facilitated the session. There are many reflective, forward thinking young teachers out there. It is exciting to see the passion and commitment that our up and coming members of the profession have.
The last session I attended, as I mentioned in my list above, was the JAM session. That was very fun, and a great way to end a great day.
I hope to be able to attend many more edcamps in the future!! YOU SHOULD TOO!!