Another school year has started. We have some new staff, many new students, and with that a few new families represented. The school year has started smoothly, but it wouldn’t be a start up if there weren’t a few wrinkles to iron out. Hopefully though, that doesn’t last long.
Our school division has a new superintendent. Some people don’t embrace change, but I generally gain energy from change (however, not quite as much as I did in the first 75% of my teaching career!) I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to learn and grow with her, and to see the great things that are in store for our awesome school division.
I’m hoping my blog entries are a bit more frequent this year. Last year we ended with about 6 weeks of frenzied activity
as a few emergent things took up most of our time. I know we can never fully prepare for those kinds of things, but I’m looking forward with positivity to a year filled with learning for all!
One of the goals in my professional growth plan this year is to improve my own skills in gathering data to guide decision making. Teachers know this, and are hopefully prepared for a small (hopefully) onslaught of data gathering opportunities.
In the last year, we have worked to help develop a sense of trust between staff and administration and between teaching staff members. Traditionally one piece of our classroom support has involved a literacy support teacher being available to help out in a classroom or do small group pull out. Our current teacher will be going out on a maternity leave in less than a month, so we decided to set up that support in a different way. The teacher has been made available on a ‘sign out’ basis to offer a wider variety of supports. Things like:
- Meeting with teachers to discuss students who might need extra support
- Covering a class to allow a teacher to work one-on-one with a student
- Covering a class to allow a teacher to observe another teacher’s’ classroom
- Work with new students to assess their literacy level or cover the class to allow the teacher to do the same.
- And probably a few more ideas we didn’t think of.
We’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks, and I knew that there were a few people who have taken advantage of #3. We have made an assumption that this would be a great opportunity to have teachers see some of the great things that are going on. In addition we have a teacher who is a master at integrating innovative technology ideas into her classroom and have set up two blocks per week where teachers can access her skills in the classroom.
I decided to send out a very short google form that basically asked three questions:
- I have accessed, or plan to access, the Support Teacher’s time to observe in another class
- I would feel comfortable having a colleague observe the great things I am doing in my class
- I have accessed or will access technology expertise in my class
So, here’s the interesting results so far
- The vast majority of people are willing to access the technology expertise in their class
- The vast majority of people are willing to have a colleague observe in their class
- The majority of people do NOT plan on using the time to observe in another class
So, it would appear that teachers are more than willing to have people observe in their class, but are, for whatever reason, less willing to go to another teacher’s class to observe what is going on. Could it be having to plan for someone to cover their class? Fear of being viewed as ‘needing help’? Not seeing the value in a classroom visit?
There is one thing for certain here. Data can lead to a lot more questions than answers! Now I have more research to do!!!
Friday was the last day of school for students and most of the support staff. Today is the last day for everyone else.
WOW! What a feeling. I am ready to kick back and relax for a while. I’m ready to have some time to pursue my other passions. I’m ready to force myself to read for pleasure! I’m just ready to do some other things.
I’ve finished the year at my new school and have felt like we’ve accomplished some really neat things. I’m looking forward to next year and what it will bring. I am not wanting it to start right away though.
Here’s to my hardworking staff, and to all educators and the hard work they do.
and the list goes on
Have a GREAT summer!!
Here’s the third of my videos with advice to new principals. Still not sure about the “Pearls of Wisdom” title – I didn’t add that!
I can’t believe how busy it has been lately! I haven’t posted a blog in a long time. And to be honest, I think about it almost every day. I have set aside some time this morning to do just that!
I have been reflecting on the concept of respect lately and what that means to a leader. To a manager, it might simply mean, that people do as they’re told. I think it means a lot more to a leader. As part of my effort to put my ruminations down on ‘paper’, I’ve come up with a list of ways leaders show respect to those they work with.
- Two sided – Respect is two sided. It is a process that happens between people and although there is a need for self respect as part of the big picture, the kind of respect that takes place in schools has to be between admin and the staff; and it has to go both ways.
- Trust – One of the major components of a respectful, well functioning school environment (or any environment, for that matter) is the element of trust. Good relationships have to be built on trust. Micromanagers, Top Down leaders and ineffective leaders all lack the respect for their team to either listen or follow through.
- Listening/take advice – as mentioned in the previous item, respect is demonstrated by listening to the team and following through on what you say you are going to do. It’s been said that “the smartest person in the room is the room”; and ever since I heard this from George Couros, it has stuck with me. By getting a group of educators together to work through a problem, you know you’re going to get some good ideas.
- Take time to think – We need to avoid making any quick decisions, without taking the time to mindfully consider all sides. We show respect by ensuring that what decisions we make are thought through. People will respect a decision that they may not agree with, as long as they know that it is well thought out, and all sides have been considered.
- Honour – take time to honour those around you. When I was a VP I was told that any news article or publication celebrating the school or one of its programs has to mention the principal. I didn’t feel right about it at the time, and now as a principal I have to totally disagree. A principal needs to honour their team enough to allow the spotlight to shine where it needs to, and to step back out of the spotlight whenever necessary.
- High standards – I show respect to the school, its constituents and the staff by making the tough decisions when necessary. If that means changing a program or getting rid of an ineffective member, I have to do it. It’s vital that I show respect for the overall effectiveness of the school and its staff.
Respect… Trust… Honour
It’s the people that make the school a great place. Respect them!
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)
I’ve been blogging for a few years, but starting last year I’ve learned to use a Blog as a powerful reflective tool. I don’t have a lot of followers or views, and usually don’t get a lot of comments (there have been a few exceptions). I don’t think I’m very good at expressing myself verbally, so I find that the blog serves two very strong purposes for me:
1. It provides me time and a forum to share my ideas. When I write a blog, I’ve usually spent some time thinking about my topic. And during the process of putting my ideas down on the computer, I find they coalesce into a shape that makes a lot more sense than if I just tried to verbalize them. The blog allows me to clarify my thoughts for myself and communicate them better with others.
2. The blog can be, and has been, used as a springboard to discussion with people; or as a reference when I want to share my thoughts with others. I have used my blog to help people understand my thinking around a topic, and then to further the discussion we are having.
I am pretty sure that the ability to clarify thinking and spend time in reflection about what to put into the blog really is the fuel that has resulted in the growth I have experienced as a leader over the last 14 months. I feel that I have been able to move forward in my growth as a leader and as a learner. In conversation with my superintendent she stated that she noticed some big leaps in my capacity as a leader and upon reflection I feel this to be a key reason.
For the personal growth I have experienced, alone, I won’t be giving up this practice. It is mainly for me; but a better me, makes for a better school.