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!
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 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.
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.
I never cease to wonder at the speed by which a school year flies by! There is now less than two weeks left and so much left to do!!! How will I get everything done I need to? Seems to me like the perfect opportunity to write a blog.
I have, once again, used my blog as my professional growth plan. To me, it is the perfect combination of reflective tool and evidence tracker. I can use it to document my thoughts, clarify my ideas, garner feedback from colleagues, and set goals for myself. I will be definitely following the same format next year.
As I am moving to another school, I will have to rethink my goals. I have an idea of what I would like to actively pursue as my main goals, but I am looking forward to the context of a new school, and how my personal style will fit in with a whole new context. I can with some certainty say that, “Fostering Effective Relationships” will be a main area of focus. I know that I can’t expect to have much of an impact without taking the time to establish those relationships as a primary goal.
As it is a much bigger school, the standard of “Managing School Operations and Resources” will be an interesting learning opportunity as well. Is it the same as I have been doing at my current school, just on a bigger scale? Are there factors I am not aware of that make the structure that much more complex? Time will tell.
I have learned a lot this year. This summer I will be traveling to Australia for a holiday and to spend some time in a school there. THAT will be a learning experience. I know I will learn a lot there as well.
Have a great summer everyone, and I will see you early in September!!
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.
I have an eye appointment next Tuesday after school. My eyes are getting worse very quickly and the glasses I have just aren’t cutting it anymore. I am not happy about having to get new glasses (they cost money!), but our Health Spending Account should cover most of that. Anyway, as I sit here at my computer and having to push my chair back so I can make out what I’m typing, I got to thinking about vision.
One of my Professional Growth Plan goals for the year is around the Principal Quality Standard of “Embodying Visionary Leadership.” As I was thinking about my eyesight, this connection came to mind. And as my mind is prone to wandering the question came to mind as to whether everyone can be visionary.
After doing a bit of research and taking time to think, I’ve come up with what makes a person a visionary.
- Understand the differences between having vision and being visionary – Just because you have a vision for something, doesn’t make you visionary. Everyone has vision. They have a goal for what they would like to see happen, but no real plan for implementation. Many people have a vision for a Utopian world, but do very little about it.
- Clarity of vision – A clear idea of where you want to be and details around how to get there are necessary. If your vision of the future is clear, getting there will be a lot more possible.
- Visionary leadership is about being a problem solver – to make progress as someone who is a visionary, there has to be the ability to solve problems. You have to be able to analyze the problem, look for solutions and work to make them happen. Being a problem solver is about learning from mistakes. A visionary is constantly working to make things better.
- Visionaries show rather than tell – A long time ago I heard the phrase, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I try to always picture myself in a situation that I will be responsible for placing others in. I try to do join in on tasks that I am asking others to participate in. If I’m not willing to complete a task, why should I expect others to take it on? If I expect people to move forward I better be in the crowd working just as hard as anyone else.
- Willing to take a risk – I’ve already alluded to risk taking. Implicit in risk taking, is the acceptance of failures along the way. Accept failures in yourself and in others. However, failures have to be viewed as an opportunity to learn A number of years ago at an AISI (btw, I miss AISI) conference, I first heard the term ‘failing forward’. That is the attitude we need to have. Our failures move us forward in our growth journey.
- Desire to positively affect others – If our vision only benefits ourselves, it’s not the kind of vision I am talking about. In my role as an educational leader, the vision I have for my school and community, has to benefit as many as possible. It needs to benefit current and future students and hopefully the staff and community as well.
I think I have helped to move my school forward, and in my journey as a leader, I hope to continue that at this school or whatever school I maybe placed in in the future. Our Leader in Me program has been an interesting journey that we are still working on, and will hopefully always continue to work on. That process alone has taught me the importance of having a vision and working to make it happen. Having a goal is essential. If you’re not aiming for something, you don’t hit anything.
Can everyone be visionary? I don’t think so; not without some effort and mindfulness in the process.
One of the things we have been challenged by David Irvine at our beginning school was to work at improving the culture at our schools. It was an opportunity to spend some time thinking about what culture means and how we can go about making sure our schools are places that have a positive, welcoming culture.
My first reaction to this was, “We have a great culture at our school. Why would it need improvement?” However, upon reflection, two points come to mind.
- Culture, like so many other things, needs to be worked on. If you’re not putting time and energy into it, it won’t go anywhere.
- Culture isn’t just the way people talk to each other.
People who walk into our school often comment on how they are welcomed and can detect a good vibe in the school. Our teachers generally get along with each other and are open to parent communication. The school is always clean and colourful. People who come into the office are greeted with a smile and are listened to.
Prior to the presentation on culture I didn’t think about the need to work on improving culture. In my mind, it just happened because of the people that were part of it. We have a great culture because we have now, and have traditionally had great people. But, after contemplating it for a while I know there were things that were going on well before I came to this school that contributed to it awesomeness.
Discussions around how we make our building open and accessible to the community have been going on for years. Our school (Bon Accord Community School) is named from the historical move to making some schools in Alberta, community schools. The idea was that the school would become a community hub; and grants were provided to support events and opportunities that tied the two together. It is my belief that the community focus of our school has contributed greatly to the open and welcoming atmosphere we continue to value. Throughout the years, staff have consciously talked about ways to maintain that. I am just starting my sixth year at the school and those discussions have occurred every year.
Our Meet the Staff Night is attended by a large portion of our community as we serve pasta and sauce every year. The gym is crowded for this event and we try to give each family a taste of what we try to do at our school. Our annual Christmas Concert is a highlight of the year for many people in our community. We have had to go to a system of reserving seats for the concert as we have in excess of 500 community members wanting to attend. Our gym capacity is less than this, so we have to also limit the number of tickets any family can access.
As a Seven Habits School we rethought our Mission and Vision. One component of our vision is “strengthening our community’. We take that aspect of our vision very seriously. We are training leaders that. right now , and in the future will link our school to the community. Being a Seven Habits School has helped us to consciously focus on what our students think of themselves and others. It has made staff consider the language we use and stressed the importance of goal setting to improve who we are as adults and children.
Our school division recently updated its Mission, Vision and Values. Four of the six values easily tie into the importance of community.
- Shared Responsibility
- Mutual Respect
Each of them can speak to what we feel is important in the school as well as the greater community.
I look forward to digging deeper into what these values mean to myself and to my school as we move forward in fostering a culture that makes us a warm, welcoming environment for staff, students, parents and the entire community.