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!!
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.
I don’t really have a specific goal in mind for today’s blog. Usually I have an idea about exactly the point I’d like to get across, but today… I’m just going to write about things I’ve been pondering lately.
1. PLCs – We’ve done some great work with PLCs this year. I really feel that we’ve made strides in making them more powerful than ever. I’ve done some anecdotal data gathering from teachers, and they certainly appreciate the opportunity to participate in both grade level and interest based/cross grade PLC groups. They also appreciate the simplicity of the Google Form we use to record My pondering is around the momentum. I always reiterate with teachers the fact that the goal of PLCs is student learning, and have incorporated that into the Google form, by adding that, it adds a level of accountability and helps to keep the focus
2. Mentoring – I’m fortunate to have a relatively new vice-principal this year. She is keen to learn and really focused on doing what is best for our students. I really like the role of being a mentor to someone like this. We spend lots of time planning, reflecting, and challenging each other. I really enjoy the opportunity to work with someone who helps me move forward and learn.
3. Politics!!! – We have a provincial election coming up. I am thrilled with the engagement I am seeing this time. People are fired up and I think we might actually see a change in the 43 year reign of the current political party. ANY political party will lose its ability to be effective after that much time. We need a shake up in Alberta and I think it might just happen!
4. Planning – OMG! There’s a lot of planning to do this time of year. I LOVE planning, especially when the resources are there to make my plans come to fruition! Well, there’s NOT enough resources this year, but anyone who has been paying attention knew this was coming. I had a number of scenarios in place already, so had a skeleton of a solution in place for where we are at now. If things change in the future and we get an increase in resources, I will welcome that and revisit the vision for the next school year. It’s so important to have the resources (including the people) allocated in the best possible way. There’s still teachers that have a ways to go in their approach to teaching. Fortunately at this point, I don’t have any duds – not every one is a master teacher, but they’re all reliable.
Over the last few years I’ve had some thoughts coalescing around how best to use our teachers’ Professional Growth Plans. I’ve struggled for a few years as to how to make the PGP not just a piece of paper that teachers have to fill in at the beginning of the year to fulfill an expectation. I have tried to do things like:
- incorporate mid year meetings to reassess the progress
- allow groups of teachers to establish a group PGP
- ask informal questions throughout the year around PGP goals
While these things have had some effect, and have increased awareness and teacher efficacy around their professional growth, I have never felt that I’ve ‘gotten through’ before. This year I’ve proposed a different approach to teachers and I am getting feedback that is making me think I might be heading in the right direction. As I wrap my mind around how this is playing out, I’ve found that a bit of alliteration has fallen into place. The following are coming together to make this seem like it might work.
- Professional Growth Plans – taking an approach I have used in the past, I have encouraged teachers to work as a group to develop a professional growth plan. I did not dictate (as I never do) what they would look at putting in their plan, but I did encourage them to look for goals that they as a grade level might be interested in pursuing together. So far two of the grade levels have handed in joint PGPs, and one grade level has handed in two sets, with a pair of teacher in each working on the same goals. This first step is all about using the power of the team which increases engagement and accountability.
- Professional Learning Communities – When asked by two of my teachers on separate occasions what they would be dictated to work on in their PLCs this year, I was a little taken aback. To me, what the teachers work on in their PLCs should, with little guidance, be an organic process. The work done, needs to be work that the group sees as important.
- As a division, we have embraced Excellence in Teaching as a Value. I have no doubt that the teachers are striving for that all the time, and given the power will do what they can to proceed in that direction.
- As administrators in Sturgeon School Division, we are looking at the best practices around PLCs and how to ensure they are productive, and work toward our values. The discussions I have had with the teachers ensure they are aware of the values we hold, and have shown me that they are on board.
- By tasking the PLCs to work on goals set in their Professional Growth Plans, they have now understood the intentionality of the goals they have made and will be revisiting them each time they meet as a PLC group.
- Professional Development – the third piece of the alliterative puzzle is PD. In the last few years the concept of PD has shifted from an activity we do outside of the building in a room with a speaker. PD now encompasses the very powerful practice of getting together as professionals and having conversations around practice and learning. The PLC has become one very potent professional development practice. When an entire group of people is working toward the same goals, PD becomes easier to plan in a traditional sense as well. Teachers working toward the same goals will be interested in learning and applying the PD they have participated in.
In actuality, all three Ps are one and the same. the professional growth plan drives the PD of the PLC. As long as we are willing to accept the POWER of a group of teachers getting together to discuss practice, we can have PD anytime, anywhere.
I’ve been in my new school for a couple of weeks, but this is only the fourth day with students. So far things have gone very well. When I first started as an administrator, the most daunting task seemed to fall under the category of Managing School Operations and Resources. Over time, that challenge is probably the easiest to learn. One thing I have discovered is that skills learned in this area are relatively easy to transfer to a new site, and I assume this is especially true as I have moved within the same school division.
One area that I did not expect to be so different is that of school culture. The school I came from was great. I enjoyed working there and miss being there. I am learning how my new school works and the beliefs and attitudes that makes it tick. The culture is reflected in the way students are treated and the way the staff embraces change and challenges.
There is no right answer as to what the ‘right’ culture is. A different culture can just be another way of approaching the same issue. We expect our students to find multiple ways of attacking problems and there is no reason not to expect our schools to do the same. I am enjoying working with a group of people who have a slightly different take on things. The task for me is to discern how that culture works and how to work with it to move the school forward as a place that has and continues to be the best place for students.
I just came across a quote on Twitter this morning, “Change is the opportunity to do something great!” (another quote from George Couros that I will repeat endlessly to the dismay of my staff). This time the change is something I am experiencing. It’s not a change because of something wrong, it’s a change because of something new. I think that’s the best kind of change!
Change is always an opportunity – and what a wonderful opportunity this is to do great things!
Bring it on!!!
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!
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.