We are in the process of determining staff assignments for next year. Part of the puzzle is always fitting in the part time people and adjusting for people on leave or retirement. As I am in a bigger school this year, there are even more pieces of the puzzle to fit in. It’s challenging, and with all the components, something that is taking a long time to sort out. I think I have it figured out and I either change my mind on something, or someone’s situation changes. I do enjoy the opportunity to be creative and think about ways of solving the ‘problem’.
So much of what we do requires that we be in creative mode. This is a job where there are many rules and policies that guide our decision making, but there are still plenty of opportunities to approach issues in different ways.
I know school administration is just one of many careers that require this kind of creative mindset. So many careers involve creativity of some kind. In many ways, that’s what separates a job from a career. I believe that that is one of the things we need to keep in mind as we move our students forward and prepare them for their adult lives and careers.
In Alberta we have the 3 Es for our students – Engaged Learners who are Ethical citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit. I can’t think of a way to engage students to be entrepreneurs without infusing creativity into the expectations we have for them. We need to set up our ‘classroom’ environments in such a way as to encourage creativity. Students need to be discoverers. They need opportunity to explore their world and have a chance to think about things in different ways. They need to ask questions and find answers to them on their own.
I love many of the things that are going on in education – Inquiry Based learning, MakerSpaces, Learning Commons, etc. All of these are opening the doors to new ways of thinking about learning and ways that we acquire knowledge.
I look forward to working to ensure this happens. I know it’ll require some creativity on my part to see it through!
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.
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)
Being connected via Social Media is Great – well at least I think it is. I love learning from what people have to say and links they post. I always dedicate a portion of my morning sorting through Twitter posts and finding thought provoking reading material or videos to encourage me in my journey. If I’m lucky I find a new thinker to follow and some good things to share with my staff. On occasion I read something that inspires me to write a blog post.
I have been sharing the Gospel of Twitter for quite some time. I have managed to get a few people to join, but really all I can do is model what I’ve learned. I think I’ve come to realize that connecting in this way doesn’t work for everyone. Following are three great reasons I think this is the case.
- It would mean people would have to learn about doing something in a new way. Why would we change what we are doing when it has been working well for the last 15 years? Kids are still kids; the lessons we taught years ago are just as good now as they were in 1998!
- Students don’t need us to model technology. They get enough of that at home! Schools should be a place where they can get away from cell phones and iPads and computers. If we don’t use the technology, it’s more likely they will realize that it isn’t important to know about. Pencil and Paper are examples of technology, after all. And no students ever used pencil and paper to get into trouble.
- Every good teacher knows they are only in this profession for the students in their class. The knowledge and skills they have are something they have worked to develop for years. Other teachers need to learn these things on their own.
Of course these comments were all made “tongue in cheek”. There really are no good arguments against becoming a connected teacher or administrator. Opportunities to grow and learn from each other, and to model digital responsibility to our students are valuable responsibilities we have to undertake.
I have been struggling with the amount of trivial things that fill my days. If I could be doing things all the time that I feel directly impact students, I would feel like I have spent every day accomplishing something great. When I have to deal with staff issues, paperwork, financial decisions, meetings, organizing rooms for other meetings, and a myriad of other things, I tend to get a little frustrated.
I want to be working directly with the students or working on things that directly affect them. I need to know that the things happening in each class are best for students, and that conditions are optimum for teaching and learning. I want to be working with teachers to ensure that we are both aware of best practice and that I have a hand in making it happen.
I recently made the following entry in our January School Newsletter
I have had the ‘pleasure’ of helping my son complete grade 10 math by correspondence since September. He finished the course over the holidays and did quite well. It’s probably not how anyone imagines spending a large portion of their Christmas Break, but I was glad to see it through and get it done. There was time left over at the end of the break to do some relaxing and enjoy some free time. My son is of an age where spending time with his Dad isn’t always at the top of his list of things he wants to do. So, for me, even math is an opportunity to share time with him.
I hope that each of us took time over the break to connect with family. When opportunity presents itself, we have to take advantage of it. Our kids grow up fast, and we need to cherish the time we have together.
As teachers, we have your children for a good portion of the day. The time we get with them is different, yet valuable kind of time. We nurture many of the same things as you, like a love of learning, creativity, respect for each other and the environment. We seek to see them grow as individuals and as members of society. We want to see them grow to people who are independent of the assistance we willingly give as they are young. It is a great responsibility, and a very noble one as well.
Children are a valuable gift. I am glad to see my own growing up and becoming independent individuals. They may not go the direction we would choose for them, but that’s part of the process. We help them along and let them make choices. Then we stand back with our heart full of emotion and our mind full of memories.
Today, after a few days of this I was checking our School FaceBook page and was very pleased with a parent comment regarding my entry in the school newsletter. The parent expressed gratitude for the work we do at the school and that her oldest child attended the school now and looked forward to her younger children attending as well.
It seems we don’t often get a pat on the back for the hard work that we do. For me it is a good reminder that people notice that we care and that we are doing the best job we can. Much of what I do does take up time, and it takes away from the great things that I would like to be doing. There are things I wish I didn’t have to do and don’t always see the value in. But, what I do is important for the students and for the school. I am sure I will continue to be frustrated by the administrivia, but we are doing a great job.
We are making a difference.
I talked about change in my last blog. I’m not done with that topic yet!
I’ve always considered myself to be a reflective person. I don’t think I would have made it in this profession if I weren’t. I know I wasn’t a very good teacher to start out with. At times, I felt like I was playing teacher – just emulating what others had done before, and not really understanding what I was doing. Now I look back and I really feel sorry for the students I had those first few years.
It was by watching other teachers and finally coming to the point where I was willing to start taking risks that I felt things began to change. It was also about that point that I really began to reflect on the practice of teaching. It was the struggles that I found in different areas of practice that drove me to really reflect on what I was doing and what I needed to do.
When I was taking my initial teacher training there was very little focus on reflection. When I began working on my Master’s, it was my first introduction into formal reflection. I really didn’t enjoy the written reflection, but it certainly helped me clarify and formulate my thoughts. When I completed my Master’s I was certain that I wouldn’t be doing that again! BUT, here I am – blogging like crazy, because it turns out to be the most powerful type of reflection I have done.
I think the power of the blog is that it is for an audience. Previously the reflections were given to an instructor, whom I was never certain actually read what I had to say. Now my writing is available to a very wide audience who not only provide feedback, but sometimes resend what I’ve written to others (GO TWITTER!) My thoughts just may invoke reflection in others.
One of the messages I preached to student teachers when I had them, and continue to stress to student teachers that are in my school, is the power of reflection and willingness to grow and change. The growth that happens has to come from within. We do get input from others, and have to be willing to accept it, but no change will happen unless we take it upon ourselves to thoughtfully pursue the goals we set.
I have alluded to the difference Twitter has made to my professional growth before. I thought I would take time to write a blog that strictly addresses what it has done for me.
First of all, it has connected me with a group of people who either think along the same lines as I do, or urge me to think about things in a new way. I am no longer just a single principal in a small Alberta School Division; I am now part of a worldwide group of administrators who are examining their practice and learning together.
Twitter has connected me with other resources that I may not have had exposure to. Recently Eric Sheninger posted a link to a session being held at his school that was being streamed live. It was a great opportunity to watch a very good speaker present in a remote location, that I would not have had access to otherwise. It is also through Twitter that I connected with the Leadership20 Webinar series organized by George Couros. These are only two of the powerful examples of resources that I would not have had access to without Twitter.
One of the most amazing things that has come from Twitter is the encouragement to rethink personal blogging. I have had blogs in the past that have served different purposes. Having a blog that is used for reflection and providing evidence of my own learning and practice has proved to be powerful! I have also connected to the blogs of other leaders who write and reflect on the same struggles and learnings that I spend my days dealing with.
Twitter has also shown me the ease with which Professional Development can happen. When a group of people put their minds together, a lot can happen. By sharing learning and questioning your own and others’ practice, growth is a likely outcome. I have heard it said, on Twitter and in other places, “The smartest person in the room, is the room”. Twitter is like one big room where we learn from and with each other.
I have a lot to learn, and would say that Twitter has been one of the most powerful tools for learning and growth as a principal and as a professional.