It’s taken me a few weeks to get this post written. I’ve been rolling it around in my head for a while.
People who know me know that I love photography. I have my own photography business (that doesn’t make a lot of money), but I love capturing moments in time. In the fall, I did a family photo session for my former vice principal, Kerri.
I photographed the family in their beautiful backyard with different family configurations, and fortunately, the photos turned out quite well.
About a month ago, one of Kerri’s stepdaughters passed away. I had to attend the funeral to support Kerri and her family during this difficult time. When I arrived at the location of the funeral, Kerri greeted me and immediately took me to a large photo of her three stepdaughters. It was a photo I had taken in the fall, and I was immediately struck by the impact that photo was having on the ceremony and the power it had in communicating the beauty of the family and specifically Nicole. It was an emotional experience for me.
I have spoken before about our obligation as educators to help others find their passion. Each student has to have opportunity to discover that one thing that they love to do, and be allowed to pursue it. That fact was really hit home to me during this time, and I was so humbled to know that something I did made even a small difference in the lives of others.
Schools need to be responsive to the needs of their students and community. That involves getting to know each student and giving every one of them opportunities to grow and play and discover. Schools need to be rich environments of learning and questioning and finding answers that lead to more questions. Only in places like that can we be certain that we are doing everything we can to ensure that students will be best placed to make those discoveries for themselves.
And as a side point, let’s not forget the importance of being cognizant of the importance of mental health in our day-to-day lives; both in school and in our daily endeavours. We need to do our best to make real connections and do our best to support those who are dealing with mental health issues. Mental health is being discussed now. Let’s keep the conversation going and do everything we can to keep the awareness front and centre.
We learn from our mistakes.
I know it’s true, but sometimes I wonder why I’m not a genius by now with the amount of blunders I regularly make. Thankfully most of them aren’t that big, but nevertheless, I can say they’re quite constant. I guess the good thing, in my own defense, is that I usually admit to making them, and I try to learn from them and make them right. Usually I can look back and laugh at them – sometimes it takes a while before that happens!
It’s a journey. I think when you can’t admit you’re fallible, you can no longer learn.
Let’s keep learning, and growing and even making mistakes. It’s what makes us lifelong learners.
I follow Pam Boyd’s Two Minute Tune Up blog and her post today got me thinking about my recent mistakes. Too many to list! Her blog post today can be found here. Thanks, Pam!
This year, as a school we’ve decided to make Balanced Literacy our focus. An outsider might think, “What!! Balanced Literacy has been around forever and you’re just focusing on it now??!! Where have you been?”
Well, we’ve been doing a LOT of great things, including Guided Reading, and many components of balanced literacy. What we realize though, is that we may not be doing it the best that we can. We could look for something new and flashy to focus on, but why not take the things that we know to be good practice, and make sure we are doing them well.
One of the great things is, this is a grass roots endeavour. The teachers recognized that they had been focusing on other things over the last few years and have realized that they need to spend time thinking and talking about what they’re doing in their language arts (and all) classes. Are we using our alloted time the best we can?
As admin we have decided to make the process of gathering data around how this affects student acheivement to be our focus. My Vice-Principal is an ‘expert’ in Balanced Literacy, and is a great resource. I am not an expert, by any means. This means I have to start learning. I attended my first professional development on guided reading yesterday with a number of teachers from across the school division. I was there for a different reason, but I certainly enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about this one component of literacy.
I’m beginning to see this idea cropping up in other places. People are realizing we don’t need something new to revolutionize our world. We need to focus on the things that work, and do them well.
It’s already the third day with students here in Sturgeon School Division. Things are under way, and it’s been a great beginning. We’ve managed to figure out those problems around scheduling that almost always arise. I’ve got a new VP and she’s a hard worker, and knows her way around. The teachers are GREAT, and they’ve got the classrooms under control.
There’s always a buzz at the beginning of the year, and hopfully over the next few days, I’ll have some time to reflect on my own Professional Growth and what I want to accomplish this year.
Here’s to another great year!!
Whenever we return from Spring Break, we are always in for a wild ride! Things are happening almost every day – Field Trips, special events, guests, awards, celebrations, etc. This year is no different. I opened up this program to write my blog, and it’s been almost TWO MONTHS since my last post! To me that is the most solid proof that time has been flying.
Every year brings changes and transitions. I will be working with a new vice principal next year. I am extremely sad to see my current vp move on, but I know she is ready for a new and exciting challenge. Having this change occcur is also a growth opportunity for me. I know that I work best with people who I can bounce ideas off of and who will challenge my ‘half-baked’ ideas and help me think things through. I’ll be training a new person to be be open to disagree with me when necessary – not everyone wants to do that.
It will take a bit to tranisition a new admin team, but we are in the business of change here! Let’s make this happen people!
Today we did our first all staff PD. We had some PD days before school started, but groups were involved in different activities. Today, we talked about two important things
- NME (Neurosequential Model in Education)
- What we need to look for as we continue our journey as learning educators – which is what I’m blogging about.
We have a number of great things going on in our school. We chose a few to discuss.
- Guided Reading – this initiative developed Division Wide as a program based on research from all around the world about best practices in teaching student fluency, decoding and comprehension. Everyone is trained in this, and it is being implemented in all of our classes.
- Guided Math – this developed from a few interested teachers last year, who asked permission to try it out. This year most of our classes are implementing it, and the original crew will be presenting it at our annual teachers’ convention.
- Technology – Technology has become ubiquitous in schools and in society. It isn’t something separate we teach, but it’s a tool that engages and enhances our ability to increase learning in students.
- MakerSpaces – we have only dabbled in this so far. Our discussion focused on the ability to allow students to engage in problem solving and be creators of their own learning. It definitely addresses the Entrepreneurial Spirit aspect of the Ministerial Order. The MakerSpace was brought in by the division and we were one of the schools to pilot it last year. We are working on getting our own set up.
- Empowering Writers – this program, is admittedly more prescriptive, but it addresses a missing piece of the literacy program. It gives teachers a springboard to a way of approaching the task of teaching our students to become writers and to engage in other’s writing. It could be said this program seeped into our school. Many people have attended PD on it over the last few years, and that has continued to spark interestin the program.
So, those are some of the areas teachers are working on at Landing Trail. The questions are:
- How do we know these are impacting student learning?
- What do we accept as evidence of improved student learning?
I posed these questions to teachers today. We had set up the day so that each topic would have time to meet for interested parties to get together and discuss the questions and decide how they would work together as a PLC. The PLCs will function throughout the year with these in mind. We have to have student learning as a focus, and we have to have data that backs up our claim that what we are doing is impacting student learning.
One other topic I presented to the staff was the list of Principal Quality Guidelines. I felt it was important that they know that one of the roles I and my VP have is to be instructional leaders. We are tasked with the learning that goes on in the school. It’s a big responsibility, but having a staff willing to learn, take risks, and learn from mistakes makes the job a whole lot easier!
We spent the much of the morning admin council talking about a change in mindset. As leaders in education, what can we do to address our own mindset and the mindset of those we work with? We had a very rich conversation about this topic from many angles. Following are just a few of my own thoughts around this idea.
1. Our idea of leadership has changed a lot over the years. Leadership has moved into the trenches and we are working alongside everyone in the school to improve student learning. Our role has shifted away from manager. We do so much more now, the most important being instructional leader.
2. With that shift we’ve had to change how we do things, and how we think about what we do. With a focus on instructional leadership there have been many conversations around how do we work to improve student learning. We have become very mindful about the need for intentionality in what we do. We are responsible to make sure that each and every student is getting the best they can from their time in our care.
3. Technology has helped in some ways, to move the school experience away from a consumption model, to a more creative place for students to be. With that creative space available it has given opportunity for us to change the way we do things in the classroom and in the school. Changing the way we do things isn’t easy for some. The question is, do we have to change what people believe about how we do things, or do we need to make the change and then wait for the belief to develop. In our discussions, it seems that the approach depends on the person, and their comfort level with change and risk taking.
4. Success and Failure are important concepts to discuss. Do we even frame the things that we try and don’t succeed at as failure? If we learn something from things we try as a failure? This is part of a cultural shift we need to have if we are embracing risk taking and creativity as important?
5. Some people do not like change, but if we build a culture of trust, they will be more willing to try new things. We have to strategically set up conditions to make them feel free to do this. This might be one of the toughest things we do. Leaders have to be great at environmental scans. They need to know the staff, the conditions and the needs of the students and community. From there, they can guide the change in the direction it needs to go. They get to know the environment by getting to know the citizens of that environment. That comes from feet on the ground and listening to the stories of those people in the trenches.
I am excited for what the future brings for our students. With the conversations we have had, and will continue to have, we are helping our own mindset to develop. We are letting the change start with us, and will learn together about how we can make the small changes that will lead to big changes.