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.
There are only two weeks left in school. Not a great time to be sick, but I’ve missed a couple of days this week and am definitely not at full energy. There are some things that I should have completed this week, that won’t be done until next week. Just keep piling it on!!
If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that it has served as my professional growth plan for the year. I have found it to allow for a very reflective, evidence based approach to the growth from this year. One unintended impact has been that although my growth plan stated two of the Principal Quality Standards as focused goals, I have been able to link to every aspect of the PQS and show the evidence of thinking and learning in all of them. I know that this has been going undocumented since I began in administration, but the evidence is clear in those areas, now.
I would have to say that the Standard of Providing Instructional Leadership has set me up to really think about how to continue on this goal for next year. I have begun to think about how I can continue to grow in this area. I know that by making this an area of focus, it has kept it in the forefront of my thinking, and has propelled me to realize I need to continue my focused growth in this area.
Another great outcome of using a blog to document the goals and evidence has been the occasions where a post I have made has garnered a LOT of response. Three posts received hundreds of views.
- How Twitter Changed Everything
- Making Your School a Place Where People Want to Work
- What Does Principal Engagement Look Like?
All three were responses to things I had been thinking about or experiencing in my day to day jobs. I don’t write posts to get people to follow me, I write them to promote my own learning and growth. It is reassuring to know, however that things I have written do resonate with other educators (and some non educators as well).
I enjoy being part of the discussion. That connection with educators around the world has been a huge factor in the shift in thinking I have been able to undertake of the last few years. There are many voices out there. Mine is just one, but blogging (and TWITTER) have opened up a new opportunity to learn and to connect.
I have the great fortune to be participating in a Principal Exchange with the ATA over the next year. My exchange partner will be coming for two weeks this fall and I will be going to Adelaide, South Australia next summer. This opportunity came about solely because of Twitter. This is another opportunity to expand my thinking and experience new opportunities as a educational leader.
I may not post another blog this school year, but will definitely be back in the fall using this blog for my Professional Growth Plan again.
Pressed from Darcy Mullin
So, I’ve seen a lot of posts on Twitter and on blogs lately about Student Engagement. As I was perusing through Twitter today, I misread one of those posts by substituting principal for student, and the idea immediately clicked with me. What would Principal Engagment look like?
Right away, some thoughts that come to mind are:
- A willingness to learn.
- Open to change
- Passionate about school culture
Being willing to invest in other people. That includes students, parents and staff
I think that there could be a great discussion about this. Do you have any thoughts about this that you would like to contribute. I would love to hear them.
I had the opportunity to attend REDCAMP in Red Deer, yesterday. The opportunity came to my attention because of Twitter. I have never attended an edcamp before. Sean Grainger (@graingered) posted a link to information and registration for the event. I had an idea as to what the event would be about, and registered right away.
There were a few really neat things that came out #redcamp13
- Reaffirmation of the fact that you can never trust navigation on your iPhone!
- I got to meet people I had connected with on Twitter. @hewsonk27 @joe_bower @graingered @Weilinga1
- Whenever you get educators together and let them talk about ways to move forward, best practice, tools to improve instruction, etc. you are guaranteed to have rich and powerful discussions.
- I was able to make new connections. Sitting in sessions and listening to people talk about their learning, really gives you a good idea about where they are coming from. I added a number of new people to my PLN. Some people added me as well.
- One of the most enjoyable sessions of the day was the JAM session. @mrtetz, @socgall, @BowmanTwits, myself and one other music teacher participated in writing a Redcamp song The quality isn’t the best, but this type of collaboration is just as powerful as the discussions around education. We also discussed that Jam Sessions are the original Edcamp!
- Not everyone participating in the sessions agreed on everything. Being open to the ideas of others and discussing opinions, is very powerful. It’s the discussion that is the important part. We are always learning and it’s so great to learning from each other.
After the opening session, which itself provided some great ideas, I attended a session on what we are going to do now that PATs are over. The discussion was great, but there was a focus at first on specualation around what was going to be done to us as educators now. The discussion did turn more towards the opportunities that were presented if we choose to exercise our voice and put forward what our feelings as to where education can go from this point.
My second session was presented by @EbertsR and discussed establishing a culture of collaboration in your school. The collaborative culture we establish in our PLNs can add to the scholarship that exists in our schools.
After lunch I attended a discussion on Twitter with @jbechthold and @KirbyFecho. This was a smaller session, but really demonstrated the power of using Twitter in our schools and for our personal learning. One neat thing about this session was that there were three pre-service teachers. Two of which facilitated the session. There are many reflective, forward thinking young teachers out there. It is exciting to see the passion and commitment that our up and coming members of the profession have.
The last session I attended, as I mentioned in my list above, was the JAM session. That was very fun, and a great way to end a great day.
I hope to be able to attend many more edcamps in the future!! YOU SHOULD TOO!!
Being one of the only males in a small school means I have the good fortune of going to supervise swimming lessons (well, more accurately I supervise groups of 30-40 naked boys running around the change room). Every Friday for five weeks I have this great opportunity!
Of course, as teachers, we make judgments on the swimming education the students receive. But those judgments are more about the manner in which the lessons are delivered. Here are my observations.
- Groups are between 3 and 12 students in size.
- Students are streamed ahead of time according to previous experience and ability.
- In the first lesson students are moved to a new group if they have been placed incorrectly.
- Students are given opportunity to constantly demonstrate their progress.
- In a group, those who are moving faster are allowed to move faster and those progressing slower are given the time they need from their instructor.
- At the end of the lesson cycle, students are moved on to the next level or given a report on skills to work on before the next round of lessons.
With the exception of number 1. (and not even sure about that), it would be great to be talking about a classroom or school when I read through the list I just made. There are parts of this Real Life approach happening in our schools, but we aren’t set up for many of these things to happen. We are also not trained to operate our classrooms in this way. We get a group of heterogeneous students and are expected to move them all along at relatively the same pace. We assess them at certain predetermined points. They are usually moved along regardless of the achievement of goals or standards.
That being said, there are great things going on in all schools. Teachers do take the group they are given, and work wonders with them. Everyday I see students progressing in remarkable ways and accomplishing goals they or their teachers have set out for them. I see students using tools and technology in innovative ways. I see teachers learning new skills to help differentiate instruction for the students and developing critical thinking strategies to help their students become more engaged problem solvers.
Education is moving forward. There are things we need to learn and changes we need to make; but we’re doing a bang up job with what we have. We can be proud of what our students are doing in classrooms every day.
One of the follow ups to Provincial Achievement Tests is the inevitable analysis of the data. Whether the results are good or bad, there are things that can be interpreted from the data. While I am not a fan of the Achievement Tests at all, I find they lead to some very important discussions. One of the likely quotes in those discussions is, “well, it was just that group of students!”. It is VERY easy to point to a group of kids and blame the results on them.
It is inevitable that each group has their own personality, and strengths. Anyone who has taught more than a year will not be able to disagree with that. Because each group is unique, they will no doubt have variances in their abilities in each outcome covered. And while it is true that we can point to the group and “blame’ them, I don’t agree that that should be our first line of thinking. Whenever we come across a student who has lagging skills or abilities in an area, we need to approach it as an opportunity to address the lagging skill.
When we see that our current class does not understand equality in Math, we need to change the approach we use to address that. What we are trying to do at our school, is take a team approach to those lagging skills in a group of students. That doesn’t mean we don’t still have people who blame the group, but we can answer them with, “What are we going to do about it?”
So, how can you address lagging skills? We like to rely on the resident experts. We have one teacher who is very well trained in math and was responsible for providing Division Professional Development a few years ago when the new curriculum in math came out. She does a stellar job in her own class in all areas, but is a math resource person for everyone. We also have some teachers who have specialized literacy or Special Ed training.
Not everyone is fully on board for a team approach, but to quote George Couros, “The smartest person in the room, is the room!” I firmly belive that and have been trying to lead using that philosophy ever since I heard it.