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!
I was asked to participate in a Discovery Education Ignite event last week. The way it works is you prepare 20 slides and plan to speak on each one for 15 seconds. I decided to present on the idea of helping every student find their passion by bringing back an environment that allows for play/discovery built into the day. My slides didn’t necessarily line up with the talk, but I used a number of slides of students working in our makerspace area and completing projects, completing guided math and reading, etc. that showcased a lot of things we do. The last half of the slides were some of the pictures I’ve taken personally that compare the development of my own passion for photography with the developement of students’ passion.
Helping students pursue their passion
Hi everyone, I’m going to be talking about helping students find and hopefully develop their passion, and how my own late-in-life discovery of my passion has helped my thinking on this topic. I stumbled into photography about 9 years ago and it was actually crappy photos like these first two that got me thinking about wanting to improve something that had only been a passing interest. The second half of the slides I’m sharing with you will hopefully show you an improvement in the pursuit of my passion.
We probably don’t need expensive tools or gadgets and neither do our students. We have no way of knowing what that spark that ignites their passion will be. Our schools haven’t traditionally been places where we seek to inspire our students. We’ve provided them with information and hoped they would figure out what appealed to them in the mounds of information we shared with them, and often not caring if they were even interested in what we had to say.
We need to start by setting up environments that encourage students to discover and to play and to feel like they can make mistakes. It’s not likely that one would pursue a passion if they feel they aren’t allowed the freedom to make mistakes. The environments we provide have to allow for out of focus photos that seem to have some tiny bit of potential.
Kids love to play and we know they learn by playing. However, a heavy curriculum has helped take away this important focus, and only recently have we seen a resurgence in the promotion of play and creativity in the programs we offer.
So what happens when we let students play and discover? They might just display some talent in areas you, or their peers, or even THEY didn’t know they had. They may find out that they can improve skills with their own efforts. Sometimes early on, you can tell that there’s a spark of something that will improve with encouragement and nurturing and the occasional nudge in the right direction.
Sometimes you have to seek out that spark of talent hidden there. One of the innovative thing that’s catching on is the idea of Genius Hour in the classroom. In my school, there are a few classrooms doing this. Teachers provide opportunities for students to be creative, sometimes the students bring in things of their own, and often the teacher sets out many opportunities for students to dabble in creative activities that help them to discover.
As we embrace our passions we find that we’ve moved past the tools we start with. We buy an improved camera that helps us to increase our skill and do things we couldn’t do before.
In schools we have to rethink the tools we use and the tools we provide to the students. We allow students to learn from other students and to teach other students. We set up makerspaces that focus on discovery, collaboration and problem solving
We allow students to share their creations and ask each other questions.
Teachers are also changing the way they set up their classrooms, the way they deliver curriculum and the way they interact. Programs like guided reading and guided math, increase the one on one time we have with students and allow for increased group work and cooperation. Celebrating student interests through events like Identity Days help students to connect and share with each other.
So, after a while you start seeing improvement. An interest becomes a talent and a talent becomes a passion. Where would this start if we don’t provide opportunity for it? Some students will discover their passions in sport, some in art, some in dance, some in engineering, you just don’t know what it will be. Undeniably, demographics can dictate the exposure students have to opportunities. But those of us who teach in schools where we have many students who aren’t garnered a lot of opportunities know that if we don’t provide the spaces and places, they may not happen.
So here we are. A school administrator with more than a few grey hairs, and a love for seeing students learn and grow. I’m on my fifth camera since picking up my little point and shoot and discovered I like to try to capture the world around me. Those first photos were not great. Partly due to the tools I had at my disposal, but mostly due to my lack of understanding of things like exposure, shutter speed, focal length, the all important factors involved in lighting and not knowing what even a simple camera was capable of doing.
I got a bit of encouragement, positive feedback, and started to pursue this area with no mind to do much more than post some not bad photos on FaceBook. I’ve now had photos appear in calendars, won a few contests, and now I get paid to take photos of people and places and share my passion with more than just those people who’ve stuck with me on FaceBook and Instagram.
I was at a photo shoot for Heroes Magazine a few weeks ago at the Edmonton Clinic, and interestingly I was photographing the use of robotics in the rehabilitation of children. The idea of using play, discovery, and problem solving aren’t unique to education and can do way more than help them to find their passion. But I think we are all remiss if we aren’t trying to answer the question posed here. What are we doing to help every student find their passion?
Sitting in a session on Agile Leadership today in Edmonton. Our division principals and many of our system leadership is present. We are discussing the practices of leadership to influence the improvement of student learning.
One of the topics we are discussing is how do we influence teacher behaviour as a key piece in making sure student learning is happening. One of our key roles is leading teacher learning and development. At LT we have spent a year and a half so far in making sure that the teachers are empowered to take responsibility for this learning, and are given the tools to move forward in the areas that they have embraced in their own professional growth plans.
Today the opportunity for me is to consider my own practice in making this happen. What am I doing that is promoting this practice, and what can I do to ensure that this continues to move forward in the best way possible. Am I in any way doing things that actually hinder this movement? I’ve got some ideas on how to work through this, and I look forward to intentionally keeping this movement going.
The Sturgeon School Division Admin group is meeting in PLC groups we have formed. Most schools are working in small groups with other admin teams on topics they have chosen. In my case my VP and I are working together in our own PLC to address the learning that is currently going on in our school; which has many of our staff are working in PLCs that focus on increasing student understanding by using a guided math focus.
PLCs at Landing Trail have been challenged to look for evidence of improved student learning as they progress through their own PLCs, and to reflect on what is working and what isn’t. PLCs at the schools meet at least once a month at days set aside for staff meetings and Professional Development at the schools. We consider one of the most important PD activities we do to be the work we complete in our PLCs.
We have had many conversations with staff already about the role of gathering data in our practice to help inform us about what we are doing and what changes we may need to make. Staff are now walking into my office to show me data that would speak to the fact that student learning is being impacted. It is becoming part of the conversations that we have.
This morning at Admin PD time, I was able to consider how we as admin collect the data we decided we need to obtain. There are many things we have put in place already because we have turned to being a data informed school in all areas. There is a lot of data that has been gathered and there are protocols set in place to continue gathering data as we move along. There are a few areas that we have to consider if we want to ensure we are getting data from all sources. Are we sure we have student voice in our data sources? What’s the best way to make sure we are cognizant of the parent feedback in the gathering of data?
We will have opportunity to present our story and journey at an April admin council meeting, and I am excited about that. We have done a lot of impactful things already, and I look forward to the great things that we will continue to encounter as we continue on this journey forward.
In my daily perusal of what’s going on in the Twitterverse, I came across this quote posted by @ShawnUpchurch,
“Leadership involves Finding a Parade and getting in front of it.” (John Naisbitt)
This is absolutely spot on, but it isn’t that easy to do. A leader has to ensure that the staff he or she is charged with, has the capacity and freedom to start the parade. It takes time, and it takes thoughtful, intentional measures. By allowing staff to pursue their passions, to feel trusted, and to be held to a high standard, they can do great things.
It’s not a traditional managerial style, but the results are more powerful as you are working from people’s passions.
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!
Over the next two days, our School Division is participating in the North Central Teachers’ Convention. www.mynctca.com. I have always liked convention as an opportunity to get together with colleagues, old and new and catch up on how things are going and to sit in on sessions and learn new ideas. I also like the collaborative discussion we have about education and things we have learned.
Teachers’ convention is just one of the opportunities to connect with others and participate in the discussion that leads to personal growth. The opportunity to connect, learn, debate, grow, and develop your personal learning network isn’t limited to convention or other traditional PD opportunities. Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media sites all help to engage us in the discussion and encourage the growth.
I still enjoy convention for that personal connection you make with people. I like the lunches, and the coffee chats. I like the occasional ‘sit & git’ delivery of knowledge, and the opportunity to add to my repertoire of tools. BUT, the deepest learning comes from the connections we make with others who either think the same way we do, or those that think completely differently. These discussions, coupled with reflective practice move us along our journey as learners and hopefully inspire us to pass the passion for learning along to others.