Alberta’s Framework for Education (education.alberta.ca/media/6581166/framework.pdf) outlines a path to take our students on to allow them to become engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial spirit. As I am nearing the end of my Professional Growth plan meetings with teachers we have all agreed that student engagement is the observable behaviour I need to be looking for to looking for while I am in classrooms and having conversations with teachers afterwards.
I have spent quite a few hours looking for research on student engagement and what it looks like in lower grade level classrooms. I have come up with a few good ideas, but what I have had clearly reaffirmed to me is that student engagement can look like a lot of different things depending on a number of factors.
I think there is one thing that I have very clearly learned anew, however. Engagement is something that has to be allowed to happen. In many classrooms, the lessons are not set up to allow for engagement. When all activities and responses are dictated, I strongly feel that students won’t be allowed to engage in the learning in a meaningful way. Real engagement can only occur when students can interact with what they are learning on a creative level that gives them opportunity to delve into the information. They have to have opportunity to play with the information much like they would when creating using modelling clay or building blocks.
Engagement won’t look like a group of students all sitting quietly doing the same thing. It will look more like a group of students working at tearing apart and rebuilding information in various ways and on different levels.
I would really appreciate some feedback on these thoughts and what other people are doing as they look for engagement in the classrooms they are responsible for.
I will be presenting about Blogging, and to some degree Twitter at our January 31st PD Day. A panel of teachers from Sturgeon will be talking about Social Media in the schools. I am glad to see this session being offered, and am excited to be able to be presenting what I have learned so far about Twitter and Blogging. I thought as a lead up to that presentation, I would try to start formulating my thoughts around the value of the blog as an administrative and teaching tool.
I have had a few different blogs over the years, but I find this one, which I use for personal reflection and as my professional growth plan to be the most effective and empowering iteration. I enjoy the opportunity to share what is going on professionally with the opportunity for others to question, provide feedback, provide encouragement, and hopefully move others forward as well.
I definitely owe a lot of the progress I have made in the social media direction to Twitter. It was Twitter that connected me with leaders who are at some point of the same journey as myself. We are seeking to move forward in a world that is changing quickly and causing us to respond in the way we see as the most appropriate. Twitter connected me with the Leadership20 webinar series that motivated me to start this blog.
Blogging forces me to think clearly about what I am doing to make change happen. That alone is very important, but when people I work with read it, It leads to great discussions about leadership and change. Discussions about leadership styles and role of the leader and the follower in moving an organization forward. Blogging allows for and encourages reflective thinking in the writer and the reader
Putting your thoughts on an open platform is powerful and risky. Some of the responses cause me to question the reasons why I write what I do, some cause me to think further about what I have communicated, and some cause me to totally change my mind. I love having discussions; not debates, because that’s about winning and losing. If my thoughts, which I have put out there for the world to see, cause anyone else to think about their practice, or help them to question mine, that is a great thing.
Using a blog as a portfolio of your professional growth is an incredible tool. Placing your proof of growth and change on a public venue really makes one take responsibility for their own development in a way a file in a desk drawer that isn’t visible can do.
One byproduct of blogging is that it shows the value I place on using tools that connect me with current 21st Century (although I dislike that term) tools. Blogging can be used in many different ways in the school and in the classroom. I have a few teachers using a blog to communicate with parents about what is going on in class, but they are also being used as lesson planning tools, sub planning tools, and tools to connect with other classrooms around the world.
These are just my initial thoughts around blogging and what I might present on January 31st, I don’t have a lot of time allotted, but want to get the idea across that blogging is a great tool for teachers and administrators to use.
Leadership20 – in our last session Pat Bohnet talked about admin giving teachers the gift of time. Things are busy. We all know that in addition to teaching, there’s lots of other things on our plates.
We need to do what we can as leaders to respect the time of teachers, and to make time a gift we give to them. These are some of the things that I am doing. (Number two doesn’t get done nearly as much as I would like)
- Whenever possible allocate subs that aren’t being used to another classroom. I am not talking about preps. There are times when a sub is in for one of us as Administrators that we aren’t in the class. Survey the needs of the teachers and provide those that could use an extra block to get caught up, or to provide in class help where needed.
- Offer to take a class. We don’t have time to do this everyday, but doing something like this once in a while would go a long way in recognizing the value of the classroom teacher.
- Allocate resources with this in mind. I am using some of the AISI money we were given as schools to allow teachers to collaborate around Literacy. (Our project is around Literacy and Guided Reading). I am not sure how far it will go, but I hope to be able to do this about 6 times throughout the year.
- Keep meetings as short as possible. My goal is to have the administration/report giving the shortest part of staff meeting. I don’t want to hear myself drone on, I can’t imagine anyone else enjoying it at all.
- Balance ideas around Shared Leadership with a “IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME” philosophy. Don’t expect anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.
- Never lose track of what it’s like in the classroom. We have to take time to be in the classroom, not just observing, but taking classes once in a while.
- Take time to celebrate. Be with your staff, listen to their stories and share stories with them. Greet staff and let them know you have time for them.
- Work Smarter – do you need to have a meeting? Do you need to send that email? Don’t waste people’s time with information that they have to sort through only to find it doesn’t pertain to them.
- Keep looking for time wasting activities. Last year we found that we added a LOT of great things to the end of the year, but May and June ended up being way more stressful just because there were so many interruptions.
- Listen… what are teachers saying? What activities are taking too much time? What activities do they need more time for. Make it so that they can do their job, and get out of the way so great things can happen.
Time is a precious commodity – show that you value teachers by respecting the time they share with students.
I very much enjoyed our last Leadership20 webinar that addressed Instructional Leadership. There were a lot of things discussed that I agreed with, and was in fact doing. I went back to check through my blog and the entries that referenced this particular Principal Quality Standard. There were none other than my Professional Growth Plan entry on the topic.
One of the tings that came up in the webinar was getting into classrooms. I do try to get into every classroom every day, but they are usually brief visits. This year I have tried to get in a lot more. Particularly in Grade one. One of the grade one classes has an EA in the morning but not in the afternoon. I try to pop in to that classroom and help out whenever I can. There are a couple of students that can really benefit from one-on-one time and when the teacher is by herself, she just can’t get to every student. By being there, I am offering a bit of help, but I am gaining insight into what it takes to be a grade one teacher. It’s a grade level I have never taught – other than music.
I have also filled in in another grade one class, rather than call a substitute teacher for an afternoon. I really enjoyed doing this and in discussion with the teacher decided that I would come in and observe her teaching language arts to the class, and possibly do a lesson myself.
Last night on Twitter, @Scareysci (Scott Carey) provided this quote – “Instructional Leadership = Learning alongside our staff”
This struck me as the summary of the approach I have been working on and want to take with my staff. They have much to teach me – as Instructional Leader, I need to
- Observe great practice and be able to share it
- Show my own willingness to learn
- Model good practice when I can
- Be able to point people in the direction they need when necessary
- Offer feedback on what I see going on in the classrooms
I think the term Instructional Learner might be a better appellation than Instructional Leader.
Everyone a Leader
Everyone a Learner
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.
So many great ideas shared by Vicki Davis.
Who can I change? ME, and only Me!
We need to be transformers, not transmitters
Teach and Model digital citizenship
Kids are Great BS Detectors
Our children are not numbers!
There were so many great ideas and thoughts. I hadn’t intended to watch this this morning, but when I was checking my Twitter I saw the link and clicked on it, mostly because I wanted to see how the link would open up. Would it be in Twitter or open in a browser? It opened up right in Twitter, and after watching about 20 seconds I was hooked and had to watch the whole thing.
First I am amazed that I was able to connect to a livestream of the keynote, and secondly that I was awake early enough on a Saturday to do that.
This kind of learning needs to be more common with all our teachers. We all have the ability to connect this way, and the only way we can get this to others is to model the impact it has on us. I can change the way I use it in front of others and show them my excitement and growth because of the connections I make in my PLN.
My only problem now is, there is another livestream from the conference coming up right away – I have things to do!!
Here’s to a great start to a Saturday!
As a participant in the #Leadership20 online learning course, I am working on my digital portfolio – a big thank you to George Couros who is encouraging all of us to venture into this technological opportunity. Examining our own achievement of these standards is a great reflective opportunity. My format is based largely on what George has done in his portfolio.
There are seven standards that Alberta Principals are expected to achieve. Placing them in a digital format allows for evidence to be linked to the standard; and it’s the evidence that is key to the portfolio.
1. Fostering Effective Relationships
I believe that I have met that criteria by doing the following:
- I believe in the importance of working and having fun with students to build great rapport and strong relationships.
- I Work to develop strong relationships with students, staff, and parents. Open communication is very important and I have worked to develop the Bon Accord Community School Website, Bon Accord Community School FaceBook Page along with editing and contributing to the Bon Accord School Newsletter and contributing to the Sturgeon Spotlight on behalf of our school.
- I build strong relationships with our School Council and have helped them to communicate their school involvement through the use of the school website and school Facebook Page, along with doing informal presentations on Leader in Me as a way of informing them of Leadership opportunities in our school.
- A request was given to the BACS Parent Council in request for funds to facilitate implementation of Leader in Me for year two. Instead of simply asking for an allocation of funds from parent council, we ensured our vision for the plan. We have made sure that parents are included in this process and are working to increase their involvement in the continued implementation.
- BACS has hosted a Pasta Supper for the last 5 years for Parents, students and staff. This was organized by staff as a way to connect with parents and students in the school. This was a great opportunity to welcome our students back to school, while also getting to know families on a more personal level.
- I work with students to become strong citizens in the community and take responsibility for their actions. I also believe that all members of the school community can be Leaders, and I, as well as my staff have shared that through the newsletters, our agenda and most communication with parents.
- I am open to feedback and improvement from all stakeholders to deliver the best opportunities for our students. Parent, staff, and student input is highly valued. When our current three year plan was being developed, opportunity was given to discuss the future of the division and BACS as a community group. Through development of our Three Year Plan, Community and Parent involvement was encouraged and accepted.
- Promote work/life balance with myself and my staff.