I am just starting my PGP meetings with teachers today. Every year I try to do a better job of helping make the PGPs the teachers complete living documents that will help them in their journey. I talk about PGPs quite a bit, and it comes up every time we talk about our PLCs. Our PLCs are based on the goals that come up in the PGPs. Teachers are given time to discuss their goals as a group ahead of time, and this has resulted in a lot of alignment between teachers. This year, more than ever.
We are also talking about the things we accept as evidence of student learning. Teachers have been asked to be mindful of this as they crafted their PGPs and as they work together in their PLCs.
As I have been thinking about maximizing the PGP meetings, I decided to use a Google form that I would complete during the meetings to gather evidence for myself that these things were addressed. I have narrowed the meeting down to only three questions.
The Form provides opportunity for me to select each teacher and then fill in the appropriate information for each question.
It’s quite simple, but I think the questions are the important ones. I’ve emailed the teachers the three questions ahead of time so they are ready for them when they come into the meeting. This is a screenshot of the questions in the form.
(Kerri is my VP)
As we focus on evidence of student learning, I’m focusing on gathering evidence of teachers gathering evidence.
In Alberta parents, teachers and students are surveyed annually to determining their thoughts on various aspects of the school, division and overall educational system. These survey results are made available in the spring for the schools to analyze and determine action that needs to be taken.
In our school, only grade 4 parents are surveyed and the number who respond can vary, but generally not many respond. It would be easy to say that because of the low numbers of respondents, that the information is not valid. All it takes, in a small group is for a couple of people with an axe to grind, to skew the results in a negative direction.
This year, we had generally good results. There was one area that came out quite a bit lower than last year. On the report is shows up as ‘declined significantly’. There were other areas that the numbers went down somewhat as well. So, do we blame this on a few disgruntled people?
It would be very easy to do so. However, the data is still data – skewed or not. We haven’t been doing a good job of communicating some things to parents, or in responding to the concerns they have. Even if it is a few people, it needs to be on our radar. We are accountable to all the parents; so that means we have things to think about.
We value communication and involving parents, so we need to think about new and/or better ways to do that.
This portion of the video has to do with relationships and making change.
Over the last few years I’ve had some thoughts coalescing around how best to use our teachers’ Professional Growth Plans. I’ve struggled for a few years as to how to make the PGP not just a piece of paper that teachers have to fill in at the beginning of the year to fulfill an expectation. I have tried to do things like:
- incorporate mid year meetings to reassess the progress
- allow groups of teachers to establish a group PGP
- ask informal questions throughout the year around PGP goals
While these things have had some effect, and have increased awareness and teacher efficacy around their professional growth, I have never felt that I’ve ‘gotten through’ before. This year I’ve proposed a different approach to teachers and I am getting feedback that is making me think I might be heading in the right direction. As I wrap my mind around how this is playing out, I’ve found that a bit of alliteration has fallen into place. The following are coming together to make this seem like it might work.
- Professional Growth Plans – taking an approach I have used in the past, I have encouraged teachers to work as a group to develop a professional growth plan. I did not dictate (as I never do) what they would look at putting in their plan, but I did encourage them to look for goals that they as a grade level might be interested in pursuing together. So far two of the grade levels have handed in joint PGPs, and one grade level has handed in two sets, with a pair of teacher in each working on the same goals. This first step is all about using the power of the team which increases engagement and accountability.
- Professional Learning Communities – When asked by two of my teachers on separate occasions what they would be dictated to work on in their PLCs this year, I was a little taken aback. To me, what the teachers work on in their PLCs should, with little guidance, be an organic process. The work done, needs to be work that the group sees as important.
- As a division, we have embraced Excellence in Teaching as a Value. I have no doubt that the teachers are striving for that all the time, and given the power will do what they can to proceed in that direction.
- As administrators in Sturgeon School Division, we are looking at the best practices around PLCs and how to ensure they are productive, and work toward our values. The discussions I have had with the teachers ensure they are aware of the values we hold, and have shown me that they are on board.
- By tasking the PLCs to work on goals set in their Professional Growth Plans, they have now understood the intentionality of the goals they have made and will be revisiting them each time they meet as a PLC group.
- Professional Development – the third piece of the alliterative puzzle is PD. In the last few years the concept of PD has shifted from an activity we do outside of the building in a room with a speaker. PD now encompasses the very powerful practice of getting together as professionals and having conversations around practice and learning. The PLC has become one very potent professional development practice. When an entire group of people is working toward the same goals, PD becomes easier to plan in a traditional sense as well. Teachers working toward the same goals will be interested in learning and applying the PD they have participated in.
In actuality, all three Ps are one and the same. the professional growth plan drives the PD of the PLC. As long as we are willing to accept the POWER of a group of teachers getting together to discuss practice, we can have PD anytime, anywhere.
So, I’m a very calm person. Very few people have seen me angry – ever. I had an incident recently, that when I shared with people was generally met with disbelief. The way I reacted taught me quite a bit about not just myself, but how people in general deal with stressful situations. The most important lesson is how I need to seek to understand others.
It started when I had to deal with a number of ‘poor choices’ other drivers were making. I generally just shake my head or mutter under my breath, but always try to keep in mind that people are people, and I have no idea what they are dealing with. However, one incident that day really sent me over the edge. I was in a parking lot in front of a box store, and I saw a couple of very young boys about to cross from the sidewalk in front of the stores into the parking lot. I stopped, not too suddenly; but the young woman behind me started honking. Well, I couldn’t believe that she either couldn’t see the kids, or wouldn’t stop to think for 2 seconds about why I might be stopping. My patience for her dissipated immediately and I am embarrassed to admit that, to put it bluntly, gave her the finger.
After the kids crossed in front of me, I kept driving, but was very upset with her lack of patience. As we continued through the parking lot, she remained behind me. When I pulled up to the stop sign to pull out onto the street, I looked in my mirror and she was checking her cell phone – All patience was gone!
I put my emergency brake on and jumped out of my car to give her a piece of my mind. I was angry and she needed to know what I thought of her. Well, to my disbelief, she wouldn’t roll her window down so I could tell her. I finally just signaled to her to not use her cell phone, and stormed back to my car and drove off.
It took me about a minute to start feeling really stupid about what I had done. Once I had totally settled down I started thinking about the poor example I had been to my two sons who were in the car with me. I talked to them about it, and put up a public apology in FaceBook, as I had no way of apologizing to the young woman.
As I think back on the incident, I am reminded of the times I have to deal with angry students or parents. My first reaction is usually to try to reason with them. And being a generally long-suffering person, I find it difficult to empathize with people in that state. My own reaction to this incident has given me a bit of a view of what others go through. When someone is upset, they need time to calm down before they can be reasoned with. I need to be patient during that time.
As leaders in schools we really need to model patience and understanding, a trait which I think I usually do very well. Obviously, though I’m not totally there yet, and am continually learning. It’s great that we can all learn from our own mistakes.
Pressed from Darcy Mullin
Seven members of our school staff and one parent are attending a two day Leader in Me Symposium at the University of Alberta today and tomorrow. I am looking forward to hearing lots about what they learned and excited about the energy they are sure to bring back. We are on our second year of being a Leader in Me School.
Since starting the program we have really been working on empowering our students with opportunities for finding their own leadership abilities and providing opportunities for them to continue to develop those skills. Depending on the classroom and the teacher, students are provided with varying amounts of time to express their abilities in areas of strength and areas in which they need growth. One of the Principal Quality Standards in Alberta is, “Developing and Facilitating Leadership“. For me, it did not initially occur to me that that could also apply to our students.
Throughout the process we have learned a number of things. Even if a school isn’t a Leader in Me school, the following would apply.
- Everyone is a leader – and basically in every situation. How we behave and react to others should be an example to follow. With this mindset we need to be on our best behavior!
- Everyone needs a push once in a while. Staff, students and parents are all capable of stepping up when the need is there. Some need a bit of a nudge, but many just need opportunity. Schools need to be set up so people have opportunity to proved leadership. That might look like students clubs, student greeters, students doing announcements, parent opportunity to volunteer, student volunteers, etc. The list could go on and on and on!
- Everyone responds better to a common goal. If a Mission or Vision or motto or whatever you use to guide your organization is only a plaque on the wall, it is useless. We have made our motto into something that EVERYONE in the school knows. (Everyone a Learner; Everyone a Leader). Our Vision, (Lifelong Leaders, Lifelong Learners, Strengthening our Community) is also known by almost everyone. Make the goal of the organization known and then use it to guide you along.
- Everyone is important!! The word “community” in our Vision is very important to us. We work to make our community a better place. That can’t happen without the community involved in the school, and the school involved in the community. As a K-4 school, there’s not opportunity for work experience, but we can do our part to help clean the community, visit and learn about the community and host community events. Our school has really been working on living up to it’s name (Bon Accord Community School)
We are on a journey and we are fortunate the the middle school in our small town is also a Leader in Me School. Students are encouraged all along the way to be Leaders and develop their skills. Staff are working on developing their own leadership skills and growing with the students.
EVERYONE A LEARNER; EVERYONE A LEADER