Another school year has started. We have some new staff, many new students, and with that a few new families represented. The school year has started smoothly, but it wouldn’t be a start up if there weren’t a few wrinkles to iron out. Hopefully though, that doesn’t last long.
Our school division has a new superintendent. Some people don’t embrace change, but I generally gain energy from change (however, not quite as much as I did in the first 75% of my teaching career!) I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to learn and grow with her, and to see the great things that are in store for our awesome school division.
I’m hoping my blog entries are a bit more frequent this year. Last year we ended with about 6 weeks of frenzied activity
as a few emergent things took up most of our time. I know we can never fully prepare for those kinds of things, but I’m looking forward with positivity to a year filled with learning for all!
One of the biggest lies we can tell ourselves is, “I can’t do this.” Even though I consider myself to be a very positive, optomistic person, I still fall into this trap sometimes. The work we do in schools is so important, and often very challenging. Everyday we are faced with a myriad of decisions and difficulties. The self talk that we engage in at these times is usually key to the outcome we experience.
It’s very easy to fall into a trap of focusing on the difficulty of each task, and the overwhelming scale of the entire job. The error in doing this is that when we are focusing on the problem we take the focus of our ability to deal with the problem. I know it’s very unlikely that I will encounter a situation that I haven’t handled in one way or another in the past. If I’ve dealt with it before, there’s no reason I can’t deal with it now.
The inner voice needs to say, “I CAN do this!” And, I know I can do it now, because I’ve done it before. The negative self-talk is just a trap.
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.
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
Leading a Learning Community is, to me, the second most exciting part of my job (second to establishing relationships).
I felt I have met the criteria by doing the following:
- When staff attend PD sessions, I encourage them to first of all connect with other teachers in the school who might be interested in attending as well, and if that isn’t possible, they need to connect with others in the division. Teachers know that I value the ability to collaborate and network around the learning that we are doing.
- Staff meetings are centered around learning and collaboration. We take time to learn together about effective instruction and our Leader in Me Program. The learning might also be around PowerSchool, Reporting, Assessment, IPP development or any number of other pertinent topics.
- Our School Motto – Everyone a Learner – Everyone a Leader, embodies this standard. I have worked to make sure that all staff know it, and remind them that that is the framework around which we operate.
- I value providing opportunities for teachers to grow and develop.
School Leadership Cohort
School Leadership Team
Promoting Division and ATA Leadership Opportunities
- Encourage and promote opportunities for students in the area of sports, the arts and music. All students need opportunity to do well, esp. if they are not traditionally academic learners.
- I make a strong effort to make time for Staff Collaboration time. In the past that has meant allotting either admin time or some teacher time to covering classes so teachers can collaborate. Currently we are using a large portion of our AIS PD budget to recognize the value and knowledge we have on staff to collaborate and design our own Literacy/Guided Reading. Leading a Learning community starts first with valuing the learning that happens in that community.
- Continuously share information through the use of email. The information comes from Twitter, blogs, magazines, books and from other people.
- Encourage and participate in a book study on the Daily 5. This is part of our focus on Guided Reading/Literacy with AISI.
- Currently three teachers on staff are working on their Masters’ Degree. This is encouraged and I take time to discuss learning that is happening with their programs.
- As Part of our Leader in Me Program. We encourage leaders in the community to talk to our students about learning to be leaders. This has included visits from our Central Office Senior Administration to talk about Leadership and share stories with the students.
A journal of what I am learning
I am excited to be part of Leadership20
I am networking with a group of amazing and aspiring school administrators who are learning together what it takes to EXCEL at the leaderships skills necessary to be a great Principal/Leader.
One of the things that I firmly believe and was reiterated in our beginning session is the power and importance of the relationship. I value this very much in my role at Bon Accord Community School. Our school has been working hard to improve its ability to communicate and listen to stakeholders. We have used our Facebook Page, and our PowerSchool Parent Portal in addition to traditional methods like our newsletter to let parents and other community members know what we are doing.
Our Leader in Me program has as a major component the community connection aspect. Leader in Me is one of the programs that really defines us, but I do feel that there is a component missing where schools that are working together can readily and frequently connect with each other in a meaningful and exciting way.
Leadership20 – In the last decade teaching has moved outside of the classroom to allow for collaboration and synergy. I think the same thing is beginning to happen with administrators. We have so much to learn and the opportunity to learn from others is vital. One of the greatest things that can happen is if we also learn HOW TO LEARN from each other!!