Tagged: learning

The Impact of the Polar Vortex

It’s been an unusual few days in Alberta. The cold weather has definitely been the focus of most conversations. I can’t recall too many times that buses have not run in Sturgeon for two days in a row. The last two days with no buses saw the lowest student turnout we’ve ever had on those days. Today, most buses are running, but we still are way down in student turnout.
Part of this is also due to the fact we have Teachers’ Convention for the next few days, and I’m sure some parents decided to not send their children in for just one day of school.

It’s difficult to get academic work done on these days. We don’t cover new topics, but I know that teachers do work with small groups, and work to get those that are here caught up on work that may have been missed.

The disruption to routine has its impacts, but we do get a bit more time to collaborate, and potentially tackle tasks that have been needing attention. We get to spend more one on one time with those students that are here. We get to complain about the weather!

Stuff happens here. And even on days when the routine is completely disrupted, we still learn, we still grow as educators, and we still work to build those relationships with our students.

I’m looking forward to the end of this cold snap, but in the meantime… we press on.

D Propp

Number Sense Can’t be Taught

I’ve been on a learning journey around math and how students develop and understanding of numeracy.

I haven’t used my blog to talk about my learning very much this year, as I’m not using it for my Professional Growth Plan. However, I’ve decided I need to keep documenting my learning and use this site as more of an eportfolio.

So, do update what I’ve been doing

  1. Investigation into math diagnostics
    1. Decided to purchase Leaps and Bounds for our grade 1-4 classes
    2. Grade 4 classes using Mathletics
    3. Purchase “Mind the Gap” for K-2, and 3-4 to assist teachers with the task of diagnosing and teaching to fill in the gaps in understanding that our students may have.
  2. PD
    1. Math PD from ERLC – Supporting Struggling students in mathematics (October 22)
    2. Early Childhood Education Conference
      1. attended math sessions around manipulatives and games to support learning
    3. Admin council session on analyzing Provincial Achievement tests.
    4. Worked with Math teachers from Gibbons School in examining their PAT results
    5. Lots of online research on numeracy and the development of numerical understanding, including this linked video by Ch which really helps to encapsulate the need for making sure our youngest students are  Developing Number Sense.
  3. PLCs
    1. My VP and I have been participating in our grade level PLCs which focus on goals the teachers have chosen. However, we have directed them in some activities. One of the first things was to look at results of the MIPI which measures students understanding of math concepts.
      1. the analysis of these results led to some plans to address lack of understanding in certain areas.
      2. We were involved in some rich discussions about what areas were lacking and what we could/should do about those gaps.
    2. PLCs have also been asked to participate in learning sprints for Nov-Jan. Three of our grade levels chose to look at math concepts for the sprints. I am looking forward to the progress that is made. I will definitely post our learning when we get a chance to analyze the results.

One thing that has been affirmed to me can be summarized in this quote by Christina Tondevold.

Number Sense Can’t be Taught. 
It’s Caught!

D Propp

A New Passion

I’ve revamped my Professional Growth Plan this year. I will working on instructional leadership in the area of math. Specifically around looking at the data to find the gaps in students’ understanding of mathematical concepts.

Our school has already started on a few processes to help move us forward in this area. We administered the MIPI at the beginning of the year to help us with our understanding of where each student is at in their journey to mathematical competence. We spent time analyizing group and individual results in our grade level PLCs, as well as looking across grade levels and what areas might be better supported as students move up in grades.

We have purchased Nelson’s Leaps and Bounds and are looking forward to the diagnostic and remediation support that it offers. The program is being used in other Alberta schools, and from what I can tell, is a great resource in supporting students who are experiencing gaps in their understanding. We are also trying out Mathletics in our grade 4 classes to allow for ongoing diagnostic assessment of all of those students.

On Monday, I attended a Professional Development session offered through the ERLC entitled “Math Strategies for Struggling Students”. The session offered, not only ideas for math activities, but looked into the gaps in students’ understanding around specific concepts and the kinds of activities that might be necessary to support them in their learning.

And lastly (at this point), I’ve acquired two books by Jon SanGiovanni, entitled Mine the Gap For Mathematical Understanding, which offer strategies for finding and addressing the gaps in understanding for students.

I am really looking forward to working with my staff on this journey to better meet the needs of all students as they move along on their journey of mathematical understanding.

D Propp

Back At It

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

IMG_8524

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!

Darryl Propp

It’s a TRAP!

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.

I_can_iStock_000079238563_Double
D Propp

When Passion has an Impact

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.

IMG_2038

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.

D Propp

Learning in the Trenches

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

  1. Observe great practice and be able to share it
  2. Show my own willingness to learn
  3. Model good practice when I can
  4. Be able to point people in the direction they need when necessary
  5. 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

Darryl Propp