It’s been a while since we held the event. I have referred to it since it has been completed, but it was pointed out to me that I had never blogged about the actual day.
It took a bit of work to organize, but we are very glad we decided to implement this event. The students loved the opportunity to present themselves to the ‘world’! Most displays were student created, as was the expectation. Students were also very happy to talk about their displays to other students, staff members, parents and community members.
The day is a very powerful way to celebrate the uniqueness of each individual. We had great participation from all staff, and every student present had some sort of display. We conducted a survey after the day and found a lot of support, and received a few suggestions as to how to improve it. We will likely be doing one every other year.
We had a lot of help from Chris Wejr and the resources he provided. A big thank you to him and his (now former) school for their assistance!
I’ve been blogging for a few years, but starting last year I’ve learned to use a Blog as a powerful reflective tool. I don’t have a lot of followers or views, and usually don’t get a lot of comments (there have been a few exceptions). I don’t think I’m very good at expressing myself verbally, so I find that the blog serves two very strong purposes for me:
1. It provides me time and a forum to share my ideas. When I write a blog, I’ve usually spent some time thinking about my topic. And during the process of putting my ideas down on the computer, I find they coalesce into a shape that makes a lot more sense than if I just tried to verbalize them. The blog allows me to clarify my thoughts for myself and communicate them better with others.
2. The blog can be, and has been, used as a springboard to discussion with people; or as a reference when I want to share my thoughts with others. I have used my blog to help people understand my thinking around a topic, and then to further the discussion we are having.
I am pretty sure that the ability to clarify thinking and spend time in reflection about what to put into the blog really is the fuel that has resulted in the growth I have experienced as a leader over the last 14 months. I feel that I have been able to move forward in my growth as a leader and as a learner. In conversation with my superintendent she stated that she noticed some big leaps in my capacity as a leader and upon reflection I feel this to be a key reason.
For the personal growth I have experienced, alone, I won’t be giving up this practice. It is mainly for me; but a better me, makes for a better school.
One of the follow ups to Provincial Achievement Tests is the inevitable analysis of the data. Whether the results are good or bad, there are things that can be interpreted from the data. While I am not a fan of the Achievement Tests at all, I find they lead to some very important discussions. One of the likely quotes in those discussions is, “well, it was just that group of students!”. It is VERY easy to point to a group of kids and blame the results on them.
It is inevitable that each group has their own personality, and strengths. Anyone who has taught more than a year will not be able to disagree with that. Because each group is unique, they will no doubt have variances in their abilities in each outcome covered. And while it is true that we can point to the group and “blame’ them, I don’t agree that that should be our first line of thinking. Whenever we come across a student who has lagging skills or abilities in an area, we need to approach it as an opportunity to address the lagging skill.
When we see that our current class does not understand equality in Math, we need to change the approach we use to address that. What we are trying to do at our school, is take a team approach to those lagging skills in a group of students. That doesn’t mean we don’t still have people who blame the group, but we can answer them with, “What are we going to do about it?”
So, how can you address lagging skills? We like to rely on the resident experts. We have one teacher who is very well trained in math and was responsible for providing Division Professional Development a few years ago when the new curriculum in math came out. She does a stellar job in her own class in all areas, but is a math resource person for everyone. We also have some teachers who have specialized literacy or Special Ed training.
Not everyone is fully on board for a team approach, but to quote George Couros, “The smartest person in the room, is the room!” I firmly belive that and have been trying to lead using that philosophy ever since I heard it.
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.
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
As I continue to think about the Principal Quality Standards and the ways I work to develop these in my life, I am thrilled with the power in taking time to reflect. I am finding the Leadership20 webinar and group to be a provocation to continue the growth. I love to hear the things that are going on in other schools, other divisions, other provinces, and even in other countries. I love the feeling of gratification when I see or hear someone doing something similar to what I have undertaken, and am grateful for the challenge of working towards those areas that I think I need to improve.
Our staff is going to be embarking on its first book study in my time at the school. We have decided that we have to have similar understanding of our AISI initiative around literacy and guided reading. Our implementation of that program has meant a number of great things:
- Opportunity to embark on a project that we ALL feel is extremely important and valuable
- Time taken to state our core values around literacy and what it looks like at BACS
- Development of a vision for our literacy program
- Undertaking a book study around the Daily 5
- Developing a literacy room as an Auxiliary of our School Library
- Hopefully lots more to come as we are just starting on this!
I feel that I have met this criteria by doing the following:
- I know that all people have leadership potential. This leadership will look different depending on the person and the situation.
- Developing a vision is of utmost importance. We recently reworked our school’s vision as a Leader in Me School. Our new vision is:
Strengthening Our Community
- Working with students, parents, and staff and clarifying with them the vision of the school. When we developed our new mission and vision we took time to collaborate around the things we really value. If we make our vision based on what we truly believe, it will guide our thinking about how we do things, and align our planning and goal setting.
- Through our Divisional Three Year Education Planning process, we worked with students, staff, and parents to understand our strengths, along with our areas growth. This was a collaborative endeavour that was well received by the school community. The results of this document are listed on the Sturgeon School Division Website.
- I have worked hard to include parents and staff of school initiatives that are based on current and future school community needs through open communication. This has included communication through monthly newsletters, as well as using a conversational media through the Bon Accord School FaceBook page..
- We take opportunity to celebrate the things we do as a school. Our assemblies are celebrations and we invite parents to attend and celebrate with us. I believe that the school needs to function as, and think of itself as a family. This has been shown in posts discussing the school assemblies, participation in events like the Terry Fox Run and the Sturgeon Cross Country Run, Concerts, etc.
- A visionary leader shares and communicates the vision with all stakeholders. I make it a habit to regularly talk about the goals we have as a school. This might look like an informal discussion in the staffroom, part of a staff meeting, a parent council meeting, or even a discussion with students.
- I like to share leadership information and invite others on staff and outside of the staff to share in leadership information and opportunities that I think are valuable. There are those on staff that can be promoted in their journey by encouragement, sharing information, and mentoring. I take that role very seriously.
- I take time to research current and recurrent topics that come up including:
- Full Day Kindergarten
- Reporting To Parents
- Assessment practices
We are working on getting better/more permanent versions of these signs (below) made: