It’s already the third day with students here in Sturgeon School Division. Things are under way, and it’s been a great beginning. We’ve managed to figure out those problems around scheduling that almost always arise. I’ve got a new VP and she’s a hard worker, and knows her way around. The teachers are GREAT, and they’ve got the classrooms under control.
There’s always a buzz at the beginning of the year, and hopfully over the next few days, I’ll have some time to reflect on my own Professional Growth and what I want to accomplish this year.
Here’s to another great year!!
The Sturgeon School Division Admin group is meeting in PLC groups we have formed. Most schools are working in small groups with other admin teams on topics they have chosen. In my case my VP and I are working together in our own PLC to address the learning that is currently going on in our school; which has many of our staff are working in PLCs that focus on increasing student understanding by using a guided math focus.
PLCs at Landing Trail have been challenged to look for evidence of improved student learning as they progress through their own PLCs, and to reflect on what is working and what isn’t. PLCs at the schools meet at least once a month at days set aside for staff meetings and Professional Development at the schools. We consider one of the most important PD activities we do to be the work we complete in our PLCs.
We have had many conversations with staff already about the role of gathering data in our practice to help inform us about what we are doing and what changes we may need to make. Staff are now walking into my office to show me data that would speak to the fact that student learning is being impacted. It is becoming part of the conversations that we have.
This morning at Admin PD time, I was able to consider how we as admin collect the data we decided we need to obtain. There are many things we have put in place already because we have turned to being a data informed school in all areas. There is a lot of data that has been gathered and there are protocols set in place to continue gathering data as we move along. There are a few areas that we have to consider if we want to ensure we are getting data from all sources. Are we sure we have student voice in our data sources? What’s the best way to make sure we are cognizant of the parent feedback in the gathering of data?
We will have opportunity to present our story and journey at an April admin council meeting, and I am excited about that. We have done a lot of impactful things already, and I look forward to the great things that we will continue to encounter as we continue on this journey forward.
We are in the process of determining staff assignments for next year. Part of the puzzle is always fitting in the part time people and adjusting for people on leave or retirement. As I am in a bigger school this year, there are even more pieces of the puzzle to fit in. It’s challenging, and with all the components, something that is taking a long time to sort out. I think I have it figured out and I either change my mind on something, or someone’s situation changes. I do enjoy the opportunity to be creative and think about ways of solving the ‘problem’.
So much of what we do requires that we be in creative mode. This is a job where there are many rules and policies that guide our decision making, but there are still plenty of opportunities to approach issues in different ways.
I know school administration is just one of many careers that require this kind of creative mindset. So many careers involve creativity of some kind. In many ways, that’s what separates a job from a career. I believe that that is one of the things we need to keep in mind as we move our students forward and prepare them for their adult lives and careers.
In Alberta we have the 3 Es for our students – Engaged Learners who are Ethical citizens with an Entrepreneurial Spirit. I can’t think of a way to engage students to be entrepreneurs without infusing creativity into the expectations we have for them. We need to set up our ‘classroom’ environments in such a way as to encourage creativity. Students need to be discoverers. They need opportunity to explore their world and have a chance to think about things in different ways. They need to ask questions and find answers to them on their own.
I love many of the things that are going on in education – Inquiry Based learning, MakerSpaces, Learning Commons, etc. All of these are opening the doors to new ways of thinking about learning and ways that we acquire knowledge.
I look forward to working to ensure this happens. I know it’ll require some creativity on my part to see it through!
I was asked, as a principal with some experience, to share some wisdom with the new principals in Sturgeon School Division. This year we have a lot of schools with new principals and a few with new principals and vice principals. Those of use who have a few years of experience have been asked to provide a video of what we have learned and would like to pass on to those just starting out. This video is the first of three I will be posting over the next while.
I am in a new school this year, so I refer to that in the video (just to provide some context) – and forgive me for the ridiculous expression in the photo grab before the video is played!
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.
Over the last few years, in addition to lots of other great things, we’ve developed a new mission and vision. This has helped move me to spend considerable time thinking about how to implement both my own vision and our school vision. A necessary part of the process is putting systems in place to make that happen. I decided near the end of the last school year that the way we utilized our staff teams at school just wasn’t working. We now have a:
- School Leadership Team
- Lighthouse Team
- Seven Habits Certification Team
- Staff Wellness Team
The first three teams have been in place for the last two years, and the school leadership team has been around for quite a while. The wellness team is new this year.
I knew that the teams weren’t necessarily doing all that they could to make our school function more efficiently and have the best overall benefit for students, staff and community. I made a change in two ways. Firstly I changed the composition of each of the teams. The second change was around the role of each team.
The Leadership team is now composed of The school admin, counselor and anyone on staff involved in the Divisional Leadership cohort or is working on their Master’s Degree. I also added a support staff member to allow room for that voice in our decision making. This team added the task of planning our school based PD activities. Our division is allowing school control of PD for both professional and support staff to a much higher degree. While we are glad to have this control, we decided that the process must be undertaken carefully and with a mind to benefit us in the greatest way possible. Our team continues to work on its roles in
Leadership as well PD Planning and implementation. We will refine our process and skill in this area.
Both the Lighthouse and Certification teams are directly tied to the Seven Habits Program we are part of. We have worked together with our sister school, (Lilian Schick School) where we send our grade 4 students to for grades 5 – 9. The teams work to implement the program in our schools and train our new staff and parents about the program. Changes made in these teams have resulted in a clarity of what each team needs to do, as well as tasking them with keeping the program moving forward. These roles too, are still being developed, and the need for establishing clear goals continues to be a focus.
The Wellness team is new this year. We all know that there is stress in our job and being mindful of that, I decided it was important to have a committee specifically designated to “address the stress”. We try to have a monthly activity in which whoever can attend is welcome. Putting a committee like this together demonstrates the value in staff relationships and collegiality.
Being mindful in putting together teams that move the school in a desired direction was, in my opinion, a good idea. We are making progress. We are moving forward.
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!