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.
Today we did our first all staff PD. We had some PD days before school started, but groups were involved in different activities. Today, we talked about two important things
- NME (Neurosequential Model in Education)
- What we need to look for as we continue our journey as learning educators – which is what I’m blogging about.
We have a number of great things going on in our school. We chose a few to discuss.
- Guided Reading – this initiative developed Division Wide as a program based on research from all around the world about best practices in teaching student fluency, decoding and comprehension. Everyone is trained in this, and it is being implemented in all of our classes.
- Guided Math – this developed from a few interested teachers last year, who asked permission to try it out. This year most of our classes are implementing it, and the original crew will be presenting it at our annual teachers’ convention.
- Technology – Technology has become ubiquitous in schools and in society. It isn’t something separate we teach, but it’s a tool that engages and enhances our ability to increase learning in students.
- MakerSpaces – we have only dabbled in this so far. Our discussion focused on the ability to allow students to engage in problem solving and be creators of their own learning. It definitely addresses the Entrepreneurial Spirit aspect of the Ministerial Order. The MakerSpace was brought in by the division and we were one of the schools to pilot it last year. We are working on getting our own set up.
- Empowering Writers – this program, is admittedly more prescriptive, but it addresses a missing piece of the literacy program. It gives teachers a springboard to a way of approaching the task of teaching our students to become writers and to engage in other’s writing. It could be said this program seeped into our school. Many people have attended PD on it over the last few years, and that has continued to spark interestin the program.
So, those are some of the areas teachers are working on at Landing Trail. The questions are:
- How do we know these are impacting student learning?
- What do we accept as evidence of improved student learning?
I posed these questions to teachers today. We had set up the day so that each topic would have time to meet for interested parties to get together and discuss the questions and decide how they would work together as a PLC. The PLCs will function throughout the year with these in mind. We have to have student learning as a focus, and we have to have data that backs up our claim that what we are doing is impacting student learning.
One other topic I presented to the staff was the list of Principal Quality Guidelines. I felt it was important that they know that one of the roles I and my VP have is to be instructional leaders. We are tasked with the learning that goes on in the school. It’s a big responsibility, but having a staff willing to learn, take risks, and learn from mistakes makes the job a whole lot easier!
Sometimes I get these great ideas! Well, to me they’re great… I’m sure most of them, if not all, have been had by others before. So, I was talking to some other administrators at our latest Admin PD (which was about powerful PLCs). I was sharing some of the things we are doing at Landing Trail School and how PLCs are tied to the Professional Growth Plans, and the PD we engage in is based on the goals in our PGPs. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the tangible evidence I am looking for in classrooms in relation to the goals the teachers are working on is engagement. My most recent blog detailed some of the learning I have had around student engagement and what I think it should look like.
My main idea around student engagement is that there has to be opportunity for students to really work with the information. That will likely appear as the opportunity to tear the information apart and rebuild or apply it in some manner. After spending the morning discussing PLCs and the role we play in ensuring they are productive and centred around improving student learning, I was struck with my ‘aha moment’. We expect teachers to be learning and moving forward in PLCs the same way we expect students to be doing in the classroom. Why should we not have our minds turned to the idea of teacher engagement in our PLCs as well?
Our PLCs should contain opportunity to really engage with the goals they have set. They need to have the tools and environment to really dig into the learning they are expected to do.
So, my task becomes clearer – I am a coordinator of engagement. One of my main jobs as an instructional leader is to ensure an environment where both students and teachers are engaged in the learning that they are doing. Sound easy?
Uh….. nope! But imagine the great things that can happen when everyone is engaged in the job they have!!
Well, we are just days away from another school year. Today was spent meeting with the staff and small groups to set up programs and plan for the great things we do to make this a wonderful place for learning. Our numbers are holding steady, and hopefully we get a few more registrations before or on September 3rd, when the students roll in. I look forward to meeting the students from last year and all the new faces. I look forward to learning from them and from my network of leaders. I look forward to blogging about my learning again and using my blog as my professional growth plan. It’s going to be a great year.
We had opportunity today to revisit some commitments we made last year to the quality and practice around math in our school. Today we talked about ways we can measure our achievement of the commitments we made. It’s no value to make goals and have no way of measuring them. We had talked about three things that we were going to commit to, but we decided to only look for measure to two of them at this point, the third will come later.
Tomorrow we will be revisiting some goals we made around school culture. We have a very good culture at our school, but unless it is worked on, it can’t move forward or even be maintained. We are going to use the same process and talk about how we will measure the achievement of the commitments we have made.
Goals are important, but setting lofty goals won’t help anyone unless there’s a way to measure progress and recognize the achievement. I appreciate the effort the staff has put into place in these areas, and look forward to another great year at Bon Accord Community School. (GO BEARS!!)
photo from Flickr Creative Commons
There are only two weeks left in school. Not a great time to be sick, but I’ve missed a couple of days this week and am definitely not at full energy. There are some things that I should have completed this week, that won’t be done until next week. Just keep piling it on!!
If you’ve been following my blog at all, you know that it has served as my professional growth plan for the year. I have found it to allow for a very reflective, evidence based approach to the growth from this year. One unintended impact has been that although my growth plan stated two of the Principal Quality Standards as focused goals, I have been able to link to every aspect of the PQS and show the evidence of thinking and learning in all of them. I know that this has been going undocumented since I began in administration, but the evidence is clear in those areas, now.
I would have to say that the Standard of Providing Instructional Leadership has set me up to really think about how to continue on this goal for next year. I have begun to think about how I can continue to grow in this area. I know that by making this an area of focus, it has kept it in the forefront of my thinking, and has propelled me to realize I need to continue my focused growth in this area.
Another great outcome of using a blog to document the goals and evidence has been the occasions where a post I have made has garnered a LOT of response. Three posts received hundreds of views.
- How Twitter Changed Everything
- Making Your School a Place Where People Want to Work
- What Does Principal Engagement Look Like?
All three were responses to things I had been thinking about or experiencing in my day to day jobs. I don’t write posts to get people to follow me, I write them to promote my own learning and growth. It is reassuring to know, however that things I have written do resonate with other educators (and some non educators as well).
I enjoy being part of the discussion. That connection with educators around the world has been a huge factor in the shift in thinking I have been able to undertake of the last few years. There are many voices out there. Mine is just one, but blogging (and TWITTER) have opened up a new opportunity to learn and to connect.
I have the great fortune to be participating in a Principal Exchange with the ATA over the next year. My exchange partner will be coming for two weeks this fall and I will be going to Adelaide, South Australia next summer. This opportunity came about solely because of Twitter. This is another opportunity to expand my thinking and experience new opportunities as a educational leader.
I may not post another blog this school year, but will definitely be back in the fall using this blog for my Professional Growth Plan again.
Sometimes Professional Growth Plans drive me crazy… specifically my own! The following is from my online PGP:
The most difficult part in all this is that I feel I am working to improve in all areas, all the time. I know I have a lot to learn. I guess by allowing myself to focus on two goals, I can narrow my focus and the likelihood of achieving noticeable growth increases. I look forward to the opportunity to conscientiously reflect more on what it will take to improve in these areas.
So, I write these lofty goals for myself at the beginning of the year; then things get busy and I have to go back to remind myself of what I actually wrote. I am, like is said, trying to improve in all areas… Why wouldn’t I? They are all important. But, I do agree (with myself!) that narrowing the focus is important.
Today, I went back to check what specifics I had around my goals. I am glad to report that I am making progress in both areas I had listed. I am working to, first of all, in the area of Instructional Leadership:
- Model Instructional Practices
- Share Instructional Tools
- Provide resources and implementation
My second goal is in the area of Understanding and Responding to the Larger Societal Context:
- Improve parent involvement in programs and decisions
- Increase parent communication
What drives me crazy (there should be a book about the many things that do!) about PGP’s is that it is soooo easy to shelve them and forget about what they are. There is no lack of things to work on daily, and personal growth is often left to chance. We grow in those areas that we pay the most attention to – for good or bad!
The great thing about a PGP is, when it is used properly it keeps that focus and allows for specific, purposeful growth. Having a blog that directly addresses personal areas of strength and weakness is a powerful way to continually address those goals. I am working on both goals, and having the personal reminders AND networked connections that come from blogging have proven to be extremely valuable to the process. In addition, having the entire process online and out there for those who care to observe, places a great deal of accountability on me to maintain the process, and in a thoughtful, transparent manner. I have enough staff who read my blog to guarantee that I will be called on anything I report to be untrue or inaccurate.
PGPs are great – when they are thoughtful and address areas that need attention.