Sitting in a session on Agile Leadership today in Edmonton. Our division principals and many of our system leadership is present. We are discussing the practices of leadership to influence the improvement of student learning.
One of the topics we are discussing is how do we influence teacher behaviour as a key piece in making sure student learning is happening. One of our key roles is leading teacher learning and development. At LT we have spent a year and a half so far in making sure that the teachers are empowered to take responsibility for this learning, and are given the tools to move forward in the areas that they have embraced in their own professional growth plans.
Today the opportunity for me is to consider my own practice in making this happen. What am I doing that is promoting this practice, and what can I do to ensure that this continues to move forward in the best way possible. Am I in any way doing things that actually hinder this movement? I’ve got some ideas on how to work through this, and I look forward to intentionally keeping this movement going.
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.
This is a great post by Scott Carr and my favorite sentence is:
If there is one thing I have learned in my PLC journey over the past decade, it’s that I never want my school community to be limited by my skills and knowledge.
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!
I don’t really have a specific goal in mind for today’s blog. Usually I have an idea about exactly the point I’d like to get across, but today… I’m just going to write about things I’ve been pondering lately.
1. PLCs – We’ve done some great work with PLCs this year. I really feel that we’ve made strides in making them more powerful than ever. I’ve done some anecdotal data gathering from teachers, and they certainly appreciate the opportunity to participate in both grade level and interest based/cross grade PLC groups. They also appreciate the simplicity of the Google Form we use to record My pondering is around the momentum. I always reiterate with teachers the fact that the goal of PLCs is student learning, and have incorporated that into the Google form, by adding that, it adds a level of accountability and helps to keep the focus
2. Mentoring – I’m fortunate to have a relatively new vice-principal this year. She is keen to learn and really focused on doing what is best for our students. I really like the role of being a mentor to someone like this. We spend lots of time planning, reflecting, and challenging each other. I really enjoy the opportunity to work with someone who helps me move forward and learn.
3. Politics!!! – We have a provincial election coming up. I am thrilled with the engagement I am seeing this time. People are fired up and I think we might actually see a change in the 43 year reign of the current political party. ANY political party will lose its ability to be effective after that much time. We need a shake up in Alberta and I think it might just happen!
4. Planning – OMG! There’s a lot of planning to do this time of year. I LOVE planning, especially when the resources are there to make my plans come to fruition! Well, there’s NOT enough resources this year, but anyone who has been paying attention knew this was coming. I had a number of scenarios in place already, so had a skeleton of a solution in place for where we are at now. If things change in the future and we get an increase in resources, I will welcome that and revisit the vision for the next school year. It’s so important to have the resources (including the people) allocated in the best possible way. There’s still teachers that have a ways to go in their approach to teaching. Fortunately at this point, I don’t have any duds – not every one is a master teacher, but they’re all reliable.
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!!