Tagged: School

What? Me? Change?

I’ve been in my new school for a couple of weeks, but this is only the fourth day with students. So far things have gone very well. When I first started as an administrator, the most daunting task seemed to fall under the category of Managing School Operations and Resources. Over time, that challenge is probably the easiest to learn. One thing I have discovered is that skills learned in this area are relatively easy to transfer to a new site, and I assume this is especially true as I have moved within the same school division.10495080_849029898449644_968077191718025330_o

One area that I did not expect to be so different is that of school culture. The school I came from was great. I enjoyed working there and miss being there. I am learning how my new school works and the beliefs and attitudes that makes it tick. The culture is reflected in the way students are treated and the way the staff embraces change and challenges.

There is no right answer as to what the ‘right’ culture is. A different culture can just be another way of approaching the same issue. We expect our students to find multiple ways of attacking problems and there is no reason not to expect our schools to do the same. I am enjoying working with a group of people who have a slightly different take on things. The task for me is to discern how that culture works and how to work with it to move the school forward as a place that has and continues to be the best place for students.

I just came across a quote on Twitter this morning, “Change is the opportunity to do something great!” (another quote from George Couros that I will repeat endlessly to the dismay of my staff). This time the change is something I am experiencing. It’s not a change because of something wrong, it’s a change because of something new. I think that’s the best kind of change!

Change is always an opportunity – and what a wonderful opportunity this is to do great things!

Bring it on!!!

D Propp

New Year, New School, New Socks

I’m not sure which of the items in the title that I am most excited about. I found Spiderman, Wolverine and Captain America Socks at a comic book store in Edmonton last week. Being 87% nerd, that got me a bit excited. I think I will be looking for more theme socks in the future. (I did give the Wolverine pair to my oldest son)

Today is the third day I’m in my new office at my new school, getting ready for a new school year. The office is not officially open until Monday, but like many principals, I’m in trying to get my head wrapped around a new way of doing things. Our school division is going through a huge transition with the majority of schools seeing one or both of the administrators as new to the position. It is going to be an exciting and interesting year as we learn and grow together.

My new school is about twice the size of my previous assignment, but still the same configuration (PreK – 4). I’ve found it interesting how two schools, that do the exact same job, can approach certain things in very different ways. I’ve been through the staff handbook and made a few changes, but I think I will have to do quite a bit of observation over the next few weeks/months before making any big changes.photo (2)

I usually get a bit excited about change, and this is no different. I don’t get as excited about meeting new people, so I am a bit nervous about that. So far though, everyone has been great.  Hopefully they are patient as I work at applying those Principal Quality Standards to a new situation!

Here’s to a great school year for everyone; and I’d appreciate any kind of feedback throughout the year as I continue to post my reflections.

 

Darryl Propp

Another Year Older and… wiser?

I never cease to wonder at the speed by which a school year flies by! There is now less than two weeks left and so much left to do!!! How will I get everything done I need to? Seems to me like the perfect opportunity to write a blog.

I have, once again, used my blog as my professional growth plan. To me, it is the perfect combination of reflective tool and evidence tracker. I can use it to document my thoughts, clarify my ideas, garner feedback from colleagues, and set goals for myself. I will be definitely following the same format next year.

As I am moving to another school, I will have to rethink my goals. I have an idea of what I would like to actively pursue as my main goals, but I am looking forward to the context of a new school, and how my personal style will fit in with a whole new context. I can with some certainty say that, “Fostering Effective Relationships” will be a main area of focus. I know that I can’t expect to have much of an impact without taking the time to establish those relationships as a primary goal.

As it is a much bigger school, the standard of “Managing School Operations and Resources” will be an interesting learning opportunity as well. Is it the same as I have been doing at my current school, just on a bigger scale? Are there factors I am not aware of that make the structure that much more complex? Time will tell.

I have learned a lot this year. This summer I will be traveling to Australia for a holiday and to spend some time in a school there. THAT will be a learning experience. I know I will learn a lot there as well.

Have a great summer everyone, and I will see you early in September!!

D Propp

(and just to finish off the year – a photo I took on the weekend)10380226_10152095601431791_336462481745689895_o

Sure, We Should Have Merit Pay!!

Listening to a lot of talk on CBC this morning around teacher merit pay. Please take a minute and read my thoughts on how merit pay should work!

Merit pay should be awarded to teachers for the following reasons:

  1. Having to answer phone calls from parents with ridiculous requests.
  2. Having to give food to kids from their own lunch.
  3. Attending students’ sport or arts events outside of school hours.
  4. Extra planning for students going on vacations during school time. (And a bonus for every excuse given for why none of the homework was  completed).
  5. Cleaning up after a sick kid that was sent to school for ANY reason.
  6. Any “out of scope” experience during the day, like comforting an upset child because of something that happened out of school.
  7. Having to change plans in a moment every time technology doesn’t work.
  8. Every time they hear teaching compared to babysitting or hear about how great it must be to have summers off.
  9. Every time a student says, “You’re NOT the boss of me!”
  10. Whenever a parent comes in screaming because they believe every word their child has to say and being unwilling to hear both sides of the story.
  11. Every time a politician brings up the topic of Merit pay based on test scores.5079790838_e02bffb6e4_n

There are so many factors involved in teaching that most people don’t understand. People who think of merit pay as a way to weed out underperforming teachers need to realize there are ways in place to manage this issue.  Just because a parent or student doesn’t like a teacher, doesn’t make them a bad teacher. There are cases of teachers who need to rethink what they are doing, and principals and school divisions are responsible to take care of that. Merit pay is not the answer for this; strong leadership who take the performance of their teachers seriously is instrumental. Proper training of teachers, properly funded schools and allowing teachers to do their job are also major factors as well.

I don’t want anyone to think my sarcasm in any way is meant to bash parents. We deal with a lot of GREAT parents. There are very few of them who do the kinds of things mentioned above, (as there are very few teachers who do not do a great job).

This short blog isn’t intented to answer the questions about the issue. It’s just a few thoughts from my ADD brain.

D Propp

Getting a Smaller Belt

Running a school in Alberta can be an interesting job. (As I’m sure it is everywhere!)

We just recently finished finalizing our budget at the school – with the instruction, which makes sense – to make sure that everything balances. The budget was quite a bit smaller than in years’ past due to government cutbacks, so it required a lot of trimming in more than one area. My Accounts Clerk, my VP and I sat down a few times to hammer out where we could trim. Some budgets had to be set at zero. The comparison of ‘belt tightening’ certainly fits with what we have had to do.

We have a helpful and active parent group in our school who do a lot of fundraising, and we are thankful for that. Unfortunately we have to ask them to help prop up some areas of the budget that have had to be cut. We still need art supplies and library books. We need to conduct science experiments and run a phys ed program. Things still need to happen, and the kids shouldn’t notice a change in the program.

from Flickr Creative Commons

from Flickr Creative Commons

As frustrating as it is, our focus needs to stay on what’s the best program we can do for the kids. Our school is filled with great, caring staff who want the best for each student. I know that our school division is trying to lessen the impact on the students as much as possible.

Money is tight, but we are doing our best to maintain the strongest possible program that will carry each child along and help them realize their potential. It’s what we have always done and will continue to do.

D Propp

 

Reflection

I talked about change in my last blog. I’m not done with that topic yet!

I’ve always considered myself to be a reflective person. I don’t think I would have made it in this profession if I weren’t. I know I wasn’t a very good teacher to start out with. At times, I felt like I was playing teacher – just emulating what others had done before, and not really understanding what I was doing. Now I look back and I really feel sorry for the students I had those first few years.

It was by watching other teachers and finally coming to the point where I was willing to start taking risks that I felt things began to change. It was also about that point that I really began to reflect on the practice of teaching. It was the struggles that I found in different areas of practice that drove me to really reflect on what I was doing and what I needed to do.

When I was taking my initial teacher training there was very little focus on reflection. When I began working on my Master’s, it was my first introduction into formal reflection.  I really didn’t enjoy the written reflection, but it certainly helped me clarify and formulate my thoughts. When I completed my Master’s I was certain that I wouldn’t be doing that again! BUT, here I am – blogging like crazy, because it turns out to be the most powerful type of reflection I have done.

I think the power of the blog is that it is for an audience. Previously the reflections were given to an instructor, whom I was never certain actually read what I had to say. Now my writing is available to a very wide audience who not only provide feedback, but sometimes resend what I’ve written to others (GO TWITTER!) My thoughts just may invoke reflection in others.

One of the messages I preached to student teachers when I had them, and continue to stress to student teachers that are in my school, is the power of reflection and willingness to grow and change. The growth that happens has to come from within. We do get input from others, and have to be willing to accept it, but no change will happen unless we take it upon ourselves to thoughtfully pursue the goals we set.

 

Darryl Propp