In my daily perusal of what’s going on in the Twitterverse, I came across this quote posted by @ShawnUpchurch,
“Leadership involves Finding a Parade and getting in front of it.” (John Naisbitt)
This is absolutely spot on, but it isn’t that easy to do. A leader has to ensure that the staff he or she is charged with, has the capacity and freedom to start the parade. It takes time, and it takes thoughtful, intentional measures. By allowing staff to pursue their passions, to feel trusted, and to be held to a high standard, they can do great things.
It’s not a traditional managerial style, but the results are more powerful as you are working from people’s passions.
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.
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!!!
Teachers and school leaders are not unfamiliar with the idea of PLCs. We all have worked on them to varying degrees. Usually they are just a grade level/subject team working together to do planning. Occasionally they work to dissect the learning process and powerfully impact the learning in a classroom. If PLCs have taught us anything, it’s that when we work together, we accomplish more.
Today I am at a CASS (Council of Alberta School Superintendents) session hosted by Wolf Creek Public School Division where we are talking about being Effective 21st Century leaders. Whenever I have the opportunity to participate in sessions with people outside my division I always have the same ‘epiphanies‘:
- We are ALL working toward the same goal
- We all have something to learn from each other
- We have the answers to most questions if we can get together and talk about it
- We need to find ways to connect… or should I say, we need to take advantage of the ways there are to connect
Education continues to move forward. Students are coming to us with different skills and needs, and we are obligated to respond in the best ways we can. There is no need to all learn in isolation when we can connect. Even if we are only connecting to learn what others have to say; we have so much knowledge and, dare I say, wisdom out there to draw on.
(photo from Flickr Creative Commons)
Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a fan of Twitter. A blog post I made last year, How Twitter Changed Everything, was one of my most popular posts ever. I am not a big Tweeter myself, but have been able to use twitter to engage in a lot of great reading, and conversations. Near the end of the last school year, I came across a post that led to a unique opportunity. The Alberta Teachers’ Association had tweeted about the need to find an elementary principal to be involved in a short term exchange to Australia. Out of curiosity I clicked on the link included in the tweet and was excited to discover that the opportunity was a two week, job shadowing exchange to Adelaide during school breaks. (One of their term breaks, and our summer holidays.)
I just finished up the visit with my Australian Exchange partner. She is now relaxing in Banff and Lake Louise while I am back at work. The experience was full of great learning opportunities. The main learning happened in two main ways. First, I learned a lot about how and why we do things in our school and school division.
I am, by nature, a reflective person. I like receiving feedback from others and use it to grow as a person and as a leader. Having opportunity to sit with another leader and ask questions about their view on things in your school, or to ask them questions about how they would handle a situation, proved to be great opportunities. I took the time after the first week to get some feedback on how I was doing with the Principal Quality Standards. While it’s difficult to see all of them in action in only one week, there was feedback given and opportunity for me to think about what I am doing as a leader to work on all the standards. During the course of every discussion we had there was opportunity to compare practice and the reasons behind the practice.
We also had opportunity to discuss how things were done differently in Australia, and specifically at Para Vista Preschool -Seven school in Adelaide. What we discovered through our conversations is that the administrative expectations and roles are in a lot of ways very different, but our goals for students are the same. What was seen in classrooms was, in effect, the same kinds of things that you would see in just about any classroom. Whatever happens behind the scenes, we are ensuring that students get a quality education and have opportunity to move forward in their learning.
It was through discussion that we found the most learning happened. My partner would see something happen, or be involved in a conversation with a teacher or a student, and later ask questions about what she had observed. It was these discussions that were the most productive. We had opportunity to tour some other schools and sit in on some programs being offered, and had great discussions during and afterward about what we saw happening. The learning was organic, the conversations were genuine, and the entire process was valuable.
The exchange is a two week job shadowing opportunity and I will be visiting her school during our next summer holidays. I look forward to seeing Australia very much, but I am eager to see how things are done there and to have the opportunity to bring back some great learning.
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.
I had the opportunity to attend REDCAMP in Red Deer, yesterday. The opportunity came to my attention because of Twitter. I have never attended an edcamp before. Sean Grainger (@graingered) posted a link to information and registration for the event. I had an idea as to what the event would be about, and registered right away.
There were a few really neat things that came out #redcamp13
- Reaffirmation of the fact that you can never trust navigation on your iPhone!
- I got to meet people I had connected with on Twitter. @hewsonk27 @joe_bower @graingered @Weilinga1
- Whenever you get educators together and let them talk about ways to move forward, best practice, tools to improve instruction, etc. you are guaranteed to have rich and powerful discussions.
- I was able to make new connections. Sitting in sessions and listening to people talk about their learning, really gives you a good idea about where they are coming from. I added a number of new people to my PLN. Some people added me as well.
- One of the most enjoyable sessions of the day was the JAM session. @mrtetz, @socgall, @BowmanTwits, myself and one other music teacher participated in writing a Redcamp song The quality isn’t the best, but this type of collaboration is just as powerful as the discussions around education. We also discussed that Jam Sessions are the original Edcamp!
- Not everyone participating in the sessions agreed on everything. Being open to the ideas of others and discussing opinions, is very powerful. It’s the discussion that is the important part. We are always learning and it’s so great to learning from each other.
After the opening session, which itself provided some great ideas, I attended a session on what we are going to do now that PATs are over. The discussion was great, but there was a focus at first on specualation around what was going to be done to us as educators now. The discussion did turn more towards the opportunities that were presented if we choose to exercise our voice and put forward what our feelings as to where education can go from this point.
My second session was presented by @EbertsR and discussed establishing a culture of collaboration in your school. The collaborative culture we establish in our PLNs can add to the scholarship that exists in our schools.
After lunch I attended a discussion on Twitter with @jbechthold and @KirbyFecho. This was a smaller session, but really demonstrated the power of using Twitter in our schools and for our personal learning. One neat thing about this session was that there were three pre-service teachers. Two of which facilitated the session. There are many reflective, forward thinking young teachers out there. It is exciting to see the passion and commitment that our up and coming members of the profession have.
The last session I attended, as I mentioned in my list above, was the JAM session. That was very fun, and a great way to end a great day.
I hope to be able to attend many more edcamps in the future!! YOU SHOULD TOO!!
I am presenting a session at our Division‘s PD tomorrow 0n personal blogging for teachers and administrators. It is part of a panel presentation on Social Media in Schools. I only have about 20 minutes, but have about 90 minutes of materials prepared. I still have to pare it down to the bare essentials. Fortunately, I have the presentation in a GOogle Doc that those attending will be able to access afterwards. A BIG thanks to George Couros for providing me with his information on the topic – it has helped me a lot.
I think my main approach is going to follow my progress from microblogging (Twitter) to the Portfolio Blog I currently use. The progression and thoughts around the process I underwent is as follows
- Twitter is a microblogging tool – a great step to blogging as a reflective tool
- The most important piece in utilizing Twitter as a PD tool is in who you follow
- Follow people who post links to blogs, articles, and videos
- Don’t be afraid to just lurk at first
- If you aren’t sure what to Tweet, start by Retweeting
- Move on to tweeting your thoughts about different topics
- Twitter will suggest followers for you
- Like every other social media site, there will be spam (But I have found VERY little of this on Twitter)
- Your PLN should begin to develop (Personal Learning Network)
- A PLN is primarily the impetus to grow as a learner
- As you follow blogs and tweets, make comments, and don’t be afraid to disagree
- Start a blog for you class/school
- I have had blogs on school information, My schedule and blogs I only share with teachers.
- I have seen blogs used very effectively as a planning/learning tool – even to provide sub plans for the class when the teacher is away (This works VERY well)
- Start using a Blog as a Reflective tool
- Model reflection for students
- Will initiate deeper thinking for yourself
- A blog as a portfolio is a natural development from reflection to goal setting and providing evidence of growth.
- There is no reason a blog CANNOT be used as a Professional Growth Plan – I would argue it is probably the most dynamic version of the PGP I have experienced. There is constant evidence and reflection of growth.
This is my journey. I am extremely happy with what I have gained from using a blog as a portfolio/Professional Development tool. I see no reason to not continue this practice, and to encourage it in interested staff as well.