Sunday, 29 September 2013

Rethinking Staff PD #savmp

“…And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now. Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop. Adults shouldn’t either.” Will Richardson

This week, George has two questions for us

1. What are some of the ways that you create meaningful staff professional development?

2. What have you found to be the most beneficial PD experiences that lead to better learning in the classroom?

Great questions.  This is something I care deeply about.  I am in the middle of reading Intentional Interruption by Stephen Katz.  I know he would agree with Will Richardson's quote above.  I believe strongly that teachers need to be in charge of their own PD and their own meetings.

We have been working on this for years now.  Teachers working in grade-based teams set their own learning goals for inquiry schedule their own meeting times, record their evidence and eventually reach conclusions based on their data.  We work with two other schools and have for over three years.  The best thing about all of this is that teachers are the ones in charge of the learning.  As principals, we are facilitators.  We do not tell the teachers what to investigate.

Katz writes that true learning happens when there is a change in behaviour.  I believe that teaching practice is changing in our three schools, therefore this is true learning and good PD.  We are committed to this process and at this point in my career, I can't see any other way that teacher PD can happen.

When it comes to staff meetings, I leave the agenda open - any staff member can add items that will then be discussed at the meeting.  We do this by using Google Drive.  I am now thinking of adding Today's Meet so that there can be back channel discussions during the meeting.

This leads me to Will Richardson - he spoke to us at our last conference.  I tweeted the entire time because I think he has so much to say about innovation and self-directed PD.  You can follow him at 

His talk was very exciting - I now need to look for ways to bring some of his ideas into the PD that we do in the school!  What great innovative ideas for the future of education.

I have added some of the key tweets here:

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Developing Trust

Still working on catching up - George asked us to write on this topic last week:  The importance of trust

  1. How do you work to build trust starting in a new place?
  2. When you lose trust, what do you do to try to regain what you do?
  3. In a world with social media so evident, how do you use that technology to create a transparent culture within your community?
This is a great topic - like all the others. Again, this is something I think about all the time. Today, just by chance I was listening to a discussion on who the captains will be on a number of teams this year. Actually, it was really interesting. The commentators talked a lot about how the captain's role has to be earned. Captains in hockey are asked to do a great deal, essentially they are the public face of their team. Interestingly, being the most skilled player was not a major factor according to the commentators. To me, it had more to do with trust. Would the players follow you, listen to you, work hard for you. I think it is the same in education.

You can't 'get' trust from your staff.  You have to earn it.  I think this can take a long time.  I have been in schools where we followed administrators who had left their staff exhausted and demoralized.  How do you build trust with a staff in this situation?

Atv one school, I remember being told by one of my designates not to visit classrooms because these visits had been traumatic in the past.  No  trust had been built up yet.  I had to respect that.

So earning trust can be difficult.  It takes a very humble person to allow the time for trust to develop.  Having said this, it is worth it.  A former principal told me that she could not get her staff to do anything.  I have had the opposite experience - the people I work with will do anything, right down to looking for new housing for a parent forced to leave her housing project.

I am not doing anything special - I respect the people I work with as experienced professionals.  I see my position as one of supporting their efforts.  This is my role.

As for transparency, that is a great question when we are talking about trust.  Its interesting, but technology has helped in this area.  I post all staff agendas on Google Drive at least a week before we meet.  All staff had editing privileges and can add any agenda item they want to the meeting.  We also vote on major learning goals for our schools before we write up our school improvement plan at the end of the year. Principals are then obliged to design our PD around what the teachers have selected.

This is really not a big deal.  We are servants of our teachers.  When we forget that we lose their trust and we should.  I have seen schools in El Salvador where the teachers actually vote for who will be their principal.  How do you think that would affect our practice if the same thing happened here?

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Developing Leadership - #SAVMP

Week Five of #SAVMP presents a really interesting question - how do you promote leadership in your school?

This is a great question and the longer I am an administrator the more important this becomes.  For me, it is sometimes hard to let go of some of the responsibilities that go with this job.  However, it is essential and it is something that I work on harder every year.

I am in a small school with twelve teachers.  Obviously, there is no vice-principal, but I do have designates who fill in for me when I am away.  If you take the designate position seriously, it gives you a great opportunity to give more responsibility to other teachers.  This year, the designate was responsible for the duty schedule along with other administrative tasks.  

The duty schedule is always difficult to do, but over the years I have gotten to the point where I can get it done very quickly.  Time to pass this one on.  I asked the designate to take this on this year and for her it was a great learning experience.  She had to figure out the union regulations for the numbers of allowed supervision minutes, talk to each teacher to make sure the schedule was fair and determine how much time we would need from the Board for lunch time monitors.  She did all this, it took a while, but she did a great job.  More importantly, I was able to share my leadership responsibilities with another person.

There is no question that when you do this people take more ownership and feel more engaged in the running of the school.  Not all people want to do that, but my job is to look for the people who want to take on a leadership role and make sure they get something meaningful.

I think this is one of the biggest lessons I have learned as an administrator - you need to learn to let go.  Share your responsibilities with others who want to lead.  

When you get right down to it, if you don't do this who will?