Saturday, 23 November 2013

Week # 14 What is School For?

The big question - what is school for?  In the challenge this week, we are asked to listen to Seth Godin's talk about what is school for.  Good to watch, but I think all he does is explain how schools developed out of the Industrial Revolution.  Everyone should know that, he tells us nothing new in this talk.

In that sense, the talk is a little disappointing - he states the obvious.

The challenge for this week is - I encourage you to blog about some of the things that you do with your staff to help understand where they are at, and how to move them forward.

Talk is cheap.  I really don't want to spend much time on this question.  We all know that education is changing rapidly with the onset of new technology and new learning.  We are all aware of this and each of us is working to manage the transitions that are taking place.

How do I move teachers forward?  I think it is a bit presumptuous to think that I do anything to move teachers forward.  The teachers are doing this themselves.  I have been trying to spend more time in our teacher triads (three schools - groups of teachers working together) to find out what they are working on.

What I find every time is that teachers know what needs to be done to move things forward.  They naturally come up with methods that will encourage higher order thinking and good problem-solving skills.  My job is to encourage and support them in this journey.  I need to make sure teachers have the time necessary to collaborate and innovate.

If I asked, I think our teachers would say that the purpose of school is to help students become independent thinkers able to adapt to the rapidly changing world that we are all confronted by.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that I as principal am moving teachers forward.

I believe we need to focus on the school as the locus of innovation and change.  The individuals in the school must connect not with the district but with fellow teachers and the wider world that has been opened up by Twitter and a myriad of other social media sites.

We know what we need to do and we are using the methods and tools we need to advance our own concept of what the school is supposed to do.

Critics like Seth Godin take the easy way out - it is very popular these days to criticize the school for not having a good idea on how to teach into the new century.

As long as we move away from the tired old methods of delivering professional development and we continue to empower teachers to take charge of their own learning we will continue to innovate and change.

As long as we continue connecting to the wider educational world through social media we will all come to a better understanding of what school is all about.

It certainly will not depend on the vision of one leader to make this happen.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Week 13 #SAVMP  Individual Learning and Mass Sharing

This is a really good question for this week's post
How do you share the work that you do during individual staff PD to ensure that great learning goes viral? I would love to see some other examples of how people are sharing.

I am thinking about this right now.  

Last week, I spent some time with the grade 4/5/6 Triad as they worked together on their inquiry on math journals.  I am learning a great deal!

First, we have now been using triads for three years and I don't always have a great idea of the learning that is going on in each individual triad.  It is a matter of having the time to sit with people and find out what they are working on.  Eventually, we share all the work that is being done and I do read all the triad notes as they come out in our Evidence of Learning document, but for me this is not good enough.

First, I need a good way of recording the learning.

Next, I have to try and sit with a few groups and document their learning.  I am starting with the math journal inquiry - it is a really cool project!

picture from a dropbox collection made by the grade 4/5/6 triad - student working on math inquiry
picture from a dropbox collection made by the grade 4/5/6 triad - student working on math inquiry
I have sat in a couple of classes and have documented the student work on a blog. I have asked the teachers to send me some of the conclusions they have reached already so I can create another blog post.
We have a Google + Community, but this just facilitates sharing within the group.

I really think I need our triads to find a bigger audience. They are doing some terrific work and I can share this by blogging about their learning. They are really developing a ground breaking process for professional learning and I want to spread the good news!
Here is the last post on the math project
Interesting, we have been looking for strategies to improve math scores at our school while all the time the teachers have been working on this project!  Again, I find some of the best learning happens when I get out of the way and allow teachers to collaborate and share what they know!

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Week 12- Involving Parents with a New Vision for Schools #SAVMP

What are you doing to encourage parent involvement? 
 How are you thinking out of the box to involve ALL of your families? 
 Have you encountered resistance to breaking away from the 
traditional strategies that parents may be used too?
We are very fortunate to have so many tools to communicate with parents about what is going on in our schools.  As principal, I think one of my primary responsibilities is to communicate as much as I can with parents about what is going on at our school.

This is also something I really enjoy doing.  Every day when I walk down the halls of our school, I see so many things that shout out to be shared.  Amazing art work, creative bulletin boards, great presentations and lessons.  

I also have at my disposal wonderful communication tools like Instagram, Remind 101, Google sites, iMovie, Facebook, Youtube - the list grows longer all the time.

What we are now able to do is make the learning visible and transparent.  We are able to share the excitement our parents' children feel when they are involved in new learning.

As much as possible, I want our parents to see what we see almost at the same time we are witnessing the learning that is going on.  We want our parents to be right with us as much as possible during the day of their child.

How are we thinking out of the box?  The best way I can do this is by allowing our teachers to innovate in a secure environment.  I want our teachers to feel free to try new things without feeling that they will face resistance to their creative ideas.  I don't want to push teachers to do things that they are not comfortable with and at the same time I want to encourage them and celebrate their attempts to try new things.

This is not always an easy thing to do in the traditional structure of the school system.  We always have to ask the question are we doing enough to really think out of the box.  I think the best thing I can do to assist staff to try new things is simply to get out of the way and let them explore and experiment.

Have we encountered resistance to trying new things - yes.  Will this stop us from trying new things - no. Nothing ever changes by staying comfortable and living within the status quo.  As a staff, I don't think we do this.  Instead, the rapid rate of innovation and change in the world pushes us to do more.

As much as possible, I want our parents to feel like they know what is going on at our school.  If we are missing something, I rely on the staff and the parents to let me know.  

More than ever, education is a partnership. The more we work together and share what is going on the more we become a vital and nurturing community for our children.

Grade 6 students explaining what Destination Imagination is all about - this video was posted to our Facebook Page a few minutes after the interview.

Facebook stats from our posts last week - I like that they use the term 'engagement' - that is what we are trying to do!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Management as a Principal - Week 11 #SAVMP

How do you manage your tasks/time? 
Is it reflective of the 90/10 stated above?
How important is management in the role principal? 
What can you do to better align your vision and your priorities?

I can relate to the last post on the #SAVMP blog - I certainly can as a principal and I know most teachers can as well.  Quoting directly from the blog, "According to Dr. Covey, 90 percent of most people’s time is spent in quadrant 1, while the remaining 10 percent is spent in quadrant IV.While not directly related to education, I think this principle applies. The goal is to make sure you spend most of your time in quadrant II."

This should be put on a t-shirt.

What I have learned over the past ten years is that you need to be able to view a decision and its implications way down the road.  That is all quadrant II stuff - prepare as best you can, work on prevention and relationship-building as much as you can.

Even though this has become my mantra, I am continually surprised by the situations that can quickly get out of control.  I am left thinking to myself - 'why didn't I see this coming?'

However, when you get right down to it, this is what I love about the job.  It is unpredictable and you need to remain cool no matter what the situation.  In fact, I feel blessed that I am in a position where I need to deal - really deal with life crises on a fairly regular basis.  That is the joy of the job.

I try to do quadrant II as much as possible.  Relationship-building is the key.  I sometimes find it really crazy that so many books are written about all the things that need to be done to lead or teach effectively when building positive relationships always comes first.  Leaders need to know this.  Build good relations with your students, your teachers, your parents - that is where leaders should spend all their time when they are not dealing with blown pipes, lockdowns, fights, irate parents, etc.

The more I learn, the more I realize that I will always strive to manage and lead better.  It is such an incredible job, there is always room for improvement!