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The View from Afar

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The View

I have now been retired for over 2 years and I have had a lot of time to reflect…to step back from the trenches of professional development, Ministry meetings, budget deliberations, contract negotiations, school visits, Board meetings, Exec Council meetings and visits with our school support teams….just to name a few!

While I was deep into the work, there was little time to stand back and reflect on our impact…were we really making a difference in the learning experiences and results for our students?  It is too hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes.  It takes some distance and some time away to have the perspective needed for that kind of self-assessment.

When I recall watching teachers and principals entering our PD sessions, I think I recognize the looks on some of their faces – wishing they could be anywhere but there – thinking about their classroom and students back at their schools – Will they learn effectively today with a supply teacher in my place?  Will that student lose control with a different routine today? Will that student be sent to my office again today?  Will this be worth my while here? Or will I leave again feeling like I am just not doing enough?

I tell myself now, being away from all of that for some time, that I often lost sight of the fact that our schools are filled with dedicated, well-intentioned, caring teachers and administrators who really and truly do the very best they can every day for the kids.  Having the pressure from above – that is, the Ministry goals – to implement new strategies and curriculum – to collect data for measurement of achievement – to ensure that all changes are happening in all classrooms….that was daunting and left me focusing more on “why won’t you change what you are doing”? rather than “I know you really care”.

In the end, isn’t that more important?  Yes, there were students who fell through the cracks and didn’t achieve what we hoped for them…but with all that PD we crammed into our school year, did we really eliminate that?  I wonder as I look from afar.  My grandson is one example of how we have not.  I wish I could go back and look at those faces and say, “thank you” for all you do and all you will do.  You are the best.

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Posted by on April 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Deep into 21st Century Learning

digging deepDigging very deeply as a matter of fact.

Peeling back the layers of learning that I had accumulated from my Masters of Educational Technology at UBC and applying them to this latest project that has absorbed me deeply.  I have the chance to apply so much of my learning into a venture we are calling, I.T.’s About Learning – a professional learning model for teachers that will combine online learning through modules about 21st Century learning with follow-up face-to-face sessions to consolidate their learning.

The focus is on pedagogy first, technology later.  Upping the tasks on Blooms and SAMR and ensuring that student learning is enhanced by technology, not distracted by it.  A team of skilled teachers (and those who want to learn much more) are meeting to design and create online learning modules using our D2L platform, luckily paid for by our Ministry of Ed.  Topics may include (Assessment with technology, Self-Advocacy, Learning for All, and of course, the 21st Century Learning skills). Teachers who participate in the writing, and those who complete the modules can enjoy the use of Chromebooks for their own use!

Our work is based on the goals and targets of our Board Strategic Plan and will ensure that this work stays on the front burner and continues into the future.  Looking forward to the challenge and the learning!

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Teaching Learning Skills

Every now and then I encounter a group of teachers who, by their depth of dedication and energy towards a goal, ignite a flame of optimism and hope for the future of education.  I met such a group of teachers at a recent regional superintendents curriculum meeting during which these inspiring teachers from London District Catholic School Board presented their work on teaching learning skills.  Their efforts were the result of an approved TLLP project, which funded their release time, and the materials they needed to complete the project.  They tackled the ongoing problem for teachers when it comes to teaching and assessing the learning skills that are such an important part of the Ontario report card.  Sure, we had a few rubrics out there for us, and the London Region MISA Professional Networking Committee created some worthwhile videos about how to deal with these somewhat abstract notions of learning skills and work habits – but teachers needed even more resources to address how to teach these skills across the grades.

So bravo to these teachers – I was so impressed with the caliber of the materials, I just had to write about them and applaud their use of social media to share the resources.  They used Google docs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Instagram.  Well done!  Check them out at Teachlearningskills.ca

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Leading in 21st Century

CollinsWe spend a lot of time (too much?) talking about the learning for students in the 21st Century and how much of a shift in thinking that this requires for our teachers.  We forget however, that it also requires a shift in thinking for the leaders who are the decision-makers, the supervisors, the managers of our schools and districts.  As I am now in one of those roles, and who is responsible for ensuring that the paradigm shift is happening for our students, I am examining what my thinking-shift needs to be.

We expect students to become critical thinkers, creative innovators, collaborators, communicators, problem solvers – is that what I enable for our teachers and for myself? I am reading Jim Collins’ recent book, Great by Choice and he reminds us to forget about predicting the future, but actually creating it. And that change should not be pushed forward in big spurts but in relentless incremental, achievable targets.  Changing the way we do things in our schools (aka 19th Century learning) will take more time than leaders prefer.  Creating the future requires “empirical creativity” (ensuring we use research, experiment for ourselves, and innovate), “productive paranoia” (maintaining hypervigilance in good times and bad) and “fanatic discipline” (consistency of action despite pressure to move off the action).

Where are we as leaders in demonstrating Collins’ characteristics?

 

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Leading in the 21st Century

I just spent the last week holed up at Kings College in London Ontario for my Module B of my Supervisory Officers Qualification Program.  Why I am taking this qualification is another story for another post, but today I am writing about some of my thoughts about Leadership in these challenging times.  Not that other periods in education weren’t challenging – but somehow, things seem to be getting much more complicated.  Students are different than before, parents are different than before, and yes, teachers are very different now too.  Creating stability and at the sam etinnovation, in a time of great instability is a real challenge for leaders and I have been doing considerable reading and reflecting on that problem.

leadership

The book I am immersed in right now is Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey.  First question that I meet that I want to post somewhere on my wall in my office:  “What can I do to make my setting the most fertile ground in the world for the growth of talent?”  (pg. 11)  Next year brings many changes to our organizational structure as a result of some major downsizing, and so my team is now much larger as 2 teams merge into one – with one leader – that would be me!  They are already talented people for sure, but how can I ensure that innovation continues considering how much more they will be expected to take on?

So how do I move from self-authoring mind to self-transforming mind?  How to move from the role of manager/leader to leader/manager?  I need to keep reading, reflecting, and writing….

 

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Reflecting Forward, as well as Behind

Traveled a lot over the last few days and spending time on a plane when my TV monitor didn’t work provided a great chance to continue my reading of Professional Capital by Michael Fullen and Andy Hargreaves. They broughtme back to my MET days by referrinf to Schon’s coining of  Relecting In Practice and  Reflecting on Practice.   I hadn’t thought of this for some time, but returning to his work was perfect timing.  Reflecting while in the thick of things plus reflecting later, after the fact are key factors in improving one’s work.

I am going to be spending the next few days fine-tuning an Observation Tool to be used by our secondary teachers who will be visiting each others’ classrooms.  They have asked for some kind of framework to guide the visits and it occured to me that Schon’s 2 types of reflection are very appropriate.  Hargreaves reminds us that practice can make perfect only if reflection is include.  So now, off to create this new tool and I’ll be trying it on for size myself.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Consolidation Long Overdue!

It’s been a very long time since I have wandered here into my blog – ever since I finished my MET program from UBC, the requirement (and to some extent, the need) to write has ended.  Yet, here I sit at the NASSP 2013 Conference called Ignite 2013, listening to speaker after speaker talk about the need for engagement, participation, higher order thinking, consolidation of learning through writing- all washing over me and it finally occured to me, that the need to write daily should be right up there with Maslow’s hierarchy.

I have been preaching to teachers for ages about making sure students write every day (and read too of course), yet do we as teachers and administrators model that very practice we claim improves learning?  I take all kinds of notes during the presentations, I open up the websites and resources of each speaker, but I don’t sit quietly later and reflect on my learning…let it percolate and see what rises to the surface. 

So here I am…sitting quietly except for the clicking of the keyboard – no distractions, just my notes beside me and thoughts rattling around in my head.  Since I am surrounded mostly by American administrators (although the odd Canuck, Australian, Brazilian and New Zealander is attending), I am wearing my filter lenses of “let’s listen to see if their latest rounds of reforms have any chance of improving their results” throughout the sessions, but there are remarkably similar thoughts about higher order thinking, engagement, motivation, literacy skills – just all done with different expectations of teacher performance, standardization, and funding.  Marzano, Fullen, and Schmoker are bantered about as they search for answers. 

Some nuggets I will take back with me:

From  Scott Klososky

  • the Hive Mind:  crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, crowdvertizing, crowdsolving – all examples of collective consciousness made possible with Web 20 through Web 5.0
  • Amplifed Learning:  harvesting the global mind, access to instant information, connecting to billions of people at any time
  • social relevance – if you are not creating an online footprint, you are invisible to employers

From Barbara Blackburn

  • not only do we need to motivate students through focus on value and success, but we need to do the same for our teachers. Following up each PD session with:  what are you going to do next?  who will you share this information with? and what resources will you need?
  • she defines Rigor ( the new American buzzword) as “creating an environment n which each student is expecte to learn at high levels; each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.”

and finally, from Mark Wilson

  • real student success means knowing:
    • knowing what students know
    • knowing what they can do
    • knowing what kind of people they grow up to be
  • Principals must be the driving force for literacy – not just for students but for teachers too!

And so, here I sit, working on my literacy skills – writing, writing, writing.

Pretty terrific conference.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Uncategorized