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In order for our school to be successful, we know that we must have:

Outstanding teachers in every class, everyday.

We believe that outstanding teachers are made even more effective when they:

Work collaboratively in a grade level team.

Lastly, we believe that we must support our classroom teachers with specialists. For us, our specialists focus on 4 key areas:

Learning Support (Special Needs & Differentiation)

English Language Learning

Technology Integration

Inquiry Based Curriculum

Each of these areas has a coordinator that works with teachers and grade level teams. It is important that they help teachers at whatever level is the most effective. This may range from team teaching to acting as a consultant and everything in between. The key is to build capacity and share expertise. The goal, every time, is increased student learning.

I have a confession to make. I used to be a yeller. Early in my career (which wasn’t that long ago), I used to think my job was to scare kids into obedience. If a teacher sent a kid down to my office then it meant that the teacher couldn’t handle the student and the teacher needed some muscle and authority to “set ’em straight”.  Anger has never been a good teacher. Enforcer? Yes. But a lousy teacher.

Did all my hot air work? Sometimes. Mostly on those borderline kids. But then there were the kids that shut down. Kids that saw right through me. Kids who were so used to be yelled at that my hot air didn’t even make a dent. When yelling didn’t work, I would back it up with threats and when threats didn’t work then it was punishment.

What made me see the error of my ways? I wish I could say that it was heavenly epiphany but it was a slow realization that was influenced by a number of factors:

Coaching – too many years trying to motivate by yelling that only led to frustration. Athletes respond to discipline because they see the results. They do not respond to punishment.

“At Risk” Students – I cultivated a few relationships with highly at-risk students. Sometimes, I was able to help and students were successful. Occasionally,  students would have to leave the school but would thank me for handling them with respect or  return thankful in hindsight.

Mentors -I was lucky to work with very passionate people who always focused on what’s good for kids. They wouldn’t let crisis or emotions cloud their judgement and they tried to look at obstacles to student learning as opposed to the students being the obstacles themselves.

Parenting – unfortunately, I brought my bad teacher/admin habits into raising my own children. Having children helped me to further realize the difference between discipline and punishment. I was also able to imagine how I would respond if someone treated my kids with the yelling and punishment I treated others. If I was treating a student differently alone then I would if their parents were present, then I was definitely doing something wrong.

Now, I focus on solving problems not reacting to behaviour. I don’t always get it right and my temper gets the better of me too many times but I am convinced that yelling and punishment will not educate students. My job, as a principal, is to help kids get out of trouble. Not to get them into trouble. My job is to use my experiences, my authority, my influence, and my resources to help a student get out of trouble.

This post was encouraged by the following:

Why is it that when a student that struggles with reading or math… we support… yet when a student struggles with behaviour… we punish? Dr. Ross Greene Lost At School as shared by Chris Wejr @MrWejr

*Photo of TIS Dragonboat Team

Someone mentioned that participants at a recent conference were asking, “How do we get our admin team, senior leaders, board members, etc on-board for the use of technology in the classroom?” Here are my suggestions:

  1. Emphasize Learning – bottom line, the ability of any new initiative should be based on how it will help students learn. Think critically about this. Our inboxes are overflowing with ads for new products that look great but ultimately over-promise and under-deliver.
  2. Trends & Opportunities not Fads & Shiny Objects – one of our key jobs is to protect our teachers from the constant add-ons that can be heaped upon them. Your idea must be more than a fad.
  3. Think in Systems not Individual Classrooms – your idea might be a good one but what does it look like if scaled up for a full school implementation? Do we have the necessary resources, infrastructure, hr, etc to make it a feasible and effective implementation? Is it sustainable?
  4. Fit the Timeline – budgets and supply orders tend to happen annually and have set deadlines. Be sure to present your idea with enough time for a decision to be made before the deadline.
  5. Take Responsibility – people are often eager to propose solutions that don’t require anything further of them. Be willing to do the legwork and research. If you are willing to put your neck on the line, the principal will be more willing to do the same.
  6. Present Solutions not Ideas – Principals are tasked with problem solving on a daily basis. Sometimes we miss great ideas because we have too many problems facing us instead. Present your idea as a solution to a current need in the school.
  7. Propose a Pilot – Pilot programs are great way to try out new ideas. Principals can usually free up resources for a pilot program before committing to a full implementation. Pilots also help train champions who can assist later when the whole school comes on-board. Have a plan for how you assess the effectiveness of your idea and how you will share your results (recommendations and challenges).

These points aren’t in any type of order. If I had to rank them I would say that #1 and #7 as the most effective strategies.

Do you have other strategies for getting admin on-board?

When was the last time that you were formally evaluated as a teacher? Chances are, if you are been teaching for longer than 3 years in the same school division, you no longer need to endure having an administrator come and formally evaluate you. While there is a great relief in securing a permanent teaching contract, I think we are missing opportunities for greatness.

Jim Collins reminds us that

“We don’t have great schools principally because we have good schools”.

Good is the enemy of greatness. I’m not content with just having a good school. I want a great school. Our students deserve great schools. Since schools don’t need to compete with one another (for the most part) we can all have great schools!

I am convinced that the best way to have great schools is to:

Ensure that we have outstanding teachers in every class everyday.

In our school, all teachers receive at least 2 formal observations every year, regardless of how long they have been teaching. Beginning teachers receive the most observations and a formal evaluative report is developed. Experienced teachers receive feedback but no overall report is given – teachers are asked to show reflection in their professional growth plan. In addition to formal observations, all administrators conduct frequent walkthroughs.

I don’t presume to be the best teacher in the school. In fact, this simple realization has often kept me from giving people the meaningful feedback that they deserve. See my post The Reluctant Leader for more details. However, I am convinced that teachers deserve to be effectively coached so that they can achieve greatness.

In fact, we are changing  our terminology from Supervision and Evaluation (which assumes judgement, superiority, and ratings) to Coaching. Coaching, seems to connote a mutual acceptance of the roles that need to be played in order to improvement to occur. As an administrator, it also reminds me that I don’t have to be the best practitioner in order to know what good practice looks like and to be able to provide meaningful feedback to teachers.

We are also encouraging peer observations and instructional rounds to constantly promote a culture of constant improvement, transparency, and trust. This is a huge departure from the traditional model where an administrator only evaluates beginning teachers and then close their doors and teach isolated for the rest of their careers. Is it scary? Absolutely. Will it make us a stronger learning community? Yup. Will it help us to become a great school? Absolutely.

Inquiry #1

What are effective models of providing meaningful feedback to teachers and staff?

“The purpose of educational leadership is to ensure quality learning experiences: every student, every day, no exceptions.” College of Alberta School Superintendents, Alberta Leadership Framework

Rationale: I am convinced that meaningful feedback, in a environment of continual school improvement and through a relationship built on trust, is essential for teachers and staff. That being said, I have to acknowledge my own reluctance in this area. This is why it is such an important goal for me.

Possible Resources:

Marzano’s Observation & Feedback Protocol (@robertjmarzano) – we created a mobile documentation tool that used Google forms and could be done on the iPad or iPhone but we are putting this on hold as teachers were getting nervous seeing us taking notes during initial walk throughs

Manager Tools Feedback Model: Mark Horstman (@mahorstman) and Mike Auzenne (@mauzenne) podcasts are great

First Steps:

  • Scheduled formal teacher observations and follow up feedback times
  • Commit to daily walk throughs
  • Play with “No Office Days”

Inquiry #2

What are the key strange attractors that influence the emergence of meaningful and effective professional learning and collaborative inquiry leading to enhanced teaching and improvement in student learning?

Rationale: Our Professional Learning Communities have matured beyond the topic based and facilitator led model. This year we want teachers to develop their PLCs – their own groups and collaborative inquiries. These align with their inquiry based professional growth plans. Giving up control is scary. However, we know that teachers who are empowered and supported are the key to enhancing the individual classroom and the overall system.

Possible Resources:

Rick & BeckyDuFour (@SolutionTree)  – great summary of teacher led, job embedded, PLCs (article)

Michael Fullan‘s Work -specifically, The Six Secrets of Change

The Essential Equation by Townsend and Adams – PLCs as process that should be embedded through the culture and practice of the school.

This video by Fablevision and Partnership for 21st Century Skills articulates the importance of  emergent, inquiry based professional learning:

First Steps:

  • Allow teachers to develop their own PLCs
  • Provide a structure for them to plan, report, and celebrate their learning.
  • Share their success stories and challenges with the rest of the staff.

Inquiry #3

To what extent does the financial model used by schools influence the development and effectiveness of the learning programs?

Rationale: Since become the School Head, getting my head around the enormity of the school budget has been essential. As a rapidly growing school our annual budget continues to grow and it is becoming more and more important to develop a capital expense budget. Our income comes from 3 key sources: student tuition, government subventions, and corporate donations.

Inquiry #4

Articulate the vision.

Rationale: I came to Macau to build the best possible Alberta-curriculum school in the world. We have succeeded in building a highly effective school. It is now time to set the vision and course for the next few years. As we break past the 1000 student mark, we need to questions our own basic assumptions, take a heading, and develop the necessary systems to stay on course. Alongside this, the development of Phase II (600 additional students) and the Boarding School are important.

Well, it’s about to begin.

Meeting Agenda – General Staff Meeting Aug 2011

QR Code Test

I recently came across a very good blog article that summarized many of the thoughts that I have had over the past year.

http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/10-ways-to-become-the-leader-people-follow/

In this article, Dan Rockwell quotes Jim Quigley that “people want to be led”. I don’t know about you, but that rubs me the wrong way. It conjures up an image of mindless masses following some self-imposed leader. That’s not us. I don’t want that to ever be our style. However, the article underlines the need for the leadership imperative. As principals, coordinators, and managers, you are leaders. People look to you (and to me) for guidance and direction. I will let you in on a little secret – that scares me.

Who am I to tell people how to improve their teaching? Who am I to challenge a teacher to move from being good to being great? Who am I to point mistake that staff make and then challenge them to fix them (instead of fixing it myself)? I am content to sit in my captain’s chair and send emails, write policies and handbooks, and lead meetings. But I am reluctant to really challenge people. I think our people want more and deserve more. If you don’t give them feedback, who will? If we don’t challenge them to be engaging and effective, who will? If we don’t lead our staff to improve the finer details of the organization, who will?

All the people on my team have been chosen for this year’s role because I believe that they have this capacity in them. I believe that they are passionate about students, education, and our organization. I believe that they have the clarity of vision to see what it is going to take for us to become a world-class school. I believe they have the initiative and the personality to help our people achieve greater purpose and effectiveness this year.
Let us constantly challenge each other to push the boundaries of our leadership comfort. To move beyond the reluctant leader.

See blog at Proximal Development – Konrad Glogowski

http://www.teachandlearn.ca/blog/2007/02/05/passion-based-learning

If tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear, does it make a sound?
Well, we can certainly reword that for today’s organizations.
If a decision is made, and nobody knows about it, does it make any difference?
Right now there are two policies on my desk that are in this exact quagmire. A decision has been made. The policy has been drafted. The procedures are in place. But nothing has changed. It’s missing the next step.
Follow through has always been a bit of a pain in the ass for me. I love creating but implementing is another story. Or I will do the initial implementation but I fail to do the complete follow up.
Peter Drucker makes this clear in his book The Effective Executive:
A decision has not been made until people know:
– the name of the person accountable for carrying it out;
– the deadline;
– the names of the people who will be affected by the decision and
– the names of the people who have to be informed of the decision, even if they are not directly affected by it.

A stack of cards.
10 minutes every day.
A world of difference.
I’ll start and see who will follow.

We don’t need another program and system. Just some basic modeling. Like the ‘We not ME’ axiom, it also works for both those that receive the Thank You as well as the the sender. It reinforces the good things.