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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.

This year we have decided to take our collaboration a step further. We are committing to engage in professional instructional rounds.

What are instructional rounds?

Instructional rounds involves a group of teachers visiting a colleague’s class and using the visit to have a professional conversation about professional practice.

It takes a lot of trust to allow people into our classrooms and to have them talk about what they observe without feeling that we are being judged.

Purpose
– provide teacher team with opportunities to observe peer practice and for the observation to be a catalyst for professional discussion
– the purpose is to celebrate and disseminate best practices as well encourage collaborative discussions of professional practice and provide opportunity for personal reflections.
– not for evaluative purposes and nonjudgmental

The Host (person being observed)
– completely voluntary
– will be asked in advance
– can provide the team with a context or introduction about their classroom, students, curriculum, etc. Not mandatory.

The Visitors
– people who have no teaching time during the scheduled visit will be invited to attend
– optional and voluntary

The Visit
– meet in the staffroom beforehand to share the context and discussion expectations
– the visit may be 20-40 minutes in length
– visitors are encouraged to observe class routines, student learning, the environment, the interactions between the teacher and students

The Discussion
– after the visit, the team will discuss their observations
– this discussion will be facilitated by a member of the school leadership team

Follow Up
– brief write up will be shared with all of the staff to celebrate

After round 1, here’s what happened:

Instructional Rounds #1 – Starting the Day Off Right

During period 1 today, we visited TM (SK) and AS (Gr1). I’d like to thank T and A for agreeing to be our first hosts. Inviting people into your classroom takes a considerable amount of trust.

As it was a Monday morning and P1, not many teachers were available to join the rounds this time. I only notified teachers that had preps during P1. Here’s what we saw:

Kindergarten – a very kinesthetic and active classroom that uses well established routines and cues to provide structure. T brings her wealth of PE experience to her kindergarten class. She uses tuck sits, L sits, touch your toe sits and criss cross sits to keep the students focused but still active. The “touch your toes sit” is especially evil for out of shape administrators! The students acted out the story “From Tree to House” and the teacher used star freezes and pencil freezes to transition between the steps. T is a great example of how a classroom can be very active but still well managed. In fact, if you asked her, I’m sure that she would say that being active is key to being well managed.

Grade 1 – high tech and low tech classroom that uses feedback to improve literacy. A’s classroom is a tech lover’s paradise. During her literacy centres, students were working on 2 different ipads, recording themselves with the MacBook, videotaping one another with the video camera, reading with a parent volunteer, creating words on the SmartBoard, and reading to themselves with simple telephones. Can 5 year olds handle a video camera, an ipad, a computer, and iMovie? Absolutely. But what is important isn’t the technology itself. Everything is designed to provide feedback to the students and the teacher. From the PVC telephone that provides auditory feedback to the parent volunteer to the recorded movie – all of these strategies provide feedback. A learning environment is just about doing – it’s about doing, reflecting, and redoing.

Thank you again T and A, it was fantastic to see the great things that you are doing!

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

Many of our new staff have just completed their first full week of having their own classroom! Congratulations. Others are in a new grade level this year or in their second year of teaching. I hope your first week started off great.

I love the lead up to the start of the school year. I get anxious and excited. I’m unable to sleep at night. But once the week actually begins, the adrenaline starts to wear off as I run into small road bumps and realize that even the best oiled machine needs to be fine tuned.

As a beginning teacher, you will face a continuum of emotions this year. David Ginsburg provides this light-hearted visual about the phases that first year teachers go through. You can read more about them on his blog.

Janet Moeller-Abercrombie points out in her presentation that this curve looks a lot like the stages of culture shock:

As beginning international school teachers, some of you are thinking

“OMG, what I have I gotten myself into this year?”

Don’t worry, it’s not as dark as you think. Here are some ideas to help you out:

  • Spend some time reflecting on the stages
  • Talk with your mentor about your experiences and feelings
  • Celebrate the victories
  • Take some pictures – you are going to want to remember this in the future
  • Find someone to laugh with
  • Practice serendipity. Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.

Remember, it’s a roller coaster. It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time. It’s better experienced together than alone. It’s a ride. Enjoy the ride.

See blog at Proximal Development – Konrad Glogowski

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