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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.


My first attempt at an infographic. I ended up choosing to make it A3 size at it could be used as a promotional poster as well. I created it using PAGES.

You can click on the image to get a larger version or here’s a full size version in PDF:

TIS by the Numbers 11-12(lower res2)

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.

– 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!

*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?

Lyn Hilt’s (@L_Hilt) recent post, Out With Professional Development In With Professional Learning, inspired me to document our school’s movement towards Inquiry-Based Professional Learning.

It started at an Apple conference in HK. As part of the conference, we needed to come up with a way of teaching our staff back home about the technology integration that we had been learning about. Inservices and training have historically been ineffective. They are top down, the participants rarely see the immediate connection to their classrooms and even the instructors apologize for taking up the teachers’ valuable time. It may not be death as Ron Houtman suggests in the photo, but it’s not certainly not effective.

As teachers, we should know how to TEACH and how to do it effectively. So we spent some time brainstorming about our most effective strategies. Very quickly we hit upon our inquiry based projects. In our inquiry based projects, we have seen students extend their learning far beyond the original anticipations of the teachers. These projects allowed the students to be highly individualized and differentiated. If it worked for students, why wouldn’t it work for teachers?

It wasn’t long before we realized that we shouldn’t be just focused on inquiry based learning as it pertains to technology integration. We have a great Tech Coordinator who does a fantastic job of meeting teachers where they at technologically and encouraging them to move beyond their comfort zones. We are committed to reducing top down training sessions and increasing our just-in-time training.

However, we still had very static professional development. As part of our accreditation system, all teachers have to develop a Professional Growth Plan. Teachers identify areas to improve, develop strategies and resources to meet those needs and then provide a means to assess their learning. While noble in principle, in reality most are merely written and then quickly forgotten.

Our lived Professional Development tended to be better – a series of PD days during the year that relied mostly on internal speakers to provide sessions for the other teachers. In the past year we had recently provided PD funds for teachers to access for conferences, Master’s courses, etc. As an international school in Asia, the number of conferences in the area are significantly lower than back in Canada. Further, we didn’t want our PD to be reduced just going to conferences. Both models – PD Days (Sit and Git) and Conferences (Go and Git) serve a purpose but are not ideal. We had experienced considerable success with Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). But these had been limited to interest based meetings that were led by a handful of teachers.

We began to brainstorm what it would be like to change our Professional Growth Plans (PGPs) into inquiry based professional learning plans. These would be flexible and highly individualized. They would continue to grow during the year. They would act as the umbrella through which our PD (now called Professional Learning) would be defined and be tied into our PLCs (more emergent and dynamic this year).

Our Professional Learning will be split into 3 levels:

  • Individually – Inquiry Based Professional Growth Plan
  • Small Groups – Collaborative Inquiry through Professional Learning Communities
  • Corporately – through our school plans and goals and PD Committee

I’m looking forward to this fundamental shift in professional learning.

Here’s something to get you thinking. Scott Mcleod had a blog on his site, Dangerously Irrelevant, that brought this to my attention. On Scott’s site, you will find multiple formats of Karl Fisch‘s presentation, “Did You Know“. If you watch this short presentation (just over 6 minutes), you can’t help but wonder about the role of learning and the current state of education.

Ok, just found out that I can’t upload video directly. So, to watch the video, pop over to Scott’s site and use up his bandwidth then come on back because I’d really like to hear your comments. Click here to choose your video format.


Principal as Managers

Dealing with Conflict

Crafting Culture

Having Fun

You Are Not Smart Enough, Efficient Enough, Good Enough – Building a Team and Delegating

Achieving Big Dreams

Leadership that Matters

Technology Tools

Managing Your Email

O3s – One on Ones

The Walk Through


Handheld Helpfuls

When Teachers Don’t Perform

The Teacher Bully


The Shot Across the Bow

Feedback Model


Mission, Organization, Team, Individual

Managing Agreements and Not People

Twitter Updates


Howard Stribbell is the Head of Schools at The International School of Macao.

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