Principal Growth

It is a opportune time for growth. Last week I attended a training course for Saskatchewan administrators hosted by the STF professional development unit. It was  called Module One – Working with People. This was a first step in professional growth that I have promised myself and others. I was looking forward to learning about how to deal with people and problems that arise for administrators. I got more out of this PD than I anticipated.

The “more” that I learned was not so much about dealing with others, it was much more personal than that. It was more about me. I learned about my tendencies and where they fit when it comes to being an effective administrator. It was about how my personality interacts with people with similar and different personalities. It was about how I can build a team around me according to others’ strengths.

The document that led our discussion for the first couple of days was called Insights. Each participant was given their own personal Insights report that was based on an on-line personality profile that we completed a few weeks prior to the course. Upon reading the reports all participants commented on how accurate much or all of their reports were. In my own case I felt one or two comments missed the mark but 95% of the report was so right on it was scary.  I have close friends that I have known for over twenty years that could not come close to describing me as accurately. The impressive part was how in depth the report was. The report talked about how we react in different situations, what the best way to approach conflict with us is and how we can best deal with personalities opposite us.

One of the gems I found during our discussions was that we can draw upon or suppress certain energies at work. Insights breaks personality into four colour groups. In my case Insights told me that I pull my ability to focus and concentrate on tasks up at work but there is room in that area to grow. Like much of my report I found this to be a valid statement and something I already new. To have it in print, however, seems to be a motivator. I have already been thinking of ways I can accommodate more concentration:

  • closing my door when focusing on completing a project
  • blocking my time so I am working on projects before or after school hours or at times when I am least likely to be interrupted
  • getting an earlier start on projects so I will have the time to do them justice

I will be focusing on pulling up my attention to detail this year. I have a sign on my desk that says “consider everything” (that is where the name of this blog comes from) and that is truly what I need to do.

We learned several other practical ideas put forth during our time together at Module One.  Putting on effective meetings, effectively managing time, creating collaborative cultures, communicating with parents were just a few of the topics we discussed and work-shopped. I will be taking a lot from the learning that happened around all of these topics. Still, I look most forward to tapping into energies I know I have and others around me will benefit from. An indicator of growth will be recognition by others that tasks are getting done in a timely matter with sufficient attention to detail.

Breaking Free

I need to make the break. I need to find away to unchain myself from my desk. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful desk but I just don’t think we need to spend so much time together.

Last year the administrators group in our division lobbied for and received an increase of administration time. We were all feeling overworked. There had been a dramatic increase in paperwork and superintendent demands as a result of amalgamation. Coupled with those was an unprecedented amount of Ministry initiatives; new curricula, testing demands, accountability pieces etc. All of our heads were spinning but relief came in the form of increased admin time. All administrators were give a 15% increase in their timetable formula. There was a string attached. Each administrator would be asked to spend at least 20% of their allotted admin time in the area  of instructional leadership. What a great string. All of our administrators seemed to jump at the opportunity to spend more time in this area. Dedicating time to spending more time leading staff in learning was insightful, it wasn’t seen as a compromise but rather as something we wanted to do.

So here I sit, at my desk, halfway through the year lamenting about the amount of paperwork and dealing with the myriad of items that come through the door daily. I am not complaining about these things I am just pointing out that there is always a lot to do even with the 15% increase.  I  ask the question “How am I going to find time to do the piece I want to be doing … being an instructional leader?” As I have mentioned in a previous post I know the answer lies somewhere in the realm of Covey. I do like the time management strategies he shares. I need to adhere to them more.

I feel torn, however, about carrying through with one Covey suggestion. At the workshop we attended we received a door knob “Do Not Disturb” sign with an explanation that time was being dedicated to forward planning. This idea goes directly against my grain of being accessible, of having an open door policy. I understand that if I can dedicate the time to forward planning (read instructional leadership) I am better serving my staff but if staff come with an immediate problem and find a closed door will they feel frustrated. I know for sure that if I am forward planning and I am interrupted by a problem or request I do not give it the attention it deserves because I am still in planning mode.

If I explain to my staff that I plan to use my time more efficiently and give them an avenue to let me know they need my attention as soon as I am finished my planning I may be able to increase the amount of instructional leadership I can afford. Hopefully with my planning done I will be able to break free from my desk, get into classrooms and have the rich teaching conversations I want to have with my teachers.

New Year 2010

It is a great day for resolutions. One of my many is to reclaim this space and make it useful.

I get blogging. I understand the power that comes from blogging especially in terms of professional development. I started this blog at the end of last summer (ah, last summer …it’s -30° this morning!) with the intention of entering a post every week or two. As I anticipated reality happened and as I became increasingly busy I stopped after just 3 posts.

How do I accomplish, then, my good intention to post every couple of weeks as we enter 2010? Time seems to be such an enemy. How can I create time to blog when I already don’t have enough time to do all of my school work, have time for my family and time for myself. The answer is easy. I can’t. It is impossible to create time. I can, however, manage my time more effectively. Yes. It is time to return to Covey. He is sitting on my file cabinet in the office. It’s time to work in Q2, to sharpen the saw and to place all of my big rocks.

How will I know I am successful? This space will be my assessment. Another of my resolutions is to complete a 365 project. I have decided to post my daily photos here. By doing this I will be forced to update this blog daily thereby reminding me to do a post every week or two.

Happy New Year to all… oh and yes I need to lose 15 lbs.

Lemonade

lemonadeWe squeezed a lot of energy from our entire staff on Friday. It was the first day back to school for all staff and before we got back to work I shared some thoughts on the year. My talk focused on the unexpected. I told the staff that rarely do things turn out as we expect they will. Putting some teachers in role play situations emphasized this with hilarious results. We went on to talk about keeping positive when things do go wrong and enjoying the workplace and those around us. Thank God it’s Monday…
We went on to talk about new initiatives this year. Music classes have returned to HPS after a 2 year absence. We are implementing Early Literacy from K-2 as well as a tech infusion model that sees a tech leader come into the classroom twice a week to work with students and the homeroom teacher. Will all these new initiatives work perfectly? No, but if we expect the unexpected and deal with the problems that arise in a positive manner we will succeed.
We ended buy saying “If life gives you lemons…” at which point a colleague introduced our first ever “Lemonade Off”! Teams of table partners scurried around the library hunting for the 45 lemons hidden there. Other members gathered strainers, jugs, glasses, garnishes, etc.. Twenty minutes later a taste test was judged by myself and our presenter. The results were fantastic. The lemonade was fantastic, the presentations and concoctions were varied and original. Once again the staff of HPS used cooperation and resourcefulness to accomplish a delicious task. I can hardly wait for Monday, our students are very fortunate!

I’ve Got Homework to Do

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I’ve been rethinking homework lately largely because I’m reading Cathy Vatterott’s Rethinking Homework. What are the best practices for our school? As teachers I know we have differing views on the subject of homework. Is it time to throw homework on the discussion table? A school wide policy perhaps?

If we expect students to complete work at home not only does the work need to be meaningful, but also understood by the student. That means the student needs to know what the assignment is and how to do it. Many times we have heard, “but I don’t know what to do” right before tears flow.

A parent once described family life as a car with all four wheels on the ground – balanced. She felt that unnecessary homework (among many other things) could throw a wheel out of balance and get the entire family out of control. She requested that her daughter received homework that I, as the teacher, felt was absolutely necessary. That analogy really made me think that year and in subsequent years about what I was sending home. Was the expected task really helping the student achieve a learning outcome or was it homework for homework sake.

Many teachers assign weekly homework. Spelling tests, reading assignments, etc. are expected to be completed each week. The advantage of weekly homework is that it is expected, the students know what to do and how long it will take them. Is weekly homework a case, however, of homework for homework’s sake? What curricular outcomes are met by studying a weekly list of words?

Another homework issue in our school is our new curriculum. For example, with changes in our math program I have seen first hand the frustration with students and parents trying to do math homework. The new program is based on student understanding and requires students to engage in hands-on experiences and demonstrate  understanding by communicating and modelling their reasoning. Because the methods are time consumming parents ask the student to “try it their way” to get the answer resulting in needless confusion.

Our curriculum stresses differentiated instruction. I wonder how our teachers would react to differentiated homework. It makes sense, in that, we know our students are going home to different homes, some very supportive and some not. Those students all have different skill sets. What does differentiate homework look like then? Do we expect different amounts of work? Are we preparing different assignments? Do some get homework and some not? How do we manage it all?

I look forward to reading the rest of Cathy’s book and researching this issue some more. I’m sure it will lead to interesting discussion with our staff and our parents at the school.

Hey, I Started a Blog

Wheres the mouse?

Where's the mouse?

I remember twenty some odd years ago, speaking with a colleague about the potential of computers in education. “Wouldn’t it be neat if you could show a map on the screen” I said, “then pick a country or a province and information would pop up.” “They are doing that!” my friend replied. Soon after our Apple 2 E’s were out and the shiny Windows 95 with the encyclopedia disc (that you could click on a map with) were in. And so was I. Ever since when planning units I have tried to ask myself ‘how could I teach this using technology?’

I continue to look for value and opprotunity when it comes to educational technology. As we enter into a new school year at HPS I am excited about what is happening there. This year we have 2 teachers serving as technology leaders. Wendy will go into each grade K-5 class twice a week to work along side the classroom teacher to infuse technology into whatever subject the teacher chooses. Brent will do the same in grades 6 and 8 and I will join Brent twice a week with  his homeroom grade 7′s .

Wendy, Brent and I will be meeting to discuss the nuts and bolts of our infusion plan so we can present to the teachers on opening day. We need to look at potential problems such as time to plan with the homeroom teachers, sharing workload, learning new technologies, etc. Our hope is that our students will be able to become well versed in the technologies available to them. We also believe that all of our teachers will benefit in the same way.

I am feeling very positive that our plan to infuse technology is going to take off, but I am a glass half full type. I intend to monitor and mentor this program closely and use this space to share what we come up with.