Saturday, April 19, 2014

We Need Easter in Education!

As I reflect on the Good Friday service at my church yesterday, I can't help but think about the darkness and ultimate sacrifice of Good Friday.  Without going into a lot of detail about Christianity, Good Friday to me, means that Jesus Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice and died for my sins so that I may have new, eternal life.  The worst part about thinking about Good Friday is the fact that Jesus Christ had to die on the cross in a painful death.  Yet, this is also the best part about Good Friday - that Christ had to die so that on Easter Sunday, we can have new life!  This is the ultimate story of hope for the world!
Then I began to think about my profession - teaching and education, in general.  We desperately need a "Good Friday" in the world of Education.  We need some things to literally die, so that new, better things can bring new life into schools and learning.  It is difficult to watch anything die, yet I believe in Education, we tend to want to hang on to things for far too long.  Too often the reality in Education is that we do things because "that is how we have always done them"!  This is prevalent in schools and learning institutions and I think we need to look very critically at this and let innovation and creativity, backed with support from the research, flourish!
As a high school principal I started wondering what needs to be placed on my own Good Friday altar. 
1. I write a weekly memo for my staff but does it really get read by my staff?  Are there better ways to communicate?
2. I am available to deal with whatever my staff need while I am in my school.  This is great but it comes at a cost in terms of being in classrooms and being a visible part of the most important work in my school - the learning in the classrooms!
3. I attend several meetings that take me out of my school.  Many of these meetings, although about important topics, take my attention away from being a present instructional leader in my school!
4. I serve on several committees where I get to be part of important conversations that indirectly affect learning, yet again this uses up a valuable resource called time and takes me out of my school!
5. I lead a monthly staff meeting and try to make our 45 minutes together a valuable, collaborative time of learning.  I have tried to encourage informational items to be gathered on a learning portal or posted for our staff to read.  Do they read them?  Do they value our staff meeting time?  Again, is there a better way to use our time as a staff?
Then I started to think a little larger than my role in my own school and moved to my school division and our province.  What are some things that could be placed on the Good Friday altar from a regional perspective?
1. Standardized assessments - assessment data is important but we need to be done with "getting students ready for the test".  Many students have gaps in their learning, cultural gaps due to being english language learners, and many of these assessments do not allow for these gaps.
2. Leadership Meetings - these happen on average twice per month.  Many of the agendas are composed of informational items rather than collaboration.  This needs to change!
3. Training courses and sessions on everything from "Freedom Of Information and Privacy" to learning how to better observe our beginning teachers, to learning how to fill out a "Violent Threat Risk Assessment" document, and many things in between!  Yes, these things matter, butthe plate for a school principal is getting more full.  Perhaps there are some things that need to be taken off the plate so we can do the leading that really matters - helping our students achieve!

I can list more things that could "die" so that there is room for "new life" and more innovative and creative ways that we can lead in schools.  Just like this Easter weekend that we are currently in, there was death to bring new hope in new life!  This is the focus we need more of in Education - we need to critically look at things that we can eliminate from our practice so that we can make room for the new ways.  This is courageous and bold, but it is also really simple to do.  We need to look for things that can be given up, especially if we are just doing them because we have always done them!

Regardless of your religious beliefs and affiliations, enjoy the rest of this Easter Weekend!  I am looking forward to Easter Sunday and what that means to me as a believer of Jesus Christ, but I am also looking forward to "Easter Sunday" in my world as a leader in schools.  I look forward to new, innovative ways that I can lead in my school, my school division, and my province!
Happy Easter everyone!