Thursday, November 3, 2011

Classroom Visits - Making connections in their space!

It has been several weeks now that I have been practising "No Office Day" on Tuesday mornings in my school.  I am amazed how energizing this time has been.  This past week I observed students in a Photography class as they were getting ready to do some silk-screening.  I also was able to connect with a couple of students who have not been regularly attending the class and found out a little more about why they were missing.  Instead of me as the administrator asking them to come down to the office and then both of us posturing as to why they aren't coming to class, and ironically me dragging them out of class to miss more class to find out why they are missing class?  Huh?  Seems a little silly to me!  I was able to listen to them and it seemed a lot less formal than if each of us was sitting on either side of my big desk!
I was also able to watch a presentation by a group of students in  a Biology 20 class and have been able to have at least 2 follow-up conversations with students, in the hallways, later in the week about their presentation!

I was also in a Physics 30 class where the students were trying to design a roller coaster where the loop would have a diameter of 1 kilometre, and then together we calculated the speed of the cars at the top of the loop.  It was a mind boggling 252 km/hr!  Then it was really cool for the students to think about this in their own context and realize the danger involved in that speed!  I took the opportunity to speak to a couple of students later in the period about their attendance and again it was a very flat hierarchy for us to talk when I was in "their" learning space.

I finished my morning by visiting an English 10 class which is a sheltered class for 21 of our new Canadian students.  I had read a lot about the benefits, especially for EAL students to be scheduled in a sheltered class, but to be able to observe first-hand and see the comfort those students feel and the laughter and the sense of community, was powerful.  The students were looking at images and then responding  with their thoughts and feelings.  The amazing thing was, even though some of them were difficult to understand through their fractured english, their ideas and wonders were inspiring!  I found myself being moved emotionally as I heard some of them talk about their stories and some of the places that they had lived.

As I returned to "my space", my office, I felt grateful for the students sharing their spaces with me.  I was able to connect with 7 students who I needed to see about attendance and a few other matters, but I made the connection with them and had a conversation with them rather than talking to them!  I also was able to see these students in an authentic learning space and got to participate in the learning with them!

I tweeted out some quick comments on the school twitter page about my experiences that morning and it felt good; really good!

This is not rocket science, but it turns out it is essential for me as the Lead Learner in our high school!  I just want to do it more and more!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

No Office Day - Should have done this years ago!

I have structured my school week where I am not in my office every Tuesday morning. I explained this to my staff on the first day of the year and I also explained that if I needed to be reached, my cell phone would be on. So far, I have only been needed back in my office once in 4 weeks!
I have never been more energized as I am on Tuesday in my school. I have been able to connect with numerous students and staff and I have also been able to have some rich conversations with students on "their" terms and in "their" spaces in the classrooms.
I have learned about technology use like how to digitally sign-out books from our city library, from 2 students in our Autism classroom - this never would have happened had I not come to them!
I also have watched my Industrial Arts teacher explain how to use the table saw. I also have talked with students in our Photography 30 class and they eloquently have explained to me that this course and the teacher have been instrumental on helping them to decide on a future career. Again, I could have called them down to my office and asked them how everything was going but those conversations are often short and not very comfortable for the students.
I also watched some students yesterday in an Arts Education class and participated with them in a voice projection activity where we were whispering to ourt partners from a variety of distances and really focusing on our listening skills.

I often tell my staff that I am going to try to get into their classrooms more often at the beginning of the school year and too many times other activities and events prevent this from happening - well not this year! This first month of school I have been into 13 classrooms and observed students and teachers and had many conversations about learning! This is awesome and I encourage all administrators to structure your week in such a way as to make this part of your own expected practice.
The only downside I see is that it is 6 more days until Tuesday morning comes again! I actually got outside and watched a girls PE class play touch football! They were awesome!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

PLC or PLN? That is the question!

I am sure we in education are quite aware of PLC (Professional Learning Communities) as they have been in the literature for many years A PLC is something that many of us would say exists in our schools in one form or another.  With experts such as Dufour, Eaker, and Marzano one can find plenty of evidence that a school that functions as a professional learning community is one which will likely be experiencing success on many levels.

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But what about a PLN (Personal Learning Network)?  You don't have to delve very far into Twitter to see educators mentioning their own PLN and the valuable resources, both in terms of ideas but also in terms of similar professionals who are going through similar expereinces all over the world!
The cool thing is that the PLN does not cost anything ( no professional fees, no conference and travel fees, no actual print resource costs, etc.) and yet there is a vast amount of information and support available as one expands their PLN.
In my expereince, I have really only been actively on Twitter since July 2011, and I have been amazed at how many educators and principals I have talked with, shared ideas with and learned from in not only a short period of time, but traditionally, this has been time that I usually "turn-off" my own learning!
The beauty of the link between one's PLN and Twitter is that I can decide who to follow, when to follow, when to post links, etc. and none of this learning is tied to a specific location or time, as a traditional conference or learning event has been in the past.
In fact, could it be that my PLN will truly develop into a PLC, or perhaps be blended with numerous PLC's across the globe?  Yes, I think it could rather easily!  Just think if an entire high school was functioning as a vibrant, connected, and functional PLN - how would this change the game?
I am not suggesting that an educator should abolish their PLC for a PLN but I do think the PLN is a great tool for all learners and can truly ignite your passion and connect you with similar-minded colleagues.

As of today, I currently have numerous colleagues who I am exchanging ideas with and learning from on a daily basis!  I am grateful for what they have shared with me and am hopeful that I am also able to share some good ideas!
As your school year gets started, if you haven't joined twitter and began to develop your own PLN, I want to encoruage you to "jump-in"! 
I have listed a few great resources for you to include as you develop your own PLN below:
How To Build Your Own Personal Learning Network . . .
The Educator's PLN
Using Twitter to Develop Your PLN  This last one is a prezi and has some great videos embedded in it that are helpful!

Monday, August 22, 2011

What can we learn from a painter?

My wife paints houses for a living and she needed some help the other day so I joined her and painted the walls and the celing of a garage!  As I painted, I had plently of time to think about what my wife does and what I do as a high school principal.
My wife continually reminds me that when she does an estimate for a customer, when she consults about colors, when she does the painting, and when she leaves her invoice - THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS NUMBER ONE!  I agree with her and I have watched these past few years as her business has grown where she models this kind of behavior!
If a customer wants something changed, or if they aren't quite satisfied, then my wife makes sure they are content.  She feels that it is her job to make sure that the customer gets a freshly painted house and they leave the place cleaner than they found it.  This in turn creates more potential clients for my wife because people will see their job and then they tell others and very quickly they will have new people phone them for an estimate!
As a school leader, my customers, the students, need to be satisfied.  It is my job to ensure that they learn and have the best possible chance of experiencing success in school.  It is the responsibility of my staff to ensure that we are creating learning environments that are supportive and that allow students to have a successful learning experience!  If a student does not have a good expereince, what do we do?  If a student or family is not satisfied, then what do we do for them?  As a school leader, do I even think about referrals and how one happy student can lead future students to my school?  Or do I think about an unsatisfied student, and how that expereince may lead to other potential students choosing a different school?  As I begin a new school year, I am going to approach every student and their experience like they have a learning contract with me and that I need to do whatever I can to ensure they have a successful learning experience.  I also think I need to do more part-time painting jobs with my wife!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes you need to take your foot off the gas . . .

The semester is into its 3rd week, the Open House for incoming Grade 8 students is in the past, our current students are selecting courses for next year, and amid all that hype, there is a break coming!
This is a break for all of the learners in my school - the students and the adults!
A break can be just what we all need to be able to regain our energy and refine the focus on learning for the next several weeks!
The break also means a change in weather (hopefully) if you are traveling to a warmer climate, or if you are just staying at home and turning up the fireplace.
All good learning takes time and requires a lot from us, but it also demands that we slow down sometimes and take our feet off the gas!
To all who call Evan Hardy their "place of learning", I wish you all a well-deserved break!  Come back, but come back refreshed and ready to fly!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New semester anyone? New semester resolutions anyone?

The school year is half-over; hard to believe!
In my high school, we just finished final exams for the first semester And now after all of the final evaluations are completed, it's time to start new classes and in many cases this gives students a chance to re-focus!
We usually make New Year resolutions on Dec. 31st but maybe the best time to do this is right now.
My "new semester" resolution is to be an energetic lead learner as the principal and I want to get into many classrooms and talk to students and teachers about what they are learning in their classrooms. I don't need to go to the gym or change my eating habits and because of that this has the potential to be a resolution that I can actually stick to.
Regardless of the Many sources of noise around me, my goal is to lead and engage the students and adults in my school to be the best learners they can be so we can all make the school a better place of learning.
I wish all the students and my staff an excellent second semester!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The time to start, is now . . .

This is my first post on my blog.  I have been reading many blogs including, The Principal of Change, and The Wejr Board, as well as Connected Principals, and it has been refreshing to be able to learn from colleagues outside my school division about matters that all administrators are experiencing across Canada and in the U.S.
My hope is that I can also begin sharing important things in my own journey as a principal as I continue to lead the learning agenda in my school.
I am now moving from reading and thinking to actually starting; to actually being brave enough to share!

The important thing is I started; rather than planning to start or thinking about starting, I just started.

I think this is true of many things we do as school leaders; we just need to start.
It may be :
- popping into more classrooms
- phoning more parents to share the cool thing their son/daughter did at school that day
- inviting a teacher to share an innovative idea at a staff meeting
- asking your superintendent to come out to your school to see a presentation by some creative students
- asking the really tough questions when meeting with a struggling teacher
- etc.

As leaders in schools, we are bombarded with change and we need to make decisions that many are depending on at warp speed.

But today, it's time to start blogging!