Archive for September, 2009

For this school year one of my goals is to embrace the power of technology and use it to better equip our community with information and knowledge.  What the inclusion of a Blog is doing to our school however goes beyond knowledge and information.  Considering technology as a vehicle to spread information is rather linear of me.  Instead our Blog  is creating a culture of collaboration and of content creation.  Using a blog is a creative process.  Teachers have responded with enthusiasm and interest.  Children have been commenting.  Parents have been volunteering via the web!   Old methods of sending messages home on paper is wasteful and one dimensional.  Our school blog is totally interactive.

In 7 days of Blogging our stats are as follows:

  • 418 total visits to the site
  • 88 visits on our busiest day
  • 26 posts from the staff
  • 3 teacher created blogs linked

We are excited for what the coming months hold.  We feel quite comfortable saying that the existence of the School Blog and related Classroom pages will transform the results of better communication with homes and community.  Our teachers will also certainly view the medium as a valid learning and teaching tool.

Can’t wait to see where this goes!

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Today I spoke with my school’s instructional coach for one hour.  This was not a PLC as there was not student work on the table.  It was a good old fashioned meeting.  In discussing the PLC model for teacher collaboration I shared the story of my work on this blog and referred to it as my reflective practice piece.  I discussed my “rules of engagement” for PLC’s.  I added a fourth rule during a conversation.  I completely left out Reflective Practise in my initial blog. 

As I began the school year I sat and talked through my goals for improvement this year with my partner.  Engaging in more formal and serious reflective practice was one area that I certainly needed to work on.  After sitting through a session with David Warlick (2cents worth) I realized I was missing the boat with PLNs and Blogs.  I went home that night signed up for Twitter and started my Blog.  Reading other bloggers was just a by product and it has increased my current knowledge base big time.  I read, I write, I share, I read, I write…it is incredible.

In Tim Holt’s-Do I Trust the System Enough he talks of writing a book online about the evolution of professional development and professional learning.  He will use his blog to engage in the process of writing, editing and revising.  I anxiously await some of his work.  He raises the question of his work being “pinched.”  During my reflective practise exercises I had not considered this possibility or problem.  But his title intrigued me.  I dissect the concept of Trust as I have stated and I wonder if I am simply being naive to this idea.  I will not stop nonetheless.  I think I am addicted.  I haven’t felt this creative in some time.

And then I bought Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth.  The concept is that we are not our thoughts of the past or of the future.  We simply are a consciousness that generates these thoughts.  The thoughts are not who we really are.  Who we are is separate from our thoughts.  In engaging in reflective practise, in putting into words my thoughts, am I defying his truth?  My answer so far is no.  I have put into writing my thoughts and thus separated from them entirely.  Instead blogging has increased my awareness of who I am and why I do what I do everyday. 

As a self proclaimed “good teacher” I realized that the one way I could make this practise and process a solid learning opportunity for me was to teach it to someone else.  I did.  My wife is now blogging and twittering her life and passion.  Food, Kids, Career and Health.   The investment I made in her learning only improved mine.  And yes, we are both producing results.  Blog stats are our latest bragging right.

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Dear School Community Parents and Families, 

It is a pleasure to welcome you all to the 2009-2010 academic school year. As the Principal Learner and the school administrative leader I would like to express my enthusiasm and expectations for a successful and rewarding year. For starters let me introduce myself. My name is Cowpernicus and I am the new Principal of CommunityPublic School. This is my seventh year as a school administrator with the District School Board and I am extremely excited to be joining this team of professional educators at Community School. The warm and enthusiastic welcome to Community indicated to me that the learners in our community care about people, relationships and the role that education plays in our lives. 

After our first full week of school I would like to share with you some of my thoughts about this wonderful learning community. 

  • We have an incredible, Cultural community with many world wide identities. This cultural experience makes Community a unique and exciting school.  
  • Students, Parents, Educators and volunteers are very kind and know what it means to help each other. 
  • The academic nature of our building is such that student achievement is at the fore front of what we all do every day. 
  • Students are excited to learn new things as are all the teachers in this building! 

It is clear to me that there is a rich tradition of greatness at Community School. I intend, as your school Principal, to continue the good work done by all the Principal’s before me in making Community a school where students and educators exercise their potential for greatness every day. As a start to the school year the teachers were asked to identify with a catchy slogan that would get us off in the right direction. We are asking our entire learning community to “Get On The Bus. . .We Are Changing the World.” Watch for this motto on our staff shirts. Help us by letting your students know that each day they get up they help make the world a great place!

I hope to meet all of you on Wednesday, September 23rd at our Community Family Barbeque.

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4 rules for PLCs

Long chat tonight with professional educator C.B.  A man who is commited to his profession and passionate about closing the instruction – achievement gap.  I stated that there were four core beliefs at work when PLCs were in session.

  1. Student work or related data was at the centre of the table and the centre of discussion
  2. Group or PLC norms or protocols were in place to moderate the discussion
  3. A facilitator was in place to keep to the goals and structures of the PLC
  4. The PLC team must engage in a final reflective practise piece to reflect on the meeting, the protocol or the process.

Why these rules?  It is when these are in place that all players are of equal voice and that risks are taken and learning takes place.  Student achievement is always our number one priority when having professional discussions.  If norms are broken or protocols are not adhered to then others feelings, opinions, strategies, or comments are negated.  A competent facilitator must help the whole process unfurl while keeping professional and sometimes personal relationships intact.  A tonne of responsibility for the facilitator?  Yes.  That is why much must be invested in these people.

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I have referred to myself as the lead learner in the school now for about 3 years.  With mixed reaction.  I believe that is exactly who I am.  However as Stephen M.R. Covey states in The Speed of Trust, always being a learner and failing to produce results has a negative impact on the competency realm.  I intend to produce results by strengthening the bonds of professionalism that tie our teachers together.  I intend to produce results by strengthening the bonds of Trust between all stakeholders in our learning community.  And I certainly intend to produce results in improving student achievement through improving instructional practise.  I will do all of this by embracing the fact that the adults in the building are the ones that must do the learning first.

What to learn?  Learn about the students interests, abilities, current performance.  Learn about instructional strategies that are research based and tested.  Learn about each other and our organization.  Most of all learn from each other.  Our new focus in education is the “House” model of problem solving without the belligerent harassment and belittling. 

The modern Professional Learning Community or Learning Network exists to embrace real challenges and problems to the instructional – achievement gap.  Key questions: 

  • 1.  What do kids need to know and be able to do? 
  • 2.  How do we know they can? 
  • 3.  What do we do when they aren’t able to? 
  • 4.  What do we do when they can? 

I have added a 5th and final question that is much more complex to answer: 

  • 5.  How do we know that what we did made the difference?

The whole focus is on adult learning.  Professional adult learning about how and why students learn or don’t learn.  It happens around a table with equal players a facilitator and a piece of student work or data in the middle of it.  Often Protocols are used to maintain structure and norms.  Professional Learning communities embrace the unknown in an effort to better understand the student and the strength of instructional practises.

Learning is the new teaching.  Some schools have even embedded this PLC time into a monthly schedule in order to facilitate this learning and establish true Professional Learning Communities.  Schools of now embrace these opportunities and focus their attention on the accountability of closing the instruction – achievement gap rather than the accounting of crossing off curriculum expectations and moving on.

Just Found:  Teaching as Co-Learning -James Shelley

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It is my intent to include reflections on my beliefs during 192 instructional days as an elementary school Principal.  I have officially already included 3.  In an early post I discussed my belief in knowing your learners, the importance of data and my trust in my administrative partner.  Today I addressed the faculty and student body and shared two strong beliefs with them.

4.  The most important thing is to be kind.

5.  We exercise our potential for greatness every day.

I then pitched our new school slogan to the students and asked them if they wanted to:  “Get On The Bus. . . We’re Changing the World!”

The crowd went bananas! 

I think they are with me.

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I am verbose in person.  I know this.  I talk a tonne.  I have been told that I am an eloquent speaker…..people are just being polite.  They are all very kind to me.  I am learning to temper my loquaciousness with solid and profound listening.  My trick?  A 6 1/2 dollar journal from Franklin Covey.  Today I watched as my more than proficient partner delivered a professional learning session on the profile of our learners.  I wrote.  I spoke 4 times in 4 hours.  I was concise.  I asked 5 questions.  I wrote.  I think I’ve got this.  At the end of our session I was asked by the Vice Principal if I had anything to share. 

Come on…..of course I did.

I stated that I had something to share and they were all beliefs.  I prefaced these beliefs with the statement, “I have many when it comes to learning and teaching and the relationship between the two.  In order to keep our professional learning community working I will limit my belief statements and supply them in small doses.  Otherwise this will grind to a halt and you will probably throw something at me. I have three today.”

1.   I believe in the power of knowing your students and yes if you come to the office with a problem involving a student I will ask to see the child’s learning profile so that I can help support you in finding a way to reach them.

2.  I believe in the power of data analysis and we should all have up to date class data sheets at the ready.

3.  I believe in my partner, the vice principal.

We are off to a great start.  How do I know?  They all clapped and said “We do too.”  Congratulations M.R.  You were great.

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