- The most important thing is to be kind.
- Collaborative, supportive and positive school culture depends solely on the bonds of interrelational trust within and among all stakeholders.
- Learning depends on opportunities to think, do, assess and repeat.
- Our primary purpose as an organization is to provide learning opportunities for all.
- Learners at KPS will leave each day better prepared, happier and more confident than when they came.
- We will learn about, from and with each other every day.
- The way we treat each other and our students is the way our students will treat each other.
Archive for the ‘Principal’ Category
Principal @PrincipalONeil, Principal @KerryGreenDuren and I presented at Connect 2016 in Niagara Falls on April 28, 2016. Our session was well attended and the feedback was flattering. We decided to keep working on our approach to school announcements and then brought our learning work to the TELL Conference in August. TELL is an OPC sponsored event titled: Technology Enabled Learning Leaders. Here is the updated slidedeck.
I am sure Mrs. Renaud would have stumbled upon Twitter on her own in short time. In fact I am pretty sure she had an account and maybe just wasn’t using it yet. I am not going to take credit where it is not due, ie. it was not I that made her “Tweet”. After all she is correct in saying that it “is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.” So as the Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair person I expected her, sooner or later, to engage with the various accounts that our school had to offer. Why then aren’t all parents grabbing this same opportunity, this chance, to keep their ears on the tracks and their eyes on the horizon while their children fly by on the high velocity train we are calling the education system today. That is to say that many schools are catching that train. Others may be slow off the platform while still others are sitting at the station waiting for the bus. Nevertheless, the realm of social media and content creation in my context is a realm of learning, connecting, creating and collaborating for all learners.
This image, pulled from twitter just this evening in fact, states a powerful message about harnessing the power inherent in the technology of today. Try inserting Parents or Principals in place of Teachers!
It wasn’t long into the school year that Mrs. Renaud began recognizing the power of the twitter-verse. She soon started sending tweets about her learning as a parent. Her son and his classmates interacted with her. She shared these experiences with other parents. Shortly after that Stephanie discovered #ptchat (parent/teacher chat). She attended EdCampSWO on April 6, 2014 and now is looking to start her own twitter groups to help other parents learn alongside their children. Below is a culmination of all these experiences in the form of an article that she wrote for a regional publication highlighting the power that social media, specifically twitter, can have on the relationships between parents, students and school. Please read this guest post by Mrs. Renaud and then feel free to send her a tweet and let her know what great work she is doing as a learning parent!
It’s Sweet To Tweet! A Guide to Twitter for Parents
Twitter is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education. Schools and their teachers are jumping on the bandwagon by the dozen.
If you are not a Twitter user already, I am sure you have heard of it. It is very simple to create an account. All you need is an email address. You are in complete control of what you follow, so it is easy to customize your feed to your interests and likes, much like Facebook. A quick search of the Greater Essex County District School Board site reveals that many, if not most schools have an account that you can follow, as well as individual teachers, classes, school organizations and administrators.
I contend that, as parents, we would be well placed to be jumping on the band wagon as well. Here’s why.
Reasons why is it sweet to tweet as a parent.
#1 Connect with other parents.
Community is a powerful thing. In a time when so many of us are part of dual parent working families, we barely have time to kiss our kids goodnight when we tuck them in, to say nothing of building relationships within our community. Yet these connections are what makes life meaningful. These connections help us to understand that we are not alone, that there are others out there who have the same joys and struggles we do. In the same way that Facebook allows us to efficiently and conveniently connect with our friends and loved ones about our lives, twitter can help us connect to our children, our community and our schools in convenient, manageable ways.
#2 Up to the moment info on what your kid is doing at school.
How many of us ask our kids what they did at school today? I am willing to wager all of us. How often is the answer “oh, nothing.” Ugh! I am trying to be interested here! Twitter offers you the opportunity to be tuned in to what your kids are doing on a day-to-day basis so you can ask questions that are much more specific. The more specific you are, the more interested you sound, and the more likely you are to get a meaningful response. When our kids feel like we are interested in their learning, their learning becomes just that much more engaging for them. Who knows? We might just learn something new ourselves.
#3 Tweeting saves trees.
How much paper comes home in your kids’ school bags? If they are anything like mine, it’s at least a small forest per week. In an effort to reduce the paper waste in schools, many of them post updates and information on Twitter. Trouble is, not enough parents are active on the interface to substantially reduce the need for paper communication. Become active, it can reduce waste.
#4 A place to ask questions and get answers from people who know.
As parents with children in school we often have questions and concerns about what happens at school with our kids. Tweeting these questions and concerns allows us the opportunity to connect not only with other parents who may be wondering the same thing, but also with professionals both in our school community and in the larger global community who can give us answers, feedback and next steps. Without leaving our kitchen table.
#5 A safe place to air general concerns and share ideas.
Who has time to go another meeting? So often our concerns and ideas are shelved due to sheer lack of time to set the meeting, to address or share them. Let alone attend that meeting and be present enough to make it meaningful. Tweet it. Instantly your concern is communicated to the relevant people, be it your administrator, your child’s classroom teacher or the parent involvement committee for your school or region. To make it even better? The responses are delivered right to your mobile device, be it iPhone, iPad or laptop. Did you have an idea to share? A new way to approach a problem that you see with how your school operates? Tweet it! Ideas are powerful things, and are better when shared.
#6 Does your child have special needs? Reach out to others who walk the same path.
With the rise of ADHD, autism and other developmental and behavioural diagnosis in children it has become more important than ever that we connect with other parents who do the same job we do. Sharing ideas, questions, and struggles is a great way to help our own parenting strategies evolve and improve. As a special needs parent, the more tools I have, the more effective I can be.
#7 Great way to stayed connected as a working parent
Let’s face it, we are all way too busy. Being more involved in our children’s education is something many, if not most of us want to do that we just feel we don’t have the time for. The emergence of social media as a tool makes being involved as easy as checking your twitter feed. It only takes a few minutes, and instantly you are more informed, more involved. Like my mom always told me, knowledge is power.
#8 Knowledge is power.
The more information we have as parents about how and what our children are learning, the more we can support and extend the learning beyond the classroom. Research is clear on this point. The more education is extended beyond the four walls of the classroom, the more meaningful and long-lasting it becomes. How powerful is that?
As parents of increasingly technologically capable young people it behooves us to join the digital movement. With awareness and involvement in the digital world we have the ability to guide and safeguard our children in the new digital frontier, and join with our schools in facilitating the development of our students as global citizens with media savvy.
Every school in the #GECDSB has a website. I encourage you to look up your schools website where they will no doubt have multiple twitter accounts listed.
If you are still not feeling too confident that you can set up your own account and get tweeting, check out these links which lead you to some nice, simple How-To guides to get you started.
Tweet, engage, empower. It’s that simple.
Special thanks for this post goes to Stephanie Renaud, Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair
Posted in education, learning, Principal, reflective practise, Teachers, tagged @mrswideen, collaboration, Eastwood, inquiry, learning, Learning parenting connections Starbucks LEGOLAND, reflective practise, the lego movie on February 24, 2014| 1 Comment »
10 Lessons from The Lego Movie for Principals Looking to Inquiry to Solve Learning Needs.
Two things were informative to me last week. The first was watching the Lego Movie with Zoe, Gavin, McKenna and Tricia. The second was my dialogue with 8 teachers around the use of inquiry based learning as a primary pedagogical method in the classroom. These two experiences happened over two days and the parallels were more than evident.
First, The Lego Movie. I loved it. The movie was excellent. 5 stars. The kids didn’t stop laughing and neither did I. Gavin has been saying everything is awesome. The whole time I watched I could not help but draw on the metaphors in the movie for inspired teaching and learning in an inquiry based classroom. I know I was supposed to be entertained not thinking about work. The fact of the matter is I am always thinking about work. Work for me is learning and learning is the work so it is pretty inherent that as I experience life I think deeply about how learning has shaped who I’ve become.
The dialogue I had with three separate teachers around the concept of an inquiry based classroom brought forward three common themes: 1. Trust is Key 2. Learning is Messy and 3. Let’s Dialogue About This Together. I captured some audio of three of the 8 teachers below. As I listened to each of them and physically witnessed inquiry (at different stages) happening in the classrooms the connections to The Lego Movie continued to deepen for me. After a conversation with fellow educator Mrs. Wideen (@mrswideen) we agreed that the classroom parallels to the central theme of the movie could not be ignored. We agreed to do our best to somehow draw on these parallels in a blog post. Let me introduce Kali to offer some background information about the pedagogy of inquiry that these teachers have been experimenting with.
Listen to Ms. Sak discuss the process.
1. The Man Up Above.
Are you the one in charge? The one that gives permission, allows, shoulds, tells, supposed tos? Yes you are. Regardless of your approach the initial understanding is that you are the boss. The one in the big chair, the Principal. Have you heard-“That’s why you get the big bucks.” often? You have positional authority. The question you must ask yourself and further reflect on is how much you engage your positional authority over those that report to you. The 1:99 rule applies here. If you are engaging your positional authority as a Principal more than 1% of the time you are stifling the environment with your Omnipresence. Give yourself a rest. Repeat after me, “I am not the smartest person in the school, I just happen to be the leader.” (John Maxwell)
2. The Piece of Resistance-Put a Lid On It!
Now that we have clarified your possible reliance on positional authority in leadership I would like you to consider putting a lid on your opinions. I, for one, know that my opinion is offered far too much. I have learned to ask many clarifying questions before asking a probing question. I attempt not answer questions from teachers, especially ones that start with “What should…” or simply “Should I…” I have learned that the word should places the onus of responsibility on the person answering the question. True it is just a word. True it is a word that people use without thinking. True it might not mean what the user intends it to mean. I ask us all to be more cognizant of the words we use and the meanings they may have. I function with this in mind: The words we use are representative of the thoughts we have. The thoughts we have are representative of who we are. If I use the word should all the time I am behaving from an area of myself that functions on guilt and “arms-length responsibility”. Put a lid on the “shoulds” and the “buts” for that matter. Inquiry is about letting go of the rules a bit. It is about not relying so much on what traditional school is “supposed to” look like. Certainly it will not sound like a traditional classroom setting. During the initial stages of inquiry processes there will be judgement. People will have an opinion about the noise, the play, the fun. Listen carefully Principals: “Let this not be you!” Instead ask questions and learn alongside the teachers and students.
3. Now that you are allowed to play down here, We have to invite your sister!
Let the good news and fun be shared. Find innovative ways of sharing learning stories with the world. Blogs, Twitter, Youtube and Sharepoint newsfeeds are all good options. Resist the temptation to offer space at your next staff meeting to have the superstar inquiry teachers present all the good stuff they are doing. Find ways to make organic connections between your teachers that are taking risks and seeing successes and those that still may be nervous or petrified of these new innovations. Teams of teachers (not individuals) at Eastwood and Dr. Suzuki are engaging in these processes. As a Principal investigate how you have determined teams of teachers. How do you develop succession planning for students coming from an inquiry based setting to one where these processes are still only ideas. Getting teams working dynamically is no small task. Trust is the key to these relationships. Getting along is is easy. Truly dynamic teams can function even better off dissonance.
4. Everything is Awesome.
A positive attitude is contagious. Overpriced coffee is delicious. Smile. Buy some coffee for staff. Stop worrying. Follow the Blunt Educator on Twitter for a couple laughs. Staying positive and having an optimistic attitude is the reason you are in the position you are in. I am not telling you to ignore reality instead create an alternate one. Find a way to learn with and from your teachers and students. Make a way to experience awesome.
5. I’m a normal Principal.
Emmit was a “normal construction worker.” You are a normal Principal. What does this mean? Explore what normal is for you by challenging those beliefs with some new behaviours and modes. Park in a different spot. Have coffee and do some paperwork in the Learning Commons. Start an audioboo account and share short conversations with teachers and students for others to hear. Basically stop being so normal. You really aren’t normal anyway. None of us are. Miss Martin made a statement that I consider to be on of the most profound I have heard when discussing her practise. She stated simply, after describing that her methods were not achieving the learning results she had planned for, “I reflected and realized that I was the problem.” Reflection, for a Principal, at this level is not entirely normal. I dare you to be more abnormal. When Principals take learning risks teachers do to. Like Miss Martin did, take responsibility for your reality.
6. Where are my Pants?
Inquiry based teaching is not about product. It is about process. While collection and curation of learning products may be an end process the inquiry itself will certainly catapult further learning. Have you ever had one of those dreams where you were at work and then realized you weren’t wearing any pants? Embracing inquiry based learning pedagogy in your school can be quite similar. You freak out a bit, hide in your office for a bit. You peak around corners and then finally wake up to realize everything is okay. You have pants on, the kids are learning and the teachers are energized by the engagement that their students are exhibiting.
7. “Numbers, Numbers, Numbers, Business, Business…” A Lesson from UniKitty.
I laughed outloud when Unikitty was doing her impression of Mr. Business trying to confuse and hold up the robots and micromanagers. Mr. Business exclaimed: “All I demand is complete perfection, now. . . send in the Micromanagers!” There is a chance that if data is all you use when helping get to the Why then all they are hearing is UniKitty blah. Find a way to draw on the why of our needed and intentional actions. If you are interested in how “Why” motivates folks watch Simon Sinek explain his thinking. The curriculum is the starting point for learning objectives. Much like Lego we can use these as building blocks, we can interchange and mingle pieces from other sets. We can group, ungroup, map and link new pieces to create something that was better than the illustrations on the front cover. Teachers are master builders and facilitators of learning. If you are Mr. Business gluing stuff down, locking it in place, boxing it up and putting it on a shelf you are Kragleing the Curriculum. Give your teachers freedom and they in turn will give children more freedom.
8. Bandaids, Batteries, Boogers and Legos. Learning in here is a mess!
You can find everything in a tub of Lego. I have found the garage door opener, my watch, money, jewellery, dead insects and everything else that could somehow come into play when creating with Lego. Miss Martin describes that for her students learning is messy.
Listen to S.Martin on her Inquiry Journey.
9. Cloud Cuckoo Land is not to be Feared.
Inquiry based classrooms are not to be confused with chaos, disorder, recklessness or my fav. “A Free For All.” On the contrary teacher facilitators dialogue, plan, revision lead and teach through the entire process. We are not talking about abandoning curriculum, throwing expectations out the window and allowing the children to rule the room. Teachers at Eastwood and Dr. Suzuki school have used open, mini and curriculum based inquiries in order to engage the children in the complexities of the learning process. At Eastwood teachers use the mentor text Comprehension and Collaboration by Harvey and Daniels. Find more resources and starters at Inquiry Based Learning.
Listen to S. Watson-Jones discuss Inquiry at Eastwood
10. You are the Special.
My good friend Dr. Jeff Hillman (@learningstance) used to tell me, “You make the weather James.” Others have said, “When the Principal sneezes everyone gets a cold.” I understand both of these analogies first as a teacher myself and now more deeply and fully as a Principal. I really like the Lego metaphor best though. As the Principal you are the special. Just like every teacher and more pointedly every student in the school is the special.
“with the calendar about to turn to 2014, administrators must move past these tried and true techniques in order to stay visible and transparent and have an open door as a school lead learner – in the physical and virtual world.” –Mark Roth
It is a guest post Friday! True, I have taken 2 days off. And now I am guest posting…lazy? No. Truth be told two days were spent in bed, with my two lovely and really sick kids. The flu bug got us all. Three days. Brutal. Flu shot avoidance no more. We were scheduled to visit a teacher friend and his family (we have daughters that share names–he named first) and I was scheduled to blog about our simultaneous teacher work in distinct parts of Ontario. Instead I watched 24 hours worth of Gold Rush, Ice Cold Gold and various Survival Shows (the real kind) with my two sickies. We slept and blew noses for the other 24 between doses of penicillin for the ear issues and motrin for the fevers. In an unrelated and funny story the autocorrect feature on my planned hosts iOS called me a “sucky butt” instead of the intended sicky bug in her response text message to my plight and change in plans. Wouldn’t Freud be happy to know that even Siri slips!
Enough of my sob stories…
Today I am happy to introduce Mark Roth. Mark’s work as a Vice Principal for the last 8 has brought him to 4 different schools. There he has worked on his instructional leadership skills. I am happy to share his first personal blog post here as another example of our administrative leaders challenging themselves to make their practise more transparent via web 2.0 tools. Fittingly Mark has risen to the challenge b speaking on that very topic.
The Closed Door: No Longer an Option
by Mark Roth
For years staff in schools have wondered why administration have had their doors closed. Why, when there was a conversation in the office was it always private? Parents couldn’t understand why they had to wait four days after a report card before they could speak with the teacher. Administrators have walked the hallways, peered through the top half of a door and asked themselves, “why don’t they share with each other more”? Perceptions? Perhaps. I see a cycle that is being shattered by our youngest learners as they seek to change the world for the better. Then we realized, visiting classrooms, greeting parents before and after school, and making oneself available with an open-door office policy were great techniques to “open the door” and build deeper and meaningful confidence on the public education system. However, with the calendar about to turn to 2014, administrators must move past these tried and true techniques in order to stay visible and transparent and have an open door as a school lead learner – in the physical and virtual world.
As a school lead learner, one must engage in learning and effective communication with staff, parents and students or one will be seen as having the door closed. The most logical way to stay engaged is to effectively use the tools that so many of our youngest learners are already using or better yet, be ready to use the ones they aren’t even using yet. A quick Google search brought me to The Social Web. How can one possibly keep up? Web 2.0? Apps? iPad vs Android? To blog or to tweet? Is this even smart as an administrator?
My suggestion, use the one(s) that work for you, understand the rest and continue to learn about the new ones. Let’s face it, our parents are engaged in the digital world. A recent study by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that 77% of 18-29 year-olds with an annual household income of less than $30 000 are smartphone owners. Usage increases to 90% as household income increases. Early Years students are Tweeting their twenty-something parents from school with a device that they brought from home and Skype with them at work so they can share with the rest of the class what their parents do all day. Aren’t these the parents of the young learners that will fill our schools for the next twenty years? My own teenagers have informed me that if I want to know where practices are or what time their next game is, I can subscribe to Remind101, check the blog, browse the website or join the e-mail list.
You can follow Mark on his school twitter feed @brockbulldogs. Stay tuned as he prepares his own blog for our shared learning.
Posted in blogging, community, education, Principal, reflective practise, Teachers, technology, tagged cowpernicus, Doug Peterson, dougpete, Greater Essex County District School Board, instructional leadership, Principal, school beliefs, Technology on December 12, 2013| Leave a Comment »
Today’s Blog post is a cross-post shared by Doug Peterson of Off the Record. The interview took me some time so cheating here and using it in my 21 day event made sense. I’ve had the honour of knowing Doug for some time. Since I came on to teaching actually. He has been influential to so many educators by turning them on to some new tool that invoked critical thought or creativity in students. Want to know what is going on in innovative Ontario classrooms? Follow Off the Record. You will be in the know.
An Interview with James Cowper
I’ve had the pleasure to work with James Cowper in a couple of schools where he has served the Greater Essex County District School Board as an administrator. He’s a supporter of teachers, as you would expect from an administrator, but he also “walks the walk” when it comes to using technology in education. Recently, we met for a coffee to chat and solve all of the world’s problems and that served as a launchpad for this interview.
Doug: Thanks, James, for sharing your thoughts via this blog post.
James: No problem Doug. I am happy to talk and listen with you. I am quite flattered that you wanted to hear my thoughts and stories of days in the schoolhouse working with learners of all ages! I appreciate it. Thanks.
Doug: I recall our first encounters with technology – it seems so long ago that you were involved in a technology project when you were at Mill Street Public School in Leamington. What did you learn from working with students at Mill Street?
James: I learned that kids are kids everywhere you go. I came in on the front end of an ICT project in which recycled computers along with millions of meters of RJ45 (Ethernet cable) were deployed to a 350 pupil K-8 school. The computers had competent capabilities and the staff and students were anxious to use them. What I learned about kids and computers was that it is the creativity that we must exercise with the tools of the trade. Using the computers, funny I don’t even call them that anymore, to drill and kill or surf and turf is just not the ticket. Kids need to create, collaborate and communicate with the technology. I learned an awful lot about what not to do with technology funny enough. Of course we were doing the best that we could do at the time. PL around the high-end use of the devices was not structured or supported in a way that would lead to critical use of the tools. I learned that you couldn’t fool kids. Saying that computers engage kids and then using them as word processors, encyclopedias and digital worksheets only lasts so long. If you do this for too long the kids will video you teaching the class, put it to music, morph Albert Einstein’s head onto your body and post the video for all their tweeps to see. Seriously. It is not the computers or the iPads that “engage” kids. It is the access to the world, the creative quotient and the ease of collaboration that engages them. Those things are not done with a device, a computer alone. They must be married to the facilitation and supervision of a learning teacher.
Doug: Since that time, you have been promoted to Principal at Eastwood Public School in Windsor. During our coffee, you indicated that you’ve been there for five years now. So, a question – if someone is making their first trip to Eastwood – what would they see that would invoke the understanding that this school really has its act together with respect to Technology?
James: Well, we don’t have hover boards and wear silver suits yet. Kids are not glued to screens with robotic teachers. Books and board games is still the best part of the day at first nutrition break so I am not sure you would really be able to see a difference. I apologize for my sarcasm. I mean no offence. Really. If you had asked me what school would look like in the year 2013 when I was in grade 5 I would have said flying in cars and learning from robots! (I think Ms. McTavish assigned that project!) You can feel a difference at Eastwood School. At least that is what almost every visitor has said to me at one point or another. What you can feel is a calm energy that comes when we are all functioning at very close wavelengths. Kids are working at learning and teachers are learning while working. It is symbiotic. The technology that is incorporated into the day and the learning is organic. Getting an iPad is not a monumental event. Students do not run full tilt to the power cart. It sits open and students get them when they need them. There are no more labs. We do not covet our tools in closets or the Principal’s office to gather dust. I would say that the novelty of the device is gone. What is left is a new type of pen and pencil. Kids view them as tools to do the business of learning. It is not the device that has made the difference at Eastwood it is the inherent connectivity that has. The device without Wi-Fi access would be like having a Porsche without tires. You can enjoy the look and the rev of that awesome engine you just couldn’t go anywhere. Kids do walk around with devices. We have BYOD norms. Before you even walked in the door you would recognize we have a pretty substantial online presence. Short of that we have a staff that continue to learn and grow in the area of tech. utilization, integration and content creation. We are as careful as we can be with regards to where and how we spend our limited budget dollars. We also are always looking for innovative ways to build community partnerships. Two years ago we were awarded a reading grant, the first in the district, and we gained the opportunity to spend eighty thousand dollars on learning resources. So as a school that has its act together I would say that we have found the reasonable and appropriate place to infuse technological tools to enhance our learning. I would say that we have been responsible digital citizens. I would also say we’ve lots to learn and much work to do.
Thanks Doug for allowing me to share here. If you wish to read the interview in its entirety please follow the links to Off the Record.
Tomorrow’s post–Hey Principals! Are Those Teachers on Twitter?