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Posts Tagged ‘Principal’

Well…. welcome back to school!  I have seen almost all of the staff in the last weeks.  I have also seen evidence in the school that all of them have returned safely from trips and family excursions to prepare our school!  Everyone has put in so much work to prepare our school for the welcoming of its students and KPS families!  There are a few preparations we are still waiting on (shelves, some furniture, etc.).  Thanks for everyone’s’ patience.
We may have over 540 students registered for school this academic season!  If we realize this population there could be some change to our registers.  Any changes to class lists and structures will wait until reorganization day (Sept. 19th).  We will look to maintain as much as we can when a possible reorg. is on the table.  I will keep you as up to date as I can.
With so much to prepare and do for the first day of school Vice Principal Winney and I want to take one thing off the teachers’ plates (well actually put it on their plate).  Staff need not pack a lunch on the first day as we are happy to provide all staff with a Subway lunch.  We will have subs and all the fixin’s ready for your first break through second break.  We offer staff this lunch in recognition of a great start up, their hard work in preparations and in celebration of another amazing year at KPS.
First week events are limited.  It is always my intention to give staff the time they need with our students, get to know our groups and to begin our timetable right away. Staff are asked to communicate with each other if you would like to alter the schedule slightly on day one. We get right into the timetable so we can trouble shoot any issues heading into reorg. day. Our students know who their teachers are and where their classrooms are. Some may have forgotten.  Please make the time to circulate on the playground starting at 8:50 am on Day one, classlist in hand just in case.  Welcoming our families and students on the playground is always a great way to start the year.  Those teachers without homerooms can circulate as classes begin and make sure every single student feels welcome and part of our amazing school (especially our newest faces).
Over the summer I did some thinking.  I share these next few lines with you in an effort to put on paper a few of my key beliefs as your lead learner:
  1. The most important thing is to be kind.
  2. Collaborative, supportive and positive school culture depends solely on the bonds of interrelational trust within and among all stakeholders.
  3. Learning depends on opportunities to think, do, assess and repeat.
  4. Our primary purpose as an organization is to provide learning opportunities for all.
  5. Learners at KPS will leave each day better prepared, happier and more confident than when they came.
  6. We will learn about, from and with each other every day.
  7. The way we treat each other and our students is the way our students will treat each other.

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    McKena, Zoe and Gavin in back to school garb and pose wish you a great day one!

Welcome Back to Kingsville Public School Everyone. . .
A Rich History,
A Bright Future,
Leading, Learning, Now.
James.

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I cannot believe it! The Reciprocal Learning Partnership, The University of Windsor, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Greater Essex County District School Board are working together (with me) and sending a group of Principals to Chongqing China! There we are going to present at the annual Conference and learn in our 7 sister schools. I am going to keep a journal of my experiences here on my blog for my family, friends, school and colleagues to read.

Our district prepared poster boards to highlight our recent school life. This is it:

China Poster – Kingsville PDF

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Eastwood Eagles

The most important thing is to be kind.

Dear Parents, Students and Eastwood Community Members

It is with profound happiness that I address you this last time as your Principal in saying thank you from the bottom of my heart for 6 years of absolute joy working as your school’s lead learner.  As you may have heard I have been asked to move on to support the learning and work of another great community in Kingsville at Kingsville Public School.  I am happy to announce Principal Nick Arundine (Ah-run-din-ay) as Eastwood School’s newest Eagle.  Principal Arundine is ecstatic to join the team!

 I have always asked our teachers and students to embrace change and view each change as an opportunity to grow and learn.   I will model that philosophy by using the skills I have honed here and the strength taught to me by Eastwood students in making a successful and enthusiastic transition to my new school.  I will take with me the fond and everlasting memories of students at Eastwood School.

Eastwood has been my home for 6 academic years.  I have raised my own children through my time here.  We have added a family member from the very student population at Eastwood.  The parents and teachers in the Eastwood community have helped shape my parenting and my life.  The students of Eastwood have trusted me to help cultivate a positive vision of their futures.  I am eternally grateful for the trust given to me to work with every child and every adult in an effort to bring a vision of a great and successful future to our community and to each individual.

We made kindness the most important part of being an Eagle.  We walked together on the sweet grass road and reminded and helped each other when we fell or forgot.  We were always there for each other, apologizing, picking each other up, supporting and listening to our understandings.  I witnessed incredible acts of kindness and courage at Eastwood and was inspired daily by our children and our leaders.  Often our children were our leaders.  Their voices and thoughts brought honesty and integrity to our work.

In the time that I spent at Eastwood school I always did my best.  I stepped up to challenges and made decisions based on the needs of our students.  I relied on the experiences and observations of our great teachers and our parents.  It is in working collaboratively, reflecting and dialoguing with each of you that we were able to make great things happen for kids.  Our work together was not without failures, mistakes and missteps.  These were essential to our learning together.  One might say that if we weren’t making mistakes we just weren’t trying hard enough!

Eastwood is a safe and kind school.  It is this way because of you.  Every member of the Eastwood family contributed to its greatness and will continue to shape its future and define its culture.  I am a better man, principal, parent and human because of my time at Eastwood among the Eagles.

I wish all of you the best in life.  I am only a tweet away!  Follow my learning and let me know about yours.

Wake up each day be your best self and remember that it is a great day to be kind.

My Sincere Thanks,

Mr. Cowper

James

@Cowpernicus

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Principal Mark Rinaldi-Ross and I have engaged with our staff during the instructional rounds process this season. Seen here Mark is on the floor observing. He is an amazing leader. Also involved is the impressive staff of Parkview under the leadership of Dave Simone. Our three schools partnered to build trust and cultivate our respective cultures of learning.

Observing. I profess this art is in limited supply in our classrooms today. The kind of observation I speak of is non-judgmental. It is exercised with what I call “interested neutrality.” It must be practised….. and critiqued. The best way is inside the protective environment that protocols can offer. When I say protective I simply mean controlled. Skilled facilitators lead teams of learners through the layered processes of instructional rounds.

I do not believe that observing is limited because our well meaning professional teachers do not want to observe as a value judgment. I suggest that they have not been coached how to, their efforts to do so have not been honoured or they have been too busy “covering” curriculum by virtue of their’s or their leader’s expectations. These obstacles are common derailers of becoming learning leaders.

Engaging with our staff in instructional rounds (IR) involved:
-visits to classrooms to observe student learning
-recording observations
-grouping and naming observation clusters
-dialoging through the process
-addressing strengths and next steps in alignment with school visions and plans

By partnering with our teachers and further with fellow schools through the IR process we, as leaders, address and overcome all three obstacles. The nature of IR reduces the threat of judgment as the focus is on how the students learn together by documenting what they say and do in descriptive ways. Feedback is delivered and teachers listen carefully for patterns, inconsistencies and celebrations. There is no intent to find fault or offer advice. Key here is that only the teachers being visited have the innate knowledge of the learning that has been happening in the room. Visitors simply offer descriptive observations.

The team is coming to Eastwood in two Mondays. We are excited to hear our partners observations. I am so pleased to be part of my school team and the greater team of three schools. I trust my learning stance and interest to sit on the floor and observe student learning will continue to support my teachers as lead learners.

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Our mentor text on Instructional Rounds.

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“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?

Social Learning in the Classroom

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.

What? No phone calls? Better open the door.
Pew Research
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You can follow Mark on his school twitter feed @brockbulldogs.  Stay tuned as he prepares his own blog for our shared learning.

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Cross-Post Thursday!

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

Posted on October 22, 2013 by @dougpete

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 (EthernetPicture1 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?

Picture3James:  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?

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There are a myriad of excuses that follow this string of sentences:  “I am not great at getting into classrooms.   I want to be better at it.  I know it is important.  I know what a difference it makes.

  • It is just too busy at the office.
  • Turning away an angry parent just is not good.
  • If I didn’t have to deal with discipline I could get into rooms more.
  • I teach 75% of the time.
  • Instructional leadership isn’t in my portfolio.
  • I don’t know what to do when I am there.
  • I don’t want to interrupt the learning.  When I go in everything stops!
  • There is just too much paperwork and email to deal with.
  • My staff is not ready for this.”
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The VP and I are committed to being part of the fabric of learning.

Not all school administrators share this gripe.  Not all share the excuses either.  Anymore.  Whether you are put off by me calling them excuses or not may say a little about whether your problem lies in logistics or plain old primal fear.  Fear of what you ask?  I suggest the thing that humans fear the most: not belonging.  In this case by invoking conflict or confrontation with the ones that you spend the majority of your time with each day and happen to be leading, the educators in the building.

What do I understand to be logistics issues?  For the most part I understand logistics issues to be one of two things:  Complaints about the uncontrollable or misaligned priorities.   I am obviously simplifying here.  This is a blog post after all and not a book.  Here are some:

What do I understand to be fear issues?  The issue I have heard discussed by colleagues and taken great interest in is the fear of the conversation with a staff member whose classroom you have visited (or not).  This is different from a “difficult conversation” as it is a continual process and not a moment in time.  Some fears may be:

  • How to give feedback.
  • Hurting their “feelings” versus “It is their job”.
  • Ego concerns (yours and theirs).
  • Avoiding an issue for too long.
  • Resting on “they will never change”.
  • Thinking that the conversation will become a snowball of toxicity and thus need be avoided.
  • Having your good intentions be misconstrued.
  • Not having the right language for the dialogue.
  • It is going to be really hard work.
  • What are you pretending not to know?

I ask this question:  If you deem your issue a logistical one and respond by doing some combination of the following:

holding all your calls, telling the office to talk to the Child and Youth Worker if there is an “issue”, telling the secretary that you are not to be disturbed while you are “visiting” Mr. Cowper’s grade 5 classroom, taking an innovative checklist on a clipboard with you etc.

–Have you heightened the anxiety for yourself and those around you or have you increased the likelihood of a successful classroom visit?  I contend the former.  Can you imagine the talk in the school when the world finds out that the Principal put his entire day on hold to visit your classroom?  What started out with your good intentions has now become a fear issue.  Just wait till you get so busy you can’t do this (in your own mind) and you stop the visits.  How do the teachers feel now that got a visit?  What about the ones that didn’t?  I am wondering if you are picking up what I am laying down.  They are all fear issues.  Logistics issues are simply masking your human need to belong to a group.  Sure, sound tough.  Say it out loud:  “I don’t care if they like me or not . . .”  Yes you do.  Saying it doesn’t make it true.  Do not confuse being liked and being respected.  Visiting classrooms and discussing learning does not have to be an event that ends in your acceptance or isolation.  It can simply be the leader you are and the way you lead.  Watch an episode of Undercover Boss.  The CEO usually says something along the lines of “I had no idea . . .”  Why wait to be undercover?  What are you waiting for?

What can we do about it?

As a group of instructional leaders, leaders being compensated to use our emotional intelligence and positional authority through pressure and support, it is our obligation to stop using some variation of the “I need to get better at getting into classrooms” and replace it with a something new, something intentional.

“I love getting into classrooms and have made it a priority to visit classrooms.  I am an important part of the learning fabric of the school.  I do this everyday through dialogue with students first and teachers second.”  If this wordy sentence is too much for you (I’m told all the time I am wordy) just try.  “I am going into classrooms today.”  or “I am getting into classrooms regularly.”

They still use lie detectors in this day and age!

They still use lie detectors in this day and age!

Making a commitment to do something new requires us to change the words we use.  The actions we take stem from the words we use.  The words we use are a result of our thinking.  Our thinking is who we are.    Our bodies defy us when we lie.  It is practically impossible to fool our physical selves with words.  They still use lie detectors in this day and age!  Thus you stop committing and resort back to “I am not great at…”  (in which case you never will be.) or some other passive statement devoid of intention.    The other result is that your physical body responds to your new intentional statements.  You visit the classrooms.  You engage in critical and constructive dialogue.  Your actions are full of purpose and conviction.   Your statements on learning in the school are more authentic, informed and certainly more intentional.

There are a number of things to do to get better at the feedback portion of the visit.  First stop thinking of it as feedback.  It is a dialogue.  Feedback says–“I am the wise Principal and you will learn from me.”  This stance is less growth and more fixed in Mindset.  Just engage in dialogue.  Ask the teachers to “Talk more about that.” Eventually staff will ask for “feedback” and that is your cue to start calling it that; this is the invitation that says your EiQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is high with this individual.  Engage in professional learning about Critical Friends Groups or Cognitive Coaching.  Understand what Habits of Mind are and use them.  The work you are involved in requires a great deal of understanding about working with adult learners.  The work you are engaged in requires more Emotional Intelligence than you already have.  Exercise it more and it will grow.  Pressure your district or association to help prepare you for working with adult learners, ask for coaching workshops, emotional intelligence work or sessions on professional dialogue with teachers.  Give your needs a voice in your district as there are others with the same needs.  Start a critical friends group or an administrative learning team.  Practise giving each other warm and cool feedback on authentic work you provide.  Avoid comments that speak to the person and not the work.  (These last few comments deserve a blog post on their own.)

Do you need a starting point for working with and talking to the adults in your building that are in charge of student learning?

Stop saying “should” and “but” when in a dialogue with another or with yourself.  When you stop saying these words your mind will eventually stop thinking in these terms.  You replace should with action as “shoulds” only delay the action.  It will take you awhile to find replacements for these words.  There is a way around the words and not the feeling they invoke.  You are trying to get away from the feeling they invoke so new thinking is going to be needed and not simply new words like “however” and “did you think about doing it this way?”

Getting into classrooms is important and non-urgent.  It is the chance to be a visible member of the learning fabric.  It is a chance to remind yourself why you do this good work.  It is a chance to connect with the professional educators in the building, to dialogue, laugh and even cry.  It is the only way any of your vision work will have credibility with the students, staff and parents of the school.  Your positional power is not nearly enough to be an instructional leader.

Portions of this blog post were written while rocking out to Imaginary Cities and Bahamas!

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