One of the many great things about my job as a vice-principal is that I get to split my time between teaching and administration duties. One of the classes I work with is the grade 9 math class, and today we had a really great conversation....just not about math!
Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels talk about the natural curiosity of students but how we are missing an opportunity to get them to think deeply. They write, "throughout their school lives, [students] have more often been asked to report what they have learned, not to reflect back, examine their own thinking, and pose further questions." Today, I thought I'd ask some questions, not for assessment, but just to get the wheels turning. When they were all done the work they needed to do for the time being, and given it was a Friday, I started jotting questions on sticky notes and setting them on desks. Questions like,
This got me thinking about the staff at our school. What sticky note questions could I ask them at lunch or just on their door in the morning? What would you ask your teachers? Or your supervisors?
Maybe questions like,
Sometimes I hear people complain that students "can't think for themselves" or they just too "self centered", but then I wonder, are we just asking the wrong questions?
As always, comments are welcome.
Have you ever had a great idea about how to improve your classroom practice or how you perform your duties as an administrator, and then "shelved" it for fear of having the idea rejected by the decision makers? In George Couros' (@gcouros) book, The Innovator's Mindset, he talks about the power of "no" versus a culture of "yes". He writes, the problem is that when you say "no" to innovation - for any reason - people feel reluctant to attempt trying new things in the future. No one wants to work in an environment where they feel their ideas or input does not matter, whether they are a teacher in a school or an administrator in a school division. This thinking also applies to students as well. Why would a student take a risk if there is a culture of "no" in their classroom?
Stop and think for a moment about the school you are in right now. Is there a culture of risk taking? If not, how can you start planting the seeds for growth?
This morning I had the privilege of speaking with an innovative grade 7 teacher (@SalzlJackie) about assessment, progress reports, tests, and just what it is we are doing to allow students to "show what they know". This was a great conversation because a lot of it was Jackie talking about what she wants to try next year and how she is going to start gathering resources as she builds towards this. When she left the office I had to smile because there has been a culture of "yes" established at our school. Does this mean everyone is taking risks all the time? No, but people who are risk takers are also those who create ripples, and those ripples effect others in the building.
What would the ripple effect have been had I said, "no, forget it"?
As always, comments are welcome!
One of the perks of being an in-school administrator is the time I have for watching teachers teach and learners learn. This semester we have a terrific intern working with our senior humanities teacher, and yesterday along with grade 3 and grade 5, grade 10 history was on my rotation so I was able to spend some time with him. As I watched I noted many great attributes this intern brings to the classroom, from strong planning, to engaging teacher talk time, to a real connection with the students, however the one thing I could not see was his ability to reflect (obviously!). The questions I left him with to ponder are listed below, they were sent to him in an e-mail:
Some questions for you from my period 5 visit:
What will [the cooperating teacher] learn because he was in the room with you?
These are meant to be reflective, but if you want to talk about them I'd love to hear your thoughts, but I'll leave that up to you :)
What was so impressive was the depth of his reflection, and there is no way I could have identified this without being in his room.
Baruti Kafele, @PrincipalKafele.com, notes in The Principal 50 that, "you cannot lead from the main office. Reading e-mails and interacting with office staff have their place, but not during instructional time. During that time, your place is in the classroom, observing instruction." It is easy to fall in the trap of doing the managerial things that are always present, but one thing I've learned is that the managerial things will still be there at the end of the day....the kids won't be!
If you are not around the learning, how will you know there is learning?
As always, comments are invited.
Another example today of why you need to greet each morning with an optimism and belief that something wonderful might just be around the corner. Today was just that kind of a day for me as I had a surprising connection that I could have never had anticipated. Like many of you reading my blog, you likely get Twitter notifications on your mobile device, and if you are like me, sometimes you open them right away, other times you wait. Today as I was preparing for a book club I'm in (The Innovator's Mindset, by @gcouros) my android buzzed away at notifications as they came in. I took a moment and paused seeing that a former student had just followed me on Twitter. This was not what caught my attention though, it was how she identified herself that made me take notice. I opened her Twitter page and saw that she was just finishing up her education degree at the University of Regina, and was getting ready to embark on what I always call the greatest career possible. I congratulated her on choosing this path, and that's when she said something I was not expecting to hear when I woke up this morning. She wrote, to be honest, you played a large role in this. I hated high school. Your class was the only one that I enjoyed going to. I want to make sure other Middle Years students have a positive experience in school. I was very humbled.
Now, some might view this post as a platform for me to boast or pat myself on the back, but that's not what this is about. There are many of these stories, stories of teachers inspiring students to go on to do great things, but this post is about how her words made me feel. I was proud of the impact I had on this student's life, but was completely unaware that any thing I had said or done had this affect. It made me wonder about all the other students who have made career choices because of a certain teacher. I wonder how many of these people have reached out to that teacher to let them know.
Do you have that person in your life that has impacted you? Have you told them about the way they helped shape who you are today? It does not take long to drop a line to someone to say "thanks for what you did for me". Take the time and do it today.
As always, comments are welcome.