I'm so fortunate to work at a school with so many master teachers, from the amazing Kindergarten teachers to a senior shop teacher who has his students creating projects that are so unique he is known across Canada in certain circles. From primary specialists to spec ed teachers that amaze me everyday, it's like I've won the principal's lottery! As an administrator I'm able to reap the rewards of these amazing professionals as many of my conversations with parents and community members revolve around the great things going on at #WaldheimSchool. The very best part of my job is the time I get to spend in classrooms with students and teachers, learning along side them, often times being stumped as I was today. In the senior physics class the students were discussing why sunlight does not appear to be refracted by the atmosphere as it arrives to the earth. As they were discussing Snell's law in their small groups I was struck by the realization that I had never thought about this before, and I consider myself a pretty curious guy.
One of the things I pride myself on as a learning leader in our building is spending so much time in the halls and in the classrooms. I really believe that an effective principal must be a visible, curious principal. That being said, one thing I must confess is that I do find myself intimidated by the thought of having to ask reflective questions to those master teachers. As a new principal I want to be sure I'm helping all teachers move forward with their learning, not just a few. A situation like this presented itself this week as I had an opportunity to be part of a group of administrators to visit a master grade one teacher in Rosthern and observe her working with her students during their reader's workshop. While I was blown away with her lesson and the seamless way she weaved curricular outcomes with rigorous, relevant work, I struggled as I thought about what I could offer her as an administrator. As we spoke later I thanked her for allowing me to be a part of the learning opportunity and asked her a couple of questions about her planning and about her growth as a teacher. Unsure if this was really as helpful as I wanted, I asked her, "as a master teacher, what would you like from your administrator?" She responded politely, letting me know that what she really wanted was for administrators to support teachers who are taking risks, to be curious, to be in the room, and to ask them what they need.
Her advice reminded me of an article by Ben Johnson titled, A Teacher Perspective: Advice for Principals. His article is full of great advice for administrators, however what I found as the over-arching theme was the need for clear, honest communication. This experience has reminded me how important it is to be out and about in my school, and as I continue to visit classrooms I'll keep pushing myself to have those conversations with our master teachers, not to tell them what they don't know, but to ask them what they need. I'll visit, not because I know what would make their lessons better, but because I'm curious about what they have done to make their lessons better than the last one. And I'll visit, not because it's easy, but because it's the important work.
If you have any advice for a new principal who still struggles with feeling comfortable with learning conversations with master teachers, please share it below. If you have felt like this too, please share advice as well.
Thanks for reading!