Do You Let Other People Load Your Dishwasher?

My mother never lets anyone else load her dishwasher.  The odd time someone beats her to it, say to help clean up at Christmas or Thanksgiving, she just ends up taking things out, rearranging them or as a last resort, starting from scratch.  It has to be done her way.  Over the years, it’s become a standing joke…but not really.  She’s very serious about her dishwasher.  She could never quite admit or be ok with the thought that those dishes would still get clean, no matter HOW they were loaded.  That dishwasher story got me thinking.

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My Principal and I had a quick meeting with our Leadership Executive on Friday.  There are 3 Committees on our Leadership Council.  Each Committee has a Chair and a Co-Chair, so those 6 people, along with the two of us make up the Executive.  Since this was our first Executive Council Meeting, we wanted to set out the vision we had for how our meetings would work, what their purpose was, and what each person would do with the information shared at those meetings.  Each Committee had already been operating for about a month and we were starting to see some school-wide projects put into place. Each Chair/Co-Chair had a chance to share what their committees had been up to and what projects were in the works for down the road.  We were impressed with the level of commitment the Chairs and Co-Chairs were displaying and felt confident in their abilities to lead their respective committees successfully.  We had already seen our Assembly Committee put on the most meaningful Remembrance Day gathering many of us had seen in years.  Their thoughtful request to collect donations for Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s son touched many of us.  Our 7 Habits Committee has a successful school wide campaign running to support the Goodfellows’ “No Child Without A Christmas” annual toy drive.  Our Public Relations Committee has big plans for promoting Sundevil Spirit with a number of exciting projects.  My Principal and I are very impressed with everything our Executive Council shared with us.  By the way, have I mentioned that these 6 people are students?  6 very capable, responsible, and competent students?  We have every confidence that they will be able to successfully lead their committees with only occasional guidance from the adults also serving on each committee.  They’re off to a great start and we are so proud of each of them.

So back to the dishwasher story.  Maybe my mother could have co-loaded her dishwasher with a few of us so that we’d become proficient dishwasher loaders too? We’ll never know – but my dishes still get cleaned just the same.

You’re Only as Good as Your Team

I’ve been doing a fair bit of academic writing lately.  Mostly about leadership and building relationships with various stakeholders.  I’ve been focusing much of my writing on a student leadership program in my school and how it’s developing.  After finishing a basic outline, I wanted to inject some evidence into my writing and was so delighted at how easy it was to find.

I started with Twitter.  I had a year’s worth of tweets, photos and quotes, not only from our school account but from the twitter accounts of many teachers and even some students at my school as well.  Some of the tweets linked to other sources of evidence including blog posts and comments.  I ended up with a comprehensive report which really came to life when the reader viewed the leadership program from all different perspectives.

And so I want to thank the teachers and students at my school for making my writing so full of rich examples. It’s an honour to work with you all.

It’s Ok to Take a Break

I’ve had a Twitter account since 2008 I think. At first I created my account to connect with my own kids who had twitter accounts and who were living out of town. It was a way I could stay connected to them and hopefully get little snippets from them every now and then. That didn’t last long. They didn’t really Tweet a lot!1

So I was checking my account and following a few celebrities and not really enjoying this new ‘Twitter thing’. I stopped going on Twitter for some time. I didn’t really have anything to tweet since I had only a few followers who I quickly realized were also not tweeting anything really worth reading.

That all changed when I discovered there were people other than my kids and celebrities on Twitter! I read recently (from the Twitter people I think) that educators are the largest group of users on Twitter. I have no doubt. You’d be hard pressed to NOT run into an educator on Twitter if you’re on regularly. We Tweet ALOT! And it can be all consuming at times. I have spent countless hours reading tweets, links, retweets, blogs, articles, news…and it’s all great stuff! Awesome stuff! Relevant, engaging, thought-provoking, innovative stuff! It’s my personal PD delivered right to me throughout the day.

2But it can be overwhelming at times. I have spent the last few days creating timetables and duty schedules and reading report cards and have spent little time on Twitter. There just hasn’t been enough time in the day to keep up with all the tweets lately. Maybe my Tweeps have noticed I haven’t been very visible lately, maybe not. But that’s ok. I know that I’ll eventually get to their tweets ~ filled with new learning for me. They will be there waiting for me when I actually have time to sit and go through my feed. And that’s the great thing about Twitter…my PLN still delivers. I can get to it on my own time and my own terms. But for now, I’m busy with other stuff…and it’s ok. It’s ok to take a break.

It’s all about the kids

I had a conversation recently with a new teacher.  He was sharing his challenges and frustrations and all the stress-inducing things about his day to day life that experienced teachers know only too well.  We talked about lessons and curriculum and strategies and policies and all the stuff you need to talk about in the education field.  I gave him some suggestions and advice and felt pretty good about my contributions to his future success.

I also told him about all the cool things happening in my own school, all the awesome ways that kids are learning.  I told him about our focus on student engagement and student voice.  And that’s when he hit me with it – what he was truly and honestly struggling with.   He just wasn’t connecting with his kids.  It was then, near the end of the conversation, when I realized that we had neglected to talk about the most important part of his role in education – his relationships with the kids.  You can have all the best pedagogy in the world and yet if you’re not working hard at building relationships with kids, there won’t be a lot of learning going on.

I should backtrack for a minute to tell you a little bit about his circumstance – that he works in a 7-10 school with smart boards in only a few classrooms, where Powerpoint is king, iPads are non-existent and kids check their devices in at the main door where their attendance is also taken.  To me this reeks of fear and adult control, where engagement is a ring giving event and kids have little if any say in much about their own learning.

I’m fortunate in that I work in an environment where it absolutely IS all about the kids. I work in a building where kids are leaders, where their voices are strong, and where the staff recognize they need to evolve in the way they teach just as the kids they teach are evolving in the way they learn.  Not everyone is so lucky to work in a building like mine.  And if you’re a brand new teacher who ends up teaching where change is happening at a snail’s pace if at all, then you probably ARE struggling to connect with your kids.

And now I’m talking to that new teacher ~

So what do you do about it? You’re new, inexperienced, and feel like you have just been airdropped into a war zone to help kids learn – kids who have just been forced to relinquish their life line.  Not an easy position to be in.  Nope.

Stay strong though.  Remember a few years back when you were their age.  Think about the teachers you had who made you enjoy coming to school.  Picture in your mind how you felt when you knew that a teacher really cared about you and what you had to say.  Think about your 13, your 14, your 15 year old self.  What kind of teacher did you want to have teaching you?  What kind of relationships can YOU build with the kids you teach irregardless of the circumstances in which you find yourself…without a lot of experience, without a lot of innovative leadership, without a lot of technology, without a lot of support.  

But what you DO have is you.  You are a teacher for a reason.  You worked hard to become a teacher for a reason.  I KNOW that reason is your compassion, your empathy, your ability to understand kids.  Remember that and focus on building positive and strong relationships first.  If you can do that, they will learn what you have to teach them.  Because in the end, it’s all about the kids.

A Personal Goal

Discussions with my Principal at the beginning of the year included this – a goal to get 100% of classroom teachers connecting with their students’ families via some form of technology…twitter, blog, texting, website, emails…it didn’t really matter…as long as they found something that worked for them.Birdie5

One of our School Improvement Goals this year focuses on Parent Engagement and our technology goal seemed like a reasonable one to accomplish. I’m proud to say that as the year approaches its end in a few weeks, we have pretty much reached our goal. I think our staff is awesome! I’ve been fortunate to work with an amazing group of teachers who have risen to the challenge and are making efforts to find a techno-fit that works for them.

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As a classroom teacher, I was constantly modelling for my students the strategies I wanted them to try. I realize now that while I have modelled some things for my staff, I have been hesitant to tackle this blogging thing.

I’ve helped others set up their own blogs, and while I like to think I’m a half way decent writer, I’ve never been one to journal or to write consistently, so I knew blogging would be a challenge for me. But…I think it’s time to tackle that challenge…and so here I am. My personal goal is to regularly blog for an entire year (and hopefully it will become a consistent thing long after that). ‘They’ say that something becomes a habit after 3 weeks of doing it. I’m thinking it will be longer for me and blogging, but that’s ok. I’ve given myself a year and I can do this!

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I can earn some points while I’m at it too! I’ve signed on for a year-long digital leadership challenge and one component of the challenge includes a regularly updated professional blog. In this, my first post, I’m to include what I hope to gain from blogging. Hmmm – here goes:

  1. make my thinking visible to those I work with and those I work for so they get to know me better

  2. share my learning about all things education

  3. hopefully hear from a few people in the comments section so I can learn from them too

That’s a start…the list will evolve I’m sure. Thanks for reading!