imagine a place…

 

For the past few months I have been preparing to open a new school in our district.  I feel so fortunate, humbled and honoured to have this opportunity…oh and not to mention, just a little overwhelmed at times.

I think this is what most administrators would consider a dream…developing a vision, planning the space, the furniture, the schedule, the staff, etc.  And to be honest, it has been for me as well.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with our initial staff.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching, reflecting, questioning, thinking and re-thinking how the meeting should run.  There were sleepless nights and many discussions with colleagues and senior administrators.  I unintentionally “stole” an idea from another school when I came across the picture book, “Imagine a Place” written by Sarah Thompson.  After reading the book (which is a great resource for so many reasons) I decided to ask staff to “imagine a place.”  What would their ideal school look like, sound like, feel like?

So we read the book (actually watched it on youtube) and then crowded around a small table to reflect.  Here is what these amazing educators wrote:

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The remainder of our meeting went beautifully.  The teachers shared project ideas, instructional strategies, ideas around scheduling and school philosophy.  This activity helped to focus our work, our ideas and our reflections.

After taking time to read through the reflections I was filled with a sense of pride, awe and excitement!  This activity affirmed all of the work being done in preparing to open the school. It is a great visual of what we hope to achieve in our new learning environment.  Moving forward, I intend to use this chart as a reminder and as a focus in the work that we do.  Working together, we will “imagine a place” where students can be comfortable and succeed.

:)S

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My four monsters…

four monsters

I believe becoming a parent has changed my outlook on teaching and education. I have been thinking a lot about this lately as my monsters grow. As some of you may know, I have four children. Yep…4! And although they share the same parents and have been raised in the same home, they are each unique in unbelievable ways.

Our oldest…she is so many things. In school she is bright and hardworking. She is kind, fair and just. She is kind to all she encounters. She loves younger children and tends to “mother” everyone. She has a strong sense of right and wrong and is not afraid to call anyone on it. This causes her some issues with her peers. She tries desperately to make things just and fair. In her mind this helps everyone to feel good. She is bright and she loves math, but she doesn’t want anyone to notice. She would rather be in the background, unnoticed. As is normal with girls her age, she struggles with her confidence. She doesn’t quite “fit in.” She is beautifully artistic. She can see lines, patterns and colors in the most mundane things. She loves to create and be creative. This is her passion. However, she has been told too many times, by too many adults, “Just do it my way this once… or you didn’t follow the steps…” So now, sadly, she only looks for the “right” way rather than the creative way to solve a problem or complete a task. As her parents, we work hard to nurture her creativity as we see this as a wonderful strength. As she grows older, she is developing a quick wit and a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humor. She can play the piano beautifully and paints with her heart.

Our oldest son is unique and has many different talents. He is exceptionally bright and a fantastic problem solver. I am pretty sure he has a photographic memory. He can see or read something once and remember it forever. Learning and athletics come easy for him. He rarely has to work hard to achieve. This can be a strength, but also a weakness. He is also a bit of a perfectionist and he hates to fail or make a mistake in anything. When he does, he folds into himself and needs time and space to feel better. He is an excellent problem solver. He doesn’t necessarily talk it out or write it out. I often wish I could get inside his mind to figure out what he is thinking. He is a wonderful athlete. He can participate successfully in almost any sport. However, his passion and love is hockey. He lives, breathes and sleeps hockey. When he is not on the ice, he is in our basement practicing, playing it on the Xbox or reading books about players. He loves the strategy of the game and has developed into quite a good player. But he is also sensitive and sometimes passive. It could be this is part of his perfectionistic nature. Sometimes he appears confident but underneath he is soft and wants approval. He loves to read! He always has an adventure type book on the go and we struggle to find books that are appropriate content that will hold his interest. He also loves to play guitar and is has a great voice. As his parents, we work hard to nurture is natural athletic ability but encourage him to be a strong self-advocate when necessary.

Our younger son also has a variety of special gifts. He is a hard worker in everyway. In school, he works hard in every subject. He can be focused and diligent. He loves math, but won’t say it. He doesn’t feel he is as good at it as his brother, so he doesn’t want people to know that he likes it. He likes to read, but not narratives. Give him a non-fiction book and he will read and re-read it. Then recite the facts for days. He loves to work with his hands and figure out how things work. He is a thinker and a doer. He is a great helper, he loves to help us cook dinner or even bake. I would call him a Mama’s boy, but he is also a Daddy’s boy. He loves his family and is loyal to a fault. He will even take a consequence for something his brother did and not say a word. He and his brother are similar in that they both love hockey. While his brother prefers to score goals, he likes standing in the net saving them. Being a goalie takes perseverance and strength of character (and a little bit of crazy). He loves to make people laugh. If there is a joke, he’s going to tell it. If there is a prank, he’s going to be involved. Usually with the best of intentions. He is quick to notice if someone’s feelings are hurt and apologizes for his part. He is learning to play piano, like his dad. He is good at the songs he can play with a partner, he enjoys being with others. As his parents, we try to encourage his hard work ethic and his sense of fun as well as nurture his sense of perseverance and loyalty.

Our youngest daughter is developing her own character.  She has decided that she likes hockey as well. She wants to skate as fast as her oldest brother and score lots of goals on her other brother. She is a determined (stubborn) little girl. She could barely stand on her skates at the beginning of the season, and now she is skating quite well. She is determined in life as well. If she has made up her mind, there is no convincing her otherwise. Especially with clothing…if it is “uncomfortable”, she will not wear it. While I know this trait will serve her well in life, it is frustrating to parent. Her determination has caused many morning arguments in our home. She is a great friend to her peers at pre-kindergarten and her day home. She understands that each of her friends is different and has talents. Of one little boy in her class who has some struggles, “he’s my friend, even when he makes bad choices.” She loves books and loves to listen to and to make up stories. Like her brother, she likes to make people laugh and she has a talent for it. She has a quick wit and can come up with some amazing one-liners that have us all in stitches. She loves to draw and create with her hands. Nothing with glue and scissors, rather clay and playdoh sculptures. And she loves to sing, she sings all the time and about the most boring of subjects. We encourage her creativity and her sense of humour and we will continue to nurture her determined, strong-willed spirit.

Four very different monsters. But they have taught me a lot about teaching and learning. While I want them to learn about Language Arts, Math, Science, Social and Religion, I also want them to develop into good people. Now, when I look at a child, I try to develop an understanding of them as a person. I understand that we can not realistically get to know each child as well as I know my own, but could i take a little time to get to know them a little better?  This is what I would love for each of my children’s teachers to do, why wouldn’t I do this for the students I serve? Each child is a unique combination of character traits that we need to unravel, understand, encourage and nurture.

Mindset…

mindset  - isolated word in vintage wood letterpress printing blocks

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about mindset and how mindset can affect many aspects of a school community. In Alberta, it feels as though we are going through a troubled time. Teachers feel unappreciated and overworked. There have been many conversations about Teacher workload and what we can do to help our hardworking teachers. How has teacher workload changed? Here is why I ask…

I began teaching in 1997. My first class consisted of 29 grade two students. There were 19 boys and 10 girls. Within this class I had 4 severe behavior students. One of those four would later gain educational assistant time as he had beaten me black and blue. In addition to those students I had 8 that required specific interventions for behavior needs. I had 3 students with diagnosed learning disabilities that required accommodations.   I also had 3 students who required challenge and enhancement. It was an extremely difficult year. I was exhausted and overwhelmed. I remember leaving school on the last day of school going home and telling my husband, “I will never teach again!” It took until the middle of summer to change my mind.

For the next seven years I worked in the same school. There were challenges and blessings. The school had a low achievement rate, we worked hard to help our students achieve. We worked hard to meet the needs of the students, families, administration and school district. We worked hard and we loved it.

Fast forward to 2015, we are still working hard, very hard. But what has changed? Our class sizes are similar (if not smaller) than 1997. The complexities of our classrooms are similar to what I experienced. I had to complete IPP’s and Action Plans for each student who required accommodations. I had to plan and re-plan. I had to assess and re-assess. I was continually looking for new ideas, strategies and lessons. So, what has changed?

I wonder sometimes if it is our mindset. Are we stuck in cycle of speaking negatively about our workload? Are we stuck in a cycle of complaining? If we don’t begin looking for the good in what we do, we will burn out.

In my recent conversation, I asked those questions of my colleague. Not to be accusatory but just a reflective question. She came to me a few days later and said, “Thank you Shelley.” As I had already forgotten about our conversation I asked, “For what?” She said, “I thought about what you said the other day and I have been trying to make some changes in the way I think about things…it’s making a difference.”

Do I think there are changes that we can make? Absolutely! But I think we need to begin with a shift in our mindset.

A good mentor

Mentorship_SupportDay 6: Explain.  What does a good mentor do?

A good mentor should demonstrate the following attributes:

A willingness to share:

A mentor should be willing to share their experiences, successes and failures.  New teachers learn through experience.  If a mentor is willing to share their teaching experience, a new teacher will benefit.

Positive and passionate

I believe these attributes should be assumed, however… A mentor must be positive and passionate about teaching.  If a mentor is cynical or negative they are not going to be able to assist or advise a new teacher in any positive way.  Mentors should be able to show new teachers how to see the sunshine through the rain.

Listener

A mentor should be a great listener.  They should be able to sit, listen and truly hear what the new teacher is saying.  Too often, we are quick to jump into a conversation with our thoughts, opinions or advice.  Is this always helpful?  I don’t think so.  There are times where a new teacher needs to “vent,” share or talk without interruption or suggestions.

Enthusiastic and engaged

Again, these should be assumed attributes… A mentor needs to be enthusiastic and engaged in their work each and every day.  We do not need mentors who are negative about the teaching profession.  Instead we need mentor teachers who enjoy what they do and encourage others around them to feel the same way.

Coach

The ability to provide professional constructive feedback to a peer is a difficult task.  However,  mentoring needs to be approached as a coaching opportunity. I find that asking reflective questions is a powerful way for new teachers to begin to develop their teaching practice.  The process of asking questions rather than critiquing has proven to be successful for me.  A mentor should be able to provide multiple solutions or strategies to a situation or problem.  The mentor should then be willing to allow the new teacher to try to implement some of those strategies (even if they think they won’t be successful) and then revisiting the issue.  A mentor should stand beside the new teacher as they navigate their way through their first years of teaching.

Lifelong learner

A mentor should be a lifelong learner consistently seeking out new information, ideas and strategies.  A mentor should be a questioner and a researcher.  I have often said that the day I quit wanting to learn more is the day that I should retire.

What I love most…

teaching and passion

Day 4: What do you love the most about teaching?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to watch my first class of students graduate from high school. As each of them walked across the stage to receive their diploma, I found myself in a state of awe. Each one had grown into a beautiful person, individual and unique. I had played a small part in helping them get across that stage. Now, as I see them in the community and ask them how they are doing, what they are doing, how their families are I find myself inspired to continue on my path. I have made a small but significant difference in the lives of students I have taught. Teachers change lives and although there are many significant issues facing education, I teach to change lives.

At the beginning of one school year, at a new school, I was “warned” about a specific student and his family. This student was a non-attender, struggled with anxiety and had several behavior problems. I was told that his family enabled and allowed his behavior. I decided early to determine my own judgments about the student and his family.   I knew I could become an advocate for this student. I remember the initial meeting with the family and the boy’s psychologist as being slightly tense. I listened to the concerns presented by the boy’s parents and his psychologist. I asked respectful questions about his diagnosis and the recommendations for the school. We developed a collaborative plan during this meeting that we hoped would help him attend school successfully. I spent the first month working closely with this boy and his family. I spent time getting to know what he liked about school, what he did not like and what he liked outside of school. I spent time developing a positive, trusting relationship with him. We joked, laughed and had fun playing practical jokes on our vice principal. I spent a lot of time defending him and advocating for his needs to the other staff members. Staff had done a great job of establishing an unfair, preconceived opinion about this boy. I reminded them, sometimes daily, he is a child, he is a student and he has a right to be in a safe and caring environment. I explained how his learning differs from “normal” students due to his various diagnoses. I would re-explain his plan for success to each staff member who would question me. He knew he could come to me for help with his anxiety, his schoolwork or just to chat about his day. By the second month, he was successfully coming to school every day for an hour. By Christmas he was attending school for a half day, every day. He knew that we cared; we would listen and he felt safe.  He was even able attend a couple of full school days, but consistently attended half days for the whole school year, a task he has never been able to achieve.  This boy and his family are proud of his achievements, and we are so very proud of him.

I love that I can teach with compassion!  Genuine caring is vital for success with students.  I hold strong beliefs about the power of building positive relationships with students and families.  I can demonstrate compassion in small, but meaningful ways, teaching children each day how to think, how to problem solve and how to move beyond what they know.  I will continue to teach and lead with a genuine and compassionate heart.  I will watch more students cross the stage to receive their diploma and remind myself, I played a small, but significant part of that.

:)S

Reflecting on loss…

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Well, another school year is over…and what a year it was.  Back in October I wrote some reflections about September here.  September was a difficult month in many ways.  But the remainder of the school year continued to be a roller coaster ride that brought tears, laughter and experience, loss, growth and change.

Loss & Tears…

Back in September, I wrote about the loss of a student’s sibling and said that I had yet to experience the loss of a student.  Well, in April, we lost a Pre-Kindergarten student in a tragic motor vehicle accident.  This, by far, has been the most difficult and devastating experience in my educational career.  The VP and I spend each morning greeting students as they enter the school.  We start at opposite entrances, but end up together at the front entrance by the time our Pre-K’s are coming in (they come in a bit later to avoid the rush).  We have both said greeting these little ones is our favourite part of our day.  This little guy came in each morning with a beautiful smile and an enthusiastic jump in his step.  He was so excited to come to school to see his friends each day.  He was so excited to learn.  He had shown tremendous progress through the school year.  And in the blink of an eye, he was gone.

There are moments through this experience that I will never forget.  The phone call to his mother on the afternoon of the accident to hear that he had been transported by air ambulance to a city hospital.  The early morning phone call from his mother two days later telling me that he had succumbed to his injuries.  The “meeting” that the VP and I held with the Pre-K parents to let them know what had happened and our plan to support their children and families through this loss.  The strength of the classroom teacher and educational assistant.  The “meeting” we held with those beautiful little four and five year olds to talk about the loss of their friend.  The innocence of their statements and questions. The beauty of their unquestioning faith.  The balloon ceremony where we watched all the little ones chase after the balloons they released for their friend.  The heart breaking prayer service and funeral service.  Hugs from the distraught and grieving parents.  The support that the family received from our community and  that we received from our school family and our district family.

While we did receive a lot of support, our decisions were also questioned and criticized.  Comments, made by staff members. criticizing how we handled this tragedy made their way back to me.  This was devastating.  I sincerely felt that we had done the very best we could in this difficult situation with guidance from District office, Mental Health therapists and a Psychologist.  I felt that we had supported the students, teachers and families.  And it hurt that I heard in a round about way.  These were very difficult days.  Looking back I am proud of our decisions and how we chose to handle each individual issue that arose.  And I grew as a result of these experiences.

Growth & Change…

During our last week of school, the little boy’s parents arrived at the school to collect his school things.  We hugged and I walked them down to the classroom.  The children were excited to see the parents of their friend.   With tears in their eyes the parents collected their son’s belongings and a memory book of his time spent with his classmates.  I will forever remember walking them back to the entry of the school offering any support they might need and sharing a final, tear-filled hug.

Looking back I ask myself if I could have handled this tragic situation any better or any different.  It’s who I am, a person of reflection.  And I have thought about this experience over and over.  I’m not sure if I would change anything, but I did learn a lot about myself as a leader and as a person.  I believe that we have to do the best we can, with the supports and understanding provided, in the moment. As a leader in a school community, I feel that it is important to balance compassion with normalcy.  I believe we need to listen to our hearts as much as our heads during these difficult times.  Everyone grieves in a different way at a different pace.  It is difficult to know what may trigger someone’s tears or difficult days.  We need to watch over each other, be kind and forgiving.  This is not an easy task in the midst of hurt.

I know that I hug my own children a little tighter and a little longer each day.  My little Alexa often reminds me of the “little boy, that used to go to your school Mama, who is up in heaven with the angels.” :)   My older daughter has asked about the boy’s sibling and how she is doing.  The accident was a difficult reminder of how quickly our lives can change.  My oldest son has asked me several times about why these things happen.  While my younger boy asks if I am still sad about the little boy.  I still find it difficult to travel that part of the road.  I often think of the parents of this little one and offer up a prayer for them.  Their struggles continue each and every day.  It is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Next year, we will continue to greet our students each and every day at our school.  We will smile, say, “good morning,” give a hug or a high-5.  We will continue to care for and about each of them.

I will forever remember this little boy with the big smile!

:)S

 

Honest, meaningful feedback and sharing #SVAMP

wordle.jpeg

I seem to be facing the same question lately about how to build a school culture that provides honest feedback to one another.

As educators, we seem to be very afraid of the words “observation,” “supervision,” or the worst…”evaluation.”  These words bring on dry mouth, sweaty palms and high blood pressure in the most seasoned educator.

We are reluctant to share what we do or what we know.

Why?

Why are we so afraid to let others see what we are doing?  

As teachers, we spend a lot of time working…that’s news to some of you right? :)  Honestly though, most teachers spend a crazy amount of time planning, preparing, thinking about, revising, reflecting, assessing, revisiting, reteaching, researching, planning again….  It is only natural when we invest that much time, energy and heart into something that we want others to see the value in it as well.

To allow someone else to observe or provide feedback becomes personal.  Somehow we need to begin to separate the professional from the personal.  This is an incredibly difficult task for any teacher or administrator.  I have spent time, energy and a lot of thought making our school plan for Teacher Growth.  It has become “mine,” which makes it personal.  We were asked to post our plans to a district wiki as a means to sharing our ideas.  I was extremely nervous to put our ideas “out there” for everyone to see. 

Why don’t we share what we know?

I also believe we need to spend more time sharing our experiences and our learning.  We ask our students to share what they have learned, what they read about, what strategy they used each and every day.  Why do we not ask the same of our colleagues?  We are a collective group of “experts.”  We have failures to share and the learning from the experience. We have successes that can be celebrated and replicated. 

Recently I was asked to share our school plan for Teacher Growth and Supervision.  I reluctantly agreed.  And…I am dreading it.  I have said to my VP and to my husband, “I’m going to tell them I don’t want to do it, I can’t do it.”  I really, really, really don’t want to get up in front of my colleagues and explain or share our plan.  Just the idea of it makes me sick to my stomach.  Why?  I believe my plan is well thought out and will help teachers improve their practice.  I have heard positive feedback from district office and teachers at our school. I value the opinions of my colleagues, however I am nervous to be “judged.”

Why not open our doors to feedback, advice and professional criticism so that we can be better at what we do?

I want my teachers to be comfortable enough to hear my observations, answer my questions and accept any advice I may have.  My intention is only to help each teacher become the best teacher they can be.  However, I realize it is scary to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to others opinions or criticism.  We can become better when we work together, right?

I love this video clip of Dylan Wiliam speaking about teachers getting better…(shared with us by our Assistant Superintendent)

Why do I struggle to put the same ideas into practice for my own situation?

How can we begin to share?

As I say in almost every post I write…we must first build relationships with the people we work with.  This goes for students, staff, colleagues and families.  If we do not take the time to build those relationships, we will never get to the place where we can provide meaningful, honest feedback that that will make a change in a classroom, a school or for a student.

At our school, through our Teacher Growth Plan we have some ideas for sharing.  One idea: We begin each staff meeting with a Power Point of our observations through the month.  We have an observational focus each month, so we focus on all the great things we see our staff doing.  This Power Point is on a loop as our teachers come in and get ready for the meeting.  We believe it is a great way to affirm what is already happening in our school.  Our hope is that it will be a catalyst for professional conversation.

Will I share our plan with my fellow administrators? Yes… no… yes… not sure….ARGH!!

:)S

Collaboration

“Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence.”
― Mike Schmoker

Teachers have traditionally taught in isolation.  Even with a huge push for collaboration and PLC’s there are still few teachers who truly collaborate in a meaningful way.  I have only had a three collaborative experiences that I feel made a positive impact on my teaching over the last 16 years.  Why?

During each of these experiences I worked with the same colleague.  Now before I go much further, I need to explain my relationship with this colleague.  To say we are polar opposites is an understatement.  I am usually calm and quiet, she is usually loud and boisterous.  I need to have a plan, be planned and usually follow the plan.  And, although my colleague carefully plans, she is able to be much more flexible and can easily and effectively “fly by the seat of her pants.”  She is messy to my OCD neatness.  During our time together, I learned that it is okay to “let go” of the plan once-in-awhile and to have more fun with the kids.  She challenged my inside the box thinking many times, to push us to think beyond the traditional or expected.  Our approach to teaching may be different, but we had built a relationship of trust and respect.  We both believed deeply that each student had the ability to improve and to learn.  We loved each and every student we taught.

Our collaborative experiences were personally and professionally driven.  Each collaboration began with either a wondering or a question to be answered.  Our first collaborative experience began out of a staffroom conversation.  We were both struggling with students who were not progressing with their reading.  We developed a plan to collaborate and fully investigate this problem.  This was the beginning of our adventure.

Through each experience we had support.  By supporting our endeavours, our administrators allowed us the freedom to take a risk, to try something new, with support.  I am sure that they worried about us and what we were undertaking each time. But, their trust in us did not waiver.  They had faith in us.

Although the question or wondering was different each of the three times, we developed a similar framework or set of “protocols.”  One rule we created was, “no excuses” during our collaborative time.  It is simply too easy to get caught up in all the reasons why we “can’t” teach in a certain way or to point an admonishing finger everywhere else.  So to re-focus, we tried to discuss positive solutions to issues we had control over.  We attempted to focus on what we could do with our teaching time.  We found that this ensured we were not just complaining our collaborative time away.

We were accountable to each other.  We set timelines and deadlines.  And for the most part, we stuck to them.

We began to value our collaborative time so much, that we discovered creative ways to make “more” time to collaborate and work on our projects.  One year we asked to coordinate our Library block and our Music block.  Another year each of us worked with a student teacher.  During their APT there are times they are encouraged to teach on their own.  We coordinated the time as best we could and met.  The value of this time was not measurable, we met after school and during lunch breaks.

Now, a number of years later, I am once again working with my collaborative partner.  She is my VP!  We have easily slid back into our old trusting relationship.  We are once again collaborating on not only how to improve individual classrooms, but an entire school!  We have been discussing how to build more collaborative time into the already busy days of each teacher.  We are busy developing a plan to improve our practice as instructional leaders.  We see the power and impact positive collaboration can have, how do we best share this information with our teachers in a way that will ignite collaboration?

:)S

Alone-We-Can-Do-So-Little

Building relationships…

“Before people decide what they think of your message, they decide what they think of you.”

The importance of building relationships allows you to get to know the students, parents and staff you are working with, but it also allows them to get to know you.  The above quote speaks to me about the importance of building relationships.  I believe that building positive relationships is critical to being an effective administrator.

The more I read on twitter and the more  course work that I do, I am affirmed in my belief about the power of building relationships.  I have spent time thinking about and reflecting on the importance of building positive relationships with students, colleagues and families of our schools.

This summer I have been thinking about the best ways to do this as I will be moving to a new school (have I mentioned that?:)) These are some of my ideas, from the past and from the present…

Students

Being present:   In my experience, the best way to build relationships with students is to be present.  Be present in the hallways, in the classrooms, on the playground, during sport events and extra-curricular activities. Be present before, during and after school.  Be present during recess breaks and lunch time.

Learn their names: At my current/former school I was so proud to say that I knew each student by name.  Students and parents would often ask me, “How do you remember all of our names?”  This was one thing that students wrote about in my beautiful year end keepsake.

Ask questions: During classroom visits, I always ask students to , “Tell me what you are learning about today” and “Can I help you in anyway?”  Quite often, this is the best part of my day. During recess breaks and lunch break I often ask students, “What do you love to do outside of school?” or “What do you enjoy doing with your family?”  Through these informal conversations I learn a lot about a student.

Share stories: Students also like to hear what I do outside of school.  The smaller the student, the more surprised they are that I don’t actually live at the school. :)  They like to know about my kids, my family and what I like to do besides work.

Families

Be present: Be present and available during Meet the Staff evenings, Open House, Family Fun Nights, Parent Teacher Interviews, sporting events…

Share a positive story:  All too often when I have to phone a parent it is usually for discipline of their child.  As often as I can, I like to share positive stories as well.  Taking the time to share the good as well as the bad, lets parents know that you care about their child.

Listen: When parents/families contact me, they have something important to say.  I need to take the time to listen.  Sometimes it takes awhile to truly hear what they are trying to tell me, other times, it’s just a quick chat.

Return phone calls: I understand the busy-ness of everyday, however, if a parent or family member has called, I do my very best to return that phone call in a timely manner.  Parents appreciate the time it takes to return the phone call and they feel valued and respected by this simple courtesy.

Colleagues

Be present: Be present and available through out the school day, during instructional time, during recess and lunch breaks, before and after school, during Parent Teacher Interviews and Professional Development days.

Listen: Similar to parents, I try to ensure that I listen to staff.  They are in the “trenches” and know their students so well.  When they come to me to share a story, celebrate a success, vent, cry or laugh I need to take the time to truly listen.

Offer Support: When and if I can, I offer support.  I often say, “What can I do to help?”

Share stories: I am a pretty open book with colleagues.  I share stories about my family, my life experiences and my teaching experiences.  Over the past 16 years, I have learned a lot and I have stories to share.  Sometimes I have an idea or suggestion to share.  Other times, I share a failure and what I learned from that experience.

Taking time to build relationships demonstrates my dedication to each individual that I encounter.  When relationships are built, people have a better idea of what I am about and they are more willing to listen to my message.

I know there are many more ideas to build relationships and I would love to hear from you…what did I miss???

:)S

Something to Say…

talking

Before March of this year, I had never even thought of blogging about my professional experiences or opinions. I had briefly considered blogging about my parenting experiences. As a mother of four, there are some things I feel I could say, funny stories, silliness and some serious topics. But I had never ventured past the initial thought process.

Then at our teachers convention in March a session titled, “The Networked Leader” caught my attention. I had heard about twitter, but didn’t feel that following celebrities would impact my teaching. :) Blogging was in the session description as well. So, I went…

In the end, I dove into the world of twitter and blogging. And I love it (mostly).

I find myself struggling to write meaningful posts. It is easy to write reflective pieces about my experiences, but the posts with opinion and fact are more difficult. And I am haunted by a statement the presenter of the session (the infamous George Couros @gcouros) made. He said, as admin if you have nothing to say, get out of admin. Now, he went on to qualify that statement and it totally made sense to me.  He also wrote about it in his post, “The Prophets in Your Land”

However, I continued to struggle to find “something to say.”

This process has forced me to reflect on my leadership style. How can I make a meaningful difference at a school if I have nothing to say? How can I effectively run a school if I have nothing to say? So I forced myself to consciously notice when I “say something.”  Through this process, I discovered that I do “say” a lot and have a lot to offer to students and teachers.  Also, moving from my school, my students and staff provided many examples of ways that I “say” things and meaningful examples of what I said.

I attempt to take a gentle and coach-like approach.  I take the time to think about the best approach of  how I can best support and encourage , rather than tell students and staff “the right way” to do things. I provide suggestions, articles, research, and support.  I have never said, I have all the right answers, but I will assist in finding the answers.  I enjoy this part of my job.  I feel that anyway I can help make the job of a teacher easier or more efficient, it is worth my time.

So, I guess I do have something to say.  Maybe my struggle was more with how to put it out there.   I value and respect my colleagues, within my district, city, province and now PLN.  My hope is that they find value in what I have to “say.”

:)S