Archive for November 25, 2012

We Don’t Remember the Days – We Remember the Moments


I had a moment this week that stuck with me – so decided I should capture it in a blog post.

I have not done a lot of reflecting and writing lately as I have been on the gerbil wheel, racing around frantically trying to complete the “to do” list of report card reading, teacher evaluations, finishing touches on the School’s Annual Report and hiring new staff. This, combined with my choice to spend the last four weekends traveling near and far to visit family, watch my son play hockey, take part in an annual run with friends and present at a conference with colleagues from Greystone – has left me feeling like there’s not enough time during the week to get everything done…time to slow down!

From experience, I know that I do my best thinking and reflecting when I make time to relax – ideas flow, I get inspired by what I read or things I hear. That’s what happened today – something I heard during a meeting popped back into my head – it was a moment from this past week that I want to remember.

I had an “aha moment” in teaching – about fifteen years ago. It was in that moment that I understood what it meant to be a teacher. I figured out that the most important thing I could do for my students was to create a love for learning. Not only did I understand that this was the reason for my existance as a teacher, I also learned how I could make it happen. I needed to get off my stage and take a back seat to the students. They were the ones who needed to question, think, explore, figure things out. They needed to do more talking than me. They needed to learn how to think for themselves. They needed to NOT NEED ME. When I figured this out, my job became even more complicated and complex – but far more rewarding! I realized that in order to move my students to a place where they were directing their learning, I had to be even more organized, more thoughtful about my planning, more knowledgeable about the need to knows versus the nice to knows in the curriculum, more flexible to let students take their learning in unexpected directions and most importantly, more responsive to them as individuals. I needed to remember that each learner brought different background experiences, prior knowledge and even possibly some misconceptions to the table and that each learner required something different to build their understanding around a topic. I needed to create the setting for students to explore, deeply, the landscape of a topic. My job was to coach their learning by asking the right questions, sharing the discoveries as they were made and supporting students to reflect and ask questions of each other. I needed to create curiosity and a sense of wonder in my classroom – then get out of the way and put the learning and thinking in the hands of the students. I remember, so clearly, the moment when this happened for me, as a teacher. I became an observer, listener,facilitator and coach for the students – I was no longer the “chick in charge” at the front of the class.

Fast forward fifteen years later – I am Principal of a school full of bright and talented teachers. One of the many things that inspires me about my work now is when I see the “aha moment” happen for teachers at my school. This took place for one of our teachers and she shared it during a meeting last week. She said something like this:

I realized that it isn’t my questions that are important or me telling them what they need to learn about. What needs to happen is that they ask the questions – they come up with what they want to learn more about. I need to figure out how to help them do this.

YESSSS!!!! The “aha moment” – shifting control of the learning from the teacher to the student. Creating a sense of wonder and curiosity among our students – this is the real art of teaching. As John Medina puts it in his book Brain Rules:

Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.

We need to provide students with the opportunity to become curious about the world and then give them the freedom to explore and discover for themselves. This is how we help them create the memorable moments in their learning.



What Do F’s Stand for at Greystone?

Five Fabulous Females Facing Fears!
Our Greystone Team just finished sharing a presentation in Portland, Oregon at the Association for Middle Level Educators’ National Conference…and we are fired up! It’s amazing how energized you feel when you face fear head on and figure out that all the time, effort and energy you put into moving out of your comfort zone can pay off BIG TIME!We planned, prepared and practiced for the past several weeks so that we would make our school and our school division proud of the incredible learning journey we have been on at Greystone since we opened the doors of our middle school eight years ago. We wondered, would our story be worthy of sharing at a conference of this magnitude? With 400 breakout sessions, many big name presenters including experts on Middle Years Education (Rick Wormeli); Differentiation (Carol Ann Tomlinson); and Brain Research (John Medina) we were feeling a little out of our league. Seriously…who would be interested in hearing about our little school from Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada?We decided that the theme of our Greystone story would be our movement away from traditional practices – practices like grading student learning with F’s. At Greystone, the letter F refers to practices that better meet the needs of today’s learners. Our F’s stand for:
Familyof learners that are part of a school community where there is a high level of trust and strong, supportive relationships.

Flexibility in designing authentic, meaningful learning using an inquiry approach to engage learners.

Feedback for growth where students play a central role in co-creating criteria, assessing themselves and each other and understand what they need to do to improve in their learning.

Did we know in the beginning that the process of putting together this presentation would actually result in all of us facing our own fears and growing from the experience? As adult learners, we actually achieved the kind of learning that we strive for with our students. Our team of five from Greystone, Joan Papp, Claudia Scanga, Trish Spink and Lindsay Thornhill and I each took a giant step out of our comfort zone to face individual fears including the fear of flying, the fear of public speaking, and the fear of working with new technology. We challenged ourselves to learn through this experience. Was anyone interested in what we had to share about our little school from Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada? We think so…people stayed after we were finished to ask us more questions (and no one left the room during our presentation – another one of our fears!) We even heard one attendee tell us that our session was her favourite from the whole conference – wow!!! If others can get some ideas from what we have done at Greystone to share at their own schools – then all of this will have been worth it – and we are ready to share some more!

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