Archive for December 7, 2013

Learning Through Improv – Who Knew?!



Collaboration is an important part of the work we do at Greystone and it is a skill that none of us should assume we have mastered. The word “collaboration” has been coming up time and time again over the last several weeks as I met with teachers to review their professional growth plans. During these meetings, I discovered that many of our teaching teams were focusing on collaboration as a goal for their learning this year. Through conversations we have had around the need for direct instruction, coaching, modelling and practice with our students in order for them to develop their skills in collaboration and from seeing teacher teams indicate the need for their own professional collaboration to improve, I knew we needed to deepen our understanding of what it means to be collaborative with one another.

During one of my meetings with teachers, I discovered that our Drama Teacher, Margaret Rodgers, had incredible insight into what it means to be truly collaborative. She shared the following big ideas around what collaboration means:

1. Saying yes

2. Making it safe to try new things

3. Building on each others’ ideas

I asked Marge how she knew so much about the collaborative process and she shared that her best learning around collaboration came from the drama workshops she did on improvisation…specifically, the learning she gained from Rapid Fire Theatre. I knew we needed to bring this kind of learning to our staff so that we could capitalize on the power of collaboration within our teams.

We invited the Rapid Fire Theatre to Greystone to work with our staff during our last Professional Learning Day in November. It was risky business, getting staff to try out improv, but they were amazing! They let down their guard, took risks with each other and explored the possibilities in this engaging, fun workshop.

Through various games and activities, the following collaboration skills were highlighted:

*Accepting Ideas – Saying Yes – Go positive before you go negative

*Removing Fear – Happy Failure

*Staying Within the Circle (be obvious, no need to be brilliant)

*Looking for judgment and negativity in the group – will stop collaboration


Who knew that doing improv together as a staff would not only yield a lot of fun and laughter, but that it would also strengthen our skills as collaborators?


It’s The Small Things

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog – the month of November was a blur with so many work deadlines to be met and a couple of personal trips out of town on weekends to be with family and friends – doing what I love…running and watching my son play hockey. I was careful to thoughtfully plan my time in order to meet all of my professional commitments: the school’s Annual Report/Education Plan, Staff Evaluations, first term Report Cards using a new computer program and meeting with all of our teachers to review their Professional Growth Plans for the year. With all of this going on, reflecting and writing a blog post just didn’t make its way into my well-organized schedule of priorities. It’s funny how, on any given day, something can happen that makes all of the “important work” lose its significance in the big picture.

Something happened at Greystone this past month which reminded me of what is really important and far more significant than all of the due dates and details that can take over the day to day work. We lost a member of our Greystone “Family” after her hard fought battle with cancer. Robin Pennell, a young teacher, wife and mom, passed away on November 19th, and suddenly, all of the important details of our daily school life were put on hold as we grieved together at Greystone. Unfortunately, many of the students and staff at Greystone are familiar with this grieving process as it was only two short years ago when we tragically lost another member of our Greystone School Community, Jolene Cote, a young teacher, wife and mom.

Many of us were asking the question why? Why, once again, was our Greystone School Community facing another tragic loss? Why two young moms? Why do our students have to go through all of this sadness? One question was brought up that shook me to the core…“Do you think we can, as a school community, pull through another devastating loss again, so soon?” To be completely honest, I didn’t have the answers to any of these questions. What I did know for sure was that I needed to count on an incredibly close, resilient and supportive staff to lift each other up so that we could be strong for our grieving students. Once again, this AWESOME staff did not fall short on their responsibility to each other and to our kids.

So now, I have the answer to at least one of those big questions…YES, our school community can and did pull through this tragedy. I know, for sure, that we have grown closer and stronger from this experience and together, we will continue to face the challenges that come our way. Through another loss at Greystone, I was again reminded of something more significant than any report submission, any important but not urgent meeting, or the checking off of any item on the never-ending “to do” list. The reminder for me was to pay attention to the small things that matter most; the smile, the moment spent listening, the personal connections, the laughter, the opportunity to do the work I love and to keep doing small things for others that alone, don’t amount to much, but maybe, just maybe, in the big picture, might mean something more than I can imagine.


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