Archive for May 29, 2014

Reflections on My Learning from the Year

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I thought I would share a favourite quote from Maya Angelou, who passed away this week, in recognition and celebration of her influence on so many people, including me.Through her challenges, her triumphs and the incredible messages she shares, she calls on all of us to share our stories – as they are so important in helping us discover who we are and how much each of us matters.

So, I chose this quote to reflect on and share because, for me, it is a reminder to let go of any guilt that is associated with past mistakes or failures. In fact, it aligns perfectly with what I believe is so important in the world of education and learning –> mistakes and failure happen to teach us how to get better…and when we know better, we do better.

Which brings me to a reflection on my school year – and how I keep knowing better and doing better every year. That’s the essence of what it means to be professionally, personally learning and growing always – embracing the cycle of ¬†continuous improvement. This year has been no exception – I have learned a ton!

I submitted an “official” growth plan summary to my Superintendent, Tim Monds; however, I am reflecting more informally, on my incidental, unplanned growth and learning through this blog post…which will be the first of many posts that the Greystone Teachers will be sharing on their growth and learning from the year.

In addition to my formal learning goals from this past year, my additional learning has included the following:

  • I re-discovered what a resilient, caring group of people I get to work with each and every day (staff and students) as we faced the challenge of losing another young teacher this year. I wasn’t completely sure how this loss, only two years after the last loss we faced as a school community, would affect our students and our staff. The power of teamwork and the commitment of our staff to stay focussed on our students and their learning helped us to not only survive this tragedy, but to thrive and get stronger through the challenge.
  • I became absolutely humbled this year by the incredibly committed and talented team that I pulled together to lead our school community. After working so closely for the past five years with Tracy Lachman, Greystone’s OUTSTANDING Assistant Principal, I was not sure what to expect in Tracy’s absence this year. Middle school is a busy, unpredictable place and at Greystone, there is a high level of energy, flexibility and collaboration that is needed to keep the forward movement, growth and learning happening. So, after getting into some pretty established routines of work flow and “synergy” with Tracy, I knew I would need to be ready to embrace change as a new team worked together in the office this year. The team consisted of our Acting Assistant Principal, Jesse McLean, our Learning Coach, Claudia Scanga, and our Inclusive Education Lead, Trish Spink. Talk about a “dream team”…this group is amazing! I have heard that a great leader is someone who surrounds himself/herself with people who make him/her look good. Well, that’s definitely what I did with this crew – WOW! They are an incredible team and they truly make me, and more importantly, our school, look good. They are skilled at building relationships with our students, families, and staff. They are focused on developing the capacity of our teachers and support staff so that they can be effective in meeting our students’ learning needs. They are so well-respected among our entire school community…yes, they really make me look good! I can’t wait to continue learning from them and with them again next year.
  • I would like to focus on just one more significant insight I gained from the year – an insight into the staff that makes me proud to work with all of them. I learned just how much they care about doing what’s right for our kids. This sounds cliche, but they actually walked the talk this year when they agreed to blow up our schedule and re-organize their teaching assignments in order to meet student needs. The teachers were not happy with how the student learning was going – they weren’t able to do the kinds of in-depth, meaningful learning tasks with students that they had done in the past – they knew better, but the schedule was not allowing them to do better. So they decided we needed to change it up.Although we have not yet arrived at the best schedule or organizational arrangement, our staff has shown the kind of creativity, risk-taking and perseverance we are wanting to promote with our students in order to develop something really great at Greystone. We will continue to adjust our sails as we chart the course that lies ahead, but one thing I know for sure…it’s that at Greystone, the staff is committed to doing whatever it takes to get it right for our kids – no matter how many schedule changes, adjustments of class lists, re-organization of teacher assignments and teams it takes. For that, I am so grateful.

It’s been an awesome year and I am already looking forward to the new school year ahead…after a well-deserved summer break for all of us – happy holidays!

 

 

Walking the Talk ~ Teachers as Designers

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It’s been a while since I have felt so inspired that I needed to capture my thoughts, in the moment, following a NEW experience that I have been involved in.

The last few months have been engaging, exciting and have provided me with many experiences that have reminded me, daily, about what I love in my work – connecting with kids and community. There have been SEVEC Student Exchanges, a Sun Run Trip and a conference with my awesome school leadership group – Design Team; however, these are all experiences I have had before – nothing has really ignited a spark in me to reflect, write and share…until today.

Today was different. I decided it was time to walk the talk…be a risk taker, do something that was outside of my comfort zone, something that intuitively felt right.

Last week, Greystone’s Design Team attended the IDEAS 2014 Conference at the University of Calgary. A highlight for us was participating in Ewan McIntosh’s Design Thinking workshop. This workshop provided us with the opportunity to experience a step-by-step process which taps into the creativity, innovation and design thinking capacity that each of us possesses. The whole process is something we experienced as learners and it helped us to explore how we could and would use it with our students to build their capacity for developing these important competencies. I left the workshop, completely inspired, wondering how to bring this to all of our learners (students AND staff) at Greystone.

Timing is everything. Today, six days after participating in the Design Thinking workshop, our scheduled Professional Development Day took place. With the learning from last weekend, fresh in the minds of our Design Team, Greystone’s Assistant Principal, Jesse McLean, and I decided that we needed to apply our new learning to our school context. Today’s Professional Development Day was devoted to School Education planning for next year. Instead of the usual data review and collaborative work to determine what we needed to start/stop/continue in the lengthy, existing School Education Plan and Annual Education Results Report, we decided to work with staff on the Design Thinking process to create the “Best Year of My Life” for the 2014-15 school year at Greystone.

It was THE MOST ENGAGING School Education Planning experience I have been a part of…EVER!!! The feedback from the staff supported how I was feeling. Not only was today’s work engaging for our staff, but it also provided them with the opportunity to learn a process for how to be “designers”, an experience which we can work to develop with our students.

We ended our session this morning by getting the staff’s advice on next steps. They suggested that we post all of the work from the morning to continue to get feedback from each other on the ideas that were “sketched up” this morning. I am looking forward to taking their ideas to our Design Team and pulling them together into a plan for our work next year. Stay tuned, I know there will be more on this in the weeks to come…

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