Monday, December 5, 2016

What Do You Want Leaders to Do With Technology?

As the PQP2 course comes to an end, our 10 day challenge wraps up with a reflection on the following question: What do you want leaders to do with technology? As I reflect on this question, I can't help but connect the following Catholic Leadership Framework pillars:

  • Setting Directions
  • Building Relationships and Developing People
  • Developing Organization to Support Desired Practices
  • Improving the Instructional Program
  • Securing Accountability

For me, technology has has allowed me to be more efficient, become a global citizen, connect with others to grow as an educator, and to reach students who seemed to be unreachable. Over the last 9 challenges I have enjoyed reflecting on how I use technology as a teacher, but more importantly, how it can be used as a leader.

I want leaders to use technology for the same reasons I stated above. We live in a time where digital is the norm. Mobile devices run rampant and access to the Internet is becoming a right rather than a privilege. Leaders need to have a general idea of what is out there and be open to how the technology can be used to assist all stakeholder in order to benefit the learning of the students entrusted in our care.

As the playing field levels out with respect to access to the Internet and relatively affordable technology, leaders who are connected and using social media to tell their stories and expand their professional learning network, for example, will be in a good position to model the ethical/effective use of technology to their students and community.

The world we live in today is much smaller than it used to be thanks to technology and the Internet. Leaders need to lead digitally as well as face-to-face. As I move into Day 11 and beyond, I believe that I will continue to use technology to grow as a professional and discover new ways to learn from others, share my learning, reach people who were once deemed unreachable, and find new ways to positively impact the the students under my care.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Evolution in Education: Building Capacity among Educators

This school year I am fortunate to be part of a core team of educators who are working on 'connecting' kids and classrooms. Part of our work involves building the capacity of teachers in our system around the use of a variety of platforms/tools to help classrooms and students connect.

The Core 6 engaged in preparation and discussion before our mini conference on Connecting Classrooms. Photo taken by Jess Weber.

Each member of the team is responsible for a particular tool. My responsibility is to assist/support teachers with the use of Twitter to share their learning (and that of their students), gain new ideas with respect to their practice, and connect with other educators and classes.

Core 6 preparing for their work with other teachers. 
As I prepared a slide presentation to help guide the people I would be working with, I made a conscious effort to reflect on the Catholic Leadership Framework as I was getting ready for these particular sessions at the mini conference.

As I reflected, I quickly realised that the work that I would be engaged in melded well with the following Leadership Framework expectations:

1) Building Relationships and Developing People
  • acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of individuals and teams
  • consider opinions when initiating actions that affect their work
  • build upon and respond to individuals unique needs and expertise
  • encourage teachers to reflect on what they are trying to achieve with students and how they are doing it
  • lead discussions about the relative merits of current and alternative practices
  • challenge educators to continually re-examine the extent to which their practices support the learning of all their students
  • facilitate opportunities for staff to learn from each others
  • suggest new ideas for learning
  • encourage individuals to develop and review their own goals for professional growth and the relationship of those goals to school goals and priorities
  • encourage educators to try new practices that are consistent with both their interests and school goals

Working with a group of teachers about how to use Twitter to leverage this particular tool to connect classrooms and kids. Photo taken by Jess Weber.
2) Developing the Organisation to Support Desired Practices
  • model collaboration in our work
  • foster mutual respect and trust among those involved in collaboration
  • encourage the collaborative development of group processes and outcomes
  • help develop clarity about goals and roles related to collaborative work
  • encourage a willingness to compromise among collaborators
  • foster open and fluent communication among collaborators toward building and sustaining a Catholic professional learning community
  • provide adequate and consistently available resources to support collaborative work
  • provide people with leadership opportunities and support them as they take on these opportunities

The above mentioned expectations were not the only ones that were addressed in the work I was engaged in at the mini conference but the Building Relationships and Developing People and Developing the Organisation to Support Desired Practices pillars were the two major ones.

The mini conference was a great opportunity to help move educators in a direction that will assist them with their professional learning/growth and the achievement of their students. I look forward to continuing to grow as a leader as I assist others in improving their practice. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Connected Principal (Digital Leader) and the Evolution of Educational Leadership

Tomorrow I am spending the day learning with my Principal Qualification Program Part #2 colleagues. We have been provided with a release day to gather and continue to learn about the role of a Principal. On top of learning from and with my colleagues, I will be sharing my understanding of the importance of, and what it means to be, a digitally connected Vice Principal/Principal/Leader.

It has been a bit of a whirlwind putting the presentation together but I am looking forward to sharing my learning with my colleagues in the course and my social media PLN - some of which have been integral in the preparation of my presentation.

Looking at this experience through the lens of the Catholic Leadership Framework I believe that my presentation will assist in Building Relationships and Developing People, Developing the Organization to Support Desired Practices, and Improving the Instructional Program. 

There are a lot of benefits to being a connected digital leader that fit very nicely with the expectations of the Leadership Framework. Connected leaders can leverage digital technologies/tools to help establish (or be part of) collaborative cultures, building productive relationships with families and the community, connecting the school to a wider environment, stimulate growth in the professional capacities of staff, modelling the school's values and practices, and providing instructional support. 

With this in mind, I hope that my colleagues will see that being a digitally connected leader is not an "extra" but that it fits in nicely with the society we are currently living in and the work that we do in Education. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

PQP2 - Formal Leadership Learning

I'm very excited to be enrolled in the Principal Qualification Program (part 2). I am surrounded by a great group of formal and informal leaders in my system and look forward to learning with them and from them. It is important for me to note that one of the main reasons I decided to take this course now is because of the instructor who will be leading our learning. I have had the opportunity to work with +Rodney Eckert when I worked under his supervision a few years ago. I find him to be an authentic and effective leader and enjoy listening to him and engaging him in educational discussions with him.

Rod Eckert

It will be nice to connect my learning in the course to the Catholic Leadership Framework, especially the pillars that I feel I need to work on. When I look at and reflect on the Leadership Framework I know that Securing Accountability is a pillar that I will need to spend time reviewing and learning about in this course. I am not naturally attracted to that section of the Framework so I know that I will need to put effort into learning more about it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I'm an NTIP Mentor...Finally!

Seven years ago I felt like it was time to take a risk and put myself "out there" by making it known that I wanted to be a mentor to newer teachers. I remember finishing up my teacher performance appraisal and telling my Vice Principal that I was feeling good about my development and that I wanted to be considered as a potential mentor for new teachers. My VP agreed and let me know that he would make some calls about my interest.

Unfortunately, he was told that they didn't require any mentors at that time. I never stopped looking into it. A couple of years later I asked about it again and was told that mentees got to choose their mentor so if I wasn't contacted then I wouldn't be a mentor. Last year I found myself having a conversation with a consultant working within the New Teacher Induction Program (NTIP) who told me that the system for recruiting mentors would be changing. She was correct, a few months later there was a call for mentors and I put my name forward to be considered.

It took seven years but I am really happy (and feel privileged) to say that I am now an NTIP Mentor! A list was put together and I was contacted by two teachers who will be going through the NTIP this school year. I am excited to have the opportunity to build a positive relationship with other colleagues and offer them advice/guidance about the awesome work we engage in on a daily basis.

Looking through the lens of the Catholic Leadership Framework, the opportunity to participate in the NTIP allows me to assist in building relationships and developing people, developing the organization to support desired practises, and improving the instructional program. The opportunity to work on a variety of leadership expectations while formally supporting the growth of others who are relatively new to the profession is welcome.

Aside from offering my perspective and experience to other teachers, I am looking forward to learning from them and seeing/hearing about the awesome things they do to improve their practise and the learning of their students. I look forward to blogging more about my experience as a mentor with respect to the Leadership Framework. This is only the beginning - I look forward to the journey that I am embarking on and the positive changes that come with/from it.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Learning will be Epic - Leadership Perspective

The post that you will find below was posted on my other blog site a few weeks ago. What I want to do here is look at the Innovators Mindset through the lens of the Catholic Leadership Framework that I have been using as I reflect on my leadership journey.

I have not finished reading the book yet but I can already see how this #IMMOOC experience connects to the Leadership Framework in the following ways:
  • Setting Directions
  • Building Relationships
  • Developing the Organization to Support Desired Practices 
  • Improving the Instructional Program
Within each of the broad categories I listed above are specific expectations that I am connecting with as I read the book. It is quite the exercise to read the book for pleasure (my own interest) and for the purpose of assisting me on my leadership journey (my work life). Nevertheless, I believe that the learning that comes from the text will assist me in becoming a more effective leader around innovation and the evolution of what school is and how school leaders do their work. 

For example, if I drill down a bit using the Leadership Framework with respect to Setting Directions, there is a section dedicated to creating high expectations:

From my perspective, I am starting to see how the information in the text can assist me in working on meeting such expectations and this is just one simple example. Through the lens of the Catholic Leadership Framework, I am gaining an awareness of how being innovative can assist me in being an effective leader in my classroom and my school. I look forward to providing more of my insight as I continue to read the book.

The post below is cross posted from the New Fluencies Blog (Sept 11, 2016):

The path that has led me to the #IMMOOC has been an interesting one. I'm hoping that it is an indication of the great learning that is to come. In June, some of my colleagues ( +Jessica Weber  and +Amy Shantz)  who were taking a course together, decided that they wanted to have a book study over the summer months. I read about it on Twitter and told them that I was interested. Next thing you know, I've got a copy of +George Couros' 'Innovators Mindset' book in my hands. However, that was not my first interaction with the text. Months before the local book club opportunity, I was part of a Voxer chat group (thanks to +Jennifer Casa-Todd)  about the book - where I got to interact with a variety of people from around the globe about their thoughts and experiences with respect to the Innovators Mindset. Even thought I hadn't read the book yet, I was blown away by the learning that was coming out of the chat.

While I was participating in the Voxer chat, I experienced something that I can still visualize today, with crystal clarity. I was at a meeting with a group of people above my pay grade (consultants, principals, and senior admin) and one of them had the book. You could tell that it was being used extensively - it had sticky notes falling out of it and it looked worn - great indicators of the value it held for this particular person. Anyhow, I engaged this person and told them that I was participating in the Voxer chat group about the book.  They began to share their learning with me and anyone listening to us could see and hear the passion with which this person was talking about their experience.

This next part is what has stuck with me over the past few months: this person said to another person (both of whom I respect and look up to) "If you're not learning, you're dying" and the response from the other person was "well, that would explain all the corpses I have been seeing lately!". Wow! That is when several things hit me. First, I thought, I need to get myself in gear and keep bumping up my learning journey. Second, I knew that I needed to put the Innovators Mindset book on my learning journey.

I started reading the book this summer and then I saw a tweet referring to a post that George wrote to see if people were interested in participating in an Innovators Mindset MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). I filled in the form and crossed my fingers that enough people would do the same so that George would proceed with his idea. I shared this opportunity with my District by posting it to our Google + page and told my close friends about it. You can imagine how happy I was when I found out that the MOOC would be running!

The Facebook Page for the MOOC is buzzing and people are posting links to their blog posts about joining the MOOC and what they hope to gain from it. I am looking forward to connecting with people, learning with them, and sharing my learning so I can establish an innovators mindset. I believe that it is worthy of making this mindset a habit. What I am loving so far is that we are already establishing an Innovators Mindset by trying new things and pushing ourselves in order to learn and grow in a way that we may not have experienced before. People are leveraging Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Voxer, and who knows what else to learn and connect.

The learning will be epic. Looking forward to connecting and growing with you.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

My New Students and their FAMILIES are all Welcome!

It has been a busy summer of reflecting, learning, and planning. With the start of the new school year a little over a week away, my focus is on my classroom and the students that will be inhabiting it for the next 10 months.

Just the other day, I came across a great blog post by +Sue Dunlop entitled "How Do You Want Families to Feel on the First Day of School?". Her post got me thinking - wondering why I have not ever really considered the 'family' on the first day (or week for that matter) of school.

Coincidentally, I found myself chatting with +Stephen Hurley that day or the next, about this very topic. Stephen was kind enough to connect with me to be on my podcast to talk about his work in education and what motivates and inspires him to do the work that he does. During our conversation we talked about School and the family context within it. Stephen offered up some ideas on how we could create a more welcoming environment for the families that belong to our school communities. Our conversation led him to write his own blog post, "Back to School: The Family Context", where he writes about some of the ideas he spoke about on the podcast around some ways that the school context could overlap with the family context. After reading his post, I started thinking about how I could help overlap the contexts in my school community. The next day I spoke to my Principal about the conversation that Stephen and I had. I told her about the idea of being more deliberate about overlapping the family context at school and sent her the link to Stephen's blog post.

My hope is that we can establish a new tradition/norm in my school community that will further assist us in building trusting and productive relationships with parents. Looking at this through the lens of the Catholic Leadership Framework, overlapping the family context and the school context would allow us to do the following:

  • demonstrate respect for parents by listening to their ideas, being open to those ideas, and genuinely considering their value
  • demonstrate respect, care and personal regard for parents 
  • create a school environment in which parents are welcomed, respected and valued as partners in their children’s learning
  • demonstrate the type of leadership that parents can trust - confident, systematic and attentive 
  • help develop staff commitment to engaging parents in the school
  • encourage staff to adopt a broad view of parental engagement and encourage more parents to be involved

We say that our Catholic Schools are the heart of the community - I think that this would be one more way to strengthen the school community by acknowledging and celebrating the family context. I look forward to revisiting this topic to blog about what my school does towards making families feel like they are truly welcome once they pass the main office.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Tough Conversations - Revisited

Our most recent in-class leadership session was all about having difficult conversations and the tools needed (rapport, listening set asides, and pause/paraphrase) to assist with those conversations. We were assigned a "homework" activity that involved engaging in a difficult/necessary/courageous conversation at home or at work. After having our tough conversation, we were to communicate our experience to our course instructor by providing 5 sentences/keywords/mind map (or whatever we wish) to express ourselves.

I took some time to think about any situations at work that I needed to deal with. It didn't take very long before I decided who I needed to talk to and the topic of the conversation. After my tough conversation I emailed my course instructor with the following message:
Here are my 5 points with respect to a difficult/necessary conversation I had:
Anxiety provoking
Prepared for negative

One of the teachers at our school is new and I share lunch duty with her. It was around a duty issue. We get along and I would say that I have a good rapport with her. So when I talked to her about the issue I told her that I wanted to ask her something and perhaps provide some advice for future reference. I know she is sensitive so I didn't want to upset her - my intention was to inform her and let her know how her decisions were impacting me. It turned out to be good.

My 5 words (I know that I used more than 5) reflect my experience. I felt anxious, I spent time reflecting on the situation and my feelings about what was going on, I acted by speaking to my colleague, I prepared myself for a negative reaction on her part (worst case scenario), and when she spoke I actually listened to her. From MY perspective, I think things went well. My next step is to figure out if things are ok on her end as well. This is something I am currently thinking about. Sometimes when you have tough conversations things go they way you planned but how is the other person feeling? I am going to look further into that aspect of these tough conversations. 

As I think about the tools needed to have difficult conversations, I have to say that the one that stands out for me the most is the one about rapport. The leadership framework for principals has a pillar (1/5th of the document) about building relationships and developing people. Upon further investigation, the pillar is all about the practices that build rapport and the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will make the practices useful and authentic.

Here is a closer look at the pillar and its expectations:

I look forward to continuing to work on the expectations in this pillar with the people I work with everyday. Moreover, I look forward to looking into the other side of tough conversations and examine what it means for things to "good" on both sides of the conversation.