Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Make Yourself at Home

I often marvel at the contrast between my own experiences in school, and those of my students. One of the most significant differences is the lack of connection that I felt to my school community. There was nowhere that I felt that I truly belonged, and although I had a few memorable teachers who stand out as having impacted my learning and growth, I essentially drifted through my high school years with little engagement in my school community.

In contrast, many of the students at my school treat it as their second home. They are infinitely comfortable there, to the extent where I need to occasionally remind them of some important boundaries and guidelines.

Here are just a few examples of our students making themselves at home...

  • In the course of a day, I've had students ask me for everything from bandaids, to bus fare, to help with putting their tires back on to their bikes. Students who forget their locks quite often leave their bikes in front of my office to keep them safe. 
  • One of our students comes to the office every morning before school to get a key to the music room. She is trusted by the band teacher to use this as her own private practice space. 
  • As both my VP partner and myself keep chocolates on our desks, there is a group of grade 8 boys who regularly stop by to ask for candy. 
  • It's not uncommon for students to walk directly in to my office, "forgetting" to check in with our office staff first. (Here's where those reminders of  boundaries come in!)
  • We often let students into our gym at 7am to play basketball. And escort them back out at 7pm. 
  • A student called after school to ask one of the secretaries if she would check if he had left his phone plugged in to the wall in his classroom. Not only did she retrieve it for him, she called him back at home to let him know that she had. (Our office staff rock.)
  • On a Pro D day, when most teenagers relish the opportunity to sleep in, our entire grad class came to school to work on a lip synch video. 
While I've heard some people refer to this as proof of the sense of entitlement that is often associated with this generation, to me, it is evidence of a sense of belonging that many our students feel. To them, it isn't simply a school- it's their community, their home away from home, their safe place

The fact that I have students who know that their vice principal will stop what she's doing, find a wrench, and get down on the ground (despite the dress and heels) to help fix their bike, just makes me happy...

Friday, 13 May 2016

The Measure of Success

There's no denying the enormous complexity of a school community. They are fluid, incredibly diverse, multifaceted microcosms of society.

But in the face of this complexity, there is also one simple constant. Relationships. They are the essence of every interaction, every challenge and success, every mission statement and growth plan. They form the foundation for all that we do. They are at the heart of learning

So as we head into the final months of the school year, and perhaps begin to reflect on the success of our year, I'm challenging myself to focus less on the numbers and more on the people...

Did I do my best to connect with every student, every adult in my school community? Did I take the time to hear their stories, to truly see every individual? Did I work to establish trust and transparencyDid I value, encourage and respond to the voices of my community? And how can I continue to build on this foundation as I look ahead to a new school year end?

In the end, how will I measure the success of this school year? By the smiles in the hallways. By the high fives and fist bumps. By the ratio of "good morning's" to grunts. 

It's hard to plot on a graph, to factor into a report, or to display in a trophy case, but in the end, it's at the heart of all that we do. And I truly believe, there is no better indicator of success

What's important in a school community?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

It's Happening

At the risk of confirming Dean Shareski's assertion that I'm "old", I have nonetheless been in the field of education for a few years now. In addition to my own formative (and somewhat challenging) experiences as a student, I was an educational assistant for four years, a classroom teacher for seventeen, and am currently making my way through my first full year as an administrator. Similar to many experienced educators, in that time I've experienced countless new initiatives, frameworks and platforms. And I've also heard the voices of those who suggest that despite the "new", not much has actually changed...

Perhaps I'm naive, or just extremely fortunate to be surrounded by forward thinking, innovative, and transformative individuals (which I am), but here's my take on change-

It's happening. 

Don't get me wrong, there's definitely room for continued growth and certainly there's no cause to slow our momentum, but I would suggest that education is undeniably evolving, gradually responding to the needs of our students and of our global community.

I created the visual below simply as a method to capture some of the transformations that have challenged, informed and inspired my ongoing professional growth.

Ok, here's my disclaimer and my invitation...

First, the disclaimer- this is by no means intended to be a definitive "list" of paradigm shifts or instructional innovations. Nor is it meant to be a dichotomy, a "good vs. evil" of the evolution of education. As we all know, it's not as simple as that. It's just a way for me to make sense of some of the transformations that I've witnessed, and an opportunity to acknowledge (and thank) some of those "forward thinking" folks I mentioned above. This visual reflects my perspective, my lens. Likely by the time I hit "publish" I will have additions and revisions to make. But that's the beauty of learning. It's fluid.

Now, the invitation- just as I enjoy WestVan Superintendent, Chris Kennedy's "Top 3 Lists", I appreciate the opportunity to gain insight into what contributes to other's thinking and growth, into what inspires, irks and motivates those around me. Again, I'm fortunate to be connected to many individuals who willingly and generously share their learning with me, and I welcome the opportunity to connect with even more.

So while this type of overview is typically a "new year's" or a "year end" kind of thing, I find myself with a little time to ponder and reflect. A silver lining and a gift...

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Who Are the People in Your Neighbourhood?

Who are your school community heroes? Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Those of you who grew up in the 70s might be familiar with the Sesame Street classic, "Who are the People in Your Neighbourhood?" In addition to a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, it's an important reminder of the number of people who contribute to the well being and success of a community. In a school community, many of these people quietly and efficiently go about their jobs, with little recognition of the integral role they play. But in order to support the often complex needs of our students, to learn their stories, we need to solicit input from all members of our community. We need get to know the "people in our neighbourhood", and ensure that their voices are heard and valued.

Just a few of the many heroes that help to support student success. 
I was recently privileged to speak to an amazing group of educators in Prince George, BC. Through some incredibly open and honest conversations, we were able to identify numerous individuals who contribute on a daily basis to the social, emotional and academic success of our students. But even more important than the compiled "list", was the amount of warmth and appreciation that was being expressed as educators shared story after story of the impact that these individuals had on the lives of their students. I couldn't help but wonder how often those sentiments were expressed to those individual in person... How often do we say "thank you" to the heroes in our school communities?

Simply put, supporting student success is a team sport. We can't do alone, nor should we. I challenge you to take a look around you tomorrow as you walk through the parking lot and halls of your school. Who are the people in your neighbourhood, your school heroes who contribute to the success and well being of your students, and staff? And when was the last time that you said thank you for the important role that they play?