In my role as a school administrator I get the opportunity to experience different school communities over time. I'm now into my 3rd school in the last five years as school Principal. I enjoy working with new staff to build an environment that fosters success in student learning and expose the community to current educational practices.
The Mount Pleasant community is changing like many others in Vancouver. What seems to stay constant is the sense of togetherness and care for each other. There is a great family feel here and I'm excited to be apart of it and hope to contribute as a school leader.
On a day that is celebrated by many across America, Martin Luther King Jr. had a vision for change; a dream and hope to make the world a better place.
The same day that 54 complete strangers (well maybe a couple know each other), finally met to begin our journey to Constanza, Dominican Republic to bring hope to a small community of people. All of our backgrounds and home cities are very different, but we are brought together for one common purpose.
Learning, Serving, Storytelling - our main activities this next week or so. It will be exciting to get our boots on the ground and start making a difference in the lives of others; and doing it all with complete strangers - even better.
In just over 3 weeks, I'll be one of 52 educators from North America heading to the Dominican Republic to help finish the building of a school. This came as quite a shock and pleasant surprise when representatives from Life Touch Photography came to my school at the end of November to let me know I was chosen.
On January 16, 2017 I'll be heading to Atlanta, then off to a town called Constanza in the Dominican Republic. I'm looking forward to experiencing life in a small rural countryside town and hoping that my being there will only enhance the lives of those I meet. As one of two Canadians lucky enough to be going, I know we will do our country proud and spread our word of acceptance to all those we meet.
I am hoping to use this blog to document my adventures over the 7-8 days I'm there. I'll be using Twitter as much as possible and hoping to send word back to my school and students about the people I meet and places I see on a regular basis.
It's been ages since I've had a chance to put something down on paper or in this case on a computer screen. I've had lots of ideas and many drafts sitting in folders. This doesn't mean I'm all caught up and have time to write. I honestly just felt like it today - break up my day.
So our staff recently had a BCeD Curriculum In-service Professional Day. It was a chance for a couple of our staff members to share their thoughts on what was presented from Ministry of Education reps around the Re-Designed Curriculum. I know many are saying "new" curriculum, but really it's the same curriculum just with a lot more allowances to open it up. Expand on what's already there, instead of feeling you have to cram it all in.
What made this day exciting was listening to the buzz in the room around the possibilities. The opportunity to share one's passion of a particular area in a curriculum area. Not only will this make the learning more meaningful in the classroom, but model for students what to expect when they explore an area of interest they have. Dig a little deeper and ask questions. Answers may or may not happen, but begin to ask those questions and make you wonder.
This Re-Designed Curriculum will no doubt change how we teach are students. The idea of pulpit teaching has to end. We need to give it back to the students to discover on their own. Of course teachers are there to facilitate and guide, but spoon feed them answers is a thing of the past. That's not the real world.
It's an exciting time in our BC Schools and you could almost say its a Renaissance of sort. A re-birth of how we teach our children of tomorrow. It's time we caught up.
This is my initial post back in August 2013 answering a similar question when I first participated in #SAVMP.
Everyone's path to leadership is different and it's one that has helped me get to where I am today in terms of why I lead.
Like all educators turned admin, it started in the classroom. In my case, leading a classroom of Grade 4's to not only learn, but do all the schoolwide activities opened my eyes to how much fun being a leader was. More importantly was how much the students got out of the experiences. The question then became whether or not I could lead a whole school of staff and students to achieve the same results.
The chance came and I took full advantage of the new challenge. So far in all my situations, each being different, has allowed me to build on previous experiences. The two most exciting aspects of why I enjoy educational leadership are watching teachers take risks in their class and then take the time to teach their colleagues as ongoing professional development. It's exciting and the payoffs are how engaged the students are.
When I look back, only 2-1/2 years ago, not too much has changed in my thinking as to why I enjoy leading and why I'm in my current position as an educational leader. Schools have changed for me and so have the size and demographics of the communities, but students are students and teachers are teachers no matter where you go. Goals and objectives of a public elementary institution remain the same.
Two big things have really influenced my desire to offer greater opportunities/experiences for teachers and staff I work with. My own two kids. They are now 8 and 10 years old and in the prime of their elementary years. They love going to school. Every day they come home and want to share their day of learning and experiences. Sometimes it's classroom related, other times its what's out on the playground.
So how do my two kids influence my thinking? Any time I work with staff or present new ideas, pedagogy, apps, or online tools it is not only for the intention of their class full of students, but in case, one day, or maybe, just maybe, one of those staff members go on to teach my own kids. You may think this is a long shot, but you never know; and if it does, I want my kids to have the best possible chance of experiencing the most current educational practices. I want my kids to be prepared for what lies ahead in the future.
The future is changing everyday. I, as an educational leader, must do my best to stay up on what is out there in educating the children of tomorrow. It would be no different than doctors, dentists, plumbers, engineers or scientists. They are always learning the latest and greatest in their fields as things change. Educators should be no different. Students are changing and so we need to adapt to their learning styles to ensure they reach their potential and become a valued member of society. We owe them that much if we are to have them in our care for those 13 years and roughly 6 hours a day (less pro-d, holidays and summer/winter vacations).
Well, its my first month at my new school and things are starting to feel a little more comfortable and grow each day that goes by. I've done it as a teacher and yes, it's been a little challenging, but you could always just hide away in your classroom and focus on your students; looking for the right time to add to the school culture when you're ready.
As an admin in a new school, it's a little different. I feel like I'm just sitting in the balcony of a theatre watching an ongoing performance that started hours before and have no idea what the plot or the characters are. You know that annoying person that sits besides you and is always asking, "What's going on? or Who's that?". That's me right now. However, I'm beginning to piece things together and understand the players a lot more. Slowly creeping up to the edge of my seat and really getting into the show, as if I'm in it, is the feeling I'm getting. It's very exciting to not only finish the current performance, but work with everyone to write a script that engages the entire school community.
At my first PAC meeting back in December (intro meeting with current admin), I described the feeling as the new boyfriend coming by to meet the parents, but instead the entire family happens to be there. Hoping that you'll be accepted as it is always difficult to step into someone else's shoes with memories still running so deep.
I have felt that the last couple of opportunities to meet with the school parent group has been extremely positive and exciting to talk about the future of education and where it may be headed with their children. It actually revs me up and I look forward to the same conversations with my staff. That is where the real work will begin.
So far I have been able to pop into all the classes, work with a couple of teachers and their students, and get the school leadership team up and running. It's a lot busier than what I've been used to, but it will be fun to see where my skills and working with a motivated staff go. It's an exciting time in education and I can only hope we can bring that to the students we work with everyday.
I have been a big proponent of change and how much it actually makes you a better educator. Reason? It keeps you fresh and current with the trends in a quickly changing educational environment. Like buying a brand new computer, the next day it is already out of date. Well, maybe education isn't quite that fast, but I would say new ideas and better ways for students to learn comes about as often as Apple introduces a new iPhone.
So my new change will be taking place on Monday, January 5, 2015. After 3 years as a newly appointed Principal, I'm on the move to my second school - David Livingstone Elementary. It's at least twice the size and in an area of town that is growing rapidly. It is also a school known as a Technology Inquiry School and was a leader in bringing SmartBoard technology to the Vancouver School Board. After 3 years of starting at a school from scratch, it seems this move gives me a chance to work with a staff that has been a leader in using technology with students and share our knowledge of technology and inquiry to really make this a school the entire District can look upon as the leader in 21st Century Learning practices. It will be an exciting challenge and one that I'm really looking forward to.
Change often brings about the feeling of fear. This fear can either help or hinder your progress. In my case, this change isn't a feeling of fear, but more of an opportunity to continue putting into practice what I'm learning about best practices in today's education. I only hope the staff are willing to join me on this ride and see how fun it will be.
In my most recent post on building credibility with staff, I failed to even answer the question - What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in your school?
So the areas of teaching that I have found to be helpful with staff, is the use of online tools and apps on the iPad. I have been in many classrooms, but lately I've been in the Kindergarten class as one of their play centres. It has been awesome! My first week I was experimenting with Osmo (a little R&D) as I wanted to see if it would be appropriate for this age group. We had a blast. Each group of students I worked with were completely engaged and worked together to solve the problems presented. By doing it this way, the teacher was able to see how easy it will be for the students to work independently next time they have centres.
The other area that I have worked extensively with students is blogging and the use of Edmodo. I have used these online tools as a way to deliver content and assignments to my students between the Grades 2 - 4. I use these tools, not only to expose my students, but to demonstrate their use to teaching staff. It allows me discover any pitfalls that teachers may find difficult to even get started. Takes away a bit of the fear. The best part is witnessing the engagement that students have when using these tools and how much they want to do more of it.
So get out there and get into classrooms, work with students, and show others what is possible to increase engagement in how a student learns. Break down that barrier of fear.
What are some areas of teaching and learning that you can lead in your school?
I have found this to be one of the greatest areas that builds credibility with your staff. Wow, what a powerful act that will not only connect with the students in your school, but demonstrate best practices in a time when our changing education needs exemplars and models.
Note: Personal Opinion coming up - Administrators sharing their knowledge in a classroom or small group setting should be a part of their regular job description. Make time for small 1-2-3 week projects with a class or group of students. Even better if you work side-by-side with a teacher.
This practice of working with teachers and sharing my love of 21st C learning is one of my favourite parts of the school day. Not only does my excitement for demo'ing new apps or online tools rub off on students, but, more importantly, the teacher sees how easy and engaging it is for their class. After such a session, I feel my work is done because the teacher is able to take over and carry on. It's on to my next class.
Too many times I see and hear that admin tell or show staff new applications or 21st C tools during a pro-d session, expecting staff to take it back to their class/students and implement. We all know how effective this is in actually seeing any real action with students. The excitement is there in its initial phase, but as the weeks progress status quo tends to creep back in. The time and effort spent on the pro-d was all for not.
"I think change needs to be egoless. It's not about my leaving my fingerprints or a legacy. It's more important to be part of a process by rolling up your sleeves, being on the ground, initiating projects, starting campaigns - you know, building stuff."
~Queen Rania of Jordan
On Wednesday, Nov 19th I attended my first Ignite session hosted by @shareski at a downtown Vancouver establishment. There were close to 80 educators (and a couple of parents) from all over the Lower Mainland. The atmosphere was intense and the title "Ignite" was very fitting for a night like that. Many of the educators in attendance were ones that I follow via Twitter (my favourite professional development tool). Other educators were ones that I hadn't heard before, but now have them in my Twitter PLN, if you could call it that.
It was an amazing night of personal and educational stories that truly lit a fire under all that attended. Topics included transformation through metaphors; using KIVA in the classroom; social media and primary students - can it be done?; Project Hello; 4 strikes; BYOD; courageous parent; learning to swim; and taking "busy" out of our daily vocab.
These stories have me wanting more. Not just for myself, but for my District. So I am driven to setting up something in Vancouver, so others can not only light their candle, but keep it lit. A strong community of educators networking together, will only make my District even better. I want to "Spark" our curiosity and excite the masses to better the opportunities of the students in Vancouver.
I am the Principal at Mount Pleasant Elementary School in Vancouver, BC. I am passionate about inspiring others to be creative, curious and collaborative in their learning