Posts Tagged ‘ leadership ’

No Matter What…You’re LIVE


I often read posts and tweets asking what kind of advice you could give to new teachers.  The tips passed along are very thoughtful and helpful for those new to the profession.  Even for us who have been around for a while (am I in THAT group now?), these tips are great reminders about effective practice.

Whenever I see the above question posed, I often think of the usual elements.  Eg. effective communicator, classroom manager, personable, effective planner, etc, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, these are all very important along with many other traits.  But the BIG idea we all need to think of as teachers is the fact that day in and day out – you’re LIVE!

I first heard this phrase from a colleague, who sometime ago, started a business using this as a slogan (Paul if it’s OK I am borrowing it for a moment). However, when you think about it, it is very real for educators.

Each day, in or out of the classroom, educators are LIVE.  The number of interactions each day with students, staff, parents and community members are significant.  Each day you are expected to have your “A” game.  When you do not deliver, you usually hear about or realize it.  Reflective practitioners know this instantly.

As teachers, we need to realize that each day, we are delivering numerous mini-workshops/presentations to students.  As administrators we need to have our “A” game each day as well.  That is why few people want to become admin’s. If we (or someone else) do not make good judgments, we will definitely hear about it.  If one thinks about it, we have many common traits with professional athletes, only a televised audience is not watching at the time.  Mind you, a school with a bunch of adolescents is pretty much network television each day.

So, if I was to give professional advice to a new or seasoned teacher, I would indicate that each day you’re LIVE.   From here, we could discuss the specifics/nuances of what that means.  However, I think this is one BIG IDEA we all should remember in our day-to-day work as educators.

 

This is also posted on Connected Principals

The Principal, Teachers, Technology and PD.


Leading Your Staff cclicensed flickr image courtesy of Thorne Enterprises

A principal has an overwhelming amount of tasks to complete on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.   From discipline, facility and student needs, staffing and who knows how many others, the job can be exhausting at the best of times.  Over the past couple of years, I began to think more about teacher professional development and how I could help my staff.  Since I became a principal very early in my career, I did not put this aspect of administration at the forefront of my duties. Most likely because I was overwhelmed with the overall learning curve of school administration and all the associated tasks.  Then add-on a significant teaching load, where I had many new courses to deliver.  Lately though, I have thought a great deal about how I could help my teachers better themselves and in turn increase learning for our students.

Two of my more recent reads include What Great Principals and Great Teachers Do Differently, both books by Todd Whitaker.   One common theme denotes how principal’scannot choose their people entirely, so an administrator is left with two choices:

1.  Hire great teachers (when you get the opportunity) and

2. Make the ones you have better.

The second strategy is one I feel can be ignored for a variety of reasons.  It’s especially tough for younger administrators to feel comfortable helping more senior staff in the area of professional development, unless the admin. has a real comfort zone in a particular area.   While an administrator cannot be knowledgeable in every subject area or strategy, they can be great support people.  For this year, I have made it my admin. goal to help teachers get better.

How can an administrator then help teachers with meaningful PD?  I find the use of division based PD only scratches the surface and does not translate into the classroom very often.  I think our school division has taken notice of this and has really stepped up to provide meaningful PD for its teachers.  The alignment of sessions that promote division initiatives and teacher choice can translate for better learning opportunities for students in a significant way.

The use of growth plans (PPGP’s) are beneficial to both teachers and school administrators.   Here teacher choice (for growth) and alignment with a schools Learning Improvement Plan can translate into some wonderful learning opportunities for students.

How does one go about this?  Again the use of the growth plan is key with the administrator supporting the process.  This year our staff is using growth plans as stated below:

1.  Teachers pick one area for growth and set their goal.

2.  We have a common technology goal as a staff.

As principal, I meet with each teacher and discuss their plan, how they will achieve their goal and how I can support them.  In #2, we are using a common technology goal for two reasons:

1. To increase each staff members technological literacy level.

2.  To provide a framework for consistent PD in their choice area.

For #2, we started the year with teachers learning about Google Reader and Twitter.  My goal was to help them get a framework (Google Reader) so they could build a network (Twitter) and obtain resources to help them achieve their goals.  There is a great deal of follow-up with each staff member, but overall rewards can be significant.  My hope is that technology can help each staff member with their own personal goal in the PPGP, and that tech. will help them in future years as well.

Supports for PPGP’s and technology include division consultants and our TLT teacher .  I want to use them more this year in the area of teacher growth and find these people can be a valuable resource as well.

There  are many other methods one can use to help teachers become better educators, this is just my plan for this school year.  As administrators we encourage teachers to take risks, and we should follow suit.  The plan (for PPGP’s)  I have outlined here was also done in collaboration with my staff.  It is my job to keep communicating and supporting my teachers in any way possible.

As always I welcome your input.

Common Goals, Technology Advancement, and Staff Development.


I have been deliberating many things as we prepare for the start of the school year.  One of these items has been advancing the technological literacy of my staff.

With so much social media available, how does one prepare their staff to advance their technological skills commonly?  In many instances, teachers investigate technology on their own, developing a unique skill set.  What then happens is you have staff all over the map in terms of technological literacy.  Combine this with the technological change factor, and you have inconsistency in how technology is applied in classrooms.  School’s can plan specific PD sessions to develop the technology skills of teachers, but this can be very time-consuming.

I feel we need to develop our staff’s technology skills to a higher degree.  I believe my staff want to improve their literacy levels as well.  The best way to improve technology skills, I believe (at this time), is to develop a PLN.

If staff develop and use their own PLN, their technology skills and literacy can improve immensely.  They have for me. 

 So, how do we do this?  I think the plan may look like this:

1.  Use the tools available to us.  The school based PD session at the beginning of the year will be devoted to creating a PLN.  I have messed around with the idea of having a session before teachers officially return as well but that is to be determined.  If we did the latter, the school based time during start-up provides teachers with more time to investigate one or two areas of interest, read blogs, etc.

2.  Common PPGP goals regarding technology:  Each year our teachers need to state one or two personal/professional goals.  When reviewing these plans with staff,  I find most teachers have no problem stating one major area of focus.  However, a second goal (for some) is more difficult.  Probably, because their first goal is significant.   The principal can then help with the second goal.

So let’s take advantage of this opportunity.  Since most teachers want to increase their technology literacy, let’s use the PPGP to our advantage and have a common technology goal.  I am not saying we do everything EXACTLY.  Maybe our commonality is creating the PLN?  From there, teachers have more autonomy to delve into their personal and professional interest areas.  If we all have a PLN, the structure is created to improve technological  literacy from within.  Specialists may develop in certain areas, and that can help with staff PD in the future. 

If we create the framework for self-improvement with a common focus, teachers can use technology to a much higher degree in their classrooms.  I hope this would then develop into more specific, curriculum goals that will improve learning.

I suppose this is also why I wanted to do a session with our admin. group as well.   Help to develop peers and collaborate, then work to improve your school.

Let’s get started…

What Great Principals Do Differently #2


This is the second post of my review of Todd Whitaker’s book (as mentioned in the title.)

Todd notes some important points about developing your teachers.  Basically, if you inherit the staff, the only way to make the school better is to make them better.  However, if you get a chance to hire a teacher, then hire a leader.  Essentially, hire someone who has talent and will influence both students and staff.  Whitaker states that all great principals should have a goal where the school should become more like the new teacher.

For the above to occur, it is essential that new teachers keep their enthusiasm.  Hence, new teachers must be made welcome and feel empowered.  There cannot be a “pecking order” where only the ideas of senior staffers are listened to.  Also, begin induction at the first interview.  If you feel you have a strong prospect, lay out your expectations at this time.  This point resonated with me because I have used similar techniques when interviewing candidates.  However, I need to improve and expnad on my ideas.  Ask questions outside  the usual, “What’s your philosophy of education” type questions.  Ask scenario type questions to see if you are on the same page as the candidate.  Your potential leaders may look you in the eye and make a committment during this process.  Also, you can state what you expect of them.  This way the candidate can get a feel for your school and the dynamics of the position.

I could go on but I want to keep these posts concise and provide a “snapshot” of the book.  Check the link above to find a copy or your professional collection at school/board office.

What Great Principals Do Differently


I thought I would share the book I am currently reading (title of post is title of book.)  I found out about it through our provincial administrators association and borrowed it from the Stewart Resouce Center library. 

The book covers a number of topics – fifteen in total.  As I go though this resource, I will blog about some items that stood out for me.

The latest item was the principal is the filter.  By this, Todd Whitaker means that principals not only filter information for staff – to make life easier, but filter things in the day-to-day reality of the school.    Essentially, principals can set the tone of what happens in a building on a particular day.  This can include interactions with staff, students and parents.  If  administrators can keep the focus on the issues that matter and keep away from trivial matters, the school will benefit overall.

I have tried to emulate this for quite some time now.  In our building, I do believe I can have influence on the general mood each day.  With so many eyes on the administrator each day, one must remember how to conduct themselves – verbally and non-verbally.  I am constantly aware of the perception I present and try to keep communication clear and flowing.  Some days are easier than others, but I find perception to be a crucial element for a school administrator.  As years have passed, I believe I am more aware now of the perceptions I present and I try to focus on the positive.

So far, this is one of the better books I have read on leadership.  I believe both new and old administrators can benefit from this resource. 

Tune in for more reviews!