Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to learn about NAIDOC celebrations in Australia. Schools traditionally commemorate NAIDOC – National Aboriginal and Islanders Day of commemoration each school year in July. The actual celebrations themselves vary from school to school but are a wonderful testament to the rich history, culture and achievements of Indigenous Peoples in Australia. This year, I was particularly taken with their theme: Because of her we can…a tribute to the significant contributions of Indigenous women. As schools learn about the sacrifices and contributions of Indigneous women, students were fortunate to observe and participate in very traditional celebrations and valuing of culture. I loved learning about the school shirts designed to commemorate the occassion as well as activities and celebrations in which students participated. Here are a couple of YouTube clips that express the narrative quite well. What resonates most strongly for me is the connection to education as a game changer for Indigneous women, youth and every child inclusive of race. Education has the power and potential to bring people together in unity and spirit. How can we ensure that education remains equitable and inclusive for all and becomes the game changer that I believe it is meant to be?
Time is always of the essence for educators.We need to make time to create lessons, teach new ideas to our students, assess and monitor achievement and celebrate the accomplishments of all involved in the learning process.The ability to learn from different educators and the opportunity to exchange ideas for the betterment of global learners is an amazing thing.I think as educators we need that exchange of ideas to examine our own practice and consider where we would like to implement change, keep things steady and consider ideas we have never before dared to dream.In our area of Toronto, we used to have an exchange of teachers that permitted people to share strategies and ideas in a safe environment.I wonder what happened to that group…
Change happened I guess, which in and of itself is not a bad thing.I wonder what makes change impactful, effective and less painful for people?Michael Fullan certainly has written a lot about change management and moving schools forward.I think the movement has to be visioned and driven by the people involved in the innovation process.Since every person is different, so too is the change process.I want to build collaborative, innovative learning environments that ultimately further learning for students, satisfaction for teachers and a sense of well-being for parents.Perhaps, the best place to begin is with the students since they have a strong sense of what changes they would like to see.Of course, teachers need a voice as well.What about principals?Is there a voice for us?I think so, but our voice first has to listen…Something I am trying to improve upon.Listening and asking probing questions that are open-ended are a good beginning.Innovators are risk-takers…Where does your innovation inspiration come from?💡
Have you ever watched in an airport as people scrambled to get their flights? The aircraft still in sight, yet making hasty preparations for take off? You can feel the anguish, frustration and near despair of your fellow travellers. Yes, you probably guessed it. Just that very scenario unfolded before my eyes, and no this particular anecdote is not a personal narrative. This scenario got me to thinking about missed opportunities for our students. Are there moments when we, as educators, fail to provide extra time, resources, creativity because our own time is already taxed? I am NOT judging. We have all been there both personally and professionally.
I wonder what opportunities might appear in catching the flight on time so to speak. Of course, we’d all get to our final destinations a lot more quickly, but I wonder what else? Isn’t there as much power in the journey as the destination? What would happen if we stood our ground when micro aggressions encircle our space and we spoke up, instead of blindly choosing to ignore comments “just this once.” I wonder what missed opportunities our students feel upon reflection? As we begin a new school year, I am committed to providing as many opportunities for those around me as possible. I want to make sure students always have the opportunity to succeed, the opportunity to make mistakes, and the opportunity to grow.
So often as educational leaders and learners we hear the terms 21st century learning. But what does that really mean….really look like. The more I read on the subject, the more deeply I am convinced that 21st century learning means putting the learning in the hands of our students. To achieve success, we must change the way we have always done business. I really enjoyed listening to the YouTube clip by George Couros.
George asserts that we cannot continue to conduct professional learning with PowerPoints and one or two “leaders” at the front. We really need to dive in and get messy. Indeed, as I spoke to my staff on the last Professional Activity Day, June 29, 2018, I spoke about messiness. We have timetabled global competencies into our schedules as a deliverable prep. We talked about what things might look like, but the one thing I know for sure know is that I want online digital portfolios to be part of the learning. What a great way to give students the opportunity to not only showcase their learning, but also learn and grow as they go. Blogging will be an excellent way to begin. I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in traveling the road less taken. In fact, some of our greatest innovators or agents of change never set out to make a name for themselves, but to change the status quo. I will leave this great clip often shared by Steve Jobs. Here’s to all those that see things differently!
The wonderful thing about summer is that it gives us all time for reflection. Lately, one of the greatest reflections for me personally is the need to stay in the moment, both professionally and personally. As an educational leader, we are often called upon to wear multiple hats: instructional leader, operations manager, budget holder, builder of people, champion of change and the list goes on. What experience has taught me is that the only true method to accomplish one’s goals is to stay grounded in the moments. We cannot change the past, not predict the future; however, we can celebrate and embrace the day-to-day moments. We are privileged to work with students, families and skilled teachers and support staff. I will say that optimism has been a learned skill for me. There are so many opportunities when we shift our mindsets, even a tiny bit. I agree with Carol Dweck’s research that mindset matters and that our brains are capable of new learning all the time. How amazing to think we all have opportunities ahead of us. I am excited to see what opportunities the 2018-2019 academic year will bring. In fact, my personal If/Then statement is as follows: If I lead from a growth mindset stance, then I will better empower those around me to achieve their goals of furthering student achievement, student well-being and equity. Some pretty awesome moments ahead…
The last couple of weeks have been a wonderful testament to the resilence of the human spirit and how trust serves as a lifeline. Like many people, I have been riveted as I watch international and Thai divers extract 12 stranded soccer players and their coach from a cave in northern Thailand. Having visited Thailand in July two decades ago, I recall the sweltering heat, the pounding of the rain and general heaviness of the weather. Now, in what must be an unbearable sense of angst among the families of those soccer players, hope and trust evolve. As I continue to cheer on the divers and pray for the safety of all involved, I am reminded what an incredible lifeline we have in trust.
As educators, we do not necessarily have to rely on one another for our lives, but how much richer could our practice be when we open ourselves up to reliance and vulnerability. Often, that means lessening self and listening with an open stance to others. When we speak about Distributive Leadership, I believe we are building that lifeline between us, enabling and empowering one another’s practice and ultimate efficacy. It is a powerful endeavour to trust someone with your life. I wonder what possibilities present if we make trust our lifeline as educators.
The great thing is we all have the opportunity to experience trust as another new school year approaches. I am definitely going to take advantage of lifelines extended to me.
As this school year has come to an end and I reflect on the one to begin in September 2018, I wonder what it will take to build collaborative culture in a school. Please do not misunderstand me…I work with a wonderful group of educators, both teachers and support staff. I see a lot of collegiality in the school; however, as a school-based leader I am contemplating what it will take to build a stronger team, reflective of student needs, tenacious in their advocacy for children and fearless of the courageous conversations needed to accomplish the work. I named this blog “timere”as it is the Latin word for fearless. I think that as educational agents of change that word is very fitting.
Where will we begin our journey? We started at our June staff meeting by listening to a clip from Dr. Stephen Katz speaking about Networked Professional Learning Communities and the purpose they serve. So many times, we hit the ground running in teaching that there is little time for discussion or reflection. I want the 2018-2019 school year to be truly reflective. I want us to consider the “Why” as Simon Sinek would advocate. In September, we will examine student, Grades 4 to 6, and parent census data that will allow us as a team to consider the voices and viewpoints of those we serve. I am excited to work together with staff to begin a collaborative inquiry based on what our stakeholders say matters. Isn’t this a benchmarkThe Journey Begins of true service excellence?
Although, our journey seems daunting, I know the road ahead will bring aha moments as well moments of agreeing to step back when the conversation gets heated. I believe that for true effective school improvement, student well-being and equity to prevail, we cannot uphold the status quo of what we have always done in the past. Indeed, to break the status quo, we must be fearless.