How Do I KNOW?

http://realmsofrhema.com/

The title of this blog post is a reaction to a very interesting and motivating chat I was part of this morning.  I drag my butt out of bed every Saturday morning before 7:30, throw some coffee on and join #leadupchat because I am so inspired by the conversation and the people who gather there.

This morning was an open chat-kind of like the chat version of edcamp.  The educators in the chat throw out the questions and the conversation goes off in many different directions. This question caught my eye:

“What new initiative are you most excited about at your school this year?”

Yesterday our school had the first of a few teacher-directed professional development sessions we will have this year.  This is the first time our school district has helped make this happen.  In my mind, it is still not quite where I would want it to be, but I also feel like this is a very innovative first step and I appreciate the opportunity.

In preparation for this day, I had all kinds of thoughts ranging from being very excited, to worrying about whether or not teachers would be engaged in learning that would, in turn, have a positive effect on our students. I knew I would also have to engage in my own learning right along with them.

To get back to the question from the chat, I answered with “teacher-directed professional development” because of the positive conversation and feedback I heard from our teachers.  It seemed to me the level of engagement was high, conversations were, in fact, highly directed toward, innovative teaching that I know will make a difference in our student’s learning.  Teachers were engaged because they were given choice and were allowed to connect to their own goals and take conversations in directions that were important to them.  What more could a school administrator want?

One response given to my reply seemed negative about the idea of teacher control and questioned me about how I would KNOW (for sure, I am guessing, by the upper case letters) that they were working on their goals.

I couldn’t help but be a little insulted because I do have a high level of trust in my teachers, but I am also not an administrator that spends all my time in my office, not paying attention to what is going on around me.

I couldn’t help but bring it back to this short conversation the characteristics of innovative leaders from the book Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.

  1.  Models Learning: I also had to choose my professional development focus for the day and chose to spend it with my middle year’s teachers learning about guided math.  I don’t teach math, but I feel it is my job as a principal to be able to support the work of all the teachers in my school.  I feel like I was “elbows deep” in the learning in my school.
  2. Open Risk-Taker– Our teachers all know the expectation is there for them to be taking risks especially in the area of using our abundant technology in ways that help our students collaborate and create in the real world.  They know risk-taking is not just accepted it is expected.  I know to expect this from our teachers and not model it myself would be much less effective.
  3. Networked– Interesting that this entire post was motivated by one of my learning networks.  I have a few PLN’s both online and not, which I rely heavily upon for support, ideas, and encouragement. I cannot imagine doing what I do without them.
  4. Observant– One of the ways I KNOW that my teachers are continually growing and working hard to improve learning for our students is by being observant. Being out of the office and on the ground level of the classroom.
  5. Team Builder– Trust is a huge part of building a team.  I  know we have hired excellent teachers, so I need to step back and trust them to do what they know best.  We need to allow for growth in our teachers and know that growth will continue to have a positive effect on our students.

I could go on about the characteristics, but I would rather end with one of my brightest moments from our first teacher-directed PD day.  Two of our young teachers spent the morning learning about becoming a Microsoft Innovation Educators.  When I asked them, how their morning was, they were over the top with excitement and enthusiasm telling me about all of the things they had learned and discovered.  They replied, “we have to share this, can we please show everyone this at our next staff meeting?”

What more can an innovative leader ask for?

Spreading the News!

http://www.grassrootsy.com/2010/05/06/spreading-the-word-through-facebook-twitter/

One of the things that I have always been frustrated with is my inability to express the passion I have for innovation in education.  I can remember the first time my eyes were opened to new educational ideas while taking my Master’s Degree and taking a course by Alex Couros.  I felt way beyond my comfort level but knew that I was getting into something that was very exciting and would benefit my staff and our students greatly.

When I first started my coursework for my Master’s Degree, I knew it would be hard and would take a lot of work, but I also thought it was going to be a bit dry.  Boy, was I wrong!  I was not prepared for my degree experience to totally change my outlook on education and what should be happening in classrooms.

At that time, I was so excited about the new things I was learning and decided to come back to my staff with my passionate message, only to have it fall flat and after our first staff meeting, I thought they would have thrown tomatoes at me if they had any.

One of our teachers though was immediately interested and agreed to help me, by working together on a class blog. letting her grade 5 students write about things they were interested in and giving them a broader audience for their writing.

Starting with one teacher sparked interest with other teachers and since that first staff meeting 8 years ago our school has made much progress in what I consider to be innovative teaching ideas and stretching to meet the needs of our students by being innovative with our classrooms design and instruction.

Yesterday I was out of the school at a meeting and had left a learning activity for my grade 6 students.  We have just started The Global Read Aloud this week and are reading the book, “The Wild Robot.”  I had left them an activity where they were discussing their ideas about robots-what they already knew, researching some ideas and adding to their knowledge.  All the while they were recording their thinking using Padlet.  Using Padlet allowed them see what the other students were thinking and I could also see their responses while I was at my meeting, which was an added bonus.

Now I could have easily had them working by themselves researching and recording their answers in their notebooks, but the richness of being a part of a collaborative think tank was a benefit to my students.

To get back to my original problem, which was how do I help others feel the passions I have and how do I continue to work towards innovative teaching and learning for all students?  Part of what I have seen through the continued growth in our school since the “tomato throwing” incident and our very first blog has been amazing.

I guess I have already answered my own question; keep pushing, encouraging, learning, talking, praising, reflecting and spreading the word.

Progress may seem slow but perhaps it is not as slow as I think.

Hmmm!  I am off to an administrators meeting today and I am in charge of welcoming and running the agenda.  Seems like the perfect opportunity to spread the word!

What is Innovation Anyway?

I have learned so many things since becoming a school administrator 8 years ago.  One of the most important lessons that I have learned is to respect the reality that teachers are all at different places in developing their craft.  They are certainly at a different comfort level with using technology and with reaching out beyond the way we have always done things in the classroom.

Once I realized this important lesson,  I also realized that the idea of “innovation” looks different for all of us.  I was reading a blog post recently written by George Couros. He was talking about how we have this idea that innovation is something huge, and because of this, we may not feel like we can be innovative.  I have been reflecting on this idea this week.

One of the favorite parts of my job as a school administrator is that I can see a little piece of everyone’s classroom and the learning going on within,  pretty much whenever I want.  What a treat!

I feel like I see the most wonderful and often innovative things happening, but teachers do not think they are being innovative because they are “just doing what teachers do” in their minds.

Our school division puts a priority on technology and encouraging innovation and engagement.  We do not lack in bandwidth or devices.  For that, I am extremely grateful.  A few year’s ago my vice-principal and I decided we wanted to push our teachers a bit out of the comfort zone and have everyone set a goal to have a way to use technology with their students that allowed their students to be creative and make connections.  It did not have to be anything crazy, but just taking one step away from using our devices for drill and practice activities.

I was so proud of all of our teachers.  When given the chance to start from wherever they were and take a small leap, most of them really shined.

Since we did not want this to be a one and done, this year we have challenged them to take some activity or learning lesson they have done with their students before and reflect on ways to tweak it or add to it or change it to make it even better for their students through making connections or creative endeavours using technology.

Are they being innovative?  I think so!  To quote the blog post mentioned earlier in the post, “Small changes, big difference.”  I can’t wait to see what they all come up with.

Recharging the Passion

http://idealistcareers.org/

If I could use one word to describe my attitude in the reflection of the school year it would be “uninspired.”  It shocks me to say it, and I certainly do not blame it on anyone but myself.  What I realize now is I allowed myself to slip back into a place I vowed never to return and had become complacent with my actions and thoughts.

I don’t really believe that I did a horrible job or caused any permanent damage, but I know for sure I didn’t do everything I could to have a positive effect on my staff and students.  Years ago I had an experience that knocked me to my knees professionally and left my self-esteem reeling.  I took the time I needed to recover and in the end felt it was one of the most life changing and attitude adjusting experiences I have ever had.  Out of the negative came many positives.  Out of the negative came the realization that I was in control of my life and how I was going to react to my experiences.

What I have realized lookng back now on my “unispired” year is that I lost sight of my passions.  The things that really drive me through each day took a back seat and, instead, I was caught up in moving through each day in survival mode.  I allowed things around me and decisions that were out of my control to dictate my attitudes.

Writing this first blog post is only the beginning of my new journey.   This is the first of, what I hope will be many, blog posts to come. I want to refocus, learn from others, change my mindset so I can charge back to my students and staff with the attitude and drive they deserve to have from me.

So…back to my passions I go!

 

 

Winning the Race Against Time

time management

I do not know a single teacher or administrator that feels like they have enough minutes in the day or time in the week.  Teaching is a 24/7 kind of job and can easily consume every waking moment if we let it.

Right now I am participating in a blogging challenge  with my PLN  at #saskedchat.  The first topic we decided to tackle was organization.   What do we do to organize our time?  What tools do we use to make our every day tasks easier.   In my usual style, I am a bit late with my first post.  That seems a little ironic to be late when our first topic was organization, but, none the less, it might not have as much to do with my lack of organization as it has to do with life.

Interestingly enough, time management and organization was one of  the topics of a recent administrators meeting as well.  Many of the administrators have voiced difficulty meeting the demands of the job within the time given.  This is a feeling that I know all too well. The conversation and suggestions given at the meeting were not earth shattering by any means, but did lead me to reflect on small changes I might make.

The unpredictability of the job is  one thing  I think makes it so hard to manage time and tasks. Whether we are in administration or we are a classroom teacher, we all know the feeling of having our best laid plans pushed aside by an unexpected student or parent issue, an emergency phone call, last minute changes to supervision and countless other things that come up during the school day.

I do not have any earth shattering time management advice myself, sorry #saskedchat PLN, but here are 3 things that I find do work well for me.

1.Intentional Planning- I believe that we make time for the things we put as a priority.  Exercise and diet fall into this category for me.  When I prioritize my exercise time, insist with myself that I leave the school and actually make it a part of my daily calendar and schedule, it will happen.  On the other hand, if I take the attitude that we will see how the day goes, most often it does not.

One of the things I do that I believe helps is intentionally planning  the tasks and priorities in my calendar, not just when I have classes and meetings, but for the blocks of time that are left up to me to decide how to fill.   Before, I would leave these blanks open and just work away at the tasks on hand.

This intentional planning has allowed me to prioritize my tasks and accomplish more over the week, even with unexpected interruptions. Last week I noticed a Pinterest pin by Vicki Davis, @coolcatteacher. about intentional planning.  It is worth taking a look at as well.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/124060164711377963/

She talks about intentional planning of other times of your day as well to allow time for those things that you enjoy and time with family.

2.  One tool that has  been a lifesaver for me has been symbaloo.com.  Symbaloo is a link organizational tool set up in the format of tiles.  It allows you to take links you access often and organize them on different pages, colors, titles etc.  I have all the links that I access on a daily or weekly basis and have them on the desktop of my symbaloo.  I have other pages with course links, genius hour links, personal links, staff meetings,  etc.

https://www.symbaloo.com/embed/principalsmartsdesktop?

One of the reasons symbaloo works so well for me is I do not have a classroom of my own and I am always moving from room to room teaching in other teachers classrooms.  Symbaloo allows me to move from room to room, open up a web browser and log into my symbaloo and have all my links at my finger tips. The classroom teacher does not need to log out of the classroom computer for me to access my materials.

symbaloo

3.  Another tool that has really helped with my organization has been Evernote.  I have used Evernote here and there for a long time, but one night while sitting in with #schadminchat and there was a lot of talk about using Evernote for walk-throughs and that  is what prompted me to really take advantage of the app.

https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/
https://evernote.com/evernote/guide/ios/

As an administrator, one of my frustrations has always been my lack of real conversations with teachers about the things that I see as I am walking around the building and spending time in classrooms.  I see amazing things every day, but either lack knowledge needed to fully understand the intent, or have thoughts that may add to conversations about students.

Now as I visit classrooms I will bring my I-pad.  I snap pictures, I record conversations with students, I video classroom activities and I record my observations and my questions.  I have a file for each teacher and I am able to immediately email my visit to the teacher.  We then find time to have a quick meeting or the teacher will email me back the answers.

Since I have started doing this, I have had some really great conversations with teachers that have allowed us to learn together.  I feel much more knowledgeable about the things going on in classrooms and I think it has improved my communication and understanding.

I also use the pictures, videos, etc. when I am sharing with our parents and extending community about what is going on at our school through blogging, twitter, newsletters, etc.

I think Evernote can also be a very useful student portfolio tool or can be used in the same manner by a classroom teacher to track student conversations and assessments.

I can access Evernote on all my devices and I have never had any issues with syncing the information or using it wherever I am; home, school, school division office, etc.

These are the 3 ideas I would like to throw out in the conversation about organization.  Of course, I could not live without my I-phone, my I-pad and my outlook calendar, but I am sure that goes without saying for all of us.  I can’t wait to see what ideas my #saskedchat PLN will have to share with me.

What do you do to better organize your time?

What I Learned in 2014

 

 

http://perkettprsuasion.com
http://perkettprsuasion.com

 

I started the school year in September kind of beat up and shell-shocked from a very stressful year that ended in June.  I had allowed the stress of the year to consume me and it took a toll on my enthusiasm, health and desire to do my job well.

Over the summer I spent my time healing, reflecting and coming up with a plan to approach the stresses of my job in a healthier way that did not consume my life.  I had to try not take things personally and concentrate on the things that we could control in our building rather than the negative feedback we were getting from a few parents and students.  My mantras for this school year that I try to remember are:

  • I can’t make everybody happy.
  • I can’t solve everyone’s problems.

Even though the mantras do not seem very positive, they have allowed me to realize my limits, to allow my, very capable, staff to do things without my control  and they have led me to a much happier school and home life, with a lot less stress.

I have mentioned many times , about my awesome, hardworking staff.  We have been able to create a team that works together and involves all 25 of us,  from our bus driver to our custodians.  We  started this year with a number of new staff and have learned to work together and appreciate each other’s strengths.

Our team has branched out this fall to not only include our staff and students, but we now have a number of parent volunteers helping us on a daily basis, especially with our school goal to improve our reading scores in the early years.  Parents and extended family are a valuable part of our team and when we all work together we truly can accomplish great things for and with our students.

The Christmas break has allowed me time to think about the fall and be grateful for the things we have been able to accomplish as a school team including our parents and community members.  Since I have become part of the administration @PDaleSchool I have been amazed at the generosity and support of our community.

January is a time of renewal and goal setting.

There have been many things I have learned this fall, but I have come up with 4 important things I have learned,  that I would like to continue to develop and practice.

1. Listen…

I have been guilty in the past of jumping to conclusions about situations before I have stopped to listen to what people are really saying to me.  I have been trying to keep my mouth closed until I have truly listened and considered the perspectives of others.   I have come to realize that although, I may not agree with what someone is saying to me or how they are saying it to me, the perspective of others is important.  Many times all I need to do for staff, students and parents is listen and take their concerns seriously.

I hope I can continue to develop my listening skills according to the wise words of Woodrow Wilson,

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”

2.  Don’t judge what I do not know…

I have been frustrated many times as a teacher and principal, when I feel like we are being judged by a moment in time such as a quick walk through or one piece of data.

One quick snapshot rarely tells a story. 

One of my teachers reminded me of this early in the fall.  I realized that what I see as I am wandering around the building and spending time in classrooms are also snapshots and do not tell the whole story.  When I am having quick conversations with parents or I am privy to only one small part of family situations, I should not be judging on these snapshots.  Jumping to conclusions is never fair.

3. Lack of time is not an excuse…

I do not need to explain to anyone who is a teacher or who has spent time with a teacher the intense business and commitment that the job requires.  It is easy to be negative about change and growth, using lack of time as an excuse not to buy in.  I have realized the necessity of reflecting on how I am spending my time and whether or not it is really being used in the ways that will benefit, me, my family, my students and my staff.  If I do not have time for important things like people, professional growth, students needs, etc. then perhaps it is up to me to re-evaluate how I am spending my time.

4.  Tell our story…

Last year I read a book on digital leadership by fellow principal and leader Eric Sheninger.  One of the things he describes in his book, which I have written about before,  is school branding. Basically the idea stems around the importance of not leaving our school story up to someone else to tell.  If we do not tell our own positive story, we run the risk of allowing someone else to paint a picture that might not be as positive.  I have really tried to take this idea to heart and believe in the importance of it for the following reasons:

I need my teachers to be proud of the things they are doing every day with our students.

I need our parents to know what is happening every day with their children so they can be confident and assured we are helping them learn and grow on a daily basis.

I need my superintendent and other school division leaders to know that we are working hard to do what is right for our students and to support the school division goals. 

I need our community to know that what we are doing so they will continue to give us their support. 

As we start on the journey of the gift of another year, I hope that I can listen more,  judge less, accept challenges without the excuses and continue to tell our positive school story, because it is worth telling.

What do you hope to do in 2015? 

 

The Beauty of a Fresh Start

http://allthewhitemoves.wordpress.com/category/writing/
http://allthewhitemoves.wordpress.com/category/writing/

I love fresh starts…those times when you are able to start with a fresh canvas and many options ahead.  That is why I love the beginning of each new school year. We meet, once again, as a school team looking forward to our students arrival and having energy we have built up over the summer to tackle new challenges.

When we arrived at the end of June and moved into summer I knew that I needed much rest and rejuvenation before I could even think about rallying up for another year.  I know I was not alone in these feelings.  There were many teachers who felt equally as exhausted as I did.  I spent my summer reading, hanging out with my family and reflecting on what the new year might look like.  There were  many wonderful things we were able to accomplish last year and there were many things that might not have gone exactly as planned or perhaps did not go on at all.

I always remind my staff that teaching is not for the faint at heart.  It is like the job that never ends.  Very rewarding, and very exhausting.  I would not want to be doing any other job than the one I have right now, but finding balance and maintaining a positive mindset can be difficult at times.  Once the new year begins it takes off with such speed and never really slows down until the end.

For me fresh starts involves much reflection.  Many questions ran through my head this summer.  How could I support my teachers, especially my new teachers fresh to the profession?  How could I organize my time to be able to maintain a balance in my workload?  How would I look after myself and not take things so personally?  How could I do a better job of communicating with our parents?  How could I change my teaching methods so my students might get the best experience possible?  How would I make it a priority to interact with my PLN and continue to grow as an administrator and teacher?

The reflection does not solve all problems of course, but some of my best planning happens through random thoughts when I have time to have them.  Through these thoughts I was able to sketch out my vision for the school year.

1.  The most important part of our school is the strong team that exists within.  My vision for this year would be for all of us to continue to work as a strong team. That we will welcome our new staff into our team and learn to use each of our individual talents to make us stronger.   As a school staff we will work together and help each other get to the places we want to be. I hope I can work with individual staff members to support and meet their needs.

2.  I hope we will continue to do everything possible to help our students succeed.  We will looks for ways to build their trust and readjust our teaching methods to bring out the best in each one of them.  Our journey towards more inquiry learning, digital portfolios, student feedback and reflection and team teaching will continue to grow and our students will benefit from that. We will get better at using our achievement and behavior data to drive our teaching and learning, starting with our early years and phonological awareness.

3.  I hope we will work hard to engage our parents as a valuable part of our team.  I look forward to finding ways to involve them in the things we do.  I hope we will  communicate better and strive to build stronger relationships that are key to students success.  I hope we can tell our positive story in a variety of ways and through that process help our parents understand the value they serve in our team.

4.  I never doubt the ability and desires of our school team, and I know we will continue to do everything possible to do our job well.  I hope we will take care of ourselves in the process.  There are many things we cannot control, so I hope we can let go of those things and concentrate on the things we can control and expend our energies on what is important within our building and within our families and friends.

I know it is difficult to wrap up the vision for a school year in one post and reality is much different than random thoughts during a summer.  I also know things will happen that we are not expecting, but right now I am riding on the beauty of a fresh start.

Loading the Teacher Bus

 

http://3rseduc.blogspot.ca/2011/09/non-existant-teaching-job-market-and.html
http://3rseduc.blogspot.ca/2011/09/non-existant-teaching-job-market-and.html

I have to admit that I find this time of year both frustrating and exciting.  It does not seem to take long for the current school year to crash into the next school year.  Decisions are needed for budgets, staffing, ordering and spending and time-tabling, all while business as usual is going on around the building.

It is easy to understand why most administrators think that hiring and “loading the bus” with the best possible staff is one of the most important things we do.  Nothing has as big of influence over student achievement than the teacher in the room.

With so many things to consider, it can be a difficult and nerve-wracking process. Not only are we wanting to hire someone with all the skills necessary to be an outstanding classroom teacher, but we also need someone who will mesh nicely in the culture of our building and be an excellent staff member as well.

In my teaching career I have had the honor and privilege of working with many talented teachers and have had the opportunity to learn many things from the people who I work with.  In the short time I have been an administrator-5 years, I have interviewed and hired many great teachers as well, but…I have also hired a few not really suited for the rigors of an elementary classroom.

According to a study conducted by McRel, a private and non-profit educational  research corporation, the attributes that matter the most to teacher success are:

  • Some experience
  • Preparation and content pedagogy
  • Strong academic preparation
  • Verbal and cognitive ability

So if I find teachers that fit these 4 criteria, will that mean I have hired a great teacher? It seems very cut and dry to think this is true.  I could probably get most of this information without even talking to the candidate.

There are countless sites that claim to have the secret to good teaching- Top 10 Qualities of a Great Teacher, Ten Traits of a Good Teacher, and so on, but there is still no guarantee that I will be able to detect all those qualities suggested in an interview situation.

It seems to me that some of the most important attributes a teacher needs to have is a belief in kids and a belief in themselves as a teacher.  Teachers also need to have strong relationship skills, a willingness to be a life long learner and “withitness” or the ability to have eyes in the back of their heads to manage a busy classroom and again the list could go on and on.

Teaching is not simple, it requires grit, stamina, a willingness to admit we don’t have all the answers and the desire to work as a team to do what is right for children at all times. I always say to my staff-teaching is not for the faint at heart.

So, my fellow educators and administrators, I am seeking the truth about hiring and interviewing.  What are some of your best interview questions?  How do you ensure you are hiring the best teachers possible?

 

Getting Better At What We Do

http://www.lifebeyondhepatitisc.com/2012/06/hep-c-treatment-journey-day-73-progress-in-action/
http://www.lifebeyondhepatitisc.com/2012/06/hep-c-treatment-journey-day-73-progress-in-action/

I spend a lot of time thinking about improvement. Mostly about how I can improve my teaching and leadership and hopefully, in some way, have some influence on improvement in in our school and our system. Right now I am reading “Effective Supervision” by Marzano, Frontier and Livingston. The basis of the book is about building an atmosphere of collegiality in which teachers can share effective teaching practices. The hope is to try and help teachers, myself included, to become what is termed “expert teachers”. We all know countless research tells us the teacher in the room has the greatest effect on student achievement. I feel like we should never quit striving to improve our craft.

Today I followed a link on Twitter that led me to George Couros’blog, The Principal of Change. I was especially interested in a post he had written about making assumptions in education. As part of the discussion he writes, “Once you are done learning as a teacher, you are done.” I could not agree more. We do need to keep learning and we do need to keep striving to get better despite the obstacles that get in our way.

I am a strong believer in reflective practice and have a vision about education and what I think we need to do to prepare our students for whatever their future holds. I also believe in life long learning and never want to come across like I know more than any of the teachers and support staff that I work with. Together we are a knowledgeable and powerful team. We need each other to accomplish all that we do.

I am continually amazed when I walk around my building and watch my teachers in action. I see so many great things accomplished every day and our recent reading benchmark data and other assessments indicate that students are making improvements. It is in moments like this that I wonder if I can really expect more from my teachers and support staff then they are already giving?

Probably the biggest frustration teachers have is TIME. It seems like things are added to our plates on a regular basis and we often go home wondering if we will ever get caught up. How do we fit concentrated efforts for improvement in teaching practices into an already full load?

I was struck by another link posted on Twitter to a blog post written by Jordan Campbell, a fairly new and very wise teacher, who writes about letting go of what we cannot control and concentrating on the great things we do, especially the parts we really enjoy. I could not help but think that maybe this was one of the keys to finding time for improvement. Do we spend too much time on things that do not matter? The post encourages us to not waste time complaining about teaching, but instead, spend our time celebrating and talking about the good things that keep us doing the job day after day.

Leadership in education is about learning. The learning of myself and needs to be at the heart of my decision making every day. I think George in right…once we are done learning, it is time to go.

Meeting the Needs of Teachers

http://joeysblog27.blogspot.ca/2011/01/personal-learning-network.html
http://joeysblog27.blogspot.ca/2011/01/personal-learning-network.html

I spent my Friday meeting with most of my teachers for the mid year check in of their professional growth plans.  It was a great way to spend the day and I love spending time getting to know my staff.  We rarely have opportunities that are not rushed or focused on too many things.  We talked about their goals and how they thought things were going in their classrooms, with their students and in our school.  Our conversations often turned to professional development opportunities which got me thinking of the best way to meet all of their individual needs.

Our school division provides many opportunities for PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities). Teachers can apply twice a year for funding to support PLC learning opportunities and many of the teachers in my school participate in these groups. The feedback from these PLC`s are mostly positive, when the teachers have been allowed some freedom to take their discussions and learning in a self-directed way.

Most of the negative feedback coming from my teachers happens when they feel self-direction of the learning is not there and emphasis is put on planning and paper work expectations.

It is difficult for school divisions to plan large group professional development that meets the needs of all teachers. I find that often the learning and discussion is geared toward the group of teachers that are near the bottom with their level of understanding. I supposed it is planned this way with the hope that more teachers will gain an understanding of the presented initiative. The affect it often has on those that are beyond the level of the presentation is that they leave feeling frustrated and like their needs have not been met.

Very few teachers really have the opportunity to attend big, national conferences where you can join in conversations and pick sessions that are directed at your learning needs.

So what now…?

My thought is… why are we waiting for someone to provide learning opportunities for us that meet our distinct needs as individual teachers. As I stated in my last post, the best professional development I have is coming straight to me every day from the personal learning network that I have created. It is self-directed and conversations always circulate around topics directly related to my personal needs. I can join with my PLN at times that work well for me and the opportunity is always available to me to be learning from a wide variety of perspectives and experiences.

When looking through my twitter feed today I came across a link posted by Tom Whitby to a post he has written titled “Are Education Conferences Relevant”. In his post Tom stated, “We are professional educators who need to do a better job educating ourselves as educators. If we are to better educate kids, we need to better educate their educators.”

What I would advise my teachers to do if they really want to be in charge of their own learning is to start to build their own learning networks. It truly is the most valuable learning opportunity I have ever been involved in. Any thoughts?