I have always believed that all education, regardless of the level, should be about the students. Every goal that is set, every discussion that takes place and every decision that is made, should be made with the students at the center. Each student deserves equal access to education and deserves to be educated in a caring and respectful environment. It is through respectful relationships that we can build an open channel for learning. It is my responsibility as a school leader to support teachers and staff in developing strong relationships with students and making student-centered decisions. Teachers and administrators should model this at all times.
The strength of a team has a direct correlation on student progress and success. Each team member, whether it be a teacher, a parent, a bus driver or a library technician needs to know the role they play in understanding the culture of the learning environment and how they add to that environment through that role. A strong team can accomplish great things when concentrating on a community vision and supporting each other along the way. A school administrator plays a huge role in creating and supporting a positive school culture that encourages risk-taking and expects reflection and growth. An administrator must listen to and collaborate with various team members and create a cohesiveness when moving toward the goal of success for all students. Parental engagement in the school community is paramount to this goal, therefore continued effort to involve parents in a respectful and comfortable manner needs to be a top priority for all team members.
Success for All
A culture focused on student achievement can only be built upon a foundation of accountability and data-driven results. There must be diagnostic and formative assessments that provide feedback to principles and teachers about individual student progress. Summative data is not enough if our instructional practices are to be tailored to the needs of individual students and if parents are to be meaningfully engaged in the education of their children. Each and every student has an intricately woven story that surrounds them creating a picture that can be used for future decision-making and support. A single benchmark does not tell the whole story, so should never be used in isolation to make educational decisions. Supervision of teachers and administrators is an integral piece of this process and must be accomplished in a collegial manner, allowing for mutual exploration of strategies to enhance learning and student achievement.
Our world is rapidly changing and our classrooms are much more diverse learning environments than they ever were before. We are dealing with a wider range of learning abilities and our students come to us with a wider range of social issues they are dealing with in their young lives. It is important to strengthen each student and work to reduce outside influences and behaviors that can conflict and interfere with the learning process. Each child needs to be able to connect the critical thinking skills they are learning in classrooms to their lives so they see a purpose for learning. Research shows us that engagement goes up for any learner when they can make connections to their daily lives, and academic success is highly correlated with engagement.
Student Engagement and Technology
In order for students to compete in today’s contemporary, competitive and global society they need to have a working knowledge of technology, have highly tuned critical thinking skills and be able to communicate and problem solve effectively. Our students belong and have always belonged to a digital and global world that is very participatory. Education is no longer just a transfer of information. It is important to take a step back and share the teaching role with our students. Discovering for themselves through the process of critical thinking, rather than just memorizing what we, as teachers, prepare for them, will develop critical skills needed in many other areas of life. Memorization of basic facts becomes less important every day and our students need to learn to be good digital citizens in order to communicate and collaborate with others in a safe and effective way. Teachers and administrators need to be positive role models in this respect, setting an example of students, staff, and families. We need to provide opportunities for our students to collaborate with others both in the classroom and outside our school walls. Education needs to be tailored to each individual focusing on learning styles and strengths. Technology plays an important part in education, opening opportunities to develop creativity and collaborate with others who will expose us to new ideas.
Professional development for teachers is a key vehicle for improving instruction and success of students. Discussion and true collaboration based upon best instructional practices must be part of the normal culture. Using staff meetings for learning and sharing of ideas, rather than disseminating information is an important part of this routine. Each teacher needs to be reflective of learning needs and instructional decisions and whether or not they are benefitting our students in the best possible manner. Opportunities for true collaboration among peers should be an expectation and a priority. Just like our students, choice, and connection to daily practice help improve engagement in professional development. One size rarely fits all.
A school administrator must be open and willing to forge relationships build on mutual respect and common goals. This can only be done through true listening, reflecting, collaborating and providing opportunities for team-based decision-making. Relationships with students, teachers, parents, and families are the only way to ensure the best educational experience for everyone. The school administrator works as part of a much bigger school division administrative team and attitudes and approaches to school division decisions are important to the success of all students as well. We represent our own school including parents, teachers, students, staff, and communities, but we also need to recognize we are part of a much bigger picture when making decisions or supporting initiatives.
Life Long Learning
The quest for knowledge should never end and teachers should always be trying to improve their craft. Staying aware of and reflective about the latest research and thinking about teaching and learning is necessary for continued growth. Maintaining a growth mindset and the willingness to listen to and truly consider the ideas of others is a necessary skill in today’s global world. There are many ways to reach out to others, share with others and learn with others. In turn, we should model for our students the need to a growth mindset. We do not want to be passive about the media opportunities around us, rather we want to be critical thinkers and participators and we want to teach our students to do the same.
It is an interesting activity to think about your philosophy of education and what that means. In a lot of ways, my philosophy of what education means has changed drastically as I have gained more experience and the world around me has changed. In other ways, my views have not changed at all.