No More Excuses

 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotologic/410355440/

Our school staff has reason to be grateful when it comes to available technology in our school and to our access to bandwidth. Our school division does put both as a priority for student learning. Even though we have many devices and we have the bandwidth to provide us access, a lot of what we were seeing in our classrooms was based on consumption of programs already available rather than creating new content or collaboration with others.  Many were trying all kinds of new things, but we still had some that were using the laptops and I-pads for consumption only.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel like consumption is an important and acceptable part of our day, but I also feel like without stretching to creation and collaboration we were missing out and so are our students.  So since we have also been blessed with very capable, strong teachers who are willing to try new things, it seemed like a good time to move forward.

At the beginning of the last school year, we required all of our teachers to set a professional goal based on using technology for creative or collaborative endeavors.  It was so fun and rewarding to see what everyone chose to do and to watch it all play out for our students.  We shared our progress at staff meetings and helped each other along the way.  We did not want this to be a one and done kind of idea, so this year we had all of our teachers set another goal that was the logical next step from where they left off.

One thing I have learned over my time as a school principal is an importance of accepting people where they are and helping them move along the growth continuum.  As adult learners, just like our students in the classroom, we do not all start at the same place or grow at the same rate.  I have also learned that change takes time and it does not happen overnight.

In my own growth and experience gained through being a classroom teacher, I am starting to realize what my students are capable of,  if they are given choices, chances to make mistakes without repercussion, and opportunities to demonstrate their learning in many ways.  They show me time after time what they can do when I just step back and let them.

When we limit our students with close control of what they read, what they learn, how they learn and how they demonstrate their learning, we may be comfortable, but we are also limiting their chances for growth.  I have just started reading the book, The Wild Card, by Hope and Wade King and was struck by the idea that excuse making can become a habit. “Every less than ideal factor can become another reason why your students aren’t achieving more-and why you can’t do anything to change that.”  I am sure I have used many excuses for not changing my comfortable pedagogy throughout my career and some of the ones I hear most often as a principal and colleague are:

  • I do not have enough time.
  • I do not feel like I can “teach” that to my students.
  • My students are too young and can’t possibly do that.
  • I have been doing it this way for years and it has been working.
  • I do not have parent support.
  • I do not have support from my administrator
  • I want to do that, but…

All of these may be true at some point, but if we never force the first step, the journey never starts.  The challenge of being a teacher is a big one.  It is a very difficult and very rewarding job. We will not change everything tomorrow, but perhaps a good first step would be to say, “No more excuses.”

 

Why I use Twitter…

http://technorati.com/
http://technorati.com/

At some point this year I set the goal of writing on my blog at least once a week.  That is a difficult goal when balancing work and family, but writing is something I enjoy that allows me a creative outlet for my thoughts.  Lately though, I have been to my blog, but feel like I have writers block. When this happens, instead of writing on my blog I will spend my free moments searching around on twitter, reading and sharing. I have a bit of an obsession with Twitter if you ask my husband.  As I sit listening to the wind howling today, searching around on twitter I was thinking about what twitter has added to my professional and personal learning.

One year ago 3 of the teachers in my school had the opportunity to attend #educon conference in Philadelphia.  It was exciting for us to be able to send them there because most teachers in our school division do not have the opportunity to attend big conferences such as this.  They came back with many great ideas to share and prompted all of us to start using Twitter as part of our daily routine in the school, in our classes and in our professional lives.  We spent time as a staff learning from them how to set up a twitter account and  getting some suggestions as to who to follow.  We set up a school Twitter account and starting sharing with our parents through Twitter.  Each of our classrooms have a twitter account and many share classroom happenings on a daily basis.  It has been a great communication and collaboration tool for our whole school.

These are the reasons why I use Twitter

  • Twitter is the best professional development I have been involved in for a long time.
  • It allows me to follow my interests, passions and interact with people similar to me.
  • It allows me to share my ideas.
  • It helps me answer questions.
  • On a daily basis I am able to find ideas and links that help me be a better teacher and administrator

@PrincipalSmart

Finished and Reflecting

I have had a few exciting things happen lately and I am not sure where to start.  First and foremost, I am finished my Master’s Degree.  I can’t decide how I should feel about it.  Should I be so relieved that I am jumping up and down, should I be proud of such a big accomplishment or should I be feeling sad that my journey is over.  For right now I am feeling a combination of the three.  I had no idea that it would change my philosophy of teaching as much as it has or turn me into such a reflective practitioner. I can’t wait to see what is next.  I even find myself thinking that I could take a second Master’s Degree…Whoa now! Slow down!

The second exciting thing I want to talk about is the opportunity I had to attend the Saskatchewan IT Conference in Saskatoon this week.  I consider myself very lucky to get to attend and I came home with that familiar feeling of passion and excitement.  As I listened to Michael Wesch speak of opening up worlds to our students, posing questions, allowing and challenging them to be creative and do something about the things that are going on in the world, I couldn’t help but reflect back on my school year.  Have I really allowed my students to be in control of their own learning?  Have I challenged them with questions that take them beyond Google?  Have I opened my staff up to new thinking and supported them in ways that would allow them to change their traditional ideas about education?

I am not sure where this year has gone, but as it draws to a close, I hope I can feel confident that I have accomplished at least some of what I wanted to this year and look forward to handing more over to my students and my staff next year and taking my spot behind the stage and not on it.