All posts by wilsonteacher

Reflecting on Week One

The first week has come and gone! The significance of the role – and especially holding the role in my old high school school – has not been lost on me. It’s been a wonderful week in the halls of the school. It has been a week of successes, challenges, tough conversations, long days, many emotions, and constant thinking about my practice. The biggest success has been developing relationships with colleagues and students. I am really trying to further develop a Growth Mindset to paint challenges in a different light – and there have been some big challenges.

I didn’t have a teacher for a number of courses on the first day. This is pretty common at the start of the year but it can still be an organizational nightmare. Luckily, we have some amazing occasional teachers, but the responsibility lies on me for planning and, in certain cases, instruction. However, I took this as a positive. I like planning – and I also love being at the front of a room, (which is largely why I became a teacher in the first place) so I seized the opportunity to drop the administrative responsibilities and head into the classroom. It was awesome! This challenge gave me the opportunity to get to know some students, return to the classroom, and help teachers, so it suddenly became something to celebrate.

The other challenge I faced this week was a bad case of Imposter Syndrome.

Now, I’m sure some people would keep such challenges to themselves, I think it’s important to be honest about our vulnerabilities. Midway through the week, while drowning in an endless number of emails, phone calls, to-do lists, staff issues, and the overwhelming sense that I wasn’t being visible enough in the school, a little voice in my head started to question my own professional competency. I knew what was going on, but it was still tough. Luckily, I have excellent support, (Senior Administrators who provide support, Principal colleagues who provide an ear and ideas, and of course the knowledge that Rome wasn’t built in a day) and I know that the first week(s) aren’t the same as the rest of the year.

While reflecting on challenges is extremely important, I know that I also have to focus on the successes – and there have been some good ones, but as a teacher in the school said to me, “nothing really that great has happened yet. The best days are yet to come.” Of course he is more than right. If the great things have already happened, the 191 school days remaining in the year are going to be long ones!

In the meantime, I am going to rethink how I structure my day to ensure I’m out of my office and in the school meeting kids, supporting staff, and moving people along as often as possible. I will learn which emails and messages demand my immediate attention and which ones can wait. As I get to know the school and its needs, I will apply my vision about individualized, student-centred learning, the fostering of respect, and the importance of relationships to the needs of the school, and have a better sense of direction. It’s only been the first week and I need to remember that.

Keeping the Batteries Charged

It’s the evening before the First Day of School – my 14th as an educator and my 34th overall. Each year brings a list of challenges and triumphs and by June, I’m usually pretty exhausted and very grateful for a summer break. This year, with a new school and a new position, I’ve been more excited than usual. However, the last two weeks have been very, very busy. I have been in-and-out of the school numerous times, unpacking my office, meeting staff, and preparing materials for our First Day Professional Development sessions. There have been dozens of emails regarding plant department and contractors, engagement with our board’s Multi-Year Strategic Plan, reminders about budgeting items, health and safety issues, staffing…. that list goes on, and on, and on. The paperwork has already started to pile up, too – despite every effort to mitigate Messy Desk Syndrome.

There has also been an excitement in the building. The enthusiasm in people’s voices as they prepare for the new year is awesome and it’s one of the things that recharges my own batteries. This is important to me because I know that once the year starts, my batteries will be under constant strain. It’s a reality of the job; our schools are busy and the needs of students, colleagues, parents, and the community are genuine. The days can be long and the reality is that the Office can be an isolated place. A reflection I made last year was the need to escape that isolation and get out into the school. Paperwork and reports are important, but being visible in the school is (in my opinion) way more important. It’s easy to drown under that messy desk but it’s important to prioritize and ensure the batteries are at a healthy level. So, with that in mind, some goals:

  • I will be in the halls and in classrooms every day. I was pretty successful with this last year at B.A. Parker, but I am not sure what this goal will look like this year.
  • Building relationships with others will remain my highest priority. I can’t help talking to people so this will hopefully come naturally.
  • Gonna (and gotta) keep moving. Walking halls, climbing stairs, and visiting the gym have to be key parts of my daily routine
  • Writing, reflecting, and sharing (like I’m doing now) will keep me in a good place

We’ll see how well I meet these goals as the first days, weeks, and months pass – but I am forever an optimist!

Best wishes to everyone for a very successful 2019-2020 school year!

Preparing for the Year: Areas of Focus

Fresh from three days of thinking, planning, and collaborating with Admin colleagues from across my board at our Leadership retreat, my mind is definitely spinning. As a newer administrator, I’m very grateful for opportunities to share my thinking with those who have more experience. I’m grateful that I am part of a small board where we truly do have the opportunity to get to know one another and our schools. There were two topics during this week’s learning that I am focusing on:

Culturally Relevant Related Pedagogy
How can we be better at providing conditions that invite safety, belonging, and engagement for First Nations students?

Part of a pilot project with the Ministry of Education, this work intends to strengthen authentic and meaningful relationships with our First Nation partners. There is no doubt that students need to feel safety and a sense of belonging, (which I wrote about last year when I reviewed The Third Path. When I think about it, there are so many elements of the school day that do not reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and learning – and we can certainly think about how we might do a better job of reflecting the needs of our learners. A great example was our discussion on smudging. Our system often, (or always, per Human Rights legislation) provides accommodations for students requiring help to self-regulate, (such as administering medication, taking breaks, etc.). However, we have not traditionally provided the same accommodations for Indigenous students who might use smudging to the same effect. The Ministry did produce a policy paper in 2013 on Culturally-Responsive Pedagogy and while the content is powerful, this work really aims to meet specific local needs. The key to any of this work includes consulting with our First Nation communities to ensure any work we do is respectful. I’m on about that, too – so I look forward to this project.

Usha James – Critical Thinking Consortium
What are some powerful steps we can take to create thinking environments that nurture thinking in all our learners?

This question is our board’s critical inquiry question. Usha James, Executive Director of the Critical Thinking Consortium, led a powerful session on creating thinking classrooms. Administrators were invited to consider how the use of inquiry in schools might lead to deeper, more meaningful engagement of subject matter for students.

From the Critical Thinking Consortium

A few years back, I was lucky enough to work with educator Trevor Mackenzie through a Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) on Inquiry in the Classroom. I am excited that this pedagogical model is being expanded in our board; it changed my classroom when I started using it. From an principal’s perspective, inquiry can also shape my conversations with colleagues when talking about their lessons, their practices, and their classrooms and for my own work, inquiry will guide my own problem of practice as I work towards a goal, (I’ll share more on that later) for my own learning within the school.

Three days of powerful discussions, learning, and sharing definitely leaves the brain in a state of chaos, so I’m happy to be able to digest some of the information here. The work also added to my never-ending to do list, but that’s awesome, as well. These two topics provide clear purpose to our work and I am very, very excited about them.