Archive for the ‘Fostering Effective Relationships’ Category

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I just finished reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, The book was a light read and I had finished it in a couple of hours.

While I don’t think that it’s model of business can be transferred into education directly it does give the reader the opportunity to ask a few what if’s in education. ¬†Things like:

“Learning from your successes”

Рtoo often we are told to learn from your mistakes, the authors make a point of learning about what works well, chances are you are going to try to see if you can do it again, and do it better.

Another way of describing success is called evolution.

“Planning is guessing”

– In education we are in love with the three year plan. ¬†The infamous line of “failing to plan is planing to fail” just doesn’t seem to work when it comes to long term planning for a school (or a provincial budget). ¬†I do think there has to be a plan but there also has to be an opportunity to change that plan when it starts to go sideways. ¬†Not next year but as soon as you see it sliding out of control.

“You‚Äôll unlock star power in anyone with a rock star environment.”

– Imagine if schools would actually take the time and effort to create a ‘rock star’ enviroment for their staff?

“Draw a line in the sand”

– In education you have to have a backbone. ¬†You need to know what you’re willing to fight for. ¬†And then you need to show the world.

“Meeting’s are toxic”

(Now this is a blog post that will be all to it’s own but I digress)

– we are wasting way too much time meeting and talking about things rather than going out and getting things done. ¬†I think we have way to much chain of commands and the idea of innitiative of teachers has been lost. ¬†If a teacher goes out takes innitiative and does something wrong make sure they don’t do it again, but don’t take away their initiative to take the bull by the horns and take charge.

Oh yeah and get rid of meetings. . .

“inservice” by Doug Johnson flickr

This for far too many of us is what Professional Development is, something that is done to us and not for us/with us. ¬†The school division that I currently work with allows 6 full days for staff meetings/professional development. ¬†Why is it that schools are not taking more advantage of it? ¬†Could it be that we are trying to do professional development in a 1.0 way? ¬† An article by¬†Tom Vander Ark¬†got me thinking about the way that we currently do our professional development. ¬†Much the same as we teach in our classrooms. ¬†Once size fits all, and thou shalt attend! ¬†I am not sure that is the answer. ¬†If we want to change the way we do things in our classroom and not have them the same as they have been for the “last 160 years”¬†shouldn’t¬†we practice what we preach? ¬†Now Mr. Vander Ark looks at a development program for a superintendent but the ideas can be broken down to teachers as well.

Roles of a Teacher

Classroom Improvement: Give teachers strategies that they can use in their classroom for the right now.  Also talk about the changes in education and why they are important to students.  You have to have buy in from teachers before you can have any systemic change.

Community: This is huge in today’s classroom we have many parents wanting to be more involved in their child’s life. ¬†We have to garner community support for in the classroom by communicating with parents constantly and consistently. ¬†Constantly so they know what is going on in their¬†child’s¬†educational life and consistently by providing them feedback pertaining to the development of their child.

Outcome based feedback: This ties into community as well but I do believe that if we are going to be successful with students we need to continue to move to an outcome based curriculum, that will allow student programming to be more individualized.

Maintaining your perspective, health  and marriage: I agree with Mr. Vander Ark that this is paramount to a teachers survival in education.

Now when I look at the design principles for a superintendent preparation program I see many similarities that administrators can do in their school in relation to professional development:

1) Individualized:  Not everyone has the same passions and teaching is all about a passion.  You need to help your teachers find their passions and provide opportunities for them to not only follow those passions but to develop them into a leader with those passions.

2) Experience based: Too many teachers have come to me telling me that the PD they attended was a waste of time. ¬†That it was too abstract and would never work in a real classroom. ¬†Why not change that by finding PD that pertains to their passions and allows them to use it in their classroom tomorrow. ¬†Now I realize all PD can’t be something that teachers can use in their classroom the next day but why can’t some of it. ¬†Teachers feel isolated as it is, let’s for a better lack of a phrase “throw them a bone” once in a ¬†while.

3) Efficient: This is very important because teachers time is valuable.  If you take into account that a veteran staff of teachers in Alberta earns approximately $95 600 annually.  That means that for a 20 person PD session/meeting it is costing approximately $30.00 per minute that you have that meeting.  At $1800 per hour you better make that PD damn efficient!

4) Content Structured: In order to have a successful PD program you have to be able to provide a starting and finishing point yearly for their PD.  That is where Professional Growth Plans come in.  We are required by law to complete them and many staff feel like they are a burden or a waste of time.  That is because they are not really looked at and worked with to be the road map that they require for their professional development.

5) Dynamic Groups: Many teachers are in isolation in their schools, they are the only grade 2 teacher, or the only JH math teacher. ¬†By not only harnessing social learning to aid that, partner with other schools to share a Professional Development day so that teachers can talk about what is working and what is not working in their schools. ¬†But also realize that the world is flat and if teachers want to collaborate with teachers that don’t fit your PD mold, allow that to happen.

6) Reflection: This is something that we need to practice before we preach.  We are expected to give others feedback but unfortunately far too often we are unable to give ourselves feedback in our work, mostly because we do not make the time for it.  Allow time, make time for this to happen and it will have a positive influence in the classroom as well.

7) Sharing: Now this is a bit more difficult for teachers to develop their brand and I am going to change it to share.  Allow teachers to share, force teachers to share, make teachers share.  If you want to have an environment that is truly collaborative you need teachers to create lessons that they will share, develop their voice (promoting leadership) and develop their collaborative nature, to get them out of the closed-door mentality.

I think Mr. Van Ark has a great framework that could work with teachers if administrators would look at professional development as an opportunity and not something that is looked at the week before, day before and all staff are asking, what are going to do that day.

We all have moments in our lives where we wished that we could have more time. ¬†Tonight is one of them. ¬†I had a terrific day today, had a great day at school with the students, made some great strides on a project that I am currently working on and had 2 great webinars. ¬†Where the wish for the “Flying DeLorean” comes in is the webinar. ¬†George Couros sent me a message inviting me to Leadership 2.0 – A Collaborative Learning Opportunity. ¬†I attended and it was a very worthwhile hour. ¬†George talked about setting up a blog, and that is where the DeLorean comes in. . .

I have had a blog, or an instance of one for about 5 years now.  I tend to use it for a time and then it goes on a hiatus for far too long, I then reset it and start all over again.  I keep saying that life gets in the way, that I am too busy, that I have nothing to say.  Unfortunately for me (and my free time) tonight George and others shot down my excuses one by one, because that is all they really are excuses.  The one that really stuck with me is that if I am a teacher leader and I have nothing worth saying then that is really scary, I will go even further and say that if that is the case then I am not really a leader at all.

I am very excited that this learning opportunity is in our backyard of Alberta and is tied to the the Principal Quality Practice Guideline.  For Alberta administrators this is a great opportunity to not only move forward as a professional but to connect with other educators who we can work with as we navigate this uncertain educational future.

I am looking forward to Learning 2.0 and the potential that it has, my concern is where to find the time. . . Now off to Ebay to make a bid, maybe it comes as a kit. . .

DeLorean Boat at McCovey Cove / AT&T Park. 8/10/12