New Year, New Assignment ohhhh the possibilities.

What an amazing summer.  After three years being in charge of the reins and making sure that everything was always ready to go and that everything was set for the first day,  I was able to and took full advantage of the so called “two months off” during the summer. I must say that it was fabulous. I enjoyed every part of it especially the five days of fishing, twenty feet from my back door.

This however is not the reason for this post, first I would like to apologize to all of my friends and colleagues for my absence, but would also like to pass on the assurance that you will be hearing a lot from me both from this location and others that I will connect you with shortly.

 

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This year, I am excited to teach grade six and while teaching my #youngpadawans (Star Wars is my class theme) I will be actively using what I have learned about over the past three years and encouraged other educators to use. I will be working with my kids to tweet out questions and to make global connections to learn and connect using our classroom twitter account.

I am thrilled that I have the privileged to walk my students through their initial trials and discoveries using Google Classroom 

In addition to keep my students parents connected to the classroom and aware of what is being covered, what is expected and the experiences of the students. I will be using Remind, our Rams Class Facebook account and our PSDBlogs class blog.

Please come and join our adventure as we navigate the universe and make memories and connections that will change how we work, influence how we learn and fuel our need to be challenged.

 

Student learning is enhanced by the use of community resources.

 


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On my journey to understanding Instruction Leadership one of the sections under the Principal Quality Standards is supporting the use of community resources to enhance student learning. It took some time to wrap my head around this, I pondered, does this mean the use of guest speakers, of presentations that are motiviational or should they focus primarily on academics.

I came to the conclusion that any resource that adds to the understanding, learning and building of a student would fit into this catagory. Like many schools, Seba tries to have as many outside resources come out to the school to add or supplement the learning of our students, the only limiting factor is the distance that Seba Beach school is from a large metropolis. This being said I am excited to say that I have made some direct connections and additions to our school and our students experiences by inviting or soliciting exteranl resources to add to student learning and experiencing. Although the students, for the most part enjoy these presentations and activities, I do know that some of the teachers have not always been excited because my planning takes away often from class time that is vital and essential to our teachers in delivering the curriculum.

We have had many activities throughout the year, from the first day of school to our Remembrance day celebration, however for this post I will be commenting about the three most recent activities at Seba Beach that have been amazing opportunities.

The first is the CLICK presentation to our junior high students. This was a presentation that is put on by the Alberta Government , assisting students to determine what they apt at doing after they finish high school. The facilitator was a student at University of Alberta completing her degree in sociology, but was able to keep the students engaged and curious about the activity. The students worked, answering questions about personality, preference and choice and eventually arrived at a range of occupations. For most of the students the results were generally accurate.

The second, this was a community resource that was able to work both with our students but as well with the parents of our students in areas such as cyber-bullying and digital awareness, no name the two covered most recently.  I am referring to the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) workers that we are connected to through Edson. We have a pair of great, energetic and commuted ladies that are willing to work as much as possible with our parents and with our students to provide programs such as Parenting, Community relations, and baby sitting courses.

Finally, due to some previous relationships, I was able to use some connections to start a boys group at the school for our middle years boys. Through communication and planning with members of Native Counselling Services, I was able to arrange that three individuals would come out once a week and work with our boys on citizenship goals. One worker is Howard, I never had the opportunity to work with previously, but the other two I have had the pleasure of working closely with. One as a colleague and one as an elder. Our first session / meeting was great, the boys in the group asked many questions and learned about choice and responsibility. The students also, to integrate culture, focused on discovering the 7 First Nations Teachings. It was great to see the students working each other trying to figure out all the elements involved while looking at ones self.

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I am a strong believer in the old saying that states, “it takes a community to raise a child”. This is a truth that I have experienced, lived in and taught with, understanding that everyone has something that a child can experience and learning from. I believe that we should use our outside and partner agencies to ensure that our students, have access to the most possible resources” I also believe that there are somethings that others can convey and teacher better than I. Therefore by embracing Humility and having a willingness to learn like my students I call upon others to work with my students and myself to increase their understanding and tool kits for their future.

Twitter Connects and Educates – even from space

I have been meaning to write this post for some time now, however as with many of us the Christmas season was hectic and then a blur, and before I knew it I was back to work. Trying to get back into the swing of things, organizing, preparing and well everything else. However, yesterday I was helping a new colleague get started on her digital portfolio and it reminded me that it has been some time since I last posted.

Although it has been some time since the occurrance, the significance is still quite impressive and pertanant.

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I do not remember what morning specifically it was, but I was making the long drive from the City (Edmonton) to my school (Seba Beach School) listening to the radio, when I heard about Commander Hadfield. Hadfield is a Canadian Astronaut, who is currently living in space aboard ISS as Flight Engineer on Expedition 34. He is also expected  to be the Commander of Expedition 35. The commander is also Orbiting Earth on ISS. O.k. so this is not an amazing News Flash, however the broadcast mentioned that the commander was tweeting.

He was tweeting what he was doing, he was tweeting what he was seeing and he was posting pictures of what he was seeing. This now impressed me, especially as an educator. The Commander was providing the world with a chronological account of what he was seeing and when. Talk about an educators dream come true. Real life, real time pictures from space. This however was not the limit of what Hadfeild was doing. It was commented that Hadfield was responding to tweets by students and educators and answering questions about his life, adventures and experiences in space.

As an educator in the 21st century this was and is profound to be able to learn about geography, current events, social studies, current events, space and astronomy in the moment. Not reading a text, not seeing pictures that have been processed and in a paper or text, but to learn from an individual that is experiencing it first hand and in the moment. What I would have done to have this when I was a student and upon reflection I can truly say that my motivation for learning some of the curriculum in school would have be so much more if learning had been like this.

I have heard many arguments about the use of Twitter in education. These conversations are both for and against. I would not say that Twitter is going create a fundamental change in a students learning, but I will say that it will make a change in how students learn, what is available to students and teachers as well depending on the resource the quality of the resource being used. What I am saying is that using Twitter in the classroom would be a valuable tool for teachers, students and administrators.

I encourage teachers to check out and follow Commander Hadfield, and that if it applies to your class and what they are covering to connect with him and ask him questions, you never know the door and conversations that it could open up.

Instructional Leadership, what is it and how does it look?

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Recently, I have been having many discussions with my colleagues and peers about Instructional Leadership. Like many things in education, different individuals have different ideas and different thoughts on what it is and how it looks. Some of my colleagues have looked at the elements that relate to pedagogy and curriculum, while others have focused on the ability to assist colleagues in their delivery and other standards relating to teaching.

Through all of the discussions and conversations I determined two things, one that I need to closely look at what I consider instructional leadership and to secondly to build a plan and ensure that the plan is evident, understood and followed within my school. However, I still needed to figure out an easy understanding to what is instructional leader ship. While talking to a friend/mentor/colleague it was explained to me in the simplest method.

George Couros said, “What is your foot print? How will someone walking into Seba Beach school know that you have left a mark / legacy in the school”. After hearing this it all made sense, how will what I do, the decisions I make, the changes I make and the expectations that I have be displayed, remembered, and followed in the school in my presence and without my presence. This was a great question and something that has had me thinking.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the Instructional Leadership requirements in the Principal Quality Standards, reflecting on how I have been or will be working on them and then detail what I have learned. In addition to looking at my understandings, impressions and reflections I will be shadowing, at present 3 colleagues that are in my opinion Master Administrators that have a great understanding and application of Instructional Leadership. For those interested in taking a look ahead at whom I will be shadowing here they are:

Carolyn CameronPrincipal of Greystone Centennial Middle School.

Glen ThielPrincipal of Brookwood School.

Sheryl BridgemanPrincipal of Parkland Village School.

For those that may be unclear as to what the Principal Quality Standards designate under the dimension of Instructional Leadership I have listed them below:

The principal ensures that all students have ongoing access to quality teaching and learning opportunities to meet the provincial goals of education.

Descriptors

The principal: 

 a) demonstrates a sound understanding of current pedagogy and curriculum. 

 b) implements strategies for addressing standards of student achievement.

 c) ensures that student assessment and evaluation practices throughout the school are fair, appropriate  and balanced. 

d) implements effective supervision and evaluation to ensure that all teachers consistently meet the Alberta
Teaching Quality Standard.


e) ensures that appropriate pedagogy is utilized in response to various dimensions of student diversity.

f) ensures that students have access to appropriate programming based on their individual learning needs.

g) recognizes the potential of new and emerging technologies, and enables their meaningful integration in
support of teaching and learning. 

h) ensures that teachers and other staff communicate and collaborate with parents and community agencies, where appropriate, to support student learning.

i) supports the use of community resources to enhance student learning.

If you have any suggestions, ideas, constructive criticisms or thoughts in relation to my upcoming adventure, they would be greatly appreciated.

It shouldn’t be about the NUMBER

Although it seems a little redundant to say, I will still say it. There are tones and tones of numbers in education. Aside from the obvious, Numeracy, many aspects and elements of a school are based on numbers. How many students are with in a school, the number of school days in the calendar, what the budget looks like throughout the year, student identification number, even down to how many cases of pencils will be needed to get through the year. It is easy to say that a significant amount of time, with respect to my job, is looking at and working with the numbers. This directs the conversation towards the reason for this post.

Next year my school will join the remainder of my school division in the format used for reporting students achievements, accomplishments and struggles. So, what this means in simplicity is that students report cards will not have letter grades or percentages listed on them, remembering my school is a K-9 school. The high schools in our division will still be using percentages to coordinate with the requirements of the post secondary institutes within Alberta.

As my teachers have been going through the learning process, preparing for the transition to the new division reporting format, I have been developing ideas, presentations and gathering information for parents who I will be meeting with on multiple occasions over the next few months. I will be meeting with parents to walk them through the process and change. While I have been preparing my thoughts and presentations, I have taken opportunities to inquire with parents both in my school’s community and in other communities about their feelings about the transition.

Although there are many concerns, stipulations and arguments as to why the traditional format should remain, during this post I am only going to focus on the need to have a percentage. The most common comment I have heard about the need for percentages it that it tells parents where the students are in the class, where they are in relation to their peers and how much they are learning.

In reality however, a percentage tells you pretty much nothing with accuracy. The reason I say this is that percentages, much like statistics, can be manipulated. Below I have two pictures, for example purposes that show two completely different percentages for grade 8 science. However if you look carefully the raw score achievements are identical. The difference is the weighting for the individual assessment sections such as assignments, quizzes, exams etc.

As you can clearly see there is a 19% difference between the two scores.  What does this mean. Well, according to this, nothing. This is just one of the reasons I am a strong believer in the new reporting process. The new process describes how a student is doing with respect to the skills, attributes and process that are involved in each subject. Basically the new reporting process tells you what a student can do without assistance, what a student can do with help and what a student can not do. In addition there are comments and strategies.

A simple percentage does not do this. When we go to the doctor we wouldn’t accept that we are functioning at a 75% health level, we would ask for clarification. If we took our vehicle in for maintainance and the mechanic said the car is at a 80%, we would ask for clarification. If your boss said you preformed your job at 78%, you would ask for more detail.  Why is it  then so easy to accept that a child has 75% in Language Arts.  Students are individuals with different skills, abilities and talents, so let’s comment on what they can do, are learning to do and need help with rather than just making them a number.

The need for change in Education

During today’s #edchat there were amazing conversation’s and discussions about life long learning, passion (creating it or finding it) but in addition to this where some great questions and conversations about how education needs to change and why. I would love to say that I have some great and innovative ideas, but I think at present they are works in progress.

I did however want to share this great video, which relates to a speech given by Ken Robinson about Changing how we view education (Changing Education Paradigms) and why the change is necessary.

It is a great video – I hope you take the time to watch it if you haven’t already seen it.

Waiting in Anticipation

Roughly a year ago I started using twitter to increase my PLN and make connections not only withing my school division, but also around the world. It has been a wonderful experience interacting and getting to know some great colleagues such as:

@shannonmmiller a Teacher Librarian & Technology Specialist from Van Meter Iowa

@greta ESL teacher from Buenos Aires, Argentina

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@bethstill founder of the ISTE newbie project

@MrMacnology a Teacher and Tech-coach from Southern Oregon

@L_Hiltan Elementary Principal from Pennsylvania

@Mollybmom an Instructional Consultant from Saskatoon

@Kylepace a K-12 Instructional Technology Specialist from Kansas City

@davidWees an Educational Technology Consultant from Vancouver

@Saskateach an Instructional Consultant from Saskatoon

and many, many more, more than can be mentioned (sorry to those I haven’t mentioned). However I mention these colleagues and friends, because of an up and coming conference at the end of June. While learning the ropes, ins and outs of the twitter verse, I kept hearing about ISTE2010 which was held in Denver last year. From the comments, blogs and articles that were shared during the month of July, it appeared that ISTE was not only a great learning opportunity and experience, but was also a great place for connecting and meeting the members of ones PLN.

Upon returning to school in September, I began to request and question my Principal about attending. My attendance was approved in November and I quickly registered and waited patiently for the program list. Last weekend I spent time going through all the sessions and planned out my calendar. Now I anxiously await, not the end of the school year, but my ISTE2011 adventures in Philadelphia.

I must say that I am very excited about all of the sessions that I have chosen to attend, but I am really excited about seeing, face to face some of the great educators that I have connected with through twitter. So with that 66 days and counting.