When I entered the teaching profession, I had what I thought was a solid understanding of how a classroom works. I knew what types of behaviours were acceptable, what an assignment was worth, the content knowledge of the courses and how to get students to enjoy and understand my class. Then I entered the PDP program (Professional Development Program for teachers) and began my long journey to become a good teacher. My classroom for those first few years was completely different from what it ended up being in the sixteen years I taught. My students changed, my expectations changed as I went from action research, inquiry models through to reorganising my assessments (towards AFL, Differentiated Instruction, Formative and Summative assessments). I went from a class expectation that homework counted for 10% of their grade to summative chapter and unit demonstrations of learning to count for 100%. The learning in the classroom became the key piece and the culture that I encouraged became one of learning and respect.
When I started in administration, I realised that I had the same expectations as when I entered the profession 17 years ago. My vision of the school was still stuck in the 1990’s. Not that my school is the same as the 1990’s, just my idea of the school was. This has started me to think about how I became a good teacher and what aspects of my personality and love of learning I can bring to my new role as administrator.
I have begun to read many more resources on what it takes to become a great school and how the culture of the school depends on the administration’s actions. Todd Whitaker’s What Great Principals do Differently: 18 things that matter most has been an amazing resource that has re-ignited my desire to change and grow, realising that it is the people in the building that make the difference. His book, Shifting the Monkey, is helping me recognise and respond more appropriately to the various “monkeys” that people use everyday. Will Richardson’s Why School? has also helped me develop a better understanding of where we need to move if we want to keep school relevant.
However, all these resources would just be a mounting collection that sat on my dusty bookshelf (I’m not much of cleaner in my office) if I didn’t start conversations with people through social media. Through twitter I could chat with superintendents in other districts, teachers in other provinces and educators world-wide around topics that I felt important, giving me time to reflect and begin to develop my own philosophies around school, education and what it means to be a leader. I try not to connect what I do as leading or leadership, as it seems to be more hierarchical for me than I would like. The concept of shared, social leadership, where a title does not make the person has started to developed in this philosophy of mine. Leadership is everywhere and in everything, permeating the school, district and province, giving those a chance to step up and make lasting, critical changes to improve student learning. I have two new resources for this week: Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed (from my cursory glance, it seems to be about self-regulation) and Nikhil Goyal’s One Size Does Not Fit All. I think I am most impressed with Goyal’s book, as he is only seventeen and has some interesting ideas and commentary about the US education system that are important in our discussions on where we want British Columbia’s education system to move towards.
This blog, for me, has shifted from the day-to-day (week to week) activities that I have been involved as a new administrator towards an opportunity for me to solidify my thoughts on education. My next blog will be about my old philosophy of education.
Please comment or send me advice! I am always looking for new resources, contacts and ideas. If I have learnt anything as a teacher it is that I am definitely a Life Long Learner (I just don’t know how I became one)…..