Staff meetings are like Classes

I’ve been reflecting on how similar the relationship is between Principal and her staff and that of each teacher and her class. And sometimes it’s not the positive aspects that come to the forefront.

For example, yesterday a teacher came to inform me that she might not be at the meeting because she needed to work with students after school. Instead of inquiring, and working towards a win-win, I responded emotionally, and triggered a similar emotional reaction in her. I recall the same reaction when a student told me he was going to miss a test due to a family vacation. Rather than honour the good aspects (being informed ahead of the event, the purpose of the absence, etc.) I jumped straight to the “rules”, and appeared to be inflexible and lacking empathy.

And after yesterday’s busy and active meeting, I worried about those who arrived late, those who left early, and those who didn’t ever arrive, rather than focussing on the excellent participation of the 80% of my staff who were there.

How many times did I choose the same path with my class?

However, this doesn’t mean that I should ignore those who missed important conversations from our meeting. Just as I would as a teacher, it is my job to follow up with each of them, and ensure that the learning happens. And I can’t let my personal feelings get in the way of my primary job: supporting each of them to be the best teacher they can be.

So, what do I have to do differently?

1. Be proactive in my communication of expectations.
2. Encourage my teachers to “keep me in the loop” where our expectations do not align.
3. Ensure that there are natural consequences to attending or not attending meetings and PD, and then let the natural consequences run their course.
4. Plan for meaningful meetings and PD that don’t waste my teachers’ time or energy.
5. Take a deep breath, and keep my emotions from derailing the excellent work my teachers are doing with our students.
6. Figure out how to earn back the good-will that I lost.

I have an amazing group of teachers who, without exception, are focused on their students’ well being and achievement.

I need to celebrate!

Sharing my School with the Community

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doorstopsThe Brampton Centennial Secondary School booth at the @peelschools Advantage Showcase demonstrated some of the best qualities of our school. It was designed by our Construction teacher, built by our students, and showcased student photography that brought BCSS to life. In the middle of the display was our school’s video, which you can check out at http://bcssonline.com.
The parents and students who visited us asked great questions, as they “shopped” for their next school. Some seemed disappointed when we didn’t have a Regional Program like IB or SciTech, but were intrigued by our focus on on video communication, and our work to build video literacy, integrated into ALL our courses.
So, what is our next step? Well, “seeing is believing”, so I need to get them into our school. We’re hosting an Open House on Thursday, December 5, 2013. Our goal is to showcase our school, not only to the grade 8 students who will be attending BCSS next year, but to our entire community. But, how do we get them there?
We’ve announced it on our website, sent a Synervoice message home to our families asking them to save the date, we’ll have it on our electronic sign, and on Saturday we handed our out student-made door-stops, with labels reminding them that “Doors Open @ Brampton Centennial SS”.
What has worked for you? How have you convinced your community to take time to get to know you?

Project-Based Professional Development

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This Friday the teaching staff of Brampton Centennial Secondary School participated in our first full Professional Learning Day. As Principal, and lead learner, I chose to apply some of my learning about planning and instruction to our day’s activities.

Here are the Principles that this Principal followed:

1. Choose the simplest technology for the task
* paper not PowerPoint (for the Agenda and Exit Card)

2. Design backwards
* begin with the Ministry and Board requirements
* layer use of technology, innovative instruction, and collaborative tools on top of the content

3. Honour learning styles
* communicate, don’t lecture
* provide flexible frameworks and timelines
* clearly outline assessment criteria

Our teachers had organized themselves in Professional Learning Cycle teams at the previous week’s “Early Release” session, so they were ready to begin; some at the Reflect stage, some ready to Plan. The work of each team supported one of the Ontario Ministry of Education’s four “Pillars” of Literacy, Numeracy, Pathways, or Community, Culture and Caring, and also linked to one or more of the Peel District School Board’s System Goals.

We began the day with breakfast (food is always good!), and then our teams departed to work. A few hours later, we reconvened, and teams submitted their Exit Cards, which restated the focus of their work framed as a “Theory of Action”. With this focused statement of intent, our teams are now prepared to Act in their classrooms. Though we’ve not yet introduced “Instructional Rounds” to our staff, we’re planting the seeds for work in this area later in the school year.

The feedback we received on this half of the day was overwhelmingly positive: one teacher told me that this was the best PD he had experienced in a decade. And I believe that the work of the morning served to set a positive tone for the more traditional “presentation” format of the afternoon, where we were presented with information on Anxiety in Adolescents.

I plan to continue to model processes and tools, hopeful that my teachers will recognize those they might wish to try in their classrooms. I will continue to take risks with my staff, and reflect on the results, be they good or bad. And I will, I know, love being back in the role of “teacher”, if only for a few PD days a year!

Use of Twitter as a Presentation Tool

Last evening I had the pleasure of listening to Alec Couros (@courosa) at the Leadership Launch for Peel District School Board’s Mississauga Field Office.  His engaging presentation included video and audio clips, layered with comments from the audience via the hashtag #peelprez.

As I was listening, and reading the Twitter feed, interspersed were Tweets from Alec himself.  But he was talking, and clicking through his presentation!  How was he Tweeting?

I figured out that he had prepared tweets to correspond to many of his key slides, and had set them up to be sent as he reached each new topic.  It was wonderful to just listen, and not have to take notes.  And if I wanted to see more, I could just click on the link in the Tweet, and read more.

As teachers, we don’t often plan well enough to set up this complex a presentation.  However, if I’m presenting for my colleagues at a meeting, or contributing to a conference, I’m certain this will be a new “trick” in my “bag of tricks”.

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I’m so proud of my school, and here’s the video that will let you know why. We have amazing students, a fabulous teaching staff, and a community that understands why we are known as the “best kept secret in Brampton Ontario”!