School Online – Journal – Days 31 to 34

Gradual Release of Responsibility

This is our goal for our students in their learning. As an administrator, it is also my goal for my teachers. We are now reaching the mid-point of the quadmester, and if my inbox can used as a measure, we have been successful.

Teachers are now busy reviewing their assessment data in order to report mid-term marks. The Ontario Ministry of Education has given school boards permission to modify traditional reporting processes, and in some boards this means there will be no midterm report cards.  In our district there are report cards, but they will be missing any learning skills or comments. This reduces some of the workload for teachers, but increases the potential questions parents and students might have, where a comment might have served to support a particular mark on the report.

We are also seeing an increase in teacher-to-teacher support, including workshops where they are sharing best practices.  Yesterday’s session, presented by one of our online science teachers, attracted more than 150 teachers.  We met in MS Teams and learned how one teacher is leveraging his tools to support student learning and engagement. While it was advertised to be an hour in length, it was more than 50% longer as teachers participated in a lively Q&A.  I joined in from a service station parking lot for the full two hours from welcome to conclusion.

In our admin team we are also streamlining our responsibilities, and shifting our work to those best-equipped to resolve issues. When it was proposed that we each run a simultaneous staff meeting, to send consistent messages to our teams, I was successful in lobbying for a single event.  Since any meeting was going to be more like a presentation than a truly interactive “meeting”, I argued that we would do a better job with one presentation, with all 500+ teachers in attendance.  We could then follow up with smaller meetings, so that teachers could truly “meet”, and interact with us.  (The smaller meetings will be planned to take place after mark reporting concludes next week.) After six or seven rehearsals, we somehow managed to do a “live” event, with one administrator speaking, a teacher-leader presenting the slides, and I, as producer, determining what would be streamed. As a first attempt it was a little rocky, but we did hold the event, and were ableti generate a video for those who arrived late, or could not attend. We are learning, learning, learning!

Our work this week, and for the next, will be to support those whose trajectories haven’t been consistently onward and upward.  We still have teachers who believe that email counts as synchronous instruction. And those who believe that a hard deadline of 2:45 pm should be enforced. And those who are struggling with issues beyond their control, and don’t yet know who can assist them. I will continue to welcome their emails, and work with our team to ease their way.

To complicate matters, word has gone out to our system about a change as we move into Quadmester 2.  I know this will generate concern among our school, among our “bricks and mortar” colleagues, and among our entire student population.  I am in a difficult political position, as I try to make sense of this.  My experiences as a teacher, system leader and administrator, as well as my observations over the past six weeks, put me in a difficult position when I consider the prospect for November.  I will have to decide how much of a voice I should choose to exercise, and whether it could have any impact for good.

My work teaching pre-service teachers will also be coming to an end in December.  They have chosen to create much larger classes with correspondingly fewer instructors for January.  And as I am new to the role, I’m first out.  So I will be looking for new opportunities, come the new year.

So back to today. I’m finally logging my first two days this week that are truly 0.5. But I am making sure that the half-day is spread out over the day, so that I can respond to emails within a timeline that is supportive of my teachers. It’s similar to my cycle as a Principal between walking the school, and answering emails at my desk.  I was a lot healthier doing the walking than I have been sitting in front of a computer for the past six weeks!

As we head into the weekend I hope that I can figure out a plan to increase my physical activity, while still remaining supportive of our teachers. And I will search for a way to support my mental health, and that of our teachers, as we forge ahead. Perhaps I need to “release responsibility” a little more effectively!

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