Looking for an Internship for my Ed.D. Program

A requirement of the Ed.D. program at OISE (the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education) is a supervised “on-the-job” experience.  It new_design_oise_logomust be linked to both theory from our course work and field experience, and involve responsibility and accountability and the opportunity to perform effectively in a senior leadership role.

As we are a cohort of practicing educators, our Internship/Practicum is scheduled for the summer of 2017.  I have begun my search for a placement with my advisor, Dr. Carol Campbell.  She has suggested that I draft two paragraphs to provide a brief CV and my area of research.

To reduce my resume AND my research interests each to a paragraph each is not a trivial task, and so it has inspired a great deal of reflection and thought about both my history and my future, and the ways in which this “course” will be perfect for me.

Learning Music

My education has always been a mix of traditional learning, and self-directed learning.  In grade 11, the first real musician joined the staff of my high school.  I joined his stage band as pianist, then dropped Geology to take grade 9 music and learn to play the trombone.  Three years late I was a student at the University of Toronto, having auditioned successful, and been offered a scholarship.  This was based on grade 9, 11 and 13 music credits, a year of private lessons from a saxophone player (there being no trombonists in my small town), and a lot of “woodshedding” on my part.

Learning Computer Science

When I completed my four years as an undergrad, I was ready to apply to the Faculty of Education for a B.Ed., and certification as a teacher.  I had the prerequisites to teach Music and Mathematics, but was intrigued by the description of Computer Science, which included the phrase “no prerequisite”.  Having never touched a computer, I signed up.  In a class with students who had full four-year degrees in Computer Science, I learned by doing:  completing class assignments, teaching in placements in high school CS classes, and working, working, working.  I won the IBM award upon graduation, and was offered a job teaching Music and Computer Science, in a year when most of my classmates remained unemployed.

My Resume

This cycle of a mix of formal training, on-the-job experience, and personal reading and reflection has served me well since then.  Among my credentials listed by the Ontario College of Teachers are specialist qualifications in Music and Data Processing, Principals’ Qualifications, a Master of Education from Brock University, and Supervisory Officer Qualifications for the province of Ontario.  Throughout my career I have pursued both personal learning and professional experience.  I have taught in two secondary schools, opened a third as department head, served as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, and then contributed four years as the Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Peel DSB.  I then developed my leadership skills over seven years as a Vice Principal in three schools, and am now in my fifth year as Principal at Brampton Centennial SS.

My Research

My research interests have evolved as I have completed half the coursework in the Ed.D. program.  Dr. Campbell helped me narrow my focus to “Personalized Assessment” one year ago, and now this has expanded to include “Personalized Curriculum” as well.  My utopian vision is of students with electronic portfolios spanning K-12, where each item has been validated by a teacher against criteria set out in curriculum documents, culminating in a credential granted based upon a mix of class and personal work.  I am hoping that through my Ed.D. work I can complete some of the foundational research, to permit such a future for our students.  As an educator who has worked with technology my entire career, I believe that there is unrealized potential in the ability of technology to support student learning by organizing work, validating learning, and analyzing feedback, in order to make students responsible for their learning.

My Internship

To do this groundwork, I believe I could learn more by working with our Ministry of Education, with scholars in the areas of 21st Century learning, instruction and assessment, and with organizations that support learning beyond the K-12 structure. I have asked Dr. Campbell to introduce me to those in her network who might be looking for 120 hours of “free” labour, and am hopeful that our search will result in some amazing learning for me next summer.  If you are looking for someone, or know someone who is, please contact me:  terry.whitmell@mail.utoronto.ca.

 

Dealing with Disappointment

We talk a lot about student engagement and motivation, but a whole lot less about what de-motivates, or disengages learners.

My personal “aha” this week is that one of the best ways to shut someone down is to have them experience a failure that they don’t understand.  Set up criteria, have them provide evidence of having met it, and then tell them they didn’t succeed, but without any explanation.

In my case, I know I’ll get the feedback eventually, and I’m sure it will make sense and I’ll eventually feel fine about it.  However, in the meantime, I’m investing all sorts of negative energy into trying to figure out where I went wrong.  This is wasted, unproductive energy that would be much better put to use moving forward, rather than wallowing in disappointment.

So, as teachers, working with students, we need to:

  1. Set, or even better co-construct, clear criteria for success.
  2. Assess and evaluate
  3. Provide both the pass/fail AND the detailed feedback, as close to simultaneously as possible.
  4. Determine next steps, and begin the cycle again.

As administrators, when hiring, we need to:

  1. Set clear criteria
  2. Assess and evaluate
  3. Provide both the decision AND the detailed feedback as close to simultaneously as possible.
  4. And if we are mentoring this teacher/TA/office-assistant then we need to set them back on the path with hope and optimism.

If we don’t, then we run the risk of shutting down the very initiative, enthusiasm and energy that we are trying to nurture.

Laying the Foundation for Innovation – #IMMOOC Weeks 3 & 4

courosleadership

It’s been a couple of busy weeks for me, mostly because I have been involved in George Couros’ fourth foundational activity:  “Create meaningful learning experiences for educators”.  It was the first week of the month, so it began on Monday with a staff meeting.

We looked at the theories of action that we framed at our September meeting, and placed them in context within the Ontario Ministry of Education goals, the School Board Goals, and our existing School Success goals.  Our department teams then worked to craft this year’s department theories of action, and begin the work of a six-week Professional Learning Cycle. Department teams continued this work during our Professional Learning Day on Friday, will collaborate throughout the next six weeks, and will conclude the cycle at our November 18th Professional Learning Day.

During this time we will meet one more time, at our November staff meeting.  And since we’ll be in the middle of this learning cycle, we’re going to plan for sharing of best practices using technology, to support our teaching and assessment.  Our colleagues will present best practices within our Student Information System (particularly our use of notes to share information among our teams), how to access historical student data to inform practice, the new Read/Write functionality in Google docs, the support we can access via our ITRT (Instructional Technology Resource Teacher), and how to use  Google sheets for assessment.

So, I’ve been reflecting, and considering how well both these learning opportunities will support us to develop the 21st century skills our students need.  In the spring, I reflected on how we might achieve this in a paper, implementation-of-21st-century-competencies, I wrote for one of my courses relating to educational policy.  In my role as a Principal, I am continually making the connections from learner, to curriculum, to teacher, and to policy.  And I love that technology is making it easier to connect, communicate, share, and grow.  Your feedback would be greatly appreciated!

George Couros is modeling for us, by starting his YouTube channel with his #LeadMoment clips to share his leadership pointers.  There’s something about seeing a face, and hearing a voice, that brings ideas to life.  So perhaps my next challenge is to shift my weekly “From the Oak Office” section of our newsletter, to a video format.

Am I ready to move from the relative anonymity of a blog post, to the much more vulnerable video format?  Well, if I want my students and teachers to do so, guess I have to lead the way.

Keep posted!

 

When do we Innovate?

One more day of classes, and then formal exams begin at my school.  It’s Sunday morning, and I’m imagining my teachers’ struggle to decide whether to tackle that last stack of marking from the term, or head out to enjoy an amazing, sunny Sunday.

CourosI’m reading George Couros’ (@gcouros)“The Innovator’s Mindset – Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity”, or rather scanning it while procrastinating.

Each year I struggle, trying to decide when to reach out to my teachers to encourage innovation.  This week it’s “We’re still marking, I can’t think about next year”.  Next week it will be “Just getting everything organized from this year, and I’m ready for a break”.  And when they arrive for the first staff meeting of the year, on the first day of school, it will be “It’s too late now, I have my semester planned out”.

I’ve had reasonable success when our collaborative work occurs near the end of the first semester, and there’s time to make changes for the second semester.  But then there’s the question:  “Is it fair to our students to change our assessment, instruction, and evaluation for a course mid-year?  Aren’t we supposed to be consistent to ensure fairness for all students?”

Here’s some of what I’d like my teachers to hear from me, and consider sometime between now and when they begin to plan for next year:

  1. The curriculum expectations are a framework:  turn them into concrete learning goals in clear learner-language, and then have your students co-construct the success criteria with you.  You’ll be surprised what they might suggest:  maybe more observations and conversations, and few products?
  2. Think about what you’d like to experience in a 75-minute class, and ensure that what you plan incorporates some of what you’d enjoy.  Remember that while you are up and moving around the room, sometime your students are trapped in their desks.
  3. Think about some of the instructional strategies you’ve experienced in your professional learning activities this year.  If you liked them, work them into your practice, if you didn’t, take them out.
  4. Keep your eye on the ball.  Write your own mission statement for your course, and then check your work against this standard.
  5. Talk to your friends and colleagues.  Even those who are not teachers can provide you with excellent feedback on your ideas.

And what are my plans for next year?

  1. I’m going to clearly state my learning goals at each of our staff meetings, early release days, and professional learning days., and try modeling co-construction of success criteria, rather than “giving” them to my staff.
  2. I’m going to continue trying to make our time together as a staff meaningful, and not waste the valuable time together on activities we could do individually either before or after we meet.
  3. I’m going use ONLY instructional strategies that I want to see in our classrooms:  no more PowerPoint slide stacks with content that could have been posted or sent out via email.
  4. I’m going to work on language to express my mission statement, and share it each time we meet.
  5. I’m going to, again, try to blog, and reach out beyond my school community for feedback.

I’m hoping that the seeds we planted this year with the development of each department’s Theory of Action, with our viewing of “Most Likely to Succeed” http://www.mltsfilm.org/ , and with a continuing approach of saying “yes” to ideas, will be pay off as we reflect this summer.

Over the summer, I’ll blog more frequently, and use this as a means to capture and develop my ideas for innovation.  And maybe I’ll be brave enough to join our Peel DSB colleague, Tina Zita @tina_zita, and pull my thoughts together in a TEDx talk:  https://misszita.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/taking-a-leap-tedx-talk/

Feedback welcome!

 

 

Do you want your child to win a Nobel prize?

originalsI am 50 pages into Adam Grant’s new book:  Originals – How Non-Conformists Move the World.  His previous book, Give and Take – Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, made me question some of our competitive structures in the field of education, and this new reading has me saying “yes, yes, yes!”.

The table on page 47, has me pondering the ongoing conflict within my school community:  our parents are consistent in their wish for “doctor, engineer, lawyer” for their children, and it’s a challenge to support their children in their choices to opt for courses in music, drama, visual arts, construction, design and media.  But maybe they REALLY wish to have a Nobel Laureate in the family?  If so, a study published in the Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology in 2008 may help them see broader options for their sons and daughters.

In a comparison of Nobel-winning scientists  to their colleagues of the era between 1901 and 2005, winners were twice as likely to have MUSIC as a hobby, seven times more likely to participate in the VISUAL ARTS, 7.5 times more likely to engage in crafts such as WOODWORKING, mechanics and electronics, 12 times more likely to be a writer, and twenty-two times more likely to be a DANCER, ACTOR or other type of performer.

Grant also cited a current study indicating that people who started BUSINESS ventures in the USA were more likely than their peers to have leisure hobbies that involved drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture and literature.

As we assist our young people to make choices for the next school year, I’m certainly going to be encouraging them, as always, to select a balance of all areas of study.  Education should broaden, not narrow, our students’ perspective on the world.

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!