Sunday, October 21, 2012

Presence and Intent

The Richmond Association of School Administrators hosted their biennial retreat this past weekend at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in beautiful Whistler, BC.  As the first village snowfall of the season came, we engaged in professional conversations about "Leveraging our Leadership Through Times of Change". 
Thursday night's keynote speaker was BC educator Tom Schimmer.  He gave us some helpful reminders of what stage staff may be at in terms of willingness and capacity to make change.  Tom's humorous style and ability to tell stories made the session easy to follow and related well to the environments we are all facing.
Friday we had some engaging conversations facilitated by Diana Cawood and former Richmond District administrator, Stephanie Hardman.  We spent some time analyzing our "best selves" and discussed how we need to remember the values that lead to those examples.  The opportunity to connect with feeder-school families was beneficial and has prompted us to schedule time to connect with one another more regularly.  Friday concluded with a dinner and social event that highlighted just how likeably human all of the people in the group are, proving that each of us is so much more than "professional educator". 
Saturday had a slightly slower pace and concluded the weekend with some EdCamp-style conversations on wide-ranging topics including Assessment, the BCEd Plan, Technology in the Classroom and Student Engagement.  The most important element to these discussions was recognizing and sharing with each other the passion we all have for what we do, and promoting the opportunity to connect with each other to share the ideas, practices and philosophies.
A Google Doc of the weekend can be found here.  The conversation all weekend was rich, but two things stood out to me more than anything else: 
#1 Intent must be clear
This is not a new idea, but I was reminded that while my intent may be clear to me, it can be easily misinterpreted by others.  Any intent needs to be clearly articulated, but it also must be supported by consistent behaviours.  While the discussion reminded many of Simon Sinek's "Start With Why", I reflected upon a video by Dan Pink I stumbled across earlier in the week titled "2 Questions".  If our sentence is clear to everyone, then the intent, or "Why" we are doing something should be understood by all with whom we work.
#2 Presence matters.
While this idea is not new either, I was reminded of both physical and emotional presence at the retreat and in a couple of circumstances this past week.  I made a point to get out of my office on Wednesday, and observed several classes.  In each example, I was fully engaged in the class and activities and got feedback from students and teachers, thanking me for my "presence".  The students were excited that I was taking an interest and participating in what they were doing, and the teachers were proud to showcase the efforts of their students and of the new things they were trying in class.
On a more personal note, I also got the chance on Wednesday to watch my eldest son participate in the "Fun Run" at Minoru park.  I got to see him as he approached the finish line, and the look on his face and the elevated effort once he saw me was palpable.  The run was at 4:30 PM, which is much earlier than I usually get home from work, and my son told me after he finished that he was worried I wouldn't be able make it.  That stung a little, because he needs to know that I would never miss an important event in his life, but the appreciation in his face and the extra effort that he gave when he saw me reminded me that staff and students are the same.  Everyone appreciates being seen and will work that much harder when someone who is fully-engaged and "in-the-moment" is there to cheer them on.
Thanks to the RASA Pro-D committee for organizing the event and to all of my colleagues for inspiring my thinking and contributing to my enjoyment of the time in Whistler.

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