The job of educator is a tough one, especially in the politically-charged climate of contract negotiation years. Teachers, support staffs and administrators are all challenged to work with widely-diverse student groups, all the while looking to adapt and improve their practices to reflect the ever-changing landscape of education and the world in general. Recently, a friend sent me this link, and it served as a reminder of why I (and so many others) got into this fantastic profession in the first place. The job of teacher is incredibly taxing, but equally rewarding. Looking at the list in the article, I found myself nodding often in agreement. Why become a teacher? To experience personal growth and continue to be a student; to pay it forward and to give back; to get to work with kids everyday; and to motivate others by my example (part of why I got into Administration).
It is sometimes easy to forget all the good that is happening around us in education and when we get new documents from the Ministry of Education and the revisions to Curriculum, some begin to feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the perception that educators around the province are not already doing several of these 'new' ideas. But the documents, at first glance, seem to provide much greater freedom for educators and their students, being less prescriptive, open for greater exploration in detail and depth, and allowing more linking of concepts across curricular areas. The key for schools and its leaders is to take this freedom and encourage change in practice, giving teachers permission to try new and innovative things to help improve student engagement.
Having just participated in several very deep and meaningful conversations on this past Friday's Professional Development day, I am excited and believe we are on the right path. There were conversations about balancing the management and leadership responsibilities within school-based administration and our role in helping schools embrace new curriculum documents and making them work for staff and students. Friend and colleague Jim Allison wrote about the responsibilities of being a school-based administrator very eloquently on his blog, Expand My Thinking. He writes of needing to stay connected with staff and students and building the relationships that foster trust and communication. In order to be effective, the Principal must demonstrate ability to perform the Management responsibilities, while still pushing the organization forward with reflective questioning and challenging of issues that seem at odds with the mission of the school.
At Burnett, we are constantly engaged in conversation, and I am tasked with asking the right kinds of questions that encourage reflection, thinking and sharing. At upcoming staff meetings, we will be asking the questions, "What are some things we are struggling with?" and "What are the supports you need to address these issues?". In Educational Facilitator meetings, we have begun the conversations around the new curriculum documents and the freedoms the new directions have seemingly afforded us by asking "What are the things we all believe in (across departments)?" and will follow up with questions like "How do we teach and assess those things?". The conversations will continue to be very rich and stimulating. The intent behind them is to direct our actions and future Professional Development days, as we continue to adjust our Assessment practices, adopt the new curriculum, increase the depth of content exploration and link concepts across departments.
It is an exciting time to be an educator, but it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I need to keep asking questions that promote thought and reflection, while acknowledging all the good that I see. The appreciative lens approach to improvement is working, but the gentle nudge of thought-provoking questions and discussion is at the core of Leadership, which is the responsibility of all those entrusted with taking our schools and the education profession into the future. I am up for the challenge.