As a school principal, I have the best job in the world supporting and inspiring educators to be the best they can be in making a significant difference to the lives of our children.
“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” ~Confucius
Schools should be beautiful and comfortable learning spaces, with learner well-being at the forefront. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter the circumstance. We need to treat others the way we want to be treated. Since the purpose in schooling is not to do well in school but to do well in life, it is our job to prepare students for the world, everything we do and say, must model the golden rule.
I am perhaps one of the luckiest people in education! In 2014, I was tasked to launch a highly innovative learning environment – a school of today. In so doing, I came to recognize what matters most to learners, both students and staff. The six areas, expanded below, speak to my present philosophy of education, developed throughout my 29 years in this vocation.
Collaborative Mindset and Learning Communities
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~ Helen Keller
As educators, we work alone or within four walls far too much. We need to shift from a single cell mindset to a collaborative mindset to remove barriers and to build teacher capacity. By working with others towards a collective vision, we impact student and teacher learning and allow more equity for all learners.
As an educational leader, I create Adobe Video Sparks to share my thinking and research, and to inspire learning. Both of the sparks below showcase the importance of shifting to a collaborative mindset through a Learning Communities model. Please consider viewing . .
Shifting to a Collaborative Mindset: https://spark.adobe.com/video/EyjFUlD3YDHrz
Learning Communities Transforming Learning: https://spark.adobe.com/video/Fjmxtp1qK3v5W
Moral Purpose and Clear Goals
Michael Fullan speaks about creating a shared vision that stems from what’s best for students and student learning……doing the right things to create an environment where students feel safe and encouraged to take risks, where colleagues feel supported and valued, and where all leaders are researching, reflecting, and taking action in a constant attempt to make the school (and student learning opportunities) better
Establishing and articulating clear goals sets the path in motion to realizing those goals and impacting student learning. In order to accomplish this, we must remember that we are all leaders in some capacity — whether it’s through professional learning, teaching or sharing of expertise and positive attitudes that create our climate and culture. We all have the power to affect change, and to contribute to a shared sense of moral purpose.
Creating one’s own local recipe makes for success. When goals are clear, we can align services with teacher learning needs.
Strengths Based Approach
Our job as educators is to meet learner needs. We recognize that students have diverse strengths, interests, and backgrounds. By differentiating instruction and focussing on learning strengths, we create a learning environment that meets the needs of all learners and challenges them to extend their knowledge and abilities. Professor John Abbott’s analogy of strengths-based learning is enlightening and can be viewed here:
Innovative Learning Environment
To further encourage educators to align with best practice, in support of all learners, it is imperative that we become experts on the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 7 +3 Framework for Innovative Learning Environments.
The principles highlight best practice for today’s learners and create a common language and understanding about our new target – what good learning looks like. The Principles of Learning became the foundational document for launching Norma Rose Point (NRP). The students of NRP explain these principles in practice:
If we believe that changing practice is dependent on the acquisition of new learning, then it is essential to cultivate meaningful learning opportunities and a culture of “getting better”. By modeling inquiry, we establish a culture of curiosity and learning rather than a culture of teaching. Inquiry determines the best course of action to improve student learning and to monitor and assess the effectiveness of the changes taken. If we do as Dylan Wiliam states, “Create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.”
This required shift in thinking to being constantly curious about our students’ learning will help to develop what Helen Timperley has coined adaptive expertise — the ability of teachers to inquire into their practice and use evidence to make decisions about ways to change the practice for the benefit of student learning — an ingredient critical to transformative pedagogical change.
Celebrating and Taking Risks
In closing, to expand further in regards to well-being, we need a culture of sharing and celebrating, and risk taking in education. Finding authentic ways for schools to share across families of schools will impact systemic change and build community.
Education isn’t about change as much as it is about not fearing change and the failure that goes with it. We have ideas but we often fear to implement them because it’s not smooth sailing so we satisfy ourselves with status quo. Why do we do that when we know in our hearts and minds that things should be done differently? Research tells us the fear of failure is completely over rated and that we are afraid, more than anything, about constructive criticism, which we should welcome. We need to remember that failure isn’t fatal.
“The only thing that makes people and organizations great is their willingness to be not great along the way. The desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of success.” ~Seth Godin
Godin highly suggests that we seek criticism and persist in our efforts. Whatever the status quo, changing it gives us the opportunity to be remarkable!
To end, I share my latest Adobe Video Spark that speaks to my educational leadership beliefs titled, Making Our Dreams Come True.