Posted in Leadership, Uncategorized

A continuous reflective and collaborative journey . . .

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:

https://spark.adobe.com/video/oJ4U3di3Su2Sb

Inquiry Framework

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.”

Adaptive Expertise

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.

https://spark.adobe.com/video/4Ad2RiPbF6368

Posted in Principal's Corner

Personalizing Professional Learning

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 4.56.19 PMProfessional Learning at NRP is an on-going, every day process.  Working as part of a learning community, sharing a professional office, and collaborative planning creates a structure for dialogue and reflection, helps support learner needs and helps staff remain open to other ways of doing.  However, as educators, we also need to go deeper in our learning and growth.  Just as we believe in personalizing instruction for student learners, we need to personalize learning for staff members.  All staff members have a responsibility to improve their practice and the following Professional Learning Model supports a more personalized staff professional growth model.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.07.48 PM

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.08.52 PM

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.09.12 PM

Posted in Principal's Corner

The Peace Pod at NRP

IMG_3590Many who visit Norma Rose Point School are intrigued with our Peace Pod.  To preamble, our entire school is based on a Learning Community concept (otherwise referred to as pods).  Each pod (K, 1/2. 3/ 4/5, 6, 7/8) made up of three to five enrolling spaces has a name. Even our Music Studio in the Harmony Pod. Therefore, when we organized a passive sensory room, it became the Peace Pod.  

Located in the main hallway adjacent to the office, little ones only enter with a staff member — usually an education assistant.  For example, yesterday morning a child in grade 2 had a tough time transitioning to school after the holiday (she was screaming and crying).  I turned off the lights in the Peace Pod while turning on our special water lamp and our star ceiling lamp.  The child was able to enter with an education assistant, sit in the bean bag chair, watch the water bubble lamp change colours and settle within minutes.

Our Middle School students have the right to enter the Peace Pod when they need some alone time to recalibrate.  This often happens when they worried or upset about something.  

IMG_3591If a behaviour issue comes my way where the child is too angry to engage in a discussion, I invite them to chill in the Peace Pod which does wonders (yes, I would say it’s even miraculous).  In fact, often, the kids simply self-regulate themselves and they don’t need me to speak to them about their behaviour at all.  They enter a calm zone and are ready to re-integrate back to class.  

Some have asked the areas of research that support the Peace Pod so I point them to the following . . . 

Dr Stuart Shanker is the guru on self-regulation.  Here’s a very brief but insightful pdf http://www.self-regulation.ca/uploads/5/6/2/6/56264915/foundations_magazine-_self0regulation_by_stuart_shanker.pdf and some more detailed and focussed info:  https://self-reg.ca/self-reg/self-regknowledge-series/

Daniel Goleman’s work on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is worthy of noting.  This link in particular speaks to the research supporting SEL:  https://www.edutopia.org/blog/daniel-goleman-research-supports-sel-betty-ray

(PS Some schools use the Mind Up Program https://mindup.org to help students with the SEL and awareness.)  

IMG_3594Most of our K5 communities use the Zones of Regulation http://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html to help students be aware of how they are feeling and strategies to use to help them stay in the appropriate zone.  By providing students with “tools” (hands-on manipulatives they can use) and space (the Peace Pod is simply one of the go-to places as most communities have their own go-to places) then we are equipping students with the tools and strategies they need to make good choices without being told.  Our goal is to increase learner agency and voice — our Peace Pod is one avenue in doing so.  

Posted in Principal's Corner

A New School Year: Moments that Matter

Every year I begin the opening day staff meeting with a message.  This year, it was especially difficult for me to decide on a message.  I had so many ideas I didn’t know where to begin so I thought about what one of my mentors, Terry Howe a retired principal once told me.  If ever I was uncertain of where to begin (in reference to answering interview questions), he said to simply go to your core and think about what really matters to you and begin from there.  The result . . . Moments that Matter

https://spark.adobe.com/video/T3xOWrGW0XLH5/embed

Posted in Launching a School NRPS, Principal's Corner

NRPS Launch — Learners at the Centre

Just Word

(Reposting)

Norma Rose Point School (NRPS), a new and innovative learning environment, opened September 2014 to service the students within the University of British Columbia area.  NRPS is  two schools in one — K5 and Middle (6-8) — each has its own wing anchored by the grand entrance, school office, multi-purpose room and a library (referred to as the “School Learning Commons”).  The facility also has two gymnasiums, a Tech Studio, Music Studio, Foods Studio, rooftop garden and greenhouse.

The Learning Space

The school is set up with 9 learning communities — five in K5 and four in Middle.  Each community is made up of three or four classrooms grouped together by a common area (called a “Commons”), a small group work room and a Professional Office for staff.   Although each class will have its own classroom and homeroom teacher, one of the four walls in each classroom is a glass garage door that opens up into the  Commons to provide an opportunity for teachers and students in the learning community to work together.   It begs for collaboration to occur — capitalizing on teacher strengths and offering everyone in the learning community the best each teacher has to offer!

The Focus on the Learner

When we grew up we didn’t carry computers in our pocket, we didn’t have friends all over the world a click away and knowledge was primarily shared by teachers, textbooks and encyclopedias.  Now with an influx of knowledge at our fingertips, students can access it as readily as teachers.  Sometimes students know more, sometimes teachers know.  The focus is no longer on knowledge acquisition but on being a learner.  We are all learning constantly from each other. Students, staff and parents are all learners.

What are we trying to accomplish at Norma Rose Point School?  It’s stated in our tag line — “Learners at the Centre”.  Our job as educators is to meet learner needs.  We recognize that students have diverse strengths, interests, and backgrounds. By differentiating instruction, we create a learning environment that meets the needs of all learners and challenges them to extend their knowledge and abilities.

There’s so much educational jargon being used — self-directed learning, inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, game-based learning simulations, learning through play, eLearning and personalized learning.  Regardless of the jargon, our goal is to meet learner needs by focussing on Learner strengths, infusing technology in meaningful ways and collaborating with each other to be the best we can be.

Below are videos that describe what some of these approaches look like, and why they make sense for us to consider.

1. This video of PK Yonge School in Florida is by far the best video demonstrating new learning spaces and a new way of collaborating.

2.  Here’s a wonderful analogy of strengths-based learning by Professor John Abbott


3.  This series of engaging videos presents the views of Professor Stephen Heppell on the future of learning, schools and what it means to be a 21st century learner.  I’ve chosen four favourite ones — each is about 3 minutes long — although there are so many gems to choose from!

Learning Conversations (working as a team on doing it better — creating our own local recipe):

21st Century Schools  (What do we do vs what could we do? — Focus on Technology):


21st Century Learning (Opening our Minds, Hearts and Systems — Knocking down the barriers):

Schools of the Future (teachers as coaches; students and staff as learners):

Hopefully, the above videos contribute to a greater understanding on the direction we are taking at Norma Rose Point School.

Just Word