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 Learning Communities, Principal's Corner, Uncategorized

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

I used to think that I could make a difference.  Now, I know that only WE can make a difference.

A few years ago my 3 yr old son asked me, “Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up.”  Know that my son’s world was all about fire, police and paramedics. So I said, I want to do exactly what I do now — I want to be a school principal.  He looked at me with disappointment and said, “But don’t you want to help people?  I explained that’s exactly what I get to do.

My mission statement for the past 25 years has been “to make a difference in the lives of others”.  I’m sure all of us have made a difference to a few.  But now my mission statement is to work in community with others to make a significant difference for the masses.

Everyone can dialogue, share, cooperate and go back into their own room or silo and do their own thing.  There are a lot of great innovative efforts happening in various classrooms, in various schools, in various districts.  That’s awesome, but how can those single efforts become transformative in schools.  It can only be done by working in community.  

In community means tcropped-img_31641.jpgeams of educators at a site working together to support teams of students. Every educator in a school needs to be part of a learning community, dialoguing daily with other team members to contribute ideas to create an action that the team owns — co-planning, co-teaching and co-learning together to meet learner needs.  

Educational transformation can only happen through collaborative efforts and collective action.  So we need to eliminate the internal walls of schools to unite learners — both teachers and students.  We also need to eliminate external walls of schools by embracing community members so that they too can contribute to making a difference to a child.  In order to go from innovative to transformative, we need to travel in a bus together rather than in individual cars.

There are two proverbs that are foundational to educational transformation:

It takes a village to raise a child  AND

If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.

That says it all.

Posted in Mother's Corner, Uncategorized, Wisdom

I AM

As I was cleaning out my office, I came across some cards titled, Manifest Your Magnificence for Kids, and one comment jumped out at me.

It reminded me that I AM are the two most powerful words in the world, for whatever we put after them becomes our reality.

So . . . be mindful of how you finish the I AM sentence because it relates to what you end up thinking of yourself and how you feel.

Posted in Mother's Corner, Reflection, Uncategorized

Determined to Succeed

We set up an obstacle course at the playground today.  My six year old son Massimo went first and logged 1:20.5 (one minute, 20.5 seconds).  I went next and logged 1:43.  “Dad” turned in a time of 1:00 flat.  So Massimo enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity to beat his Dad and logged 0:57.  Determined to beat my husband’s time I logged 0:43.  Massimo, without doubt, clocked 0:35.2!

In chatting, Massimo told me that he KNEW he would beat our time.  He said, “I knew I went too slow so I knew I could beat daddy and you.”  I asked if he at least considered that he might not win and he looked at me with curiosity and with conviction said, “No!” (like what a silly question to ask).

Thanks Massimo for reminding me to be determined, without thought of failure.  Because that’s how goals are surpassed.