It takes a village…

Helping handsMy wife and I live about 15,000 kilometres from my in-laws. We have great ways to stay connected. We phone, we Skype (note, this is now a verb), we follow each other on Instagram and Facebook. But my sister-in-law also uses Tinybeans, a closed sharing network designed primarily for parents to share moments in a child’s life with family and friends who can’t be along for the ride at every moment.  It is also marketed as a means of capturing the story of your child’s ‘growing up’.

‘Canadian’ Uncle Peter and Auntie think it’s wonderful!   While I was catching up on previous posts early this morning, there was a video ‘starring’ my 2 1/2 year old nephew.  Here he is, as is pretty typical for a toddler, playing with buckets of water.  He’s filling them; he’s dumping them.  Sometimes, he’s watering the plants with them.  He’s asking questions. He’s wondering things out loud.  And, this morning, HE’S COUNTING THEM. OUT LOUD. AND WONDERING IF THERE ARE ANY MORE. Although this activity isn’t prompted, it’s immediately supported by his Mum.

I capitalized this interaction because it is a terrific example of the perfect blend of play and learning. It’s self-directed but supported. It’s interactive and social. Mother and child are talking about water and buckets. But it could be anything. When my son was my nephew’s age, it was hubcaps.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law, along with their friends and family – both near and far 🙂 are a wonderful, knowledgeable support network. They will foster learning in this child (as well as his younger sibling and soon-to-arrive cousin) because they all recognize the importance of social interaction as part of learning.

But not all children have this network. Not all children are surrounded by an accessible, knowledgeable and supportive adult group.  And not all parents or caregivers have this knowledge base nor have the opportunity to spend this kind of quality time with their child(ren).

This raised some questions in my mind. Questions to which I wish I had answers.

So I leave it to you… Please comment, question, ponder or even answer some of these in the comments section.

  • If the above-mentioned kind of ‘pre-school’ learning is important, what role can public education play to support a child’s early learning?
  • How can educators get out into communities to work with new parents?
  • How can education or early learning systems get to where they are most needed?
  • Will a fostering of life-long learning in schools impact the next generation of children as these ‘life-long learners’ become parents and/or caregivers?
  • When I go back into a school as a principal, is there something I/we can do to support the early learners in our community before they get to school?

Or add your own.

Questions to ask PQP pt 1&2

Later on today, I will be speaking with candidates from OPC’s Principal Qualifications Program Parts 1 & 2 about my journey as a connected school leader. I always find it funny when I get asked because I don’t see the ‘connected’ part as a separate part of my role. I see it as integral to what I do.

The School Level Leadership pillars of the Ontario Leadership Framework talks about the importance of building relationship and of nurturing a collaborative culture. I find it critical to reach out to the education world beyond your building. If you don’t, think of the expertise your missing.

To the candidates, I’m sure you’ll have some questions for me. And I’ll be happy to answer them.  But I also have a series of questions for you as you think about school leadership as a possible next step in your teaching career. There is really no order of importance or perceived insight to these questions. This is the result of a 30-minute ‘brain dump’. Others may choose to add questions in the comments. You may choose to reflect on them publicly there as well. I look forward to meeting with you today.


Food for thought

What will the critical skills be in the world for which we are preparing our students?

Whose world are we preparing students for?

What technology do you think people are using?

Are you technically proficient?

Are you prepared to be an agent of change?

Can technology have a positive impact on student learning? If so, how?

Can technology have a positive impact on your work? If so, how?

If you’re looking to be a lead learner, are you connecting yourself to a world of learners?

What about the Ontario Leadership Framework? What pillar(s) might connecting be able to enhance?

What tools would you expect staff to be able to use?

What tools would expect students to be able to use? What tools do they use?

What’s different about the world in which we live now in comparison to the world in which you lived when you where in school? What’s different about your classroom, both physically and pedagogically, and the one you were in as a student?

Getting ready for ‘Friday’ afternoon

A principal colleague of mine shared an analogy for describing the passage of time in a school year. A former principal had passed it on to her. She treats each school year like a week and assigns each month a ½ day. September is the equivalent of Monday morning, October is Monday afternoon; November equals Tuesday morning, etc…
We have arrived at Friday. As a matter of fact, Friday afternoon is right around the corner.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, here are a few reminders to help get through ‘Friday’ before the weekend is upon us.

1. Be at your best. Joe Atherton, a mentor of mine, once told me that I needed my best teaching in May and June. Students need engaging, relevant activities all year long. But this is crucial now. Cross-curricular, challenging, engaging and interesting should be your buzz words.
2. Keep yourself at your best. We have difficult jobs. We have high expectations of ourselves as individuals and as a profession. We move at a quick pace. To maintain that, we need rest, exercise and healthy choices. Know when to work hard but know when to stop.
3. Be diligent and vigilant. Many students struggle with the pending end of the school year. They are going to miss friends, miss structure, and miss routine and, yes, some of them will even miss us. They show that struggle in many different ways. A common one is to push behaviour boundaries. Be diligent in your commitment to remain fair and consistent in your expectations. Be vigilant when supervising students in your classroom, the hallways, the yard and other common areas. Take advantage of the relationships you have built up all year with our students. They know you; you know them. That’s important to remember.
4. Be OK with the idea that you probably didn’t complete all the things you set out to complete. The wonderful thing about our curricula in Ontario is that it is built on ‘Big Ideas’. If you fret over the small menu items, you’ll go mad. Let it go. Focus on doing less, but doing it better.
5. Be prepared and plan for the minutia. Remember that there are responsibilities at year-end (report cards, OSRs, packing/preparing for cleaning, etc…) Don’t let them creep up. Plan to tackle some of these tasks ahead of time. Set a schedule for each small task.
6. ‘Friday’ tends to be a busy day. Keep everyone informed of what’s going on. This helps everyone (students, parents, staff, community) manage ‘Friday’ a little better and manage it together.
7. Have fun. Learning new things as well as reflecting on past learning should be a celebration.

This is by no means a ‘Words to live by’ or ‘Seven critical things every educator must know’, but just the ramblings of a teacher who has been through ‘Friday afternoon’ from the classroom and the office almost a dozen times each. I hope, if you got this far, you found it helpful.