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The Learning Leader

January 21, 2017

This is the End

This week, brought the end of the first semester at my school. As it has been sometime since I was in a school full time, I forgot how frenetic the pace is. From the moment we began the semester, I was busy. In fact, I had to find a different way to describe how things were when people asked me about my new role and how things were going. I felt that I couldn’t keep saying that it was good but I was busy as that just became a constant state.

In November, I attended a conference for new administrators. One of the speakers asked us to take a moment and think about all the things we do in the day. As all of us agreed we were very busy, the idea was for us to reflect on the items that kept us busy. I made a list of all the things I do throughout the day. What I saw actually surprised me.

The Disciplinarian

When I began my new position, I read a number of articles on leadership styles. One style described in some literature was the disciplinarian – one who takes the approach that leadership is best accomplished through the use of a firm hand and punishment coupled with rewards. This is not who I am. I believe the development of meaningful relationships are key to addressing these issues. I am fortunate to work with a staff that believes this as well. However, during the first semester, I found that the bulk of what I did involved discipline issues. I spent time dealing with kids who skipped classes or were constantly late for classes. I dealt with students who were involved in fights or who were not completing their assigned tasks in the classroom. The school has policies related to these issues. I worked within the policy framework that exists and tried to manage all of the issues brought to my attention. I will admit that I did not speak with every single student who skipped a class or did not complete their homework. I tried to address the most significant issues – the students who were struggling the most with attendance or with their grades. Even then, I am not sure if I was as effective as I could have been.

The Observer

One really satisfying aspect of my job is that I get to visit classrooms in our school. I have a responsibility to observe and provide feedback to a specific group of teachers in our school. The administration team divides the teaching team and we complete two formal observations with our teachers throughout the course of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed doing this throughout the semester. I was able to sit down with my teaching colleagues and discuss the teaching and learning going on in their classrooms. I got to see the students interact with each other and with their teacher. I learned a lot too. I saw different ways to approach teaching and learning.

I dropped in on classes for informal observations and chats with teachers. Again, this was a rewarding part of what I did during the semester. However, I think I can do a better job of this next semester. I think I need to make myself more visible during non-instructional time as well. This is something I will work on in the coming semester.

The Student

In Alberta, our professional obligations as laid out in the Teaching Quality Standard, include the concept of teachers as lifelong learners. This is a concept that I believe very firmly in. We need to continually look at what we do in our classrooms and our schools to ensure the time we spend with students is effective. As a student of education and teaching, I still have a lot to learn. I would like to learn how to better address the issue of attendance in our school. Why do students make the decision to skip classes? If I’m honest, I made that decision a few times while I was in High School. But why do some of our students chronically miss classes? That is a question I would like to address, and, in doing so, hopefully come up with a method to bring our students back to classes.

I would also like to learn how to best address learning difficulties in our classrooms. Why do we have students who do not succeed? I recognize this is a complex question with more than one possible answer. There are so many variables at play. But, I want to spend some time looking at the factors we have control over and examine the impact they have on promoting, or not promoting, student learning in our classes.

One other item I would like to learn more about is how to further enhance and develop positive relationships in our school. When asked, our students generally describe our school as a friendly, safe environment. Our teachers say the same thing. However, I do see areas where that is not the case. I dealt with issues related to bullying and fighting during the first semester. I would like to know if there is more we can do as a community to address some of these issues. How can we promote a culture of mutual respect and care where all of our students, and our staff feel they are capable, contributing members of a caring community.

The Next Semester

I am excited at what the next semester will bring for our school. I am more confident about approaching some of the day to day management tasks that I am required to do. Over the past few months, I learned the policies and procedures I need to follow as we run a large school. I hope I will have more time to address the items I would like to learn more about. That is where I hope to spend the bulk of my time in the coming months. Perhaps I will find more time to write as well.

Thank you for spending some time reading my thoughts. As always, comments and feedback are welcome.

Have a great day,

Sean

 

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One Comment
  1. Gerry Varty permalink

    Honest reflection is always the foundation for growth, Sean. You have had a busy year so far, and your reflection reveals that you have uncovered many things to think about… that’s a good thing. I get worried any time someone enters a new job and thinks they have nothing left to learn.

    I’m glad to see you are looking at causal factors; as a profession, we seem to value effective responses too often. We see misbehavior, we respond with new rules. We see kids breaking rules, we respond with new consequences. Too seldom, we look for the reasons those behaviours might be happening, and address those. We forget to wonder ‘Why’, and ask ‘What if?’

    It seems strange, in a profession dedicated to teaching kids to question, to observe, and to learn, that we often don’t apply those qualities to the real-world issues we face every day.

    Keep asking questions!

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