How are YOU Part of the Story?

You can accomplish anything in life, provided you do not mind who gets the credit

-Harry S. Truman

I’m currently into the early stages of Good to Great by Jim Collins, and one of the overarching themes has been the importance of being willing to let others take the credit when things go well. As I read this, I immediately thought about Trace and Ellen and the success they’ve experienced with the senior girls soccer program. When speaking with them, they never talk about the work they have done. As coaches, they speak about the team, the way the girls work together, the way they support each other, the way they push each other to become better, and the way they have grown together. Our senior girls soccer program has gone from good to great. Trace and Ellen accomplished a great feat, and neither of them were concerned about getting the credit. 

I think about our adult learning, and how proud I am of the work we are all doing. The learning is not restricted to just our teachers, it’s all hands on deck. It is evident that the EAs, our custodial staff, and our admin assistants are a part of our learning. Their finger prints are all over our growth and their impact is especially evident with our most vulnerable and reluctant learners. Key to this learning is the work of our learning facilitators, Steve and Shantel. While they are vital to our growth, they will be the first to point to the impact Brenda has had on them as learning leaders, and how she continues to play a role in their work. While their impact is immense, none of them will stand up and say, “for it is I that has caused this learning to occur”. Even just writing that seems so absurd, which is a testament to their humility.

Our soccer program and our adult learning are  just two examples, and there are so many more I could include, such as:

  • our early learning program, especially the growth in our literacy skills in the early years
  • our ever-evolving athletics program that is reaching more student athletes every year
  • our student leadership program that is continuing to flourish under our teacher leadership
  • our programming for students who struggle with the regular content
  • the evolution of our parental engagement

I’m sure I’m missing other examples, and my apologies to those I may have overlooked.

These programs do not grow through good luck, they require the leadership that you provide. Hopefully as you are reading this you are reflecting on your role in the growth that is happening at Waldheim School. Hopefully you are thinking about how you are part of our story. I’d invite you to contemplate the following questions:

  1. Are the kids who happened to be born between 1999 and 2013 coming to their school, or are they coming to your class?
  2. Do you believe that just because something worked yesterday does not mean it will necessarily work tomorrow? Do you feel you have the flexibility to deal with that?
  3. Are you a school teacher, or a classroom teacher? (I need to credit @gcorous with that question from his book, The Innovator’s Mindset)
  4. Are you a change agent, and how do you model this for your students and peers?
  5. In relation to #4, what are you learning about this year, and how is it impacting you, your students, and your colleagues?

When I think about the great programs that are occurring in our school (and in our school division as a whole), I think about the quiet leaders that working to make this happen. I think about how Trace and Ellen would answer those 5 questions as they relate to their soccer program, and I’m pretty sure I know what they’d say. As Steve, Shantel, and Jesse discussed at our last PD day together, one of the greatest impacts to student learning, based on John Hattie’s work (found here), is collective teacher efficacy. As we continue to strive for greatness as a school, think about your role and remember, you are an important member of the team, and your gifts are needed.

Here’s what is on the horizon this week:

Monday:

  • Brenda is hosting two new PSSD SERTs for the morning
  • All teacher staff meeting after school (agenda)

Tuesday:

  • Bruce away (partial am only)

Wednesday:

  • Halloween sock-hop (see Brittney’s email from earlier this week)

Thursday:

  • Post-Halloween sugar crash 🙂

Friday:

  • 7 – 12 progress reports due to the office
  • Sr. girls volleyball playoffs here (after school)

As always, create a great week!

 264 total views,  2 views today

Where Are You Pointing Your Telescope?

It was a perfect night for star gazing. Not a cloud in the sky, the fall air was crisp and cool, and the moon shone brightly over the city. Bobby’s teacher,  @blaine_gaudet had arranged for the grade 6 class to meet at the observatory at the University of Saskatchewan on Friday night as they continue to study the solar system in their science course. While they were there, the students had the opportunity to view many of the displays and artifacts in the observatory. They were able to speak with two experts (U of S astronomy students) who would answer their questions and extend the kids thinking with questions about space. It was a fun night, and Bobby wanted to share this experience with his aunt Susan. My sister, who teaches in Saskatoon, has always been close with Bobby, so it was no surprise when she agreed to come along on the field trip.

Upon our arrival, we were’t sure what to expect. We didn’t know how many other students would be joining the group, nor did we know exactly what we’d be looking at through the telescope. What we did know, however, was that we’d have an opportunity to learn through looking, listening, and asking questions. We were curious about things. Bobby asked, “I wonder if that’s a planet or a star beside the moon?” My sister wondered where the space station was, and if it were observable that night. I wondered if Starbucks would be open late enough to get a cappuccino after. I actually wondered if we’d be able to catch a glimpse of Saturn and her beautiful rings. We enjoyed our time, learning many cool things. For instance, it never dawned on me that the telescope through which we were looking was constantly moving, just ever so slightly. This movement is designed to keep time with the movement of the Earth, thus maintaining a focus on the target. We did get to look at Mars and the moon, but alas, not at Saturn. It was an amazing time, and one I’m sure we’ll do again in the future. What struck me was the conversations that occurred on the ride home. We were actually filled with more questions than when we first set out for the evening. We looked at the night sky in a different way, and noticed things that we may not have prior to this.

It was a night of real learning.

I then started thinking about the learning that is happening on a daily basis in our school. Are students walking in with a rough idea of where they are going for each class? How can this mindset benefit them? Are students able to build on prior learning, or is everything ‘new’ each class? I wonder about where you ‘point the telescope’ in your room? We looked at 3 things, just 3, and it was plenty for a 90 minute session. How often are you moving your ‘telescope’? We were all able to look and learn, the facilitator did not say, “students you only get to look at the moon, parents, you get to look at the Pleiades”. What are the ways you are inviting #allstudents to look at and learn about ‘the Pleiades’ in your classes?

It was cool to see a kid (anyone now in their early 20’s will be known as a ‘kid’ to me) from the U of S, with no formal teacher training bringing MPSC to life. I was reminded of the simple ingredients that were brought together to create an authentic, engaging learning experience for all 30-plus people who were there that night. No desks. No notes. No SmartBoard. No worksheets. There was plenty of choice, a lot of conversation, tons of side-by-side learning, and a lot of freedom for the kids and parents to learn in many different ways.

What a great night!

Here’s what’s on the horizon this week:

Monday:

  • Bus driver meeting & bus evacuation drill 9:00 am
  • 9 – 12 Staff Meeting
  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Wednesday:

  • Dental screening (gr. 1 & 7)
  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Thursday:

  • Picture retakes
  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: what are you wondering about?

As always, create a great week!

 454 total views,  1 views today

What are You Looking At?

It feels like Mother Nature is trying. Trying to bring back sunny skies and warmer weather. We can hope that the weeks ahead bring normal to above normal temperatures as our farming families continue to work on bringing in the crops. I’m hoping for warmer weather for our athletes that are playing outdoor sports this fall, like our cross country runners or our soccer players. And finally, I’m hoping for warmer weather for those little ones who will be ringing our doorbells in 17 nights, as kids and parents venture out for Halloween night.

Last week was a bit of a rough one as I felt pulled in many directions, all the while, suffering from my annual autumn cold. I’ve learned over the years that there are somethings I can always come to count on in September and October, including back to school nightmares (still have ’em) and a cold or two. When a person is feeling under the weather or feeling overwhelmed, it is easy to get caught up in a negative spiral. This may include things like negative talk, feelings of frustration, a quick temper, or failing to see all the good around us. I felt myself heading that way this week, until a conversation helped me refocus.

I had a chance to talk to Corinne about the PD she was a part of on Friday, 5th. For some reason I was expecting her to say it wasn’t a great use of her time, or that she could have gotten more work done at school. I’m not sure why I expected that, Corinne has never uttered a negative word about division led PD, rather, she has always been a strong believer in the learning that happens when adults get together. I think it was my mindset that caused me to anticipate a different answer. I was in a low place. What she did say was exactly what I needed to hear. She said, “it was amazing! The lady talked to us about focusing on the 90%”. After some discussion, Corinne explained about the importance of focusing on the positive people and positive things around us. She said when you really stop and look you see that for the most part, things are really good around us. It’s our choice where we place our focus.

Just the nudge I needed. I left the office and went to look for the 90%, and it was easy to find in our building. Kids having a ball in the gym, students working in the hallways on their independent studies, classrooms buzzing with engaged kids, teachers creating opportunities for kids to celebrate their heritage, teachers creating Reader’s Cafes, SERTs celebrating evidence of growth, students starting work experience programs, caretakers spending time in classrooms listening to kids, and Porter, of course Porter! If I’m ever wallowing in the depths of the 10%, I know where I need to go, and that’s back into your rooms and into our hallways.

It also makes me think about the choices we get to make everyday in our classrooms and in our interactions with our students. As our parent/teacher conferences approach, what are you planning to focus on? The 90% or the 10%? How will your students and their parents feel about learning at #WaldheimSchool? That’s not to say that we never share information that parents may be uncomfortable with (although I know that has already been communicated by you). We get to decide how we do this, we get to choose if it’s the 90% or the 10% we focus on. It’s about our mindset.

Here’s what is on the horizon this week:

Monday:

  • 5 – 8 staff meeting

Tuesday:

  • classroom visits

Wednesday:

  • Bruce away (am)
  • P/T conferences night 1 (supper will be provided)

Thursday:

  • P/T conferences (supper will be provided)

Friday:

  • Day in lieu

As always, create a great week!

 360 total views,  1 views today

Dad Was a Good Fisherman

Even the weather can’t put a damper on the wonderful feelings that have been created over the past few days. There are so many incredible things for me to be thankful for, from our amazing staff, and the learning we did together Friday, to my wonderful family, to the ability to spend some time at Waskesiu on Sunday, to the fun we will be having during our games night. So many wonderful things in my life. I’m also excited about the week ahead, and the addition of another family member at #WaldheimSchool. Briane Saathoff starts tomorrow, and I’m thankful for that.

As I mentioned, our family made a quick trip up to Waskesiu and Elk Ridge on Sunday. We spent the cold afternoon at the Discovery Center, followed by a delicious latte, and then looking for wildlife. The afternoon wrapped up with a tremendous turkey supper at Elk Ridge. Whenever we venture up north, my thoughts always wander back to my father, and the times we spent together there as a family. My father made a modest living from the business he operated, but he always made sure we would be able to spend a week or two at Waskesiu. We’d stay in the same cabins every year, and while they were small and, well, ‘rustic’, we felt like we were the richest people on earth. One of my favorite memories is of the times my father and I would head out early in the morning to try our luck fishing. I have no clue how many fish we caught over the years, that wasn’t what was important to me. What was important, and what I remember so clearly, was the time I spent with my father. Now that he has passed, I know I can never have those moments again, however, what I can try to do is remember why it was so enjoyable, and try to be there for my kids the way my father was for me.

Something I will always have, however, is my dad’s tackle box. This box of fishing lures, extra line, a filleting knife, some pliers, and other items a fisherman may need still sits in my parent’s garden shed. I know some of the favorite hooks in there as well. If you’ve fished, you may recognize spoons like the Len Thompson five of diamonds or red and white, or the rapala floating lure. These were some of his favorites, and he always seemed to have success with them. This success, however, was not simply because of the lure on the end of his line. I used these as well, and he always seemed to catch more fish than I did. No, it was more than the tools he had access to, it was the way he used them, and it was his intuition and his patience. Dad did not simply cast his hook at random, he knew the signs to look for, and knew when, and more importantly, when not to fish. The more I think about, the more I realize, my dad was a pretty good fisherman.

It makes me think about assessment and about our conversations from Friday morning. We talked a lot about getting to know our kids, about meeting them where they are, about using assessment to inform, about working together, and about believing that as a group we have the ability to help students achieve success (I believe Jesse called that collective teacher efficacy). I think about the tackle box we have access to for our assessments and am reminded of all the shiny, colorful lures I was tricked into buying. Thinking of your experience in education, what shiny, new assessment tools have come along? Were they effective? Just as it wasn’t the hooks my dad used but how he used them, it isn’t the tools we use to assess, it’s how we use them. Just as my dad used his intuition to find out where the fish were, you use your intuition to find out where your students are in terms of their learning. Just as my dad was patient, and believed the fish were there, you are patient, and believe the knowledge is there. And just as my dad knew fishing with other great fishermen made him better, you know learning with each other makes you stronger teachers.

Here’s what lies ahead on this shortened, yet busy week:

Tuesday:

  • Briane’s first day, WELCOME!
  • Bruce & Jesse at ALT ~ Katharine acting admin
  • K – 6 assembly (fire prevention week)
  • K – 4 staff meeting (Shantel facilitating)

Wednesday:

  • Grade 6 soccer day: boys hosting 3 other teams, girls travel to Duck Lake

Thursday:

  • Student services meeting (Bruce, Joanne, Brenda, Jesse) at school

Friday:

  • Fire drill and fire fighter challenge

As always, create a great week!

 261 total views,  1 views today