Looking Forward to a Great Year

What a beautiful Christmas break, the weather was incredible, and we had plenty of opportunities to get out sledding or to play with the dog. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas break surrounded by your loved ones and were able to get the rest and relaxation we had all earned as 2018 came to an end. I am very excited about getting back to school, I love the routine that work brings, and I really look forward to seeing all the staff and students again. The break was an opportunity for me to spend more quality time with my family and was also a chance to reconnect with my mother, my brother, my sisters, and my nieces and nephew. As is usually the case, I ate too much, exercised too little, and laughed just the right amount! What were the highlights for you?

But now it is time to get back to work. The changing of the calendar provides an opportunity to reflect on the year that was, and to plan for the year ahead. I love the culture in our building and love the way we work together to try and make everyone feel as though they are part of the fabric of Waldheim School. That being said, we all know that we must continue to improve, both individually and as a collective. I think about the new members of our Waldheim School family, staff and students, and hope that they have figured out what it means to be a Raider. I do not think there is anyone in our school family that would say they are perfect or that there are not areas they want to improve on. While we need to be aware of areas of growth, we also need to be kind to ourselves and celebrate those things we do well. What brings you pride and joy?

Looking back at 2018 I can see things I need to improve on as your principal. This year, I will continue to work on my leadership skills in the following ways:

  • Asking more questions: every day is an opportunity for me to connect with the members of our school family. I will ask more questions that will hopefully help those around me think deeper about what they are learning and what their impact is on the learning in our building.
  • Trying to see around the corner: with experience comes the ability to see some things coming, and I’m going to work harder on being more proactive than being reactive. I am hoping that spending more time in classrooms and asking more questions will help me see what’s coming sooner rather than later.
  • Fostering a growth mindset: Henry Ford said, “whether you believe you can, or believe you cannot, you are correct.” Sometimes it’s just as easy as adding the word “yet” to your thoughts (i.e. I can’t motivate that student to have better attendance….yet)
  • Reading and writing more: this is more of a personal one; however, I want to keep pushing myself through reading and writing. There is a wealth of knowledge available to us, and I want to continue to grow as a leader by reading more professional books. I also want to continue developing my own voice as a leader and will continue to work on my weekly blog along with any other writing opportunities that come my way. Who knows, maybe in 2020 I won’t wait for writing opportunities, maybe I’ll go looking for them.

I guess I could sum up my goal for 2019 as follows:

I want to become a leader who no longer feels like he needs to prove himself. I will become more confident in my actions and decisions by committing myself to learn about leadership on a consistent basis. I have a dream that every student at Waldheim School feels safe, valued, and appropriately challenged. I know that I cannot make that happen for every student, I need the staff to do that work. My job is to take care of the people who are taking care of the people. My goal is to get better at that!

So what will you work on this year? When you look at the growth that occurred during 2018, I hope you are proud of yourself, you should be! January 1st, 2020 will arrive, and we know how fast a year goes, so, how will you make 2019 your best year ever?
I look forward to seeing everyone on Monday morning as we continue to learn together and grow together.

Here’s what is on the horizon for our first week back

Monday

  • K – 12 staff meeting (Agenda)

Tuesday

  • Bruce away (2:00)

Wednesday

  • Classroom visits

Thursday

  • Classroom visits

Friday

  • Classroom visits
  • SRC Dance

As always, create a great week!

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Partnerships

Normally I save my blogging for a Sunday afternoon, after I’ve had some time to reflect on the week that was, and had some time to think about the different things that are on the horizon for our school. We’ve been officially back to work for two days, and there has been so much learning that I had to record some of it for fear I forget as the next few days fly by in preparation for our students. If you are taking a moment to read this, you are likely a staff member at #WaldheimSchool, however if you are not, thanks for taking the time to stop by.

Monday was our official first day of work for the 2018-19 school year, and as has been the practice in our division, all of the members of the Prairie Spirit Teachers Association (PSTA) gathered together for our general assembly. Every year I can usually predict, with a high degree of precision, much of what will be seen and heard as we come together. It starts with jammed parking lots, raucous hallways as teachers reunite after a summer off, inspirational messages, dizzying budget numbers, and of course coffee and cookies! Another highlight for me each year is the opportunity to reconnect with a close friend who has worked in the division since we both graduated from the University of Saskatchewan way back in 1999. It is always wonderful to spend time chatting and laughing with him, and every year we plan to get together during the school year, and every year we fail to….maybe this year.

One of the highlights for me this year came during the address given by the PSSD board chairperson, Sam Dyck.  Sam took the time to welcome us back for another year, and shared some words of wisdom and encouragement, however it was one line that really resonated with me. As he spoke, he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “would you want someone to talk to you the way you talk to yourself?” Many of us are susceptible to the shackles of harmful self talk. We tell ourselves that if those around us only knew the “real” us they would be disappointed. We feel like impostors, and tell ourselves we’re not good enough, and we hope that today will not be the day we’re exposed. Sam made me stop and think, how would I feel if someone spoke to me the way I’ve been speaking to myself for decades? Time for me to start talking to myself the way I talk to the people I work with and learn from.

That brings us to today, Tuesday, August 28th, and another moment that made me stop and wonder, “how the heck did I get so lucky to be where I am today?” The staff from #WaldheimSchool gathered together at Queen’s House of Retreats in Saskatoon for our opening learning meeting. At our meeting we covered important topics like supervision, budgets, Christmas concerts, and of course, student and adult learning. This year, our work will once again be focused on developing a deep and thorough understanding of every student we work with. Our staff has committed to working on our assessment practices and our parental engagement as two strategic ways to deepen this understanding. During today’s meeting the theme of partnerships guided our thinking and our discussions. We talked about the myriad partnerships that we are a part of, either directly, like the teacher-EA partnership, or indirectly, like the student-parent partnership.

 

It was during one of the discussion that I noticed something that made me smile and I had  to capture a picture of it, I think I may have even Tweeted it out to the Twitterverse. The image, shown here, shows something that looks very typical of a staff that is learning together. However, what I love about this image is the diversity of the group. At the table there were six people, all deeply engaged in meaningful discussions about student and adult learning. They included our admin assistant, an EA, our grade 1 teacher, our vice-principal, our senior math/science teacher, and our K-7 special ed teacher.

Different people, different roles, the same goal: student learning! What an amazing way to start the year, it excites me to think about what else is on the horizon for 2018-19.

What has you inspired, motivated, and excited for the new year? 

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The Ritual of Reflection. June 4 – 11

Evan battles for 3rd place in his heat.

“You go, I’ve got it. Things will be fine here.” These were the words that met me Friday morning as I arrived at the school. Jesse knew I was planning on heading up to Prince Albert to watch our provincial track athletes, however due to circumstances, I felt I should stay at the school. He reassured me he had already arranged the day, and felt that it was important that I go and cheer on our students in their events. So, I hopped back in my vehicle, pointed it north, and up to PA I went, ready to cheer on our kids in what I was anticipating would be a cold, rainy, and windy day. I am so glad I was able to watch a few races, the kids were amazing, and it will be fun to add some new names to our provincial track banners!

This weekend was a good reminder of the importance of rituals, and working together, as the kids and I had a lot going on. Krista was busy volunteering with the Girl Guides at Buster Days on Saturday, and working at the hospital on Sunday. This meant I was in charge of the kids, and as I said, we were busy, busy, busy. On Saturday morning we once again took part in what has become an important ritual to my son, Bobby, as we attended the annual Buster Days pancake breakfast. Every year we do this, and every year I am amazed at how important this is to him. After all, it’s not like this is a gourmet breakfast, it’s mass produced pancakes and sausage served with weak lemonade and lukewarm coffee.

Eva & I had a blast doing this one.

Whatever it is, it’s a ritual, and it is important to him, therefor it’s important to me. After the breakfast we returned home, and given that the weather wasn’t the greatest, we decided to get to some crafts the kids had been waiting to work on. Eva, Charlie, and Maggie had bought some wooden bird houses at Michaels earlier this year, and have been waiting and waiting to get the chance to paint them. Eva painted away, inviting me to add my design to her house, while Charlie and Maggie were busy slopping on gobs of color here and there. It was a great time, and in the end the houses ended up looking pretty cute, maybe even inviting enough for a bird or two!

When you think about the important rituals and teamwork that happen at our school, what is it that comes to mind? Is it the annual celebration of excellence that you think of? Is it the difficult process of saying goodbye to your class? Is it the process of preparing final progress reports? Maybe it’s the opportunity to share all the great things about your kids during our transition meetings. What ever it is, I truly hope that one of the rituals you take time for is reflectionToo often, we get caught up in the hectic nature of June as we try to get everyone across the finish line in one piece. I’d invite you to take a bit of time to think about everything you’ve accomplished this year. Celebrate the great work you have done, and think back to your presentation, and how proud you were to share what you were working on. I’d also invite you to think about how you have brought My Prairie Spirit Classroom to life in our school this year. As I walk the halls and visit classrooms, I’m amazed at how effortless you all make it look, and I’m enthused by the constant desire to get better and better. Finally, as you reflect, think about how you want to grow as a professional, and think about what it could look like next year after you have successfully accomplished your goal(s).

With four weeks to go, there is a lot of work yet to be done, here’s what lies ahead for next week:

Monday:

  • K – 6 swimming, day 1
  • Bruce away (pm ~ medical)

Tuesday:

  • 1 – 3 Reading Data due
  • Classroom visits: how do the kids feel they have grown this year? What evidence can they point to?

Wednesday:

  • WHRS 4-6 track and field in Duck Lake (Jesse, Dwayne, Leah attending)
  • Bruce away (pm ~ classroom environment meeting)

Thursday:

  • K – 6 swimming, day 2
  • Classroom visits: how do the kids feel they have grown this year? What evidence can they point to?

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: how do the kids feel they have grown this year? What evidence can they point to?

As always, create a great week!

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I Know Some of You: March 5 – 9

“I just feel I need to get to know you better”. This was a piece of feedback I received last year in my year end survey that I sent out to all of you as I was looking for indicators of things I was doing well, and areas in which I need to grow. When I read that response, I just feel I need to get to know you better, I was taken a little off guard. I thought that I was doing very well getting to know everyone on staff, however my perception was not, in fact, reality. When a person gets a piece of feedback we are left with a variety of choices, and we need to decide how to proceed. I really appreciated that feedback, along with the rest of it, but it was that sentence that has continued to guide some of my work this year.

At the start of the year we spent some time working on our goals, and developing our own personal learning journeys. This week we get to listen to June, Sharlene, and Jesse, and  I’m so excited to hear about the work they have been doing with and for their students. I wonder how they are getting to know each of their students as learners on a deeper level? As you listen and wonder on Monday, I’d invite you to reflect on how things are going for you. How are you getting to know each student you work with? Would their reality mirror your perception? How would you know?

During the February break, I had an opportunity to take my twins skiing to Table Mountain. I was very worried about taking two 4-year old kids to the hill alone, but for some reason I mentioned  it to them, and after that, there was no turning back. So, we loaded up the van and headed to North Battleford. We spent close to four hours on the bunny hill, and initially, I was so scared that the kids would either hurt themselves, each other, or someone else. We locked on our skis, headed for the lift (the magic carpet), and the fun began. I tried to tell them a few things, but they needed to feel how the skis felt, they needed to experience the speed, they needed to figure out how to control themselves. I could ski beside them, but I couldn’t ski for them. In the end, it was one of the most amazing days I’ve ever spent with them, and I was almost brought to tears of pride as I watched Charlie blaze up and down the hill completely on his own.

Charlie giving Maggie the final instructions, lol

Posted by Bruce Mellesmoen on Saturday, February 24, 2018

Maggie did very well too, but it came much more naturally to Charlie. When I think  about the people who helped him learn that day, I think  about myself, but I also have to consider the help he received from the lift operators, and how he learned by watching other kids skiing with their parents. Having watched them, I now have a much better understanding of my twins as skiers, but had I not been there, talking with them, observing them, and celebrating with them, my understanding would not nearly be as great.

So, I go back to the question, how do you know? How do you know each student as an artist, a mathematician, a reader, an author, a programmer, a designer, an athlete, a singer, a dancer, a leader? As you read this, I’d challenge you to think about a student you haven’t connected with in a long time (maybe never), and think about how you can share the gift of time with them this week. We all know some students are tougher to connect with than others, but we also need to remember that they may be the ones who need our time the most!

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • Staff meeting

Tuesday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice? (you can e-mail Jesse & I,  you can post it outside your door)

Wednesday:

  • School hockey tournament

Thursday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice? (you can e-mail Jesse & I,  you can post it outside your door)

Friday:

  • Classroom visits: What would you like us to notice? (you can e-mail Jesse & I,  you can post it outside your door)

As always, create a great week!

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Our Kids Are Problem Solvers: February 12 – 16

Between forts in the basement, new toys for the dog, cold weather, and a Costco shopping trip, it’s been a whirlwind of a weekend. The kids were busy today playing with Bella and making their Valentines Day cards for their classmates. It reminded me of when I was a youngster, the 14th was always one of my favorites, as everyone in class was anxious to pass out their cards and then equally as excited to empty their boxes to see what well-wishes they received. It was a great exercise for Charlie and Maggie as they practiced printing their names over and over, it was cool to see Charlie celebrate after each successful card.

This week we get to learn from each other again, as Trace and Glen will be presenting at our staff meeting on Monday. As you may have seen on the agenda I sent out Friday, Trace will be discussing student engagement, while Glen is going to share some of the research he’s been doing in relation to his subject area. I love the opportunity to learn and listen from everyone, and am constantly reminded of the amazing work that is going on in our school. As you come into the meeting tomorrow, what role will you play in the learning in the room? What are you prepared to give as a leader on the staff? What are you hoping to learn? As Glen and Trace share their work, how is their work supporting our over-arching goal of getting to know each student as a learner on a deeper level? How will you share your thoughts with them in the days that follow?

Last year I was lucky enough to get to meet, and spend some time chatting with a presenter at a conference I attended in Prince Albert. His name is Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), and in his latest blog (found here) he asks the readers if they are fixing or teaching. The article is geared towards administrators, but certainly applies to the classroom, and how we are teaching kids to be resilient, problem solvers, and how we are inviting teamwork. He writes,

Here are 10 things to consider to help propel your team(s) to becoming more independent and eventually more successful in resolving their own issues so they can help others resolve theirs.

  1. See yourself and others as learners first.
  2. Listen to concerns with the intent to understand, not respond.
  3. Ask questions to gain more clarity. Don’t lead off with possible solutions. (Asking better questions will only come as the result of you being a better listener)
  4. Spend more time in conversation. This shows others you value the relationship too.
  5. Bring a third or even a fourth party into the conversation to model the importance of team resolution.
  6. Value all opinions in order to help nurture an environment that values curiosity.
  7. When others struggle to resolve their own issues, don’t stamp them with a label.
  8. Provide ongoing support, time, and resources needed for a successful resolution.
  9. Follow up with an encouraging word or note and then check-in again to recognize and celebrate the progress.
  10. Encourage them to repeat the process with other similar situations they encounter to support and honor them in their growth as learners, teachers, and leaders.

For the most part, almost every dilemma you will encounter as a classroom teacher or a school or district leader will have a solution, it just doesn’t have to be you who comes up with it.

As I read that, I thought about how nervous I was when I came over from Hepburn last year. For a while I felt that, as principal, I had to solve every problem that came my way. Thanks to everyone on staff, I quickly learned that we are much smarter than me. I’d invite you to pause for a moment and think about the team you work with. It could be your students, or your colleagues, but ask yourself, how are you working together to solve problems?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • 9:00 ~ covering Amy’s class
  • 11:00 ~ team meeting regarding new student
  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?
  • Staff meeting

Tuesday:

  • Bruce & Jesse away at ALT (part of the learning focus will be on our data from the OurSCHOOL survey)

Wednesday:

  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?

Thursday:

  • Jesse away (Following Their Voices PD)
  • Locker clean up (schedule to be developed Monday/Tuesday)
  • Classroom visits: what questions are the kids wrestling with?

Friday:

  • Trips:
    • 1 – 3 (Saskatoon for bowling, then back to school for winter carnival style games)
    • 4 – 12 (skiing at Table Mountain)

As always, create a great week!

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Jan. 22nd – 26th

For the past few years my oldest, Bobby, has enjoyed playing Minecraft and it is quite common for him to come to me with his latest creation. This weekend he surprised his sister, Eva, with one that was made just for her, a Minecraft pet store. Bobby was so excited to walk me through this, from the big sign he had made, to the double doors, to the different animals, to the lighting, everything was well thought out. When Eva returned from her play date with her friend from down the street, Bobby could not wait to share the pet store with her. She was so excited, and it was nice to hear things like, “thanks Bobby!” and, “that’s so cool!”, as opposed to some of the things siblings say to each other. This is one of the things I like about Minecraft, it allows Bobby to be creative in meaningful ways, he knew Eva would love a pet store based on what he knows about her.

Don’t get me wrong, Bobby isn’t always this altruistic, most of his creations reflect his interests, and it is very interesting to look back at his early worlds (as they are called in Minecraft) and compare them to where he is now. We were laughing yesterday at the very first time he logged on to Minecraft, all of his hockey buddies at the time were into it and he felt he needed to see what all the fuss was about. He struggled away, and we chuckled that his first great accomplishment was digging a hole. That’s it, a hole. Fast forward to today and he’s built a myriad of worlds, like Cruise Ship World, Roller Coaster World, Farm World, Hotel World, Mansion World, and Hill Ride World. In between digging his first hole and creating his interactive pet store, most of his work has been saved and his growth can be seen. Without even thinking about it, he has created a portfolio of his work, and could speak to each world if asked about it.

Do you only share one picture with students, or are you creating a photo album for them?

Do we do this with our learners at school?

On Friday, Brenda and Ellen were discussing effective assessments for her science classes, and they were looking for ways to go beyond traditional, teacher lead assessments. Ellen was asking questions about how to get the students owning more of their own learning, and being able to talk about it in a way that adds to the overall picture of a student’s understanding. This discussion and Bobby’s Minecraft work make me think about an article I read the other day about creating a more complete picture of our students as learners. In the article, the author talks about how we are using formative and summative assessment to develop a better understanding of our students. When you think about how you know your students as learners, what are some ways you are going beyond using only summative assessments to inform students and parents? What are some ways you are using observations and conversations to support what you are seeing in more formal assessments? When I think about assessment, I often reflect on what is going on in Glen’s workshop, and think about how authentic his assessments are. If you ever have a chance on one of your prep periods, and Glen is okay with it, I’d invite you to pop into the lab to watch him work side by side with his students.

The end of semester one is always a natural time to stop and reflect on how we are doing with our students. You had a vision in August, looking back, what do you think? Did you meet your goals? How do you know? Will your teaching in semester two be any different than semester one? Why?

Here’s what lies ahead this week:

Monday:

  • fire panel  inspections (there may be the odd alarm going off, we’ll share more details in the morning announcements)
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

Tuesday:

  • Bruce away at an ILO in North Battleford
  • Sharlene away at division ILO, enjoy!

Wednesday:

  • Sharlene away at division ILO, enjoy!
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

Thursday:

  • 10-12 Final Exams begin (please remind students to keep the noise in the sr. wing to a minimum)
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

Friday:

  • Final exams day 2
  • classroom visits: what does collaboration look like in your room?

 

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October 9th – 13th

Thankful for the simple things in life, like a yummy dessert and a coffee.

When a person stops, and really takes stock of the great things they have in their lives, it can be overwhelming. I think about the amazing family I have, my mom, brother, sisters, nieces, nephew, cousins, aunties, uncles, and in-laws. I look at my kids and marvel at who they are becoming. It truly is a blessing. I also think about my work family, the wonderful adults and students I get to spend time with on a daily basis, working on learning. It’s easy to get caught up in the hectic nature of our day-to-day work, but it is weekends like this that allow us to pause and reflect on those who surround us. Hopefully you were able to take some time to relax and reconnect with those who are the most important to you.

On Friday we spent the morning discussing what we believe is important for our students, and then discussed how we see ourselves bringing these things to life for all learners at Waldheim School. It was one of those mornings where it felt like the learning conversations could go on and on, and I felt terrible for having to cut some of them short. Hopefully you will find time to continue those discussions, and continue wrestling with the big question, how do we know. I tried to capture our thoughts from your goals and conversations and attempted to highlight the essence of our work. Here is what I saw and heard on Friday morning:

Goals for Waldheim Learners

What I found so encouraging on Friday morning was that every goal each of you brought to the discussion was focused on students and their learning. Some of the goals were centered on literacy, some on mathematics, some on leadership, and some on assessment, but all of them spoke to wanting to make Waldheim School a better place for all students. As we continue to grow as a learning community, consider the following questions:

  1. how will you know if you are on the right track?
    1. what will you do to recalibrate if you aren’t?
    2. what will you do to stretch yourself if you are?
  2. how can you use your colleagues as a means of support?
    1. can they stretch your thinking?
    2. can they offer you feedback?
  3. how will you share your celebrations with
    1. students?
    2. colleagues?
    3. parents?
  4. how will you remove barriers for your students?

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and more in the days to come.

Here’s what’s on the horizon:

Tuesday:

  • Lori Jeschke popping by for a visit (am)
  • Bruce at division office (pm)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Wednesday:

  • Library closed (meeting 9:00 – 10:25)
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Thursday:

  • Fire drill ~ pm (K – 6 assembly to follow (tentative))
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

Friday:

  • Jon Yellowlees school visit
  • Classroom visits ~ what can I learn from your students?

As always, create a great week!

 

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